Reshma Krishnan Barshikar

We know you’re there for the adrenalin of the races but when in Italy, food and wine will always take center stage. But please forego the pizza unless you’re in Naples. Instead tuck into hearty Rissotos, soups and heady wine. The cuisine of Monza and Brianza is a mixture of cereals, sausage and lots of offal and has acquired much of the richness of its opulent neighbor, Milan, while still retaining its simple peasant heritage.

Risotto alla Milanese:
That magical concoction of Arborio rice, stock and wine is considered every Masterchef Australia contender’s Achilles heel. Cooking a risotto is all about rhythm and timing. Much like a waltz, you can’t hurry it. More often than not the version you get in India often tastes like creamy white wine khichadi, so make sure you make the most of the dish while in Monza. Generous amounts of saffron and beef marrow heighten the flavor of the risotto alla Milanese and it usually accompanies the Ossobuco, so you don’t have to choose between your mains. Isn’t that just perfect?

Polenta:
Just as bread is the heart of Tuscan cuisine and pasta the cornerstone of Emila Romana, Polenta is the essential staple of the northern most regions of Italy. Made from cornmeal, it is either grilled or served wet with tons of butter and eaten as a side with tender game, sausages with tomato sauce, or wild mushrooms. I prefer the grilled version to the wet slightly runny one because the charred crust balances the velvety texture inside and works wonderfully with red meat.

Buseca:
If you think of your food in terms of extreme sport, then Buseca is right up your alley. It’s a wonderful way to sample tripe, the stomach lining of a cow or ox. Tripe has a deep, sticky taste to it, much the way most offal does and so the pancetta adds a much-needed edge. Along with the beans, I like to think of it as meaty minestrone. All that’s needed is a sprinkle of parmesan and some crusty bread on the side to soak it up.

La Luganega:
A long thin sausage, it resembles the Goan sausage and is the oldest and most famous of all cured pork meat, which has an element of spice and garlic. It is used in Risotto Monza Style with Luganega sausage or the Mondeghili (MON-deh-KEE-lee), deep-fried meatballs that make for the perfect finger food and available on every menu around Monza.

Torta Paesana:
Italians usually finish their meal with an espresso, as breakfast is their sweet meal of choice where they tuck into a torte or a brioche. My suggestion is to have both the espresso and the dessert. If you’re a lover of Amaretti cookies, please spurn the Tiramasu and tuck into a Milanese specialty, Torta Paesana, a chocolate bread pudding that is both bittersweet and slightly crunchy. Follow this up by dipping almond-studded biscotti into a glass of Vin Santo, a sweet late harvest wine and you’ve just had the most perfect meal.

Reshma Krishnan Barshikar is a travel writer and contributes to National Geographic Traveller, India Today Travel Plus and Helter Skelter. When in Mumbai, she can be found at the NCPA library researching her next novel. Her debut novel, Fade Into Red, is a romantic ode to wine and Tuscany and was published by Random House India in August 2014. For more details visit her website www.reshmakrishnan.com

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