Summer Produce in Rome’s Food Market
Summer is the season that brings bright, juicy, fruit and vegetable produce to Rome’s local food market. In Italy, following the season guarantees not only the tastiest produce but also means that you get more for your money as prices decrease as supply increases. Watch our latest video to follow the Local Aromas Foodie Sisters as they explain what to buy at the market in summer, and read on to find out how to use summer produce the Italian way.
The markets of Rome become an explosion of color and flavor during the summer months so let’s explore the absolute best of what is in season right now in Rome.
There is nothing like Italian tomatoes when they hit peak season. The huge array of varieties can be overwhelming but don’t hesitate to ask the market vendor their advice as using the right tomato for your recipe will make all of the difference. Try the succulent San Marzano for sauces, chunky oxheart layered with mozzarella for a winning Caprese salad, stuff the sturdy ones with rice and herbs and bake in the oven for the Roman favorite pomodori con il riso, and savor the sweet, ruby-red datterini in salads or on traditional bruschetta.
Both cantaloupe and watermelon are a common sight in Rome throughout the summer. The former is often served with salty prosciutto for a delicious antipasto while the latter will be carved into chunks and brought to the table at the end of a meal to cleanse the palate or devoured as a cool refreshment on the beach. To make sure you get a perfect, ripe melon simply ask the stallholder to help you choose on the basis of when you plan to eat it.
Early summer sees the influx of ripe cherries which simply burst with flavor in your mouth. Look out for the local visciole or sour cherries which are made into a delectable jam used to make the Roman-Jewish recipe of torta ricotta e visciole (ricotta and sour cherry pie).
Visitors to Italy are often astounded by the huge varieties of eggplant on show at the market, from dark purple to light violet and even the original white variety which gave the vegetable its name thanks to its egg-like appearance. During summer eggplant is used for pasta dishes, Sicilian caponata, the luxurious melanzane parmigiana, or simply grilled and marinated in olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
For Romans, summer means the small, sweet zucchine romanesche which are a light green, ribbed variety sold with their blossom attached. Not only will the zucchini be used for frying, sauces or marinating, but the flowers can also be added to pasta and pizza or stuffed and deep-fried for the Roman classic fiori di zucca.
Gigantic red and yellow peppers are a staple in the summer months and can be quickly chopped to add color to salad, or grilled or roasted before being peeled, sliced and doused in olive oil and garlic. However, for Romans the most beloved summer dish with peppers is pollo alla romana, a summer stew of slow-cooked jointed chicken in peppers, tomatoes, and onion which is commonly brought as a beach picnic in the summer months.
Stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, and plums hit their peak in the summer so don’t miss the chance to let their sweet juice run down your chin in the Roman summer sunshine. For a fabulous, easy, Italian summer dessert, cut peaches into chunks and cover with white wine and a couple of spoonfuls of sugar before leaving in the fridge to absorb the flavors. A true taste of Roman summer.