Okay, I’m REALLY bad at this blogging business. Back on January 1st, I made a resolution (as we all do) that I would post on the blog more often. Well, my last blog entry was in February and it was a recipe for Steve’s walnut pesto. Well, here we are 6 months later and I’m finally posting again and this time it’s about – you got it! – another pesto recipe! This time it’s basil pesto and rather than Steve – the cook in this post is me – Linda, The Beehive’s self-titled Clumsy Cook.
Now I am NOT the cook in our family and I am filled with gratitude that I married someone who not only loves to cook, but is really good at it. Not only in terms of the deliciousness factor, but also in terms of economics and speed. I have seen Steve whip up a tasty lunch from scratch for 10 people in an hour. He’s THAT good.
Despite having a mother who was an awesome cook – that particular trait decided to bypass me. I really don’t like cooking. I find it boring and a drag. I much prefer to eat and clean up – those are my skills. However, having 3 children – it does call upon me sometimes to take over the reigns in the kitchen. If Steve is bed-ridden (thank goodness that rarely happens) or in Rome at The Beehive, someone has to feed our children and that someone has to be me!
I’m not a total loser in the kitchen, but it’s not my thing and I am constantly having kitchen disasters of one kind or another. It’s rare that I don’t draw blood or burn something in the kitchen. Thankfully, I still have all 10 digits and the fire department has not had to come to our home, but it’s been a fine line.
Despite my ineptness, the other day, I did manage to make a basil pesto and pasta alla genovese. This is one of my favorite dishes because not only is freshly made basil pesto mindblowingly delicious, but even for someone as unskilled as myself – it is very easy to make. Summer is normally the best time to make pesto when fresh basil is plentiful.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
FOR THE PESTO:
Fresh basil – a heaping bowlful about 100 grams
Grated parmigiano cheese – about 30-40 grams
Grated pecorino romano cheese – about 15-20 grams
Pine nuts – a handful
Garlic – 1-2 cloves depending on your garlic preference
Salt – a pinch or two
Olive oil – as much as it takes, but don’t overdo it
Put all this in the blender or use an immersion blender. The purists use a mortar and pestle, but I don’t have that kind of time so it’s the blender for me. Add the oil slowly so that you don’t overdo it on the oil. You want the pesto to be be smooth enough, but still have a bit of chunky factor to it.
FOR THE PASTA ALLA GENEVOSE
3 medium sized potatoes
a small bowl of green beans
500 grams Pasta – trofie pasta if possible, if not, any other short sturdy pasta such as – penne, maccheroni, sedanini
Before you start the pesto – since it really doesn’t take too much time to make – cut up into small pieces 3 decent sized potatoes and cut in halves a small bowl of green beans. Make sure to snip off the ends of the green beans. Put the potatoes and green beans in a pot of water and boil for about 20-30 minutes or until you can stick a fork through one of the potatoes and it’s nice and soft, but not that it disintegrates.
Once the potatoes and beans are done, drain the water.
Now boil water for the pasta. Once the water is boiling, add a good big pinch of salt. Put the pasta in and follow directions for cooking time.
Drain the pasta water and then add the potatoes and beans and the pesto to the pasta. Mix until all the pasta, potatoes and green beans are well-coated with the pesto.
Put in a pretty bowl, serve and enjoy!
We love to eat here at Casa MB and since I got such a great response to our recent ribollita recipe, I thought that from time to time – I would post some of my personal favorites that Steve whips up in our kitchen.
Walnut pesto is simple, quick and easy to make – so simple that even I, the incompetent chef, have made it successfully for our daughters. It’s a crowd-pleaser for the whole family.
You’ll need the following ingredients:
a large handful of shelled walnuts
half or 1 clove of garlic (depending on how garlicky or not you like things)
a piece or two of stale bread
about 1/4 cup or 50ml of milk (you can substitute this with rice or soy milk)
a handful of parmigiano cheese
Put all of these ingredients into a blender. Not sure exactly how much oil to put in – probably about 1/4 cup / 50ml. Blend.
Boil the pasta. You can use a variety of pasta – in this version we used fresh sedanini pasta. We have also used whole wheat spaghetti or farro (spelt) spaghetti. It works well with a thinner variety of pasta and not a thicker one.
This photo has nothing to do with walnut pesto other than the fact that our dog, Goji, was keeping Steve company in the kitchen.
