Since I started working from home, cooking has become an activity I enjoy a lot. It has always given me a great way to practice creativity and a safe zone in which I learn to experiment, but now I can also invest the amount of time and energy that I consider appropriate. I try to plan at least 3 or 4 meals ahead of the workweek: something that will last for 2 days and most of the time requires a bit more effort (like lasagna, since we’ll be talking about Italian cuisine), definitely something meatless and then something light, that I can put together in 20 minutes on my lunch break. I really benefit from the time spent preparing a meal, which gives me a great chance to disconnect. When I’m cooking something that doesn’t require me to focus much, I like to let the auto-pilot take over and listen to podcasts or audiobooks.
I sometimes make up challenges for myself, like finding a way to speed up the preparation of some recipe, trying to reproduce a dish I ate in a restaurant and really loved, or making sure the kitchen is sparkling clean the moment I finish cooking. Of course, I have my go-to dishes, which allow me to experiment more, but I also like trying recipes that are totally unfamiliar and get me out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t always work out the way I want it to, but most of the time it does. And then comes the best part, the tasting. I get a great feeling of accomplishment when tasting something that I made myself and discovering that I find it absolutely delicious.
My interest in Italian cuisine was sparked a few years ago by Carbonara – one of those recipes that get “butchered” most of the time – in restaurants, on TV, on the internet, everywhere. I had a great curiosity in regards to its authentic taste and way of preparation, which at that time I found quite interesting. I am lucky to have a close relative who lives in Italy and who was (and still is) kind enough to provide me with the key ingredient to Carbonara – guanciale. That’s pig cheek, covered in salt and spices and then cured until it develops a nice, deep flavor. So, using guanciale, a few other ingredients (which do NOT include cream), and a recipe that seemed authentic enough, I managed to create a dish that blew my mind. And since then, I’ve made Carbonara for my family, for my friends, for whoever was curious to try it – after all, nothing brings people together like food. This dish has earned its place as a precious meal that I indulge in on special occasions since it’s not exactly something you would call a “light” meal.
The curiosity for the authentic taste drives me towards trying as many recipes as possible, and thankfully, Italy has a lot to offer.
And since the best meals end with delightful desserts, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about some of my favorites. Tiramisu, Pandoro, Cannoli, all of those sound amazing, but a special place in my heart is held by Torta Setteveli – the cake of the seven veils. It consists of alternating chocolate and hazelnut layers, chocolate glaze, and a touch of magical crunchiness. I made no attempt to make it yet, but I’ve had it for my birthday from a local shop, made by an Italian confectioner. And then I promised myself to have it for every future birthday, ever. 🙂