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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Jules’ parents often give us yellow peppers as they prefer green ones, and for some reason they can only buy peppers locally (NI) in multi-coloured packs of three. Perhaps another Brexit effect. No matter as we’ve found the perfect use for them in this simple pasta sauce by Joe Trivelli. We didn’t have enough rigatoni so added some penne that got stuck in all the rigatoni tubes. We had good fun sucking them out.

Wine Suggestion: This is excellent with oaked Sauvignon Blanc, especially white Bordeaux, where the oak mellows out the grassy characteristics and adds a creamy, buttery layer with extra citrus fruits. We recognise these are harder to find and higher in price, so more affordably we successfully opened an Umani Ronchi Ca’Sal di Serra Verdicchio which carries over the cut grass and citrus characters and adds an almondy twist.

Rigatoni with yellow peppers – serves 4

  • 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • ½ dried chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 40ml double cream
  • 400g rigatoni – Joe sugests whole-wheat but we had the regular stuff so just used that
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • salted ricotta if you have some – we used Parmesan which works too

Put a medium frying pan over a medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the pepper for 3 minutes, then add the garlic with a pinch of salt. Crumble in the chilli, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring now and then. You want the pepper to soften completely which could take around 30 minutes so be patient.

Add the cream and bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, then purée the sauce in a food processer and return to the pan.

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water until al dente. Scoop out a mugful of the pasta cooking water before draining, then add the pasta to the pepper mixture. Toss the pasta and sauce over a low heat, adding the basil leaves and some pasta water if needed to make the sauce creamy.

Serve on warm plates with some grated cheese.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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A recipe by Rachel Roddy; simple and filling. Keep your Parmesan rinds in the freezer for adding to soups like this.

Pasta & Chickpea Soup – serves 4

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
  • a Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 225g short tubular pasta e.g. tubetti or ditalini or broken tagliatelle

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, then cook gently until soft and fragrant.

Add the tomato purée and sprig of rosemary, stir and cook for a few minutes, then stir in the chickpeas. Add 1 litre of hot water, a pinch of salt and the Parmesan rind, then stir again. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove half the soup and pass through a food mill or blend with a stick blender until smooth, then return to the pan. Season to taste with salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender, the pack timings should work but do check as you go and keep stirring. You add a bit more boiling water if needed. Season again to taste then serve garnished with your favourite olive oil.

(Original recipe from Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy, Salt Yard Book Co., 2015.)

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A nice treat for two and ready in minutes.

Wine Suggestion: Something red from Italy’s Adriatic coast, but nothing too big or complex as this is a fun, casual dish! For us Umani Ronchi’s Rosso Conero Serrano, a Montepulciano – Sangiovese blend that has a medium body, fresh and bright cherry fruits and a gentle, earthy tannins was the ticket.

Prawn spaghetti with tomato, chilli & basil – serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150g baby plum tomatoes
  • 150ml white wine
  • 200g spaghetti
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 225g raw peeled prawns
  • a generous knob of butter

Warm the oil in a large frying pan, then add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until starting to soften, then add the white wine and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions in lots of very salty water, then drain but reserve a cup of the cooking water.

Add the basil and prawns to the tomatoes, season well, and cook until the prawns turn pink. Stir in the butter and spaghetti and a splash of pasta cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce a bit. Toss it all together and serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, March 2020.)

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Do buy good quality tuna for this, packed in olive oil. We like Ortiz which is widely available and excellent quality. We’d also highly recommend Shines’ Wild Irish Tuna, one of our local companies based in Donegal. We have tried loads of their tinned and jarred fish and they are all top quality.

Wine Suggestion: We chose a lighter red to match this dish from the Marches in central Italy. The Umani Ronchi San Lorenzo Rosso Conero has style and panache and the medium body, morello cherry flavours, soft spices and silky tannins are a charming match.

Baked orzo puttanesca – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 anchovies in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 30g preserved lemon, discard the flesh and thinly slice the skin into strips
  • 70g pitted Kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
  • 2 tins of good tuna in olive oil, drained and roughly flaked
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 250g dried orzo
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into half ½ cm thick rounds
  • 40g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 5g basil leaves, roughly torn

Preheat the oven to 200C fan.

Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan that has a lid. Add the onion and cook gently for about 8 minutes or until softed and browned. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and anchovies and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

Stir in the capers, half the preserved lemon strips, 45g of the olives, the tuna, tomato purée, tinned tomatoes, orzo, 450ml of water, 1 tsp of salt and lots of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cover with the lid and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the orzo is cooked through.

