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Food & Health

In an Italian kitchen

Rosalba Riolo, the Italian cooking instructor who delivers presentations on Italian culture and cuisine.
Italian cuisine is widely enjoyed in Saudi Arabia — but there is much more to it than pizza and pasta. Just ask Italian cooking instructor Rosalba Riolo, who hails from Tortorici, in the Messina province of Sicily.
After getting a degree in chemistry, Riolo worked in the shopper marketing research industry for 28 years. It was only after coming to Saudi Arabia one-and-a-half years ago that she became a cooking instructor.
Interacting with women from different countries and cultures at a local women’s group in Dhahran, she found a passion for meeting people and enlightening them on her country’s culture and cuisine.
Riolo admits she was not a particularly good cook in her younger years. However, learning from her mother and grandmother, over time she has developed a passion for creating food that reminds her of home.
Central to Italian cooking is the use of fresh, simple, but high-quality ingredients.
“A good recipe is one that amplifies the taste of the ingredients. And it is common to have classic Italian dishes with only two or three ingredients,” Riolo said.
“For example, the ‘pasta con la mollica’… uses four ingredients: pasta, oil, breadcrumbs, and anchovies. Yet, it is so full of flavor.”
Here Riolo shares with us two of her cherished recipes.
Riolo shares a childhood memory of when her mother used to announce “today we eat pasta with bread crumbs, okay?” It was nothing short of a feast to her brother and her!
Servings: 2
200 grams flat spaghetti
80 grams breadcrumbs (Riolo uses
bread crumbs from a day-old baguette)
30 grams anchovies
Extra virgin olive oil, as
1. Over medium-low heat, toast the breadcrumbs until they turn dark brown in color (for about 5 minutes). Add enough oil to the mixture, leaving no part of the mixture dry.
2. Over medium heat, toast the anchovies until they lose shape. Mix anchovies with the breadcrumb mixture until it is fully dissolved in it.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until “al dente” (about 7 minutes, depending on the shape of the pasta) and drain the hot water.
4. Toss pasta in the breadcrumb mixture and serve.
This second recipe is a specialty from the Sicilian capital, Palermo, and has been handed down to Riolo by her mother-in-law. The gelo di mellone is a refreshing, summer dessert that is prepared and garnished to look like a watermelon: chocolate representing the seeds, jasmine flowers for the white under skin, and pistachios for the rind of the fruit.
1.5 liters of watermelon juice (remove seeds and strain)
150 grams of white, granulated sugar
132 grams of wheat starch (can be substituted with corn starch)
Pistachios, chocolate shavings, and jasmine flowers for garnishing
1. Add sugar to the watermelon juice, stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
2. In a separate bowl, add wheat starch.
3. Add 1 part juice to the wheat starch bowl. Keep stirring to ensure that no lumps form. The liquid should take on a pastel-pink color.
4. After the first round of stirring, mix both the liquids.
5. On medium-low heat, keep stirring until the mixture takes on a deep red color and becomes thicker.
6. Transfer the mixture to a cake pan and set aside to cool.
7. After the mixture has cooled down, place in the refrigerator for up to 4-6 hours.
8. Once formed, invert the gelo onto a serving dish.
9. Garnish with pistachios, chocolate shavings, and jasmine flowers.
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