The New Gastronome

Freaky Pairings

Special Edition ft. Braja

Braja is a Roero creature, unapologetically so. The region is rooted in the foundation of our cascina, sturdy and loud as its hosts. When we brought Nonno Lele’s vegetable garden – a tiny piece of land, swallowed into oblivion – back to life, we jumped blindly onto the go-local swing. Guided by the principles of market gardening, we followed bio-intensive approaches that rhymed with biodiversity and love for local varieties but also left room for interpretation.


So, yes, Braja is a Roero creature, and yet, in our recipes, you might hear a Sicilian accent, breathe in Middle Eastern allure or catch a glimpse of Brooklyn in spring. In short, these recipes represent all the places that have planted seeds in our hearts. They are not necessarily what you would find in Grandma’s old cookbook, but hey, we are here to be freaky!


Caponatina dell’Orto



Our work in the field is often strenuous and demanding. Therefore, the produce we harvest is loaded with values and feelings, and all the tastier for it. So much so that we actually wondered: does this taste so good to us just because we are aware of the energy we put into it? We decided to use our caponatina as a test bench, and …everyone else also found it that good. Puh!


 The recipe celebrates memories of the unpretentious beauty of caponata in Salina, but with brighter colours, a more playful texture, and unexpected aromas. We have the creamy softness of the vegetables balanced by crunchy bits of raw zucchini and the natural sweetness of raisins and hazelnuts to counter the sour kick of Langhe red wine vinegar. It’s Sicily on your mind and Piedmont on your tongue.


Our freaky pairing? Sorì nell’orto! The trick here is to use the pulp of miraculously sweet yellow zucchini instead of an orthodox fruit puree. The elegant bitterness of Sorì, an artichoke amaro made from the maceration of the Slow Food Presidium Carciofo Astigiano del Sorì, citrus, and spices does the rest. Finish with some star anise seltzer, and you are in for a treat that resembles our garden in the summer!



For the Oil Infused Thyme: 

100ml extra virgin olive oil

50g fresh thyme


For the Caponata (serves 4): 

300g purple eggplants

200g red and yellow Carmagnola bell peppers

100g red Tropea onion

4 tbsp Braja tomato sauce

1 tbsp capers from Salina

1 tbsp Braja Linden honey

2 tbsp Langhe red wine vinegar

50g Alta Langa hazelnuts

50g Zibbibo raisins

500ml extra virgin olive oil

fresh basil, to taste

sea salt, to taste


For the Zucchini Carpaccio:

50g small yellow zucchini

50g small green zucchini 


Combine EVOO and thyme and let it rest for at least 2 hours, then filter the oil. Deep-fry the eggplants, bell peppers, and onions separately in EVOO until cooked but still with a bite (about 3 to 5 minutes for each vegetable). Season with sea salt and set aside. Rinse the capers and fry them in EVOO until the petals open and become crispy. Toast the hazelnuts in a saucepan for about 5 minutes. In a saucepan, combine the fried vegetables, honey, vinegar, raisins, basil and tomato sauce over medium heat. Cook uncovered for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce reduces. Let the caponata cool and discard the basil leaves; meanwhile, slice zucchini into paper-thin rounds. On each plate, serve the caponatina, add capers and hazelnuts, and top with yellow and green zucchini – arranged alternatingly – a drizzle of thyme-infused oil, a sprinkle of fleur de sel and some freshly ground black pepper. 


For the Zucchini Puree:

100g small yellow zucchini

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

½ tsp sea salt


For the Sorì nell’Orto (serves 1): 

44 tbsp yellow zucchini puree

4 cl Sorì

20ml infused star anise seltzer


Dice the zucchini and sauté them in EVOO with a pinch of sea salt until softened (about 5 minutes). Let it cool, then blend to a smooth cream. Keep refrigerated. Infuse 200ml of still water with 5 grams of star anise for about 3 hours. Filter the infused water and keep it refrigerated. In a highball glass, combine the zucchini puree and the Sorì, then transfer the infused water into a soda siphon, and top the glass with the seltzer until full.  


A. D. V. E. R. T. I. S. I. N. G.


Looks Like a Cheesecake, Tastes Like a Cannolo!



The guise is that of a deconstructed cheesecake, but one spoon in and the inspiration will loudly reveal itself: a cannolo. For our base crumble, we use an ancient local variety of cornflour, whose nutty and sweet notes work marvellously with the astonishing minerality of Langhe hazelnuts. Super fresh and rich malga butter for the crumble and a classic cannoli filling (50% cow, 50% sheep ricotta) are key ingredients as well.


Right now, we prepare the dish with local apricots, but almost any fruit in season will work (think: pears, oranges, strawberries). Mixed with indulgent gianduja spread and black sea salt from Cyprus, the flavours will pop. It’s a treat that balances sweetness, acidity, savoriness, and a crunchy – yet, somehow also soft – bite. The best part? You can easily make the dessert with your guests for an extra moment of conviviality in the kitchen!


We love to pair this dessert with a soft, deep and elegant bubble: Faiv, by Marchisio. A fragrant and delicate 2011 100% Arneis Metodo Classico with hints of peach, chamomile, and vanilla. It may sound like something to start your meal with but trust us: this freaky au revoir pairing is the best way to say goodbye.


For the crumble:

100g polenta flour of the Pignolet corn

100g Alta Langa Hazelnut flour

75g Malga butter, at room temperature

50g granulated cane sugar



For the ricotta cream:

200g fresh sheep ricotta

200g fresh cow ricotta

100g white granulated sugar



For the toppings: 

2 apricots

1 tbsp William Brignolo Gianduja spread

50ml extra virgin olive oil

Cyprus black salt to taste

8 fresh mint  leaves


In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the crumble and process until the butter is combined with the flour. Transfer the batter into a baking sheet, spreading it evenly, and cook in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes at 180°C, or until just browned but not too dark. Meanwhile, combine the two types of ricotta with sugar in a large bowl. Whisk until the cream is smooth and shiny, then transfer into a sac a poche. Halve the apricots and pit them. Grill the apricots, skin side up, for about 3 minutes. Serve by pressing ¼ of the crumble gently in each small bowl, add some ricotta cream and grilled apricot. Finish with some scattered drops of Gianduja spread, a drizzle of EVOO, a pinch of Cyprus black salt, and three mint leaves.




Photos ©Aarón Gómez Figueroa

About the author

Sara Olocco from Braja

She is the eclectic founder of Braja. Her background in hospitality and wine education converged with her agricultural roots to bring her project to life. You can find her farming, cooking or pouring wine at Braja Farm, but her mind is everywhere.