Turn the oven up to 230C fan.

Remove the lid from the dish, top with the tomato slices and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake for a further 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle over the remaining olives, preserved lemon, basil and 1 tbsp of oil before serving.

(Original recipe from OTK Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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This is a perfect lunch dish – quick, easy and just a few ingredients. We made this to use up the rest of a jar of passata and cooked slightly less gnocchi to serve 3. The quantities are just a rough guide really so use up what you’ve got.

Gnocchi al pomodoro – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 700ml passata
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 500g ready-made plain gnocchi
  • 100g grated mature Cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the passata and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil leaves, season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add 1 tbsp of salt and the packet of gnocchi. As soon as the gnocchi start flowing to the top, scoop them out with a salted spoon and add to the sauce.

Gently stir the gnocchi into the sauce, then transfer everything to a baking dish and scatter over the grated cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino d’Acampo, Kyle Cathie Ltd., 2010.)

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Inspiration for evenings when you’re feeling uninspired. Ready in 10 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: A southern Italian red, especially those from Mt Etna and surrounds if you can as they tend to have both warm to match the roasted red peppers and a savouriness to comliment the umami anchovies. For us the Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria, and Nero d’Avola – Frappato blend. Fragrant, silky and with a deep core of earthy red fruits; one of those wines that is both effortless and yet demanding of attention.

Red pepper & anchovy spaghetti – serves 3

  • 300g spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra to drizzle
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 8 anchovies, from a jar of tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 300g jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • a handful of basil leaves, finely sliced

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add lots of salt. Add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil, garlic and anchovies into a large, deep frying pan and cook over a medium heat for a minute or until the oil is hot and the garlic has started to sizzle.

Add the peppers and tomato purée and stir well. Continue to cook until the spaghetti is ready, adding a ladle of the pasta cooking water to make a sauce.

When the spaghetti is ready, use tongs to transfer it to the sauce, you can add a little more water to get the right saucy consistency if you need. Cook for another 30 seconds, tossing to coat, then remove from the heat and stir through the basil. Serve drizzled with some extra olive oil.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We’re pretty sure we saw somewhere that Polpo, a cookbook by Russell Norman, has just turned ten years old which inspired us to get it out and cook something. We served these, at Russell’s suggestion, with some home-made focaccia but pasta would be good too. It’s an excellent tomato sauce to use for other purposes too.

Wine Suggestion: Given the Italian inspiration to this dish we had to open something to match. The cherry and berry flavours in Pico Maccario’s Barbera Tre Roveri really sing alongside the anise-fennel flavours and the wild herb, leather and truffle flavours lend a base note to the whole dish. Bravo!

Spicy pork & fennel polpette – serves 6

  • 1.5kg pork mince
  • 3 medium eggs (we only had large, all was well)
  • 150g breadcrumbs
  • a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 20g fennel seeds, lightly toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
  • ½ tbsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • ½ tbsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • a small pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 750g fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • a small handful of oregano, chopped
  • caster sugar, if needed

Make the tomato sauce first, up to a few days in advance if you like.

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes for 15 minutes. Add the fresh tomatoes and the rest of the oil and continue to cook gently for another 15 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, bring to a gentle bubble and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped oregano. Now taste and season if it needs a litle sweetness (we find it usually does). Blitz with a stick blender until smooth and you can also pass through a fine sieve if you would like it more passata textured (we don’t tend to bother).

Now make the meatballs. Heat the oven to 220C/Gas 8.

Put the pork mince, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix together well with your hands. Roll in 45g balls and place on a greased baking tray, then roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once, until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, bring your tomato sauce up to a gentl simmer. Transfer the meatballs to the tomato sauce and poach for 10 minutes. Serve with some lightly toasted focaccia or pasta or whatever else you fancy.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

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Adapted from Claudia Roden’s Tagliolini with lemons, but as we couldn’t find this pasta chose another thin version with great success. Perfect for lunch or in small portions for a starter.

Wine Suggestion: Paired with Sartarelli’s Sparkling Verdicchio which captured the sunshine and joy of the Adriatic coast. Full of pure fruit flavours, hints of almond and lemon and a real balance between a crisp, fresh acidity and fruit.

Capellini with lemon – serves 2 to 4

  • 200g capellini (or tagliolini or whatever long and very thin pasta you can find)
  • 1 lemon, grate the zest and juice
  • 6 tbsp double cream
  • grated Parmesan or Grana Padano, to serve

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling water according to the timings on the pack.

