A short drive from the busy city of Rome, felt like a long step back in time. The beautiful medieval village of Mazzano Romano is home to Chef Fabio Bongianni. Halfway in Law school, he realized his true calling in life was food, not felons. A change of course and training in Paris later, he opened a few very successful restaurants in Rome. That was not all, he wanted to share his passion with others with similar interest and opened cooking classes both in Rome as well as in Mazzano.
Bonjourno, greeted Chef Monica to our small group, for whom just marvelling at the Fontanas and Basilicas was not enough. We wanted to delve further. Eat where the locals do, cook like the locals. We had joined a day course with Chef Fabio’s team. Bonjourno we returned the greeting. Set against the Treja valley, the stone houses met with cobblestone path on one side and a lush green vegetation on the other.
The first stop was to get fresh produce from the local grocer. Zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants whatever was in season. As we walked back to the apartment a group of elders waved us with a gummy smile. Time seemed to have stopped in this little town, or maybe it was the attitude of the locals that made ‘ time’ their slaves, not the other way around. The words ‘Schedules’, ‘Plans’ had no meaning.
Our conversations were punctuated only by the rustle of the leaves. The lazy river deep in the valley meandered at its own pace. The kitty on the roof top kept a keen eye on the out of towners.
As we measured flour and cut strawberries, tasted the ravioli filling and rolled out the pasta dough we made new friends. We laughed a lot.
Mallo what? Malloreddu explained Chef Monica with an infectious smile. We tried to say the word without much success. Our new friends from down under put their accent on the word sounding it funnier. More laughter followed.
It was almost lunch time. We exchanged email addresses and made foot notes while cleaning the sauce drip from my recipe book.
The day ended establishing deep friendships. We left richer in culinary expertise and an experience that will forever be etched in our hearts.
Strawberry in Balsamic vinegar is a recipe that you don’t have to keep the fingers crossed for or hover around the oven worrying about the outcome. The flavour and aroma of the fresh berries are accentuated by the acidic vinegar. This can be assembled in no time, leaving you with plenty of time to catch up with friends.
We were enlightened that this recipe has been served since Renaissance times.
Adapted from the book “A Fabiolous Cooking Day”. Serves six.
Strawberries One pound two ozs, hulled and cut
Balsamic vinegar One fourth cup
Superfine sugar Two Tbsps
Lemon juice Two tsps
Mint leaves, chopped Three Tbsps
Vanilla ice cream As needed
Greek yoghurt If using in place of ice cream
Place the strawberries in a glass bowl. Pour the balsamic vinegar and lemon juice over it. Add the sugar, mint leaves and toss together. Cover with Saran wrap and marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Serve over Vanilla ice cream.
I have used Greek yoghurt instead.
I preferred using the mint leaves just before serving.
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