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ReadyToGo586 Aug 31st, 2012 08:23 PM

Italian Recipes for Italian Kitchenettes
Hey Guys!

26 more days until we leave for Italy!!

I was wondering if anyone would be willing to share some of your favorite recipes that I might be able to whip up while staying in kitchenette-outfitted apartments in Rome, Manarola and Venice...

I LOVE cooking, consider myself of intermediate ability, and have recently been informed by my best-friend/travel partner that she fully expects me to cook for her on this trip :) I am MORE than happy to oblige, however, I do not get to explore authentic Italian cooking very often at home, as my husband is so picky, I pretty much feed him the same dinner that I make my almost 2-year-old. I did, however, make a very successful Pasta Carbonara one night that we almost died for :)

We are very much looking forward to shopping for fresh ingredients in the markets, and as I am a complete novice in that department, I welcome any tips and information you could provide, especially concerning etiquette (such as not touching the food but asking for permission), weights and measures, and in season specialties for late September-October.

Thanks in advance for all the help. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

charnees Aug 31st, 2012 09:16 PM

In a little food store, you don't pick out the produce. You tell them what you want and they give it to you. Sometimes they will give you a carrot, a celery stalk, and some parsley gratis. Those vegs are to be minced and sautéed in oil or butter to make he base for pasta sauces.

Hwever, here is a non-tomato pasta dish we love and have at home all the time. For two people:
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (without fennel) In Italy see if they have luganega sausage.
1 large bunch of Swiss chard
4 oz fettuccini
Parmesan cheese

Put pasta water with salt on to boil. Wash the chard and strip the green parts away from the tough white stalks. Shred the greens coarsely. Drain in a colander.
Remove sausage frm casing and break it up in a skillet with a little olive oil. Sauté it slowly until it is cooked through. Add chard to the skillet with the water clinging to it, and cover until chard wilts. Then uncover and cook it slowly while the pasta is cooking. Add a little pasta water or chicken broth to keep it nicely moist. When the pasta is very nearly done, drain it and add to the sausage and chard and toss together, letting it cook for another minute. add more liquid if it is dry, as this should be a moist, but not soupy, pasta, with the noodles having a kind of silky texture.
Serve immediately and top with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan. (Don't use packaged grated cheese. It has little flavor. Be sure you are using Parmigiano Reggiano.

Anyway, this is delicious, takes only 2 burners, and takes only half an hour to prepare.

A_Brit_In_Ischia Sep 1st, 2012 01:28 AM

Rather than setting out with a shopping list....

If you'll have access to the internet, I'm reliably informed that this BBC site is very good when you've bought whatever was best on the day:


worldinabag Sep 1st, 2012 02:27 AM


We also rented an apartment in Venice and loved eating "in house". One meal we had was spaghetti with clam (vongole) sauce. Source your vongole from the Rialto fish market (visit in the morning). Prepare your pasta sauce (tomato, onion and garlic) as normal. After rinsing the vongole fry them in olive oil and garlic. When they have opened (discard any that have not opened) extract the meat and transfer to the pasta sauce prior to plating. Serve with crusty bread for "mopping up" the plate, antipasto and a good bottle of Chianti Classico. Salute :)

nochblad Sep 1st, 2012 04:50 AM

A little bit surprised by some of the comments so far.

True Italian cooking is both regional and seasonal. Re Charnees - luganega is not local to the places mentioned by the poster. Re worldinabag - vongole in Venezia okay but a Chianti!

Based on the time of year you should consider mushrooms - porcini (and check the provenance), this season's polenta (consider polenta con baccala' in Venice), game, truffles (there are many different truffles all over Italy), but above all use you eyes and try to understand what is in season and what the locals are buying. The best way of understanding this is going to a local market and trying to locate the (smaller) stalls of local producers (try to see where they are from). I always buy from the local market in Como and I know what I buy is both seasonal and kilometre zero (i.e. it has not been transported the length of Italy or even further!).

mamcalice Sep 1st, 2012 05:02 AM

Go to the outdoor markets wherever you are staying - the Rialto market in Venice is fabulous. Get the local fish or sausage or whatever is being sold by the purveyors. Get plenty of vegetables. I wouldn't be making tomato sauces necessarily unless made from fresh, local tomatoes. Mushrooms should be readily available while you are there.

Eat out often and you will get ideas for things to cook. We always try to replicate things we have eaten in Italy. I have always had the impression (correct or not) that Italian cooks don't use many recipes. And, by all means, drink the wine of the region you are in with whatever you cook.

uhoh_busted Sep 1st, 2012 06:45 AM

What neighborhood are you staying in when in Rome? You may not have access to what you picture in your head, a big fresh market on the street (like Rialto in Venice). Most urban neighborhoods will have grocery stores, however. Casino is the name of one chain. They will have meat, and cheese and deli counters and bakery sections, and it is still fun to shop because it is just different enough to keep it from being familiar. They will have disposable plastic gloves at the fruit and vegetable tables, which you are to wear while you are choosing what you want. Put your item in a bag and weigh it, and there will usually be a sticker that pops out of the scale with the price on it. (It's like this in France, too).

