Osteria Waggon and Horses, Milton (almost Cambridge)

Osteria Waggon and Horses* is in Milton. As the city grows out to meet it, that’s almost, a bit, if you squint, close enough to say that Cambridge finally has somewhere worth going for Italian food.

Crikey, that’s been a long time coming.

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Inside, it’s bright and airy with a little lounge area, and just a few bits of pub poking through. Yes, it says, this is a restaurant, but by all means have a drink – it’s not fussy. That’s the mood. Osteria was friendly, sociable, and delicious.

The menu’s simple, a few things to each course, the way I like it, and front-loaded with a range of little aperitivi to share. You could easily linger over plenty of those and a bottle or two of crisp white on a nice summer evening, before moving on to some pasta. That’s more or less what we did.

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Mushroom peposo

So, I’m doing “Veguary” again. It’s what it sounds like: a horrifying portmanteau, and 28 days off the meat. It’s great fun, more about shaking up my cooking habits than any kind of health-nut hand-wringing. I am, as a friend put it, “in it for the pies not the piety”.

Mushroom peposoAccordingly, I like to use Veguary to do two things: explore exciting vegetable flavours, and work up veggie hacks of meat dishes to see what I can get away with. This is the latter.

Peposo is a Tuscan beef stew I first had cooked from Jamie’s Italy years ago by a friend. It’s stuck with me – feisty and warming, and so satisfying. It takes balck pepper, and punches it up to curry levels of spicy impact.

But at its core, it’s a simple stew. You can do it with just wine, beef, pepper, and about four hours. There’s a pretty good recipe here. For the mushroom version, I’ve had to cheat a bit and nudge some flavors around for body.

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Paccheri with Finocchiona salami and tomatoes

Last week I was in Rome. It’s nice, and I’ll probably do a proper update on it (and the food) shortly.

Particularly, I should write about the deli we visited: Volpetti

It’s a wonderful old-school deli on the Via Marmorata, and despite being a bit of a tourist spot, the produce was splendid. So I brought back a giant Finocchiona, one of my favourite sausages. It’s rich, slightly buttery, and chock-full of fennel.

Finocchiona sausage from Volpetti

To be honest, it’s better raw than cooked, but on the Monday after I got back, I just wanted to use it in something, and since I’d just discovered paccheri (giant macaroni), that seemed like the thing.

This is substantially the previous recipe with dried sausage and different photographs.

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