Once the pasta is cooked, check the pesto. If it’s thickened up a bit, add a smidge of the pasta water and blend again.
Mix in with the pasta. If it doesn’t seem to be mixing in very easily, add a bit more oil to help it blend better.
And voila! Accompanied by a salad, this makes an easy and delicious lunch or dinner when you are low on time or energy.
If you have any leftover, but not enough to make another batch of pasta – it also works very nicely as a bruschetta – just toast some crusty style bread and spread on.
Steve is the cook in our household (dubbed Casa MB). He’s got an annoying gift of not following recipes and just throwing stuff together with whatever he finds in our refrigerator. If you’re familiar with this American television show from the ’80s you’ll understand my reference when I say that I call him the “MacGyver” of the kitchen. His gift is annoying to me because I’m the pathetic cook who is a mess in the kitchen, has to follow a recipe and if I’m missing one ingredient – it’s freak out time! Well, perhaps I exaggerate – I have my golden moments in the kitchen too, but not very often. I guess I would have more of those moments with experience, but when you have such a great cook in the house who actually enjoys doing it – why bother?
Steve is a big fan of “cucina povera” – the style of Italian cooking that uses very simple, very few, in season ingredients to create delicious dishes. It’s been a bit chilly around here lately and we had lots of cavolo nero (kale) and stale bread so he decided to make a ribollita – a typical Tuscan soup. I was completely blown away by this insanely delicious soup and despite our abstinence recently from wine – we decided the soup and the day deserved a glass of red wine to go with it. Here’s his version of a recipe – give it a try and let us know how it works for you.
When we opened The Beehive back in 1999, a lot of our first customers were very young backpackers. We would inevitably get someone who would ask “so I’ve seen the Colosseum, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona – what else is there to do?” Or “it’s boring here, where can I party?” Well, thankfully, we don’t have many of those kinds of guests anymore, but I do occasionally read a review where someone states that “there is nothing near The Beehive.” In a city that is almost 2,766 years old – there is always something nearby. Just to give you an idea, here are a few gems located just a 10 minute walk from The Beehive.
One of the four branches of the National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Massimo is conveniently located right near Termini train station – this museum houses an amazing collection from 2nd BCE to 5th CE. Sculpture, ancient coins as well as frescoes from the walls of Empress Livia’s summer villa incredibly preserved. One of the more overlooked and yet important museums in Rome just a stone’s throw from The Beehive.
BASILICA SANTA MARIA DEGLI ANGELI
This church was incorporated into the ancient Baths of Diocletian by Michelangelo. It has a meridian line (see the astrological figures in the floor) commissioned by Pope Clement XI in 1702 that was used to check the time, predict Easter and check the accuracy of what at the time was the new Gregorian calendar.
BASILICA SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE
Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore is all about Roman Baroque style glory. Come here for the 5th century mosaics including one of the oldest representations of the Virgin Mary. Under the high altar is the Crypt of the Nativity there in a container are4 pieces of sycamore wood boards said to have been part of the manger of the nativity.
BASILICA SANTA PRASSEDE
Behind this unassuming entrance you’ll find more beautiful mosaics and a relic of the pillar which was supposedly the one on which Jesus was flogged and tortured before his crucifixion.
After all this site-seeing or after your long flight and you’re feeling those hunger pangs – our immediate neighborhood has some good, inexpensive trattorias – the best of which is Meid in Nepols Ask our reception to call in advance as reservations are necessary. For a quick bite, 80 Fame, is an excellent pizza by the slice just a block away from us. Gainn, a Korean restaurant is also a block away near 80 Fame. A little further afield, but still only about a 10-15 minute walk is Come il Latte – easily in the top 10 of Rome’s best gelato. In addition, there is Rome’s oldest wine shop which also has a wine bar, Trimani, a place to find a fine bottle of wine or a spot for a tasty, albeit pricey lunch.
Besides the sites I just mentioned and the many hotels you’ll see, The Beehive’s neighborhood is a living and working area. It’s home to many non-profits such as Unicef, Save the Children Italia and Amnesty International Italia (both of whom we have good relationships with), a branch of the nation’s bank, Banca d’Italia, (located across the street from us) as well as several branches of Rome’s university, Roma Tre and one of the branches of the national library.