One place you can get some special items would be Campo dei Fiori. There is also a tremendous bakery to one side of the campo that would be a great source (far better than any little grocer) If you can get a good bottle of truffle oil - possibly available from one of the specialty shops vendors, and a nice supply of mushrooms, you can make a very rich sauce simply by sauteing the mushrooms in Truffle oil (if you don't use it, use half (real) butter and olive oil) and adding oh, a glass of wine (6oz to 1 cup) and letting it reduce itself to half. Stir in some freshly chopped parsley or basil or even rosemary as it nears the end. Serve over fresh pasta and grate parmesan over it to your liking. Make a side salad of sliced tomatoes with fresh mozzerela. Drizzle with truffle oil and sprinkle fresh chopped basil over them.

You can also use that truffle oil drizzled over scrambled eggs. or leftover pizza reheated. I think you can get my message :-) Somehow, I've never found truffle oil back home in the states that is nearly as good as what we've bought in Italy.

Meat is expensive in Italy and France, but wine is a bargain. I have found that being able to make a good wine reduction sauce (and really, it just takes practice) lets you make more of less. I've done a white wine and sage concoction for braising chicken legs.

Do you know how to make rissoto? You can do that with wine (and maybe use a can of broth) and throw in just about anything (think veggies, seafood, prosciutto, etc. be careful not to overcook seafood, though) with a good local cheese, add a salad and you have another wonderful meal.

uhoh_busted Sep 1st, 2012 06:50 AM

Like mamcalice noted, many Italian cooks don't use recipes. You kind of have to make a Leap of Faith and go for it. Some of the meals we made "on the fly" last Fall were incredible, just because we used what was in season with wine and fresh herbs.

suze Sep 1st, 2012 06:56 AM

The other thing you'll need to consider before you get to cooking is what is provided in your different apartment 'kitchenettes'. Some may be well stocked with cookware, but sometimes what is provided is quite minimal.

ReadyToGo586 Sep 1st, 2012 07:58 AM

Wow guys! I am so excited by the replies already!!

Charnees: That dish sounds wonderful! I imagine I will have no problem fixing this up with a more "regional" sausage :) I might even be able to sneak this one with stateside food by my husband if he doesnt see the swiss chard go in!

ABrit: Thanks for the link!! I will be checking that out immediately so i can save a few favorites for offline reading on my tablet- I like to go in prepared with at least a vague idea of what I want :)

Worldinabag - I am stealing that one for home :) Unfortunately Venice is our only stay without a kitchen - It'll be market picnic foods there!

Nochblad - do the stalls have signs indicating where they are from? Do you find you purchase more often by quantity or by the kilo?

Thanks Mamacalice, Will do!!

Uhoh - I LOVE wine reductions! Thanks for the tips - I have never tried a reduction with pasta, and can't wait to now! Risotto is a great idea as well - I just might practice at home lol Truffle Oil is officially on my "Wanna Purchase" list :)

ReadyToGo586 Sep 1st, 2012 08:05 AM

Yes Suze, that is definitely a concern of mine!! I will be taking stock as soon as we arrive - but it seems with these suggestions so far, I will be good with a skillet, lid and some cutlery!

Uhoh, I forgot to mention, we are staying in a neighborhood adjacent to Campo dei Fiori, literally a two minute walk. Do you remember the name of that bakery? Is it Il Fornaio? I have never been able to locate Il Fornaio on Google maps and have heard wonderful things about it from the Fodorites. In Florence we will be staying right off the Ponte Vecchio, on the east side of the river. I have not had a chance to research where the markets are located in and around that area

A_Brit_In_Ischia Sep 1st, 2012 09:00 AM

It did take a while for us to get used to that way of "shop first, decide later" - but we've been here on Ischia for a decade now, and rarely set out with a menu in mind.

There's one bakery in a corner of the Campo, the other one that's often written about is Roscioli.

The market there is great fun - probably more expensive than you'd pay elsewhere, but some wonderful produce! These were mostly taken in November, our favourite time to visit the capital...

Note the "etto" on some price tags... stuff that's charged by the 100 grams - one tenth of a kilo!

For instance:

Look up puntarelle, if you don't know of it already!


nochblad Sep 1st, 2012 09:03 AM

Italians are very sensitive as to where their food comes from. With regard to fresh meat especially the rules are extraordinarily strict and there is full info as to where the animal was born, reared, slaughtered etc. With fruit and veg you will often see displayed where in Italy it comes from. However, I always try to seek out those who are selling truly local produce. It is generally the freshest and of course it helps the local community.

As to quantities sometimes I ask per weight - for example potatoes in kilos or prosciutto/ham in "etti" (multiples of 100 grams) but for some items such as green beans I usually ask for so many handfuls.

One thing to look out for is olive oil. Generally I buy two types (both extra virgin). One I use for cooking and a better quality for salads, bresaola etc. Do note that a lot of olive oil sold in Italy is actually from Spanish, Greek or other countries olives. Read the label very carefully but for a good quality oil go for those which have the IGP or DOP labelling.

annhig Sep 1st, 2012 09:52 AM


even when you do have a kitchen you may not feel like cooking but still want to eat in - that's when the made-up dishes that some places sell will come in useful. a world away from what you can normally buy in the UK [and I assume the US] add some salad, bread and wine, and you're there.

