Before coming to Rome I wasn’t sure what to expect of the food. Being gluten free, I was unsure of how I would fair on my foreign travels. But something came over me since I’ve been here and I’ve caught a cooking fever. Any free moment that used to be spent online shopping, on Facebook, (the usual culprits) have now been dedicated to finding recipes. With all of the great markets around selling fresh food, I figured why not? Also, the tantalizing menus of pizza and pasta have forced me to; I refuse to be in Italy without eating Italian.
I have discovered one website that has helped solve many Italian cravings, and even the occasional yearning for comfort foods that I am otherwise unable to find in Italy. I’ve become dependent on a blog called Gluten Free Girl and the Chef. It has been great! There are so many great recipes and I have been documenting each one as I make them. If I go out to eat with my friends and I see something that looks Italian and delicious, I run home to find the gluten free version online.
One of the issues that I usually run into with gluten free concoctions is the strange ingredients. I have trouble finding some of them in the states, much less a foreign country. Xanthan gum and assorted nut flours are the usual suspects. Compared to Concord, NH and Ithaca, the “green eating” capitals of the world, health food stores in Italy are few and far between. Despite my doubts, I set out to find the ingredients; I was determined to make a pizza crust. The grocery stores here have been pretty great as far as providing daily foods such as corn pastas and rice cakes but when I start getting my Betty Crocker on, I have to hunt.
Fortunately I stumbled across a health food store not far from studio. The first time I walked in, I just went in to scope it out as any health foodie might. It was empty except for two friendly Italian women. As I toured the store, I think they were excited to see that I was excited; I tried to explain with my minimal knowledge of Italian that I am gluten free and that I would be back again tomorrow.
With the hopes of finally eating pizza within my grasp, I wrote down the ingredients I needed before heading to the store after classes on the following day. Unfortunately, I did not think to translate some of the things I needed into Italian. I assembled what I could understand with the help of a very friendly worker, and returned the following day with the Google translation of all my ingredients. The woman who works at the store went around with me to gather the rest of the ingredients. I now go there each time I have found a new recipe; I think they recognize me by the open sketch book clutched in my hand.
So far I’ve made a pizza crust from scratch that I can proudly say I have made to Italian cracker-crust perfection (topped with mozzarella and prosciutto of course), a potato, lentil, and tomato casserole, salmon with cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and rice, not to leave out some delicious gnocci and ravoli that Anna Rita helped make. As far as comfort foods go, I’m pretty sure my Italian version of baked macaroni and cheese takes the cake (I substitute the cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream for provolone piccante, ricotta, and plain yogurt). As far as I’m concerned, the blue boxes back home might have to make way for some red, white, and green infusions.