Mix the lemon zest and juice with the cream in a serving bowl and season with salt.

Add the cooked and drained pasta into the serving bowl and mix with the sauce.

Serve with lots of black pepper and cheese.

(Original recipe from Med: A Cookbook by Claudia Roden, 2021)

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This recipe is from Rachel Roddy’s fabulous book, An A-Z of pasta. She introduces this one by asking if you are familar with vitello tonnato, which happens to be one of Jules’ favourite dishes, so we had to try it. Rachel uses the lumache pasta shape, which means snails and they are a bit like snail shells. We found these hard to find so we substituted conchiglie to great effect.

Wine Suggestion: look for a crisp, fresh white with a good body/structure like a dry, unoaked chardonnay from a cooler region. For us it was Céline & Frèdéric Gueguen’s Bourgogne Côtes Salines. Grown in vineyards just outside the Chablis appellation this is vibrantly fresh apple and melon flavoured with a savoury mid-palate that just melts into the tuna sauce.

Conchiglie with tuna, egg & capers – serves 4

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, trim to the palest bit, pull of any strings, and finely chop
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 x 200g tin of tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp tiny capers, rinsed
  • 200ml white wine
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
  • 400g conchiglie (or lumache)
  • a sprig of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a generous amount of salt.

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the onion and celery with a pinch of salt and cook on a medium-low heat, until soft. You need to be patient as this will take a while.

Add the tuna and capers, stir for a minute, then add the wine and allow to bubble for 10 minutes, adding 3 tbsp of lemon juice and some zest for the last few minutes. You are looking for a saucy consistency so cook for a bit longer if it is still watery.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet timings, then drain and tip into a warm bowl, pour the sauce over the top, add the parsley, toss together, then quickly add the egg yolks and toss again.

(Original recipe from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, Penguin: Fig Tree, 2021.)

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This version has fresh pesto stirred through the béchamel sauce which is a variation we’d not come across before, and it’s very good indeed. So good we may add any leftover pesto to dishes like this in the future; it brings a burst of Spring to a rich dish.

Wine Suggestion: We were uncertain what to open alongside this dish given the many components, but felt we needed to stick to an Italian. Freshness to balance the béchamel, depth for the layered richness, but a lightness of being to complement the basil pesto. We had a bottle of Pira Langhe Nebbiolo on the shelf and we’re happy to report it was a good match.

Lasagne with pesto – serves 6 to 8

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 700ml passata
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 12 fresh lasagne sheets

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 litre full-fat milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 100g freshly grated Parmesan

FOR THE PESTO

  • 40g basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 120ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 20g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions, carrot and celery for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the beef mince and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until browned all over. Season and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine, stir well and buble for about 3 minutes, then add the passata and tomato purée, lower the heat and continue to cook for an hour, uncovered, until you have a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning after 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pesto by putting the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor. Pour in the oil and blitz until smooth, then transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside.

To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the cold milk, reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. When the béchamel is thickened, stir in half the Parmesan, the nutmeg and the pesto. Season and set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish. You can use your lasagne sheets to get the right sized dish, you need to make 3 layers of lasagne sheets. Lay a third of the lasagne sheets over the béchamel, then spread over half the meat sauce and top with another thin layer of béchamel.

Lay another third of the lasagne sheets on top and cover with the rest of the meat sauce. Add the final layer of lasagne and spread the remaining béchamel on top, completely covering the lasagne sheets. Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan and grind some black pepper over the top.

Cook on the bottom shelf of the oven for 30 minutes, then move to the middle shelf and increase the temperature to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cook for another 15 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

Remove the lasagne from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010.)

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We came across this Joe Trivelli recipe at the weekend when trying to find a lunch dish that would use up half a tub of ricotta. It’s definitely worth buying a tub of ricotta for too.

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs a wine that has a bit of acidity and freshness, so taking inspiration from the grated Pecorino on top we went for the similarly named Pecorino grape from the Marche. The crunchy, characterful Vellodoro Pecorino from Umani Ronchi well met the mark and reminded us of summer too, which was a bonus.

Pasta with pine nuts and ricotta – serves 4

  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 300g tomatoes, peeled and chopped (Joe recommends yellow tomatoes but we had red)
  • 3 sprigs of basil
  • 400g short pasta, we used fusilli
  • 200g ricotta
  • 50g grated pecorino
  • extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic into a wide pan with 3 tablespoons of oil and place over a medium heat. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add the chilli. Turn the heat down low, remove the garlic and add the pine nuts. Allow them to colour but watch carefully or they could burn.

