Especially if (when) you cut your food budget in half to compensate for the nice leather jacket you’re going to buy as soon as those guys in the San Lorenzo market stop calling you Shakira. No? Just me?
Instead of going out every night, COOK SOME DELICIOUS, IMPRESSIVE, AND INEXPENSIVE ITALIAN MEALS FOR YOURSELF!* Let me begin by telling you that no matter how incompetent you think you are, you are already better off than I started – and look at me now! Here are some tips, which I’ve picked up from my kitchen-savvy roommates:
1. Breading things is ridiculously easy and useful. Beat a few eggs in a bowl, and buy a bag of bread crumbs and a bag of flour from the supermarket (this should last you all semester). Dip chicken cutlets/veal cutlets/sliced eggplant/a shoe/your roommate’s toothbrush/literally anything you want into the eggs and then into the breadcrumb-flour mix, and then throw it in a hot pan with a little olive oil. From there, the options are endless: make chicken/veal/eggplant parmesean, chop it up and put it in a salad, eat it over pasta, drizzle some balsamic on top of the chicken with tomatoes and mozzarella, etc. This process takes maybe 10-15 minutes.
2. Anything tastes good in fresh pasta. Anything. Note: if you can, don’t buy the packaged pasta – go for the pretty little bundles of handmade pasta at various counters in the open market. Usually guaranteed ample leftovers for lunch the next day.
Some of our faves:
a) pesto, cherry and/or sundried tomatoes, mozzarella, pine nuts
b) olive oil, canned artichokes, tomatoes, peas, prosciutto
c) olive oil, fresh grated parmesean, broccoli, red and yellow peppers
d) tomato sauce, zucchini, onions, mushrooms (Google how to sauté vegetables – also easier than you think)
3. You will never tire of these appetizers. Ever. 1) tomato + mozzarella + olive oil + balsamic 2) fresh bread + olive oil + pecorino cheese + prosciutto or salami. They take exactly zero skill or knowledge of food to prepare, and you’ll feel fancy and sophisticated.
4. American dishes taste ten times better with Italian ingredients. We discovered, for example, that grilled cheese made with fantastic Italian bread, tomatoes, prosciutto or other veggies is a heavenly thing. Also, they sell turkey and chicken burger patties at the open market that are easily the best we’ve ever tasted in our lives.
Go to Market Centrale in the San Lorenzo market area or the open market in Piazza Ghiberti near Santa Croce, where you can literally get a santa sack full of fresh vegetables for under five euro, as well as anything else you could possibly need or want – fresh, high quality, and cheap. Also, if you ask the guy behind the meat counter, he’ll slice up a chicken breast and pound it into tenders for you at no extra charge. This is the key to making chicken without having to deal with preparing the raw meat. These markets close in the middle of the afternoon, so find time in your schedule to shop in the morning. It’s worth it! You’re in Florence! Supermarkets are lame!
When you’re panicking because it’s after 2 PM and the market’s closed, we found a butchery on Via San Antonio (near the San Lorenzo market) with great meats and cheeses that’s open late, so you can stop by before you make dinner. There’s also a little pasta store on the same street with the most precious little Italian woman working there who will gladly give you recipes and samples of things before you buy them. Nearby on Via dell’ Ariento there is a great, unthinkably cheap bakery that’s also open pretty late.
*LADIES: This is also a great way to avoid gaining fifty pounds within weeks! (Which is what I was afraid of, anyway.) Fresh, simple ingredients are not only mouth-watering but quite healthy, unlike all the food containing strange corn-based substances and preservatives at home.**
**Sorry if this footnote is sexist in any way
As I (sadly) finish up my final days in Florence, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned and the memories I’ve