BTW, Rome is a terrific place for eating out. the last time we stayed there, although we had an apartment we never ate in, not even breakfast. of the three places you are going, ironically venice is the best place to do your own cooking, IMO.

charnees Sep 1st, 2012 06:12 PM

Actually, the sausage and chard dish can be quite varied. You can use any good sausage, of course, and the greens can be varied, too. Spinach, kale, chicory, etc. are fine.

You can also make a very simple sauce for spaghetti using butter, lemon zest and juice, and a little bit of green herbs and/ or garlic. I sometimes add peas to the pasta pot for a few minutes at the end. then stir the pasta and peas into the lemon sauce. Put some grated Parmigiano Reggiano on it. This goes nicely with roasted chicken, which you can get at some stores, or other prepared meats.

suze Sep 1st, 2012 06:50 PM

annhig brings up another good option. you don't need to "cook" everything from scratch. with a kitchen/frig there's lots of picnic style meals you can put together to stay out of restaurants without having to actually make elaborate meals every time.

<I will be good with a skillet, lid and some cutlery!>

but don't you need a large pan to boil pasta?

nochblad Sep 1st, 2012 11:29 PM

charnees - in Italy you do not eat pasta with a main course!

suze - yes as lots of water is required. Also a tip on buying pasta if you are unfamiliar with the names - generally the longer the cooking time the better the quality of the pasta. In other words a spaghetti which takes 8 minutes is better than one which takes 5 minutes, penne which take 11/12 minutes are better than 7/8 minutes etc

aguamineral Sep 1st, 2012 11:29 PM

I agree with nochblad's comments and sort of cringe when I read pasta recipes being portrayed as "authentic" that call for things like combining butter and lemons in a pasta sauce, or even combine meat and pasta in the same dish. Or putting peas in pasta in October. However delicious these recipes, and however easy it is to get peas (or use frozen) in America or England, this is not the way Italians cook.

If you don't speak Italian, you can use your hands to indicate how much you want of something. You will also get the right amount if you say how many people will be eating, which can be especially useful when buying fresh pasta. ("Per due persone.") If you buy fresh pasta, ask how long to boil it. The word for boil is "bollire" (bowl-ear-ay), and if you ask "quanti minuti bollire?", you'll be understood.

I'd also like to suggest that even though you made a delicious pasta alla carbonara at home, sample it in Rome. Some old-fashioned places often "finish" the pasta tableside, and different Roman restaurants will use different pasta shapes (some use rigatoni or bucatini, some penne and others use spaghetti).

One great way to learn how to cook like a Roman (or any Italian) is to go to simple family run restaurants and study the food. Pay close attention to what you are eating. You will find there is a minimum of ingredients on your plate at any given moment, and that meat and pasta and veg are served separately, not piled on your plate all at once. It is much easier to pick out the background flavors that way and them imitate it at home.

Many Italian kitchens resemble kitchenettes. Even in restaurants, sometimes the kitchen is incredibly small. Part of the secret of producing all that great food in such small space starts at the market, buying beautiful fresh ingredients and then not "hiding" them in elaborate recipes, but instead letting them shine on their own, individually.

aguamineral Sep 1st, 2012 11:48 PM

I have to agree with all of nochblad's comments as well as though from people advising you that an authentic Italian meal starts at the market, not with a recipe you take to the market.

Also, it actually very rare to see meat and pasta in the same dish in Italy. You see it in restaurants that cater to American tourists quite a lot, but it is not common in Italy.

If you would really like to learn how italian make all that great food in small kitchens (even restaurant kitchens are small), go to small family run eateries in Italy and really pay attention to the food you get. You will see that you will be served your vegetables and your meats separately, and that you pasta will feature one outstanding ingredient, with background flavors.

In you will be in Rome at the end of this month, the markets should have great artichokes, fennel, mushrooms, truffles and grapes. In le Cinque Terre, you'll also find good artichokes, chard (known as "bietole", pronounced "bee-YET-olay"), pears, walnuts (pounded with milk and bread to make pasta sauce), and mussels (cozze) and baby octopus (moscardini) are not to be missed. In Venice, be on the lookout for bitter red leafy "greens" like treviso and radicchio and also lookout for pumpkins, potatoes, apples and other typical autumn foods.

If you bring fresh produce home, don't be afraid to cook it very, very simply. Boil chard and dress it with olive oil and lemon. Serve artichokes plain, with salt and oil. Grill treviso. Or chop radicchio and toss it in at the last moment into hot pasta or gnocchi. Don't hide the flavors of this great stuff. Don't pile meat, greens, cheese, legumes into one big pasta dish. You won't taste anything but fat.

aguamineral Sep 1st, 2012 11:51 PM

Sorry for the double post! Something happened to my first post and it disappeared, so I re-wrote it. I didn't mean to sound like I was piling on.

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