Elena's choice

Acquapazza and anchovy oil

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Five brave companions from Cetara, joined together by a common passion for tradition and the sea. And for anchovies from the Gulf of Salerno, which they gut, salt and leave to marinate in a chestnut wood container called a “terzigno”. After one year, the bottom of this container is pierced and out comes the famed anchovy oil. That’s all there is to this highly artisanal recipe. But there is plenty you can do with this exquisite liquid, which can be drizzled over pasta, potato salad, greens and burrata cheese or added to a hearty tomato soup. And you can see for yourself how versatile it can be at the Acquapazza restaurant in the Amalfi Coast.

Acquerello rice and the precious embryo

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Let’s start with A for Acquerello. Piero Rondolino is beaming with joy because he has finally obtained a patent for a special pressure process used in his tins of rice that combines the embryo (which is normally lost during the refining process) with the white rice. The result is magic:  flavoursome white rice that keeps its shape during cooking and contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals that you would normally only find in brown rice. The tiny rice embryo has a delicate taste, which Rondolino claims is similar to pecan nuts, but I think is more like argan nuts. Other ways to use the precious rice embryo are also being studied. 

Antica Ardenga hamburgers

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There’s nothing fast or junk about these gourmet burgers from the “bassa” area of Parma (i.e. the area close to the River Po). According to tradition, we’ve spent the winter eating Slow Food culatello and the summer eating 18-month culatta and 30-month ham. We’ve tried every one of the hams and salamis (relishing their sweet fat and intense meat) and now it’s time for something different. Massimo Pezzani, lover of tradition, presents a show-stopping gourmet burger made from strolghino salami - all ready to be thrown on the grill. There’s also a fiery version made with strolghino and Calabrian n’duja. 

Giovanni Bazza’s ingredients

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Giovanni (Vanni) Bazza is a man of few words, that is unless you ask him to talk about “his” hams and salamis, which are made of just pork meat, salt and pepper. The different cuts, the different lengths of time the meat is left to age, the different percentages of the various parts of the pig and the traditional manual processing methods explain the complicated research work that goes on in his workshop, which is situated in the heart of the Veneto countryside. Make sure you try his soppressa (made using an age-old recipe that combines pork shoulder, pancetta and pork cheek) – and you’ll soon be planning your next visit. And don’t forget your sat-nav!

Donnafugata Lumera wine

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Donnafugata (meaning “the woman in flight”) is a romantic and evocative name that pays homage to 13th century Sicilian poetry. Lumera, the latest Donnafugata wine, is fresh, easy to drink and modern.  Made from a blend of grapes (Syrah, Nero d'Avola, Pinot Nero and the special Tannat grape) all taken from younger vineyards, Lumera is a fruity wine with a bouquet of red currants and pomegranate, and good acidity. Try it as an aperitif alongside shell fish or raw fish. Or why not round off a meal with a gorgeous glass of Ben Ryé, a sweet dessert wine from Pantelleria that has you dreaming you’re sitting beneath the Sicilian stars.

Latin artisanal chocolate

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Gobino has given its artisanal chocolates names that skip effortlessly from Piedmont dialect (“Tourinot”) to the much more noble-sounding “Sed etiam”, which means “but also” in Latin. Sed etiam dark chocolate cups have a layer of praline inside that makes them smooth but also crunchy, bitter but also aromatic. And a sprinkling of gold dust adds to the chic Latin feel. They also come in a silver version with finely chopped Arriba chocolate. 

Campofilone and cocoa seeds

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In 2012 the pasta makers at Campofilone decided to go it alone and be in charge of every step of pasta production themselves, from seed to shop. Now, in addition to the famous artisanal tagliatelle, tagliolini and maccheroni pasta, Enzo Rossi also produces wheat (which is locally-sourced and ground in a bio-certified mill) and eggs from free-range chickens. The recipe for his pasta is passed down from local women in the Marche region and uses ten eggs per kilo of flour. As of May 2014, a new type of tagliatelle and maltagliati pasta will involve a slight change to their seed-to-shop approach as cocoa seeds will be added to the dough that come from Italian gourmet chocolate manufacturers Venchi. So let’s get thinking of some new recipes!

La Giardiniera di Morgan – Italian pickles

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Love homemade pickle but don’t have a pickle-making granny or aunt? Then you’ve always got Friuli-born chef and marketing manager Morgan Pasqual who (after travelling the world and then finding love in Malo) now pickles anything and everything that his allotment produces. His jars of pickles are all 100% hand-produced (just like homemade pickles) and the colour, crunch, flavour and acidity are all absolutely perfect. Given how moreish his pickles are, the histrionic Morgan likes to encourage his customers to buy the 5-litre “jeroboam” jar. And often they do.  

