Jamie Oliver has fondly recalled rotolo, the pasta dish he cooked on the TV programme Christmas at the River Café 23 years ago, in effect his first big break.
Talking to The Guardian, the popular TV chef describes the Tuscan dish, which incorporates homemade sheet pasta, greens, ricotta, parmesan and porcini, all rolled up and baked in tomato sauce, sliced and served with sage butter.
"When you cut through the rotolo, you get a swirl of the pasta, a swirl of the green, bombs of the white cheese and, in the middle, that beautiful mushroom cooked so it’s tender and intense and meaty and creamy. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but it is unusual, which means people like to look at it. "
The 43-year-old celebrity chef recalled the day his boss, the River Café’s co-owner, Rose Gray, taught him how to make rotolo.
"I had never tasted anything like it in my life. Pasta as silken as a scarf; greens the very opposite of what most British kids knew, because since the war we had tended to boil the shit out of them, whereas here, braised with garlic and butter and nutmeg, they were intense, dark green, delicious.
"The ricotta, clean and white; the sage as crispy as pommes frites."
That culinary piece de resistance, Jamie says was the only reason he got discovered and ended up on TV. "It’s how I got to where I am today."
Rotolo indeed features proudly on the menu at his restaurant, Jamie’s Italian. "As the seasons change, we go from mushrooms to butternut squash. It’s delicious fresh from being poached, and the leftovers can be baked - al forno - in tomato sauce. I love the ritual of making it."