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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

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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For many years we didn’t buy Polpo by Russell Norman. It has a fancy binding and was always wrapped in plastic in the bookshop, so there was no way to have a flick. We can’t remember now what made us take the plunge, but we’re so glad we did. We’ve cooked many of the recipes and recently took this book off the shelf again and cooked a few more, finishing with this steak dish. You probably don’t need Italian roast potatoes with rosemary as a side but we couldn’t resist.

Wine Suggestion: A kind birthday gift from our friends Nicola and Dave was a wine we knew nothing about, the Iuli Umberta and opening it to try with this dish was a revelation. From the Monferrato hills east of Turin, this Barbera is so full of energy and layered with subtle flavours and gentle spice; so easy and refreshing.

Flank steak with portobello mushrooms – serves 4

  • 800g flank steak, about 5cm thick
  • 4 handfuls of rocket leaves
  • 8 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 small handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped

Season the meat with plenty of salt and pepper.

We cooked ours on a hot barbecue but if you prefer you can oil a griddle pan and heat until hot, then grill the steak on both sides. 10-12 minutes in total should give you a medium-cooked steak. Leave it to rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, dress the rocket leaves in some good olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Divide the rocket between the serving plates or you can put it onto one large platter.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan with the garlic and most of the parsley. Add the mushrooms and fry until soft and glossy, then set aside. We like to season these a little too.

When the meat has rested, sliced it thinly. Lay the steak on top of the rocket, then scatter with the mushrooms and serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and the rest of the parsley.

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

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Somewhere along the line we forgot about spaghetti carbonara, but remembered it again last night. This really is a store-cupboard dish. We’re never without pasta, eggs or Parmesan and more often than not there’s a half packet of pancetta or bacon lardons in the fridge needing used. Thursday night might turn into carbonara night!

Wine Suggestion: An open bottle of Edetaria via Terra red, made from Garnache Tinta grown in Terra Alta south of Barcelona was a joyful accompaniment. Fresh with refined spices and tannins; a gourmand wine. We don’t know whether it was the night or the wine but we had the chats all night after this food and wine.

Spaghetti Carbonara – serves 2 – though you can of course double to serve 4

  • 200g spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pancetta cubes or bacon lardons
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 25ml vermouth or white wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 50g grated pecorino or Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook the spaghetti in lots of very salty water according to the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the pancetta over a medium heat until crispy. Add the garlic and cook gently for a couple of minutes before the vermouth or white wine and bubble until well reduced. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the egg into a large bowl and beat it with a fork. Add a little salt and plenty of black pepper, then add the cheese and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta in a colander and immediately transfer to the bowl with the egg and cheese, don’t be too fussy when you’re draining as a little of the pasta cooking water will help make a silky sauce. Stir together until the spaghetti is coated in a glossy sauce, then add the pancetta and stir again.

Serve in warmed bowls and sprinkle with the parsley.

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This handy Italian chicken dish is great for a Friday night and kids love it! Serve with a green salad, lemon wedges and mayonnaise. If you have eggs leftover you can pop them in the fridge to scramble the next morning.

Wine Suggestion: keep it simple with an easy, dry white of your choice: Chardonnay, Verdicchio, Chenin … or tonights choice the Flying Solo Grenache Blanc – Viognier blend from Domaine Gayda. Easy, friendly citrus and apple flavours with hints of heather and a slight nuttiness, finishing clean and dry.

Chicken Cotoletta – serves 4

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced lengthways with your knife parallel to the board to give 4 thin fillets (your butcher will do this for you if you ask)
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 handful of Italian 00 flour
  • 3 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • about 300g panko breadcrumbs

Put each piece of chicken between sheets of clingfilm, then beat them gently with a rolling pin until nice and thin. Season and sprinkle with the lemon juice.

Get 3 plates out and put the flour on one, the eggs on the next, and finally the breadcrumbs. Dip the chicken into the flour, shaking off any excess, then gently into the egg and finally into the breadcrumbs.

Heat a large frying pan with plenty of olive oil and fry the chicken until golden and crispy, a couple of minutes on each side. You can do this in batches if easier.

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

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This is a little different given the use of the milky poaching liquor which makes this creamy and rich. Not that we partake in the cheese and fish rule anyhow, but cheese was genuinely not required. 

Wine Suggestion: Choose a white with a higher acidity to match the creamy stock and a bit of body as this is quite rich. We chose an alpine/cool-climate Chardonnay from Cantina Colterenzio from north-eastern Italy in the foothills of the Alps. Melon and apple fruit flavours with hints of buttery toast; refined and characterful.

Smoked Cod & Spinach Risotto – serves 2-3

  • 450ml full fat milk
  • 400g smoked cod or haddock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 450ml hot stock
  • a small onion
  • 50g butter
  • 250g risotto rice
  • a glass of white wine
  • 2 handfuls of spinach leaves, washed and torn into small pieces

Pour the milk into a saucepan large enough to take the fish in a single layer. Put the fish into the milk and add the bay leaves and peppercorns, then bring to the boil. When the milk starts to foam, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside with the fish left in the milk to infuse. 

