We were intending to take a day trip to Milan, one of the few plans we had in mind for our otherwise lazy honeymoon. Milan fascinated me, but lovely lovely Diana (I dare you not to go to her B&B’s website and not drool and then make travel plans) said that Turin would suit us more; yes, it’s closer to Acqui than Milan, but more importantly, she thought that its rich culture would be of greater interest rather than the cool industrialism of Milan.
She was, naturally, right.
I loved wandering around the city that afternoon. We certainly didn’t get to see all of it, but simply immersing ourselves in the culture, even for a little while, was enough to fill my “take photographs of European city streets” urge. We got a late lunch (for us–it was 2 PM) in a cafe in the Piazza San Carlo and the sandwich I enjoyed had prosciutto and cheese inside, but it was served as a rolotini (rolled into a pinwheel, of sorts), and it paired perfectly with the glass of house red wine that I enjoyed with it. It was just the right amount of sustenance to power me through the rest of our ramblings down the Via Garibaldi: rich, dense and fantastic.
We left before the sun set because we wanted to get back to Acqui Terme at a reasonable time (and admittedly we were anxious over where we parked our car–we were kind of expecting a boot on our car thanks to the lack of signage in Asti, but fortunately nothing came of that) so we didn’t experience aperitivi time in the cafes…but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to enjoy that time on a lazy weekend afternoon.
So I had an idea to precede our rustic dinner with a play on that sandwich that I enjoyed on the Piazza San Carlo. I’ve written about aperitivi before, but for those who are new here, it’s the time when you can get a good cocktail (often made with Campari or Aperol) and then get an open buffet of food to snack on while you ate. I was flipping through Autumn in Piemonte and saw miniature versions of that sandwich I enjoyed in Turin that looked very easy to make…and I was craving something with Campari…and just like that, the decision was made. Enjoying a proper gin martini has become a sort of standard on our weekends, especially on Sundays (as it’s Mad Men day!), but I wanted something you’d get in a bar in Turin, so a Negroni felt appropriate. Made with equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, it’s the perfect accomplishment to these super-easy, very savory bites, and feasting on both will give you the urge to either don your best dressy outfits…or your favorite dressy lounging ensembles. Seriously. This is perfect for those dinner guests you must impress, but they also work perfectly as a late-afternoon snack.
Given the presence of a good amount of cheese and puff pastry, these biscuits were definitely dense little mouthfuls, but oh, how good they were to eat. I went for broke and made two of the three kinds suggested in the book to see which we’d like better, but in the future I’ll restrict myself to one because too many of these things will kill your appetite for a while. I was intrigued by two fillings: one with Gruyere and anchovies, and the other with prosciutto di Parma and Grana Padano. The former was strong and great for those who love anchovies, but the latter is definitely the one to serve to a crowd, as it’s difficult to go wrong with ham and cheese.
Serve them with Negronis: as mentioned above they require equal parts Campari, sweet red vermouth, and gin poured over ice and stirred vigorously (and then garnished with an orange peel) in an old-fashioned glass.
Rotolini Salati (Rolled Savory Biscuits)
Adapted from Autumn in Piemonte
- 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed (one for each filling) (I use Pepperidge Farm because it’s easy to find and easy to work with, but use the brand you like best)
- For filling 1: 5-6 slices of prosciutto di Parma, 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, freshly cracked black pepper
- For filling 2: 4 oz grated Guryere cheese, 8 anchovy fillets
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
For filling one, arrange the prosciutto onto the puff pastry, then sprinkle the cheese and pepper on top, evenly. Roll into a tight cylinder, and using a serrated knife, gently slice it and arrange on a greased cookie sheet. For the second filling option, evenly distribute the cheese onto the pastry sheet, then arrange the anchovies. Roll into a tight cylinder and slice into 1-cm rounds using a serrated knife like you did for the first filling. You’ll have room on the pan for one complete roll at a time (you’ll get 15-ish biscuits per roll) and they’ll be finished baking in about 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool, then arrange on a plate to serve with cocktails.