We’re happy to point you in the direction of any of these sites and if you have a particular interest or need suggestions – just ask!
I was in the prep phase of a 7 day juice fast and my daughters were still on their winter holidays and feeling a bit bored so we decided a quick trip to Piazza Vittorio in the Esquilino neighborhood was in order. Many moons ago The Beehive was in this neighborhood and my daughters spent their formative years dodging dog poo and syringes. Despite that – we have very fond memories of this area. I guess you could say it was where we “cut our teeth” in Rome.
One of the hearts of Piazza Vittorio was its former market – you can see it in the scene from the 1948 Vittorio De Sica film “The Bicycle Thief” where he looks first for his stolen bicycle – yup, the old Piazza Vittorio market. In 2001 it moved from its decades long location to a new indoor center and re-named Nuovo Mercato Esquilino. The area has changed a lot since then, but there are lots of gems hidden in the rough and so we decided to spend the afternoon walking around the old neighborhood again without much of a plan.
First stop was Forno Roscioli at via Buonarroti, 48. The cousin of the more famous Antico Forno Roscioli near Campo dei Fiori, we like this place much better for the incredibly kind and congenial staff who talk to strangers as if they have known them for years. The clerks there are beyond patient despite the hordes that mob their counters especially during the lunch rush.
We managed to get a table and the girls enjoyed their pizzas while I ate cooked vegetables the whole time cursing my restricted diet before my fast and coveting their crispy slices of piazza bianca and Roscioli’s supplì (arborio rice balls made with tomato sauce and a piece of mozzarella stuffed inside, breaded and then deep friend – delish!)
Next we walked through Piazza Vittorio on our way to Mercato Esquilino. This market is fantastic! Besides all the wonderful seasonal produce you’ll find here, this is also one of only a couple markets in town where you can find a wide assortment of non-Italian ingredients – vegetables and fruit such as sweet potatoes, avocados, plantains, yucca, cilantro and all kinds of spices, legumes and beans.
We did our shopping and the girls were good sports about going around and around the market. I always end up buying more than I really can carry, but they helped me with my bags and in turn I thought now was a good idea for a gelato break so we headed over to the Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi, a mouthful of a name for one of Rome’s oldest gelaterias (since 1880). It’s the only true ice cream parlor type shop left in Rome. While there is better gelato to be had in Rome, you don’t just come here for the gelato, but also for the experience. Unfortunately, they happened to be closed for the holidays so there were some unhappy campers in my group, but I tried to stay positive and we continued along.
We decided to go through Piazza Vittorio again and this time stopped at the little kids playground in the park that has games and some electrical rides. Giulia and Paloma who are 12 and 10 respectively were physically too big for the rides which are for the 6 and under crowd, but Viola was happy to be able to take their place and her mood switched.
As I mentioned, the original Beehive was in this neighborhood and now every time I am in the neighborhood, I must make a pilgrimage to Panella, one of my favorite coffee bars. Despite it being on the pricey side, it’s worth it to me to come here for an excellent cappuccino and freshly made, warm out of the oven pastries in the morning instead of the stale, cardboard tasting poor excuses for pastries that are found at most Italian bars. This place feels homey to me – despite not having lived in the neighborhood for many years – the older women who have been working for their years still remember me and our daughters are captured in time in their memories as little babies.
I am of the school of “never come over to a friend’s empty handed” when coming over for dinner and these exquisite sweet treats from pasticerria Regoli will have your friends inviting you again and again! Regoli was founded in 1916 and has a steady stream of loyal customers. Pick up some of these tortine alle fragoline for a tiny taste of creamy pastry heaven.
Unfortunately, Piazza Vittorio and the neighborhood of Esquilino get a bad rap from guidebooks and I’ve made it one of my missions to post things here from time to time that will hopefully show the area in a different light. Many expat residents and Rome experts like Gillian Longworth McGuire of the Rome for Expats guide share my appreciation of the area and look underneath its sometimes gritty surface. Piazza Vittorio has tried to clean up its act over the years and this sign in the park for me spoke volumes. It’s a great combo of providing information as well as provoking people to think beyond what they can immediately see and open their eyes to the fact that we are indeed sharing the space with others. These others may not be as visible, but in this often crazy, chaotic city, need the trees and the grass as much as we do no matter which neighborhood it’s in.