My Italian Mama (and cooking Muse)

Roma, day six. Today was spent in the kitchen of my new Italian Mama, Daniela del Balzo. And what a lovely kitchen it is:

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Daniela attended Le Cordon Bleu, but most of her cooking skills come from the best source of food knowledge: family. Born in Naples, Daniela learned to cook Neapolitan food from her mother and grandmother, and now leads small group (and today, private!) cooking classes from her home in Rome.  We met for coffee at the market where we (well, she) dreamed up a menu and picked out ingredients. Speaking of dreaming up recipes, I’ll never forget one line of Daniela’s: “In the kitchen, you need fantasy.” Yes, yes, yes.

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Despite the giant meal ahead of me, I got fresh pizza at the market (it was breakfast time after all).

Image As at Campo de Fiori, the saturation of color was intense.

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ImageShopping for ingredients, Daniela chatted with each vendor, one pleasant interaction after the next. We loaded everything into the trunk of her smart car (yes, they have trunks) and wizzed up the side of a mountain to her home. Right away we got busy in the kitchen.

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Our menu? Fritatta di pasta, pork fillete stuffed with prunes soaked in marsala sauce, sautéed peppers with bread crumbs, olives and anchovy, baked ricotta, mini fried pizzas…..oh yeah, and dessert.  Had I even a clue, an inkling, as to how good this would be, I would have stretched out my stomach weeks in advance. Pizza for breakfast was taking up valuable real estate.

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ImageThese pictures hardly do the food justice. Each part of this meal was better than the last, and the only thing that rivaled the food was Daniela herself. This woman made me feel like family from the moment I met her. She is deliciously kind, her spirit is something to savor, and her skills in the kitchen: unmatched. Plus, she never made me feel self-conscious of my amateur-at-best cooking abilities, laughing with me each time I dropped some piece of pasta, cheese, utensil or pepper on the floor. Take a class with her; you will not regret the experience. Here we are at the end of our beautiful day:

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Sad to say: we leave Rome tomorrow. I spend one night in NYC with my mom before she and I hop a flight to Puerto Rico. The adventure continues!

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