Add the tomatoes and basil sprigs and season. When the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of boiling salty water until al dente. Scoop out a mug of cooking water before draining.

Toss the pasta with the tomatoes and pine nuts, then add the ricotta, half the pecornio and a few spoons of cooking water. Keep turning the pasta over until you have a nice consistency, adding more water if it looks dry. Serve in warm bowls with the rest of the cheese and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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We regular base our dinner on packets of fresh gnocchi. They’re perfect for when you haven’t much time.

Gnocchi with peas, pesto and spinach – serves 2

  • 50g baby spinach
  • 100g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 4 tbsp fresh pesto
  • 3 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 300g pack gnocchi (you can use a plain variety or one with spinach)

Put the defrosted peas, the spinach and a splash of water into a large frying pan. Season, then heat, stirring, until the spinach has wilted.

Add the pesto and crème fraîche, and gently heat through.

Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi in lots of boiling salty water. As they rise to the surface, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add to the spinach pan.

Toss it all together, then serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, August 2018.)

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Romanesco cauliflower is a vegetable that we can’t resist picking up when we see it. It’s flavour really shines in this simple pasta recipe. It is very important to cook the romanesco until completely soft (you will be crushing it later with your wooden spoon), there is no place for al dente in this recipe!

Wine Suggestion: This is best served with a joyful white, and while we initially thought about an Italian Pecorino from the Marches instead went for Domaine Ventenac’s Colombard Vermentino, which is quite simply summer in a glass.

Pasta and Romanesco – serves 4

  • 1 large head of romanesco cauliflower, discard the stalk and break into small florets
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with the flat side of a knife and left whole
  • 1 red chilli or 1 dried red chilli, chopped, or a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 400g penne pasta (or similar)
  • 30g grated pecorino, plus extra to serve

Cook the romanesco in a very large pan of boiling salty water for 6-8 minutes or until completely soft. Scoop the florets out with a slotted spoon into a colandar.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and chilli and cook gently until golden, take care not to let it go brown or it will be bitter. Discard the garlic clove.

Cook the pasta in the water used to cook the romanesco.

While the pasta cooks, tip the romanesco into the olive oil and toss to coat in the oil. Season with salt, then crush the florets gently with a wooden spoon so they break up. Scoop the pasta out of the cooking water with a slotted spoon straight into the frying pan. Add the pecorino and stir to mix everything together.

Serve with extra pecorino.

(Original recipe from Five Quarters by Rachel Roddy, Saltyard Books, 2015.)

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This is like a cross between a lasagne and a parmigiana. If you have a gas barbecue it makes a very easy job of griddling the aubergines in big batches which attracted us to this dish in the first place as the barbecue was on a good run. Nice with some crusty bread.

Wine Suggestion: Light, crunchy red wines just seem to fall into place with lasagne, or aubergine and tomato. This was no different. Tonight to good effect, our favourite Loire red, the Chateau du Hureau Saumur Champigny Tuffe.

Aubergine Parmigiana Lasagne – serves 6

  • 3 large aubergines, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g mozzarella, drained and coarsely grated
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • a bunch of basil, leaves picked and roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
  • 8 dried egg lasagne sheets

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • ¼ tsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

Make the sauce by warming the olive oil and garlic in a large pan for a minute or until golden, go gently or the garlic will brown and turn bitter. Add the sugar and red wine vinegar and allow to bubble up for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and return to a simmer. Bubble gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a gas barbecue or a griddle pan to a medium-high heat. Brush the aubergine slices with oil on both sides and season with a little salt. Griddle or barbecue in batches until softened and slightly charred. Don’t let the heat get too high or they will char before they are softened.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Lay a third of the aubergine slices over the base of a large baking dish, then spoon over a third of the sauce. Scatter with a small handful of both cheeses (but not too much as you want most of it for the top) and half the basil, then top with 4 lasagne sheets. Repeat once more, then finish with a layer of aubergines topped with the rest of the sauce and scattered with the remaining cheese.

Place the dish in the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes then serve with the rest of the basil sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We couldn’t find cougettes to plant this year so we haven’t been cooking them nearly as often. Definitely one of the vegetables we miss the most in the colder months. You can of course buy a good-quality fresh pesto if you don’t feel like making it, though there is something very satisfying about pounding your own.

