Deep in Lazio’s Cesanese del Piglio wine country, a beautiful landscape mirrored in its extraordinary aromatic wines that famously attracted Julius Caesar and many popes, this roasted aubergine cake, stuffed with a lick of freshly made tomato sauce and local Amaseno buffalo mozzarella is served as an antipasti.
I am always on the hunt for interesting un-sloppy finger food that may be just cake-like enough to cajole my little boy into eating a ‘vegetable’, so as soon as I’d sampled this I put in a recipe request to Casale Verde Luna. This is a wonderful Piglio agriturismo and vineyard in the foothills of the Ernici mountains which cultivates the ancient Cesanese di Affile grape for the local DOC wines and where we ate a very memorable lunch.
The agriturismo prides itself on its seasonal cuisine and is incredibly family friendly, providing plenty of shade to enjoy an al-fresco heavenly scented lunch on the terrace, the walls of which are adorned with jasmine and bordered by rosemary. There is plenty of room to run for kids with swings and slide, whilst parents can sample their excellent famous Cesanese del Piglio DOC wines; sadly I didn’t take a photo of the delicious ruby red wines we sampled, but did of their excellent 2010 Nuvola, a dry peach-meets-apple velveteen Passerina del Frusinate.
Recommended Reds we Sampled
- Pepetto 2015, Cesanese del Piglio DOCG – who doesn’t love cherries? €13
- Civitella Cru DOC, Berlin wine winner – intensely fruity wine that manages its tannins
- Antiqua, Blend of Petit Verdot (80%) and Cesanese di Affile (20%) – full bodied red with lingering ripe fruits
- Amor – red fruits meet spice and all things nice
Special Cheeses from Caves, Mountain Herbs & Buffalo
This is a cheese lovers heaven, expect incredible cheeses with wines so good you stay silent as you try and savor their flavours. Cream coloured buffalo cheeses are served from nearby Amaseno that allows Lazio’s Ciociaria area to give its neighbour Campania a strong run for its money in the buffalo cheese stakes. Equally good were local cow cheeses flavoured with mountain herbs and cave aged by La Lola dell’Agro Pontin. Do try and source buffalo mozzarella for this aubergine cake dish, the combined flavours are soft and work in unison rather than ‘Aubergine Parmesan’ where the cheese almost hijacks the dish.
Location 40km from Rome in Civitella Ciociaria, cost of a family room starts at €120 per night including breakfast. Lunch Menu – €25-30 per person
- 1 Aubergine sliced thinly
- 1 Buffalo Mozarella Cut into 9 Cubes
- Freshly made tomato sauce
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
- Slice the aubergine thinly, salt and leave for 20 minutes, Wash well in cold water and dry on kitchen paper.
- Oil a pan and lay the slices of aubergine on the pan and cook for 10 minutes.
- Oil a fairy-cake tin and layer the aubergine around 9 of the moulds making sure there is an excess to fold in to create the bottom of the cake.
- Add a dessert spoon of freshly made tomato sauce and a cube of the buffalo mozzarella, fold over the excess aubergine and add an extra slice of aubergine on top to secure.
- Cook for 15 minutes at 140C.
- Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then carefully turn upside down, garnished with basil and a cherry tomato.