Location: Southern Europe
Capital: San Marino
Geography: A small mountainous microstate surrounded by Italy
Signature flavours: Pasta, tomato, pork, rabbit, dairy, garlic, honey, olive oil
We reached our century with San Marino, which shares a lot of their dishes with the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, situated next door. Eric sourced his recipes online. We keep the blog pescatarian, and there was some challenge in translating rabbit- and pork-heavy dishes into our kitchen, but Eric is nothing if not resourceful, and he managed to craft a menu that showcased the tiny nation’s wealth of flavours.
Pasta e Ceci: A thick vegetable soup, loaded with ditalini pasta, chickpeas, and tomatoes, garlic, and onion, spiced with rosemary.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Erbazzone: Short crust folded around a filling of chard, chives, garlic, and parsley, and plenty of parmesan cheese.
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
Nidi di Rondine: Meaning “swallows’ nests,” lasagna sheets rolled around béchamel, ham, and provolone cheese, and baked in a passata and garlic sauce.
Prep and cooking time: 45 min
Bustrengo: A cornmeal-infused bread pudding loaded with chopped apples, figs, raisins, and flavoured with honey, and lemon and orange rinds.
Prep and cooking time: 90 min
The Shopping List
Because of North America’s love affair with Italian foods, Sammarinese ingredients were quite easily located on the shelves of our local markets.
This assignment was permeated by the fact that our little blog has reached one hundred places. Even though it’s taken us a few years to get here, we still look forward to getting our randomly-assigned country, to doing our research, to going searching for ingredients, to filling our kitchen with new smells, and finally to setting a table with often exotic (to us) dishes.
When Eric learned that he had San Marino next, he figured its offerings would be pretty close to Italian food, and he was correct. While he cooked, I was in the other room and could detect the familiar smells of garlicky pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
The dinner started with a warm bowl of pasta e ceci soup (literally “pasta and chickpeas”), which delightfully combined the earthy flavours of chickpea and kale with the sweet and citrus of tomato, the subtle aroma of rosemary, and the robust presence of parmesan, sprinkled on top.
Next we tried the erbazzone, which was somewhat reminiscent of the Greek spanakopita we enjoyed so many times living near Toronto’s Greektown, though trading phyllo for short crust. The first bite brought an explosion of flavours from the savoury filling, tempered by the soft, buttery pastry.
The nidi di rondine might have been my favourite of the night’s offerings. This simple but beautiful dish is pure comfort food: tender pasta, salty ham, gooey cheese, all bathed in a classic rustic tomato, basil, and garlic sauce.
To round off the meal, we tucked into a generous slice each of bustrengo. Not a cake, but not a pudding either, bustrengo is rich with honey and milk, and absolutely laden with juicy chunks of apple and sweet figs and raisins. Powdered with sugar, the bustrengo looked like something out of a bakery window.
San Marino, small as it might be, easily proved to be worthy of Assignment One Hundred. We look forward to kicking off the next hundred with Austria, Czechia, and Ethiopia.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.