The woman behind the counter was wearing a loose cotton dress. Her skin was the colour of aged tan leather, but was softened by her smile. She scooped balls of creamy mozzarella di bufula into a bag. This oozing cheese was the work of those weathered hands and it was the best to be found this side of Naples, or so I was told.
The best mozzarella that Lazio has to offer; the humble panaderia in Lambrugo, stocked with the finest prosciutto in all of Italy; the crostata that resolutely appears on every birthday table – it’s so often the work of a tireless mother, a devoted nonna and more and more frequently, a skilled young woman.
Italian chef, Nadia Santini was recently named the best female chef in the world. Alongside her, in restaurants, bakeries and homes from Aosta to Messina stand other men, women, nonni, parents and whole families preserving – and shaping – an incredible Italian food culture. I want to take you on a journey through the humble kitchens of Italy, from the most devoted hearts to the most expectant mouths.
The best place to begin any journey is by sitting in the shade of an olive tree in Tuscany, bare toes on parched grass, eating a huge plate of the finest Serrano ham with hunks of juicy melon. Okay, well I can’t offer you the shady olive tree, but I can offer you a very simple recipe for a very Italian meal.
Prosciutto and Melon Salad (from The Independent)
1 shallot, thinly sliced 1 tbsp red-wine vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp honey, 1 ripe canteloupe melon, halved and deseeded, 12 slices parma ham, Small handful mint leaves
1. To make the dressing, mix the shallot, vinegar, olive oil and honey with some sea salt and pepper, then set aside.
2. Scoop the flesh of the melon on to a serving platter, spoon over the dressing and toss to coat.
3. Lay the serrano ham on top and scatter with mint before serving.