Meet our Italian Chef: Raffaella

Let’s meet our Italian chefs who have been cooking with our guests in our Tours From Home online classes. Raffaella joins us today to share her grandmother’s recipe, cooking tips, and must-try dishes in Rome.

1. Let us know a little bit about you

I am 36 years old, was born in Milano and raised there. My parents, who are from Benevento in Campania, moved to the north in the 70s. Two nieces and a big brother. My name is Mike and I am single. I also have a cat. Since 2017, I have lived in Rome and this is my home. MAMMA ROMA

2. Why did you choose to become a chef in the first place?

My passion for cooking has always been there. I had hoped to go to a chef school when I was 14, but my mamma wanted something better. (Until 15 years ago, chefs weren’t as famous as they are today, and it is hard to live in a kitchen), so I went to art school. But, you know, I loved the smell of tomatoes and grease.

3. Which Italian dish is your favourite to prepare at home?

There are so many! Nonna’s memories also made me a fan of “polpette di Melanzane”, an eggplant veg-ball recipe. Although it takes some time, it is really simple. Here’s how it works:

4 portions

1 medium eggplant

100g grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 clove garlic

2/3 anchovies

Fresh mint and a handful of parsley

Salt and pepper

Bread crumbs: As much as you need, i recommend that you use real dried bread (or panko), instead of the “sandy”, which u can buy at the grocery store.

Peanut or seeds oil for frying

1. The eggplant should be roasted whole, unpeeled in the oven at 400°F. Let them cool in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Peel the eggplants and place them in a food processor or bowl with a fork.

2. If the flesh becomes too watery, strain the liquid using paper towels and a strainer. Place them in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the bread and mix until they are well combined and smooth.

3. Next, add bread crumbs one at a time (pulse function in your processor) until the mixture forms a firm but manageable paste.

4. Use a spoon to form them into balls and then fry them POLPETTE!

Tip: Peanut oil is the best oil. Olive oil can be used, but it is difficult to manage the temperature.

4. Are you able to share any tips on Italian cooking with our readers?

As much as you can, cook from scratch! This will help you train your senses and make it easier to recognize good or bad food. Don’t be afraid to use your hands. They are the best tools we have.

5. If you know of any food or dishes that travelers to Rome (or to your home city) should try, please let us know.

It is called “pizza romana” in Rome. It is thinner and crunchier that the Neapolitan version. Carbonara (the authentic one, with no cream, peas or crazyness) and all street food.

In Milano Risotto, e Ossobuco. Polenta concia. Cotoletta orecchia di Elefante. Rane e lumache. (You see, the north was a flood …)

6. What is your favourite place to visit outside of Rome?

Oh, my… Barcelona!

7. What city has your favorite food come from? What was it that made it so special?

My Nonna’s house. It’s true, I know.

8. Which was your most unusual/interesting meal? It was from what country did you have it, and would you recommend it to others?

Callu de crabittu is a typical Sardinian cheese. It has a strong flavor but is very delicious. It is a great cheese, but please be careful…

9. Which country would you like to travel next?

Sardinia! Who knows? Maybe next year.

10. What city in the world do think is most underrated? Would you recommend it to people?

North and South Italy It’s not just about Rome, Florence and Venice.

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