Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Benvenuto Italia Part 1, and Fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust

The Coliseum
I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Italy. It was a bucket list trip for me. I’ve always wanted to visit the Mediterranean. We started our trip in Roma! Beautiful Roma!  La Citta Eterna…(The Eternal City). Our hotel was first class, and very close to the Vatican.  We were in Italy for eight days, joining our son and his family there. That of course, only added to the specialness of our trip!  

The first night we were welcomed with a wonderful Italian feast at our hotel. Five courses! The pasta course was exceptional…the sauce so fresh tasting. Food was plentiful, the wine flowed freely, and everyone was full of excitement as Marco and Kathleen (our Adventures by Disney tour Managers) briefed us on our itinerary for the next several days.  Of course, what would dinner be without dessert.  Gelato was a given for my grandsons, but the adults enjoyed a few other options. I had a wonderful Tiramisu. 

Our first full day was spent touring the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the gorgeous fountains of Rome. We also visited Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. Although it was being renovated, it still drew a large crowd to view the spectacular carvings. As I stood in the Coliseum, all I could think about was all the history that had happened in this special and ancient place. It is a jaw dropping, awe inspiring structure, once the center of the Western Civilization!  

The Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
And now, a great center for fabulous food!  We experienced a most wonderful pizza lunch at Obika Mozzarella Bar (coincidently one opened recently in the Flatiron building in NYC). Our first course was  a delicious antipasto and mozzarella Di Bufula followed by our first Italian pizza…actually four variations of fabulously delicious pizzas!
The next day was spent touring the Vatican. St Peter’s Basilica was our first stop. From our hotel, which was right across the street from the Vatican, our guides walked us over to the Basilica quite early, to avoid lines. We pretty much walked right in. The staggering size and ornate detail of St Peters was phenomenal.  There were markers along the center isle denoting its size compared to all the largest Cathedrals throughout the world. The Basilica has been standing inside the Vatican, since 1626, and is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. The Pietà by Michelangelo is housed in the Basilica. It is simply breathtaking! 
It has long been a favorite of mine, and seeing it in person was thrilling.

The Vatican…St. Peter’s Basilica 
The Swiss Guard
The Pietà  
One last thing to see before our lunch break was a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo, once the tallest building in Rome. It sits on the edge of the Vatican and was once used as a papal fortress and prison. It is a true gem among Rome’s historic sights. It’s connected to the Vatican by an elevated passage called the Passetto di Borgo. If you've read Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown…the castel is even more interesting! 
                                                                Castel Sant’Angelo                                                     stock photo   
We then had a free afternoon. My son recommended we lunch in Trastevere, a short cab ride away (Hmmm…cab rides in Rome short or long are unforgettable experiences themselves).  Old Rome, with beautiful narrow cobbled streets, little shops, venders and many cafes to sit and have a cappuccino or glass of wine.  Our guide Marco, had given my son a recommendation for a restaurant called Sabatini’s.  Located in Piazza Santa Maria, with a large fountain in the center, unbelievably scenic. Our lunch was incredible!  One thing I will never forget, was watching one of the very skilled Sabatini brothers slicing very thin Prosciutto from a ham hock. He performed this task with pride and ceremony. Our walk back, from Trastevere along the Tiber River, was filled with neighborhood sights and sounds of this beautiful area. Walking through long narrow streets, with flowers and vines hanging from windows, finally climbing a seemingly vertical stairway to our hotel.

So much more to tell, but it will have to wait! I think I am running out of space! 

We had a wonderful lunch in Trastevere at Sabitinis 
One of the Sabitini brothers…both in their 80’s…carving the thinest prosciutto I’ve ever seen
Great food, and wonderful atmosphere 
The view from our table…Ryan and Bill checking out the fountain in Piazza Santa Maria 
Lovely winding streets of Trastevere

Seemingly vertical stairway back to our hotel

When I got home, I was so missing the wonderful Italian tarts and cakes that we were served everyday, that I had to bake something! Here is a tart that brings back Italy to me.  Hope you give it a try! Fresh figs and Mascarpone…yum!

Beautiful fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal crust

Gourmet | July 2003

Makes 6 servings
active time:1 1/4 hour
total time:1 3/4 hour

For crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (not stone-ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
For filling
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup (8oz.) mascarpone cheese (you could substitute cream cheese)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red-currant jelly
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 lb fresh figs

Special equipment: an 11 1/4- by 8- by 1-inch rectangular or 10-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep) with a removable bottom
Make crust:
Pulse together flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and rosemary and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until just incorporated.

Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition and continuing to test.

Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of tart pan with floured fingers. Smooth dough with a small offset metal spatula or back of a spoon (floured if necessary), then roll a rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Chill crust until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bake crust in middle of oven until center and edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes (don't worry if bottom of crust cracks), then cool in pan on a rack.
Prepare filling and assemble tart:

Whisk together sour cream, mascarpone, sugar, zest, and salt in a bowl.

Heat jelly and honey in a small saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking, until jelly is melted, about 4 minutes, then cool glaze slightly.

Remove side of tart pan and spread mascarpone cream in shell. Cut figs lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange decoratively over cream. Brush figs with honey glaze.


  1. Oh my goodness! Being a fan of both cornmeal and rosemary, I just LOVE the sound of this crust. I cant wait to try it, but will have to wait till next year if I want to use figs from on own tiny tree. I think it would also work beautifully as a base for tomato tart using the tomatoes that are ripening now. (minus the red currant jelly perhaps?) Ooh la la, so glad you went to Italy and got inspired for this ;-)

  2. Your trip sounds memorable as does your tart.

  3. Looks like you had a great time in Europe.
    The fig tart sounds and looks amazing, Kathy, that rosemary cornmeal crust is the winner.

  4. Although Italy is our neighbor, I have never visited Rome. It is in my plans to do so though! Beautiful pictures Kathy and beautiful tart!

  5. Your tart is spectacular, Kathy! I think everything tastes better in Italy...and you've made me long to go back again! xo

  6. What a gorgeous tart my friend - wouldn't mind a flavour of that (or of your Italy trip :P)

    Choc Chip Uru

  7. Hi Kathy!
    I'm so thrilled for you and your visit to Italy!!! Congratulations for living one of your dreams:) Your pictures are exquisite! The food must have been absolutely amazing as is that beautiful Fig Tart. Love the notion of a rosemary crust.

    Thank you so much for letting us tag along virtually, Kathy...I look forward to more, more, more...

  8. Oh, Kathy, what an awesome trip! I can't wait to read about some of the other places you visited. Your photos are so evocative. And the fig tart is a perfect recipe to include with this post.

  9. What an amazing place to visit! Would love to go there myself. And your tart! Gorgeous!

  10. Dear Kathy, Beautiful photos and beautiful memories for you and your family. Thank you for sharing Kathy.
    blessings, Catherine xo

  11. I love hearing about other people's travel. It looks like a fabulous trip. I'm enjoying your travelogue. Can't wait for part 2. In the meantime, I'll have to make time to bake your fig tart. Fruit tarts are my favorite kind of dessert.

  12. Ahhhh... I love relive your trip with you. I haven't been for three years and, through your words, I felts as if I was there with you all! What an amazing time with your family! The crostata sounds wonderful, too, and figs are perfect for me now as they are in season again (second fruiting) in Tucson!

    1. Oops - that would be, "I love reliving your trip..."

  13. I have such a serious case of wanderlust. Italy is one of my most favorite places I've traveled to - I keep threatening the "kids" and Sous Chef that we are moving there. I'm pretty sure Italians will adore my two little Havanese Kids.

    What a great memory to share with your family.