To celebrate Italian Republic Day, I was invited to a special dinner with a delicious Italian menu featuring Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O., ‘The King of Cheeses’. After my recent trip to Italy I was craving authentic Italian food and so I said yes straight away. I think I have definitely left a piece of my heart in Italy.
We started the evening with some Prosecco and tasting the 18 month and 30 month cheeses. I loved both but if I had to choose between them I definitely preferred the 30 month one. I could happily have nibbled on both all evening to be perfectly honest. The cheese is named after its producing areas and under Italian law, only cheese produced in these areas may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name, as well as the translation “Parmesan”, as a protected designation of origin.
We then went into a gorgeous dining room, where we were treated to the most incredible meal cooked by Eleonora Galasso, a charming Italian food writer and self-styled food interpreter. Her cookbook is called “As Romans Do” and after trying her food, I am definitely going to get my hands on it.
To start our feast we had a selection of aubergine rolls with Parmigiano Reggiano , Ricotta and Hazelnuts, Parmigiano Reggiano Courgette Fritters and some Savoury Profiteroles with Parmigiano Reggiano and Chicory cream to share on the table, which were all really delicious.
My personal favourite was the Aubergine Roll and was secretly pleased when an additional platter of them arrived on the table. They were well loved on our table as they were demolished in seconds. I may try and replicate them myself at home armed with some fresh aubergines and Parmigiano Reggiano .
For mains, we had the most incredible spaghetti with lemon, pepper and guanciale topped with chopped black olives and pine nuts and it was just literally the ultimate spaghetti dish. The best I have ever had and I am not usually a massive spaghetti fan generally! It was delightful to watch her prepare it in front of us too.
I usually, on the rare occasion when I do have spaghetti, normally have it with a tomato based sauce so it was really refreshing to have it cooked in a different sauce. In fact this inspired a home cooked pasta dinner later in the week for me, where I made it with a cream based sauce and sprinklings of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Dessert was savoury biscuits called Cantucci Biscuits with Olives, Parmigiano Reggiano and Pine nuts, which was so reminiscent of an Indian biscuit I grew up with as some of the ingredients were similar.
The entire meal was like having a home cooked Italian meal paired with delicious Toscana wine. That was definitely a highlight too having returned from Tuscany not too long ago myself.
Eleonora was a vibrant and fabulous cook and it was a pleasure listening to her tell us about her book with so much passion and it was lovely that her inspiration for it was her grandmother’s recipes, that she had grown up with. Keeping recipes going through generations is so very precious.
When asked by a fellow diner how best to store Parmigiano Reggiano, she said it has to be allowed to breathe just like a human and so should not be placed in a container and instead wrapped in some kitchen towel. That was a nugget of information that I will definitely use.
The evening was fabulous and it was lovely to make new friends around the table. It also gave me lots of inspiration on ways to use Parmigiano Reggiano in dishes.