Perfect Pairings: 4 Delicious Italian Flavor Combinations

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I don’t know who invented the Reese’s peanut butter cup but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we owe you a debt of gratitude for your pioneering ways in putting together such a delightful flavor combination.   I love the combination of the unexpected – sweet and salty I suppose is my favorite.  Some of my choices were (are) suspect to some but really, you can’t knock it until you try it. My childhood was filled with grilled cheese and peanut butter sandwiches, fried bologna sandwiches with iceberg lettuce and yellow mustard, and pretzel sticks folded into Stewart’s (my Upstate NY peeps get it) Fudge Ripple ice cream. 

My palate has become a bit more sophisticated, though nostalgia always calls.  The quest for delicious, unexpected combinations was fulfilled in Italy.   Here a few of those perfect pairings that you must try when you are there (or recreate them here to bring Italy to you):

Figs & Prosciutto - figs don't seem to be a favorite amongst Americans.  Most immediately think of Fig Newtons which bear no resemblance to this mid-late summer fruit.  Figs are delicious and sweet without being overly so and just like the cantaloupe, they pair perfectly with salty prosciutto. You will see the sweet salty combo becomes a recurring theme. 

Lemon Sorbet and Prosecco (plus a dash – or two – of vodka) - this little after dinner delight is called sgroppino. Not quite a dessert, not quite an after dinner drink but absolutely perfect on a hot summer night. You can find the recipe (and about 25 others) in my cookbook: Italy, One Dish at a Time

Nutella Pizza -  the very first time I went to Rome, I discovered the beauty of pizza al taglio, pizza which is priced by weight. There are rows of pizza with all different types - pizza with mushrooms, white pizza with gorgonzola, pizza with potatoes and rosemary, pizza with sausage. And then in the corner, as if it is almost shameful to even suggest it, is the pizza con Nutella.  Pizza Bianca sliced open horizontally and filled with Nutella.  The sweet chocolate hazelnut filling with the coarse salt topping of the pizza.  Let's just say we ate it every night.  And thank God we were walking a lot….

Pears & Pecorino - cheese and fruit is nothing new but bears repeating.  Especially when topped with honey.  It is still one of my favorite combinations.

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar - balsamic vinegar is like gold.  Let me correct that. GOOD balsamic vinegar is like gold.  If you ever have the opportunity to go to a balsamic vinegar producer and see the process, I highly encourage you to do so.  Once you see how the vinegar is made and everything that goes into it, you will never again complain about the price.  The aging process takes place in five different barrels made of five different types of wood.  The best stuff is aged for 15 to 20 years and can cost up to $70 per ounce. In such a case, you use what is called a salva amica or friend saver. This contraption is put on the opening of the bottle and dispenses the ambrosia one drip at a time to keep your friend from dumping $40 worth of vinegar on his iceberg lettuce.   This precious liquid is thick, can stay on a spoon and has a sweet smooth flavor unlike anything you have tried from the grocery store. In Modena, where it is primarily made, they fill chocolates with it and strawberries and balsamic is a must for dessert.  Get the best you can afford and give it a try.  Just a drizzle.  

Have discovered new and delicious flavor combinations in your travels?  I would love to hear about it.  Leave a comment below.

Tastefully Yours, Ashley