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Probably the favorite summer antipasto in Rome is prosciutto e melone o fichi. Light, cool and appetizing, it consists of paper-thin slices of raw cured Italian ham, served with a cold golden melon or peeled iced figs. It is a delicious combination, leaving you refreshed and poised for the splendors to come.
There are many other choices—sliced salame, chicken salad, pinkish shrimps called gamberi, mushrooms or artichokes in oil—enough to satisfy the most fastidious diner.
ZUPPE E MINESTRE
Zuppe always means soup, but the word minestre is often ambiguous, referring both to soup and the pasta preparations on some restaurant menus. One of the best of the soups is stracciatella, that savory consomm� to which has been added egg and grated cheese. It is standard on most menus, and worth trying in your own American kitchen.
The classic Italian vegetable soup, minestrone, is known far beyond its own frontiers. It supposedly originated in Genoa, but the Romans have adopted it wholeheartedly and like it hot, cold or lukewarm.
Few words in Italy's gastronomic vocabulary cover a wider range of delights than brodo—broth. In Italy this simple fare is given individuality by the addition of rice, egg (zuppa alla pavese), chicken livers (brodo con fegatini di polio) or a variety of farinaceous delicacies, among them capellini, tortellini, raviolini and quadrucci. You will also find creamed chicken soup (crema di polio) and the old tomato standby (crema di pomodoro) in Rome. One of the best solutions to your soup problem on a warm August night will certainly be cold consomm� (consomm� freddo).
FARINACEI, PASTE ASCIUTTE
As you know, a cornerstone of Italian cookery is pasta, the broad term for a variety of hearty dishes. Derived from fundamentally the same flour (and occasionally egg) base, each of these pasta dishes takes on a different form and, strangely enough, achieves quite a different taste. In America we know many of them well—spaghetti, macaroni and ravioli are long-accepted words—but a few will come as a welcome novelty.
As we've pointed out, fettuccine al burro is Rome's particular pride, a simple classic you'll always remember. Sometimes they are served with a Bolognese meat sauce.
A rich, fragrant and luxurious dish that immediately conquers foreign visitors is cannelloni. It consists of thin leaves of pasta about three inches square, boiled in water and wrapped into cylinders around a spiced meat or cheese stuffing. These are covered with a cream or tomato sauce, sprinkled with grated cheese, browned in the oven and served very hot from the baking dish—an epicurean delight when prepared by a good Roman chef.