The quick basics of Italian cooking: keep it simple and care intensely about the ingredients. Try to get them fresh and in season unless the preservation method makes them something better (sun dried tomatoes, for example, or spicy artichoke hearts or salt cod, the list a mouth watering few). I learned my first year here as a college exchange student in Bologna that one of the easiest ways to impress dinner guests is is baked potatoes and rosemary.
But you need fresh rosemary. Rosemary is a brush-like wooden herb that grows well even in cold corners of walls and outside windowsill pots. It’s a compulsory ingredient in Easter roast lamb and other early Spring dishes all over Italy, but especially in the mountains and the hills. Here around L’Aquila many people have a bush growing in a corner of their yard.
Cut the potatoes thin – whatever potatoes you like. I like them razor thin but have been known to cut them into thicker disks with the skins still on. Spread it out over oven paper or a pan slightly greased with olive oil. Sprinkle more olive oil, salt and a couple handfuls of fresh rosemary twigs. Bake away until they look as crispy as you like them. Open the oven a crack occasionally to free up the aroma of baked rosemary to fill the kitchen and tease the the dinner guests who are keeping you company. Bring them to the table warm, making sure that the plate gets passed around under everyone’s nose.
And if it smells good, it tastes good.