Wine Suggestion: We looked for a wine with a herbal streak and remembered the Ch Vignelaure La Source white from Provence. Made mostly of Vermentino with a dash of Semillon for body and Sauvignon Blanc for a crisp grassiness, this has both the body to work with the food and freshness to remind us of summer. Grapefruit and peach flavours, hints of white blossoms and a southern French, sassy finish.

Courgette & broad bean risotto with pesto – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 350g courgettes, cut into small dice
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • zest of ½ a lemon
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 75ml dry white wine
  • 750g warm vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 80g broad beans, podded and blanched for a minute, then skins removed
  • 20g Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

FOR THE PESTO:

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • a large handful of basil leaves, plus extra to garnish
  • a handful of mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan

If you are making the pesto, do that first. Crush the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the toasted pine nuts and pound to a coarse paste, then tear in the basil and mint, pound again to break them down. Stir in the oil and cheese and season to taste.

To make the risotto, warm the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the courgettes, chilli flakes and nutmeg and season. Fry for about 5 minutes or until the courgettes have softened and turned golden. Add the scallions and lemon zest and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes until translucent and coated in fat.

Add the wine and cook until almost evaporated, then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring until absorbed. Keep adding stock for 20-30 minutes, stirring all the time, until the rice is tender.

Stir in the broad beans and warm through for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then swirl in about half of the pesto (keep the rest for something else).

Serve in warm bowls with basil leaves and extra cheese sprinkled on top.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Do try and find Italian sausages for this, they’re much meatier and richer. We buy a brand called Levoni. You can also use fresh tomatoes if you can find fantastic ones but otherwise we’d recommend a good-quality tin.

Wine Suggestion: This was made after an online wine tasting Jono was running which focussed on Grenache, so naturally we had to try them with this. The amazing Domaine de Cébène Ex Arena from Faugeres was our pick. Mostly old vine, low yeilding Grenache with a touch of Mourvedre, grown on sand. This is perfumed and complex with vitality and energy. The deep red berried fruit is both rounded and structured with a bass note of earthy black fruits and forest floor. Very elegant but also big enough to stand up to the meaty and rich pasta.

Fusilli with Sausage – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 400g Italian sausages, skins removed
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes
  • a handful of mint leaves
  • 400g dried fusilli pasta
  • grated pecorino, to serve

Gently warm the garlic and olive oil in a large pan, then crumble in the sausages. Turn the heat up and cook until they are no longer pink (as you would with mince).

Add the wine and bubble until evaporated, then add the tomatoes and cook for 5-10 minutes or until thickened. Add the mint and taste for seasoning, sausages can be quite salty so you might not need any.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until just al dente in lots of very salty water.

Drain the pasta but keep a little cooking water in case you need to thin the sauce. Stir the pasta into the sausage sauce and simmer for a few minutes. Serve in warm bowls with pecorino sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, Fig Tree, 2021.)

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We cooked this fantastic recipe for Easter, avoiding the temptation of Spring lamb which is ridiculously expensive at present. Plus we think lamb is tastier later in the season when they are a bit older. This is the sort of recipe that Jono would choose, but I decide it looks too fiddly and we opt for something else. Something this weekend made me relent and give this a go … probably the prospect of a long weekend and nothing much to do!

Make friends with your butcher and ask them to debone the rabbit for you. The stuffing and rolling seems a bit tricky when you’re doing it and ours looked far from pretty but if you tie it tightly with string, wrap in some cling film and leave in the fridge for an hour, it will all stay together nicely and looks great when you cut it out. Be brave.

Wine Suggestion: Good with a Chianti Classico from a better producer and, if possible, a little age for some of the tertiary bottle development characters to emerge. For us we had a bottle of the Tenuta Sant’Alfonso, a single vineyard wine made by Rocca delle Macie from our cellar.

Stuffed rabbit – serves 4 to 6

  • 1kg deboned rabbit (about 1.2kg unboned)
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 30g currants or sultanas
  • 200ml white wine
  • about 100g soft breadcrumbs
  • 10-12 slices streaky bacon or pancetta

Spread the deboned rabbit out over a work surface. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook until soft, then add the tomatoes and fry for 2 minutes. Add the tomato purée, pine nuts and currants and cook for another minute. Add 100ml white wine and bubble until most of it has disappeared. Start adding the breadcrumbs, a handful at a time, until you have a stuffing that is neither too wet or too dry. It should clump in your hands and stay together but not feel too sticky. Season.

