The highly productive soil of northern Italy yields exceptional dairy products and meats from animals that graze on the lush slopes. This dish features both – great handfuls of Parmigiano Reggiano, made with this fatty mountain milk, and light, tender veal. I was taught this dish by Silvana Ghillani, a fantastically accomplished home cook from the town of Calestano, where I visited recently to explore the many uses of Parmigiano Reggiano.
A woman with a reputation for extraordinary production in the kitchen, she opened her house to us for a multi-course feast. Central to the meal was this roast belly of veal, marinated overnight in herbs and other aromatics, then stuffed with her own homemade breadcrumbs, dried cep (porcini mushrooms) and vast quantities of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Cooked very low and very slow, the meat is incredibly tender, basted in white wine as it roasts, with the filling moist and beautifully seasoned. After careful carving, the final, elegant slices are drizzled with the concentrated cooking juices for even more moisture and flavour. Her mushroom ravioli, Parmigiano Reggiano gnocchi and caramelised walnut cake (before and after dinner!) will also linger in my mind for a long time to come.