What to Eat in Rome in Summer
What you should buy at the market in Rome in summertime
Food in Italy follows the seasons and summer brings a wealth of fresh produce to the markets of Rome. After the delicate greens of spring, vivid Mediterranean vegetables and ripe, succulent fruits are filled with the taste of sunshine. Italian summer recipes are light and simple to combat the high temperatures, and mean that you can happily indulge in some guilt-free gelato for dessert!
Here is the Local Aromas guide to the fruits and vegetables you should be eating in Rome in summer:
Zucchini, and their flowers, are a summer staple in Rome where the diminutive, white-ribbed zucchine romanesche (usually sold with the blossom still attached) are a common sight. Slice them lengthways, grill and marinate in olive oil with garlic and parsley for a tasty side dish, add them to seasonal pasta dishes or try them alla scarpece, a Neopolitan recipe in which rounds of zucchini are fried and then mixed with vinegar, garlic and mint leaves.
Ranging from almost black to the lightest lilac, eggplant in Italy come in all shapes and colours. Southern Italian and Sicilian recipes regularly make eggplant the star of the show: it is baked in layers with cheese and tomato for melanzane parmigiana (eggplant parmesan), added to pasta with tomatoes and salted ricotta for pasta alla Norma and doused in vinegar with tomato, celery and olives for the beautifully sweet yet sour caponata.
Somewhat confusingly called peperoni in Italian, Italy’s bright red and yellow peppers seem to get bigger and bigger as summer goes by. Remove the skins to make them easier to digest by grilling until the skin blackens and blisters and then place them while still hot in a knotted plastic bag for 10 minutes. The skins should then be easy to peel off. Slice into strips and cover with olive oil, thinly sliced garlic and a dash of vinegar to keep in the fridge or cook slowly with chicken for the traditional pollo alla romana.
Think Italy, think tomatoes. Summer is when Italian tomatoes burst with flavor and dainty little datterini can be eaten like candy. Simple is best when it comes to preparation, think a classic bruschetta with just chopped tomatoes, fresh basil and a drizzle of oil. Tomatoes and mozzarella are a match made in heaven so don’t miss the chance to sample ruby-red pomodori with fresh, milky buffalo mozzarella or creamy burrata.
Slices of juicy cantaloupe melon draped with Parma ham is probably the most common summer antipasto in Roman restaurants and makes for a quick and easy meal at home too. To ensure you buy a ripe melon at the market simply smile and ask for assistance; most stall-holders are experts in their fruits and can easily tell when their produce will be perfect.
Figs gradually begin to appear towards the end of June but peak season runs from August to early September when the late-harvest settembrini signal the close of summer. The sweetness of figs pairs wonderfully with salty, savory flavours and in Rome they are perhaps best-loved when crammed into a pizza bianca sandwich with prosciutto crudo (cured ham).
Peaches, like other stone fruits such as apricots, plums and nectarines, taste like pure joy in Roman summer. The most common are the round, yellow variety but don’t miss the chance to try the flatter, white-fleshed tabacchiere (Saturn or doughnut peach). Buy a bag to snack on while wandering the city or try a refreshing gelato alla pesca.
Watermelon is just the thing for those hot summer days and there are numerous stands around Rome selling sturdy chunks of the refreshing cocomero or anguria to sweltering passers-by. Often it is also served after a meal in place of dessert or can be found crushed with ice in a cooling granita.