SAN MARINO: Nidi di Rondine

There are lots of blogs doing the “cook one dish per country” challenge, and I won’t pretend that isn’t a big part of Locally Foreign too. However, with smaller countries, I’ve noticed that one recipe will become the default dish for a country, which everyone doing the challenge then replicates. Unfortunately, that can mean that if one blog makes a dish that’s not actually accurate, that recipe can be repeated by other sites until surely that must be an authentic dish. I found this with coconut fish from Nauru – I asked someone actually from Nauru how it was made and got a fundamentally different dish than every “country challenge” food blog I had researched.

I think the same thing is happening with San Marino – most “country challenge” blogs make nidi di rondine as the Sammarinese dish, but when I started doing a bit of research, I found that the actual dish is a bit different. Nidi di rondine is a dish of sheets of pasta with fillings, rolled into rosettes or pinwheels to looks like swallow’s nests – hence their name – and baked. Most of the “country challenge” sites use pre-made lasagna with the tomato-and-basil flavour pairings that are normally from southern Italy (they do look delicious). However, nidi di rondine is made both in San Marino and in surrounding Emilia-Romagna, and so is part of northern Italy’s cuisine – which is much less tomato-based. I found a few recipes on Italian sites that I translated, and they were consistent about using a large homemade sheet of pasta, filling it with northern Italian fillings like ham, mushrooms, and semi-hard cheese, then topping with béchamel.

I used this recipe from Giallo Zafferano (which is available in English), and swapped the Emmental for Danish Fontina (the Italian grocery I went to didn’t have the Italian kind). This is a tricky and fussy recipe, but I think it may have the same silver lining as the Uzbek non recipe – since it’s so finnicky, the authors set out plenty of instructions that leave little room for confusion on each step. This is also my first time making pasta from scratch, but since I’ve now had a couple attempts at bread, I’m feeling brave. Making béchamel from scratch is also tricky, but I’m almost kind of glad this recipe threw me in the deep end – the sauce did come together!

It smelled so good in the oven, and this is definitely not a dish for the lactose intolerant! I was a bit let down on how my first attempt at pasta turned out, I didn’t roll it out thin enough, so it was a bit too thick and bready. I think if I make it again I’ll either use the lasagna noodles or get a proper pasta roller. The fillings, however, were delicious – the mushrooms baked down and melded with the ham and cheese, and the little hint of nutmeg in the béchamel was just right.

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