This is my favorite thing to do in Perugia. I love grocery shopping. I love that the fruit stand, fishmonger, butcher, baker, and deli are all within a five minute walk from our apartment. I only buy what I need for the day because 1. it’s too tiring to carry more than one bag up our six flights of stairs and 2. it’s just fun. It’s my best chance to practice the language, meet people, and learn how to cook the local dishes.
This morning I started at Il Parma. They sell cheeses, cured meats, drinks, pantry foods and dairy. The owner’s name is Armando. Near him, Alessandro slices meats, and Francesco rings up the bill. I don’t bring a grocery list anymore, I just tell them what I’d like to make. Armando told me he’s a great cook, so I just follow his directions. Today I wanted to make amatriciana, a simple red sauce. As he weighed seven thick slices of pancetta, he pointed out the type of pasta and tomato sauce I should buy. Then he explained how it was prepared: Heat a little olive oil in a pan and then add half of a small chopped onion. After a few minutes, cut the pancetta into small pieces and let it cook for five minutes with the onion. Then add a generous pour of white wine and turn up the heat until the alcohol burns off. Next, add a jar of tomato puree and let it simmer for an hour, adding water along the way so it doesn’t get too thick. When it’s dinner time, cook the spaghetti, and then add the drained noodles to the sauce with plenty of pecorino Romano.
When I left, he said that next time, he’ll teach me how to make perfect spaghetti carbonara.
Then I needed some meats and cheeses for our lunch. Alessandro sliced a couple of the boys’ favorite choices, then I pointed to an especially dark salumi and asked about it. “That is bresaola. It’s cured beef, not pork. Serve it on a bed of arugula with shavings of Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. You can finish it with squeeze of lemon,” he explained.
On my way out the door, Francesco gave me the ingredients to make panna cotta, a cream based dessert served with fruit preserves. He handed me his recipe.
Then I walked to the covered market which has a beautiful array of fruit and vegetable stands. I usually go to Grifo Fruta. Marcello recognizes us and always offers the boys a peach or a banana. He gave Ray an entire cantaloup for his birthday. Again, I don’t bring a list. I ask him for suggestions. Lately, I’ve been loving fruit salads, called macedonia. If that’s what I’m making, Marcello fills a bag with plums, nectarines, kiwis, grapes, pears, peaches, and melon. He also adds a lemon and an orange for me to squeeze on top. We had the best macedonia in Mantua last week. The fruit salad was served in tiny cut-up pieces. It looked like a bowl full of jewels. That’s how I’ve been making it here in Perugia. We toss it with a couple tablespoons of sugar, and it makes a really good dessert.