Pasticceria Marisa chocolate

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With his bushy red beard, Lucca (spelt with double c) Cantarin looks like a baking guru as he takes part in the Taste debate on mother dough (with great awareness) and discusses his latest chocolate creation. Velati svelati is a thin layer of 55% Criollo chocolate from Ecuador, which also comes in a milk version and is sprinkled with crunchy chocolate: a delightful crispy sensation for the teeth and amazing flavours for the palate. Then again, what else would you expect from someone who has been crowned “Veneto’s best baker” several times and who came third in the 2013 World baking championships.

Happy Easter from Loison

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Breganze Torcolato wine and Valdobbiadene prosecco, Sicilian candied orange peel, Diamante citron from Calabria and Ciaculli mandarin, high-end South American cocoa and Mananara vanilla from Madagascar. Not forgetting, fresh yeast, fresh cream and butter, and Cervia sweet salt. Like every year, Dario Loison’s Easter Colomba cakes are all dressed up and ready to go. And beneath the beautiful wrapping you’ll find a delicious show-stopping cake to glam up any Easter table. Every year Dario Loison brings us something new: a firmly established member of the baking world with a huge collection of age-old cookery books.

The Giotto bakers of Padua

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The Taste 2012 award sits proudly alongside the many other awards won over recent years by the incredible Giotto bakers, who are all inmates in a prison in Padua. The prison has its own bakery where (with help from expert bakers) they make high-end bakes for Christmas and Easter, as well as  zaleti, cantucci, baci di dama, grissini and a series of cakes inspired by the flavours of 14th century Padua. This Easter, part of the proceeds from the sale of the Colomba Coletta cake will go to a dispensary that Margherita Coletta (whose husband died in the Nassiriya bombing) is creating in Burkina Faso. And for that alone they deserve an award.

Pastificio dei campi pasta and tomatoes

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Many famous chefs claim that a simple pasta and tomato sauce is their all-time favourite dish, but which is the best version? Giuseppe Di Martino can help us find out with DELI-POT. The name Deli-Pot is an acronym based on the Italian words for delicate and powerful, and this box of goodies essentially helps you get to grips with the practicalities of achieving the complex balance between the shape of pasta (how thick it is and whether or not it has ridges) and the type of tomato. Starch from the wheat should not cover the sauce and vice versa. So you have two pasta shapes, a jar of Casa Barone vine tomatoes and a jar of Vastola yellow tomato sauce. Enjoy and learn!

Molino Quaglia and mother dough

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The people at Molino Quaglia are always at the forefront when it comes to specific-use flours, high-end produce, and teaching professionals and food lovers how to correctly use different products in bread making and cake baking. So they were bound to end up taking part in Taste’s great debate on mother dough. Everyone is talking about mother dough, but few know much about what is essentially the heart of baking. And Molino Quaglia does all it can to make this accessible, with elegantly wrapped packages of yeast starter that are sold to order. Taking one is like taking on a moral commitment. Remember Tamagotchis?

Saint Marcel and the secret suet

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“Not even under torture” will Paolo Fabris de La Valdôtaine tell you what mountain herbs he adds to the suet he uses in his 24-month Saint Marcel ham. But you can definitely smell them and, for a bit of fun, have a go at guessing. Perhaps in one of the many “merenderie” (the special Saint Marcel ham tasting restaurants) that can be found at sea level (in Venice) and as high up as 3,480 metres (Plateau Rosa). Then finish off with a house grappa, a Chaudelune La Salle Vin de Glace (a highly fragrant “ice wine” made from Blanc de Morgex grapes), or an artisanal Vuassa grappa made by Papà Marcel, a long-established local brand that produces a variety of aromatic types of grappa.

‘Trota D’oro’ trout from the Dolomites

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Would you eat fish from the mountains? On culinary terms it is correct providing these two conditions are met: that it is from fresh water and that it is of a high quality.  ‘Trota D’Oro’, the company run by the Leonardi family, meets these requirements and breeds trout from the cold crystal-clear waters of the Adamello Brenta nature park in Trentino. The fish is then smoked in the traditional way using beech wood and marinated with the ‘sweet’ salt of Cervia, fair-trade cane sugar from Ecuador, vinegar from the Trentino region, white wine from the so-called Valley of Lakes in Trentino and honey. Filleted and whole fish trout, arctic char, fish eggs and salted fish roe (bottarga) are all fish delicacies from the Dolomites.