We first encountered saba at a gourmet market and just had to bring a bottle home. Although it was a bit pricey and we had never tasted it before, we were intrigued by the description of an ancient, syrupy condiment similar to Balsamic vinegar. The splurge was worth it. Now, we consider our bottle of saba a prized possession, used sparingly and on special occasions to add a sweet, caramelized flavor to fruits, cheeses, and marinades.
Saba is made from grapes, primarily Trebbiano or Lambrusco varieties. The grape must, or juice, is slowly cooked down to about a third of its original volume, resulting in a syrup with the rich, sweet flavor of raisins and plums. (Saba is also known as mosto cotto – "cooked grape must" – or vin cotto – "cooked wine.")
Ancient Greeks and Romans used saba to sweeten desserts and drinks and to flavor meats. Here are a few modern-day recipes, though you can also simply drizzle the syrup on fruit, vegetables, ricotta, or anything you can think of!
• Baked Pears with Saba, from The Splendid Table
• Goat Cheese with Figs and Walnuts, from Suzanne Goin
• Raspberries with Saba Sabayon, from Bon Appétit
• Salmon With Figs, Saba and Watercress, from David Pasternak
(Image: Emily Ho)