March 15, 2012

Farm to Table--- creating a recipe with Saba

I was recently invited to participate in a blogger online event, using SABA, from the Azienda Mariotti and the Gusto Ferrara site, invited by my friend Rosella from Rome.

Saba is the cooked down wine must, which concentrates all the flavors into a sweet syrup.

I have a confession- I am a saba junkie! I have several bottles from various trips all around Italy where i have found regional versions. Vin cotto is another name and sometimes it is made with figs instead of grapes (Puglia).

Most often I have had saba drizzled in fried desserts, used like honey.

Saba, or cooked wine must, is also how traditional balsamic vinegar is made. The grape juice is cooked down slowly over night and then the saba is saved in wooden barrels for a period of at least 12 years, moving it yearly as it concentrates down. Needless to say, that explains why traditional balsamic vinegar is expensive.

But Saba is for everyone and everyday use.

For my recipe I decided to use it as part of my onion jam recipe to serve along side of cheese.

Since Roman times, sheep's milk cheese have been served with honey and pepper. Years ago, more than 10 I believe, I was working at the Macelleria Cecchini, and introduced Dario to Red Pepper Jelly. There was no Philidelfia cream cheese in Italy at the time, so I started serving it with pecorino cheese. A new trend was started in Italy. Now there are several companies producing jams and jellies to serve with a cheese course. My little claim to fame in Italy as the creator or Mostarda Mediterranea at the Macelleria!

In staying local, I visited a nearby farm to get some of their sheep's milk cheese.

happy sheep make fabulous cheese

I adore driving up the hill and seeing the lovely herd of sheep grazing out in the Tuscan countryside and then heading down the dirt road and knocking on grandma's door. She opens the shop for us and we stick up on the goodies, the fresher cheese for grilling, a aged one to have after the meal and some of their home made salami.

"roasting cheese"

some of the cheeses ready to sell

Back to my kitchen,using the local red onions, part of the slow food protected foods, and slowly stewed them using the mosto to caramelize the onions with brown sugar and one of my home-grown chili peppers.

Warm cheese and a savory but sweet onion jam  is a lovely light meal or a appetizer.

Marmellata di Cipolla con Saba
Onion jam with saba

3 large red onions, sliced thinly
4tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup Saba
1/4 cup vinegar
1 Chili pepper( or to taste)
Olive oil or butter

Saute the onions slowly in olive oil or butter until lightly translucent.
Add the chili pepper and saute.
Add the brown sugar, vinegar and saba and turn up the heat to allow the onions to caramelize, stirring constantly, adding water if the jam gets too thick.

The cheese is lightly grilled on a hot skillet, until a light crust forms. Using a spatual, carefully turn the cheese. Serve with the crispy crust and drizzle with some extra saba.

This is also great with meats.

Grazie mille!!!


  1. Oh that looks so good I could eat my computer screen...

  2. That sounds fantastic. I made the onion marmalade before, had it with cheese and loved it. Now I need to figure out how to get SABA.
    Really nice blog!

    1. You can get Saba at

  3. Saba tour, that's great.
    Cipolla and saba, I really want to try it.

  4. Brava! Looks and sounds simply yummy. Could a combination of butter and oil work, too? (So I don't have to decide!)

  5. @laura yes butter and oil can be used-- the butter tends to solidify when you put in fridge.

  6. My grandparents baked with vino cotto and I have never been able to find it or duplicate their recipes. Where can you purchase SABA? Will I need to take a second mortgage on my house to procure it????? Spero di no.

    Best, Lisa

  7. @lisa is is boiled down fresh grape juice must--- cooked slowly and reduced down to 1/3. Most families make their own- BUT was just googling--
    not expensive--- enjoy!

  8. Found this post looking for Saba recipes. We had dates stuffed with gorgonzola sitting in pool of Saba. Amazing!

  9. We make Saba at our Vineyard in SC. Same principle technique but from our local vitis Rotundifolia grapes. Slow cooked grape must with a twist of savory spices (I know Saba is not traditionally spiced) that put a whole new depth and meaning for it's uses. We love traditional Saba but felt that in our market, a little "kick" would make a positive difference. Great to see others sharing the Saba story in the US...