Tagliollini with mint and lemon

What a brilliant recipe! We had dinner, yesterday, in a restaurant close to the main square in Nizza Monferratto, inside what were once the gardens of an old Renaissance Palace, the Palazzo Crova.

Those of us who had gone to Sarah and Ed’s wedding were having dinner to say goodbye and we were presented with a dish that, for me, at least, was a real surprise, both because of how simple it is to prepare and how complex it tasted.

It was a real taste sensation!

We were given a choice of eggplant pastry or vitello tonnato for the appetizers. Both using local ingredients. And both of which were wonderful. Because I’m still on the Dukan Diet, although it was really tough to stay on it all weekend in Italy, I chose the vitello. But the surprise came with the entrées: we could choose between tagliollini with a meat ragout, meat pie, which I was what I plumped for, staying as close to my diet as possible, or… Tagliollini with mint and lemon.

The head waiter recommended the latter, telling us it was the house specialty and would be perfect for dinner that day, given the still warm temperature that evening. If I’m honest, I didn’t really pay much attention to his advice. Let’s just say that almost all of us on the table went for what we knew. Except for Ed’s sister, who decided to experiment a little, as she later confessed. And it was a great thing that she did…

When it arrived to the table, as soon as she tried the first mouthful, she smiled and told us she wasn’t going to be sharing. Well, that whet our appetites just enough to get over our skepticism, even though we still figured she was kidding… So we all had a bite of her pasta.

I can’t even begin to describe how good it was. Truly. I believe I’ll remember the taste for a very long time. In fact, I don’t think I’d had a similar sensation since I had been in Los Angeles a few weeks before and eaten at José Andrés’ restaurant, The Bazaar, when I tried the deconstructed olives which burst in the mouth like a bubble and flooded the taste buds with the essence of olives. That night, especially as José Andrés was sitting at the table with us, I was expecting something special. But, that second night, there in in Nizza Monferratto, in the middle of Piamonte, I was certainly not ready for such a sensation. And that, without a doubt, makes it even more special.

The recipe is simple, really, really simple, which makes it even better. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to share it. Because, if I do, how on earth am I going to be able to surprise my friends when I next have them over for dinner? And, bearing in mind I hope to soon have a few days vacation, it might be just the time to get busy in the kitchen!

As a famous Spanish bullfighter would say, you need two words to describe how good it is: Im… Pressive!

In the photo, you can see Maria Doolan standing at the entrance to the restaurant’s gardens.


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