Make a pile of the stuffing, shaping with your hands, about 7cm from the less fat end of the rabbit. You need to leave a generous margin near the edges so the stuffing doesn’t squeeze out. Roll the rabbit into a fat log shape, tucking in the sides as you go. Wrap the joint in the bacon or pancetta and tie firmly widthways and lengthways with kitchen string. You can set it aside in the fridge for a while now if you need, we found this useful to firm it up a bit.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C/Gas 6.

Heat some more oil in a frying pan, then brown the rabbit on all sides. Transfer to a deepish roasting tin, not too much bigger than the rabbit. Add rest of the wine to the frying pan, scraping the meaty bits on the pan with a wooden spoon, then pour this over the rabbit. Roast for 45 minutes until nice and golden on the outside. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving in thick slices.

(Original recipe from Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy, Headline Home, 2017.)

 

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Rachel Roddy is a great inspiration for us in the kitchen. Her recipes are so simple but just right. This spaghetti dish has no pepper or cheese and doesn’t need them, it’s delicious as it is and a treat at any time of year.

Wine Suggestion: We were inspired by the bright Spring day and this dish to open the Spiaggia Marche Bianco. A youthful Verdicchio from the Sartarelli family who live and breathe Verdicchio. Joyful and charming; everything we were hoping for.

Spaghetti aglio, olio al limone – serves 4

  • 2 large unwaxed lemons, zest grated
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped
  • 500g spaghetti
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 1 small dried chilli or a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 6 tbsp of olive oil

Mix the lemon zest and chopped parsley together and set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add lots of salt, then stir in the spaghetti and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, very gently warm the olive oil in a large frying pan with the chopped garlic and chilli. You want it to be fragrant but be very careful not to burn it.

Use tongs to lift the spaghetti out of the water and into the frying pan, you want a little of the residual cooking water. Stir the spaghetti to coat in the oil, then add the lemon zest and parsley and a pinch of salt. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice if you like, we usually don’t feel it needs it. Divide between warm pasta bowls.

(Original recipe from Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy, Headline Home, 2017.)

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Daffodils, warmer weather (occasionally … ), longer days, and spring vegetables arriving in the shops. Things are definitely looking up, at least in our kitchen if nowhere else.

Wine Suggestion: The asparagus cried out for the Höpler Grüner Veltliner lurking in the fridge waiting for spring to arrive. GV is one of the few varieties to work with asparagus and this dish isn’t shy of their flavours so a good match. Crisp pear and zesty lemon flavours overlay the hints of characteristic white pepper umami savouriness; this is so clean and vibrant it shouts the beginning of the season.

Asparagus, wild garlic & Gorgonzola risotto – serves 3

  • a bunch of asparagus, snap off and discard the woody ends
  • 1.5 litres of vegetable stock
  • 40g butter and 25g of cold diced butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 250g superfino carnaroli rice
  • 60ml dry white wine
  • 40g Parmesan, grated
  • 60g Gorgonzola
  • a small handful of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped

Remove the tips from the asparagus and chop the stems into 3cm pieces.

Blanch the tips in a pan of salty boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Bring the stock the boil, then turn down and keep it at a bare simmer.

Melt 40g butter in a heavy-based pan, add the onion and asparagus stalks, then cook gently until the onion is soft and translucent, but not coloured.

Turn the heat up a little and add the rice. Stir for a couple of minutes until warm and coated with the butter and onion.

Add the wine and allow it to bubble up and almost disappear, then start adding the stock a ladle at a time. Keep stirring and only add more stock when the previous ladleful has been absorbed. Start tasting the rice after about 15 minutes, you want it to be soft but still with a little bite in the centre.

Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the cold butter, Parmesan, 20g of the Gorgonzola and the wild garlic. Season to taste, then ladle into warm bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips and the rest of the Gorgonzola.

(Original recipe from Made at Home by Giorgio Locatelli, 4th Estate, 2017.)

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Do we need to provide another recipe for Italian roast potatoes with rosemary? Probably not, but this version uses regular potatoes, rather than the baby waxy variety. So perhaps it will come in handy, as it did for us. 

Roast Potatoes with Rosemary – serves 4 to 6

  • 2kg potatoes e.g. Maris Piper or Roosters
  • a large handful of rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Maldon salt and black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks, then boil in salted water until just cooked through. Drain in a colander and leave for 10 minutes to cool slightly and lose some mixture. 

Preheat the oven to 220C/220C Fan/Gas 7.

Heat a roasting tray in the oven with most of the rosemary leaves and a good few glugs of olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Remove the tray from the oven and add the potatoes, turning to coat well in the oil and rosemary .

Roast for about 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes or so. 

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012.)

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