Heat the stock in a saucepan until gently simmering.

Peel and finely chop the onion, then fry gently in the butter in a heavy-based pan. When the onion is soft, but not coloured, add the rice and stir to coat. 

Pour in the wine and allow to evaporate, then start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time. Keep stirring continually until each ladle of stock has been absorbed, then add some more. Keep the heat low to medium. When the stock is finished, start adding the poaching liquid from the fish (discard the peppercorns and bay leaves). Start tasting when almost all the milk has been absorbed. The rice should be soft but still have a little bite and it should take about 20 minutes. 

Stir the spinach into the rice. Break the fish into big pieces and gently fold into the rice, trying not to break them up too much. Check for seasoning before serving. 

(Original recipe from The Kitchen Diaries II by Nigel Slater, Fourth Estate, 2012.)

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A proper Venetian cichéti or wine bar snack. If you haven’t grilled fennel before we strongly suggest that you do, it becomes all caramelised and the flavour is much stronger. Here two strong flavours come together to great effect. Serve as a nibble with drinks.

Wine Suggestion: we didn’t have have any dry Venetian whites to hand but from further south in the Marches we had a bottle of Sartarelli’s Verdicchio Classico. Crisp, with hints of bitter, green almonds and pure peach and apple flavours and a saline twist that seemed to echo the anchovies. We were almost sitting in a bacaro overlooking a canal.

Grilled fennel with White Anchovies

  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced through the root into medium-thin pieces about 5mm thick
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt
  • a handful of roughly chopped dill
  • 10 white anchovy fillets

Preheat the grill to medium.

Put the fennel slices onto a baking tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Add half the dill and toss to coat, then put the baking tray under the grill for 10-15 minutes, turning once, or until starting to brown and caramelise at the edges. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.

Spread the fennel over a platter and place an anchovy fillet on each slice, then scatter over the rest of the dill and serve.

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

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A recipe from Southern Italian Cooking by Valentina Harris. There is no better vehicle to showcase purple sprouting broccoli, which is in season right now. You need top quality ingredients as they will shine in this simple dish. The sausages were Italian with fennel and the PSB our friends at McNally Family Farm.

Wine Suggestion: There’s a certain honest rusticity to this dish which we think suits Nebbiolo or similar, but not the heady heights of Barolo, look for a lesser known area. We went for the lesser known Freisa grape, also from Piedmont. A bottle of the Olim Bauda Freisa and it tasted of roses and raspberry’s with a decent whack of smooth, honest tannins; satisfying and generous alongside the food.

Salsicce con Broccoletti – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp lard (we used a mix of olive oil and butter)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 dried red chilli pepper
  • 500g Italian sausages (you need top quality Italian sausages which have a much coarser texture than regular butchers sausages)
  • 750g purple sprouting broccoli, rinsed and trimmed

A large shallow casserole dish works well for this. Melt the lard and fry the garlic and chilli pepper over a gentle heat for 5 minutes. Add the sausages and brown all over (you might want to do this in a frying pan so you don’t burn the garlic, if you do, make sure that the tip all the oil that comes out of the sausages back into the pan).

Once browned all over, turn the heat down and cook the sausages gently for 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and season with a little salt. Stir everything to coat in the fat.

Cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes, a splash of water will help steam the broccoli and stop the dish drying out.

(Original recipe from Southern Italian Cooking by Valentina Harris, Pavilion Books Limited, 1993.)

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This is a good family meal, with lots of veg and a rich creamy sauce – it’s really filling. Quick and easy too and you can  double to serve many people or a crowd of kids, when crowds of kids exist again.

Wine Suggestion: This goes really well with a white that can cope with a rich, creamy dish.Keeping the Italian theme we’d suggest a good Verdicchio which tend to strike a nice balance between a fuller body, polyphenols (those white wine tannins that give texture and grip) and a nutty, saline freshness. The textures and the body make it work with the marscapone, ham and tomatoes especially well.

Farfalle with peas, mushrooms & ham – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a small onion, finely sliced
  • 125g diced cooked ham
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 75g mascarpone cheese
  • 250g farfalle pasta
  • a small handful of chopped basil
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Bring a very big pot of water to the boil and add lots of fine salt.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes over a medium heat. Add the ham, peas and mushrooms and keep cooking for about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, uncovered. Add the mascarpone, season well, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, then drain and tip back into the pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta, then add the basil and stir together for about 30 seconds. Serve in warm bowls with Parmesan over the top.

(Original recipe from Pronto! by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2014.)

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This is a simple tomato sauce for pasta with a bit of magic from Marcella Hazan that makes it taste special. The sauce is intensely mushroomy and absolutely delicious. We don’t often cook from Marcella’s The Essentials of Italian Cooking but we are never disappointed when we do.

Wine Suggestion: This needs a simple red, but with a vibrant core and a new favourite for this brief is the Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero “Serrano”. Mostly Montepulciano but with a touch of Sangiovese this is engagingly easy to drink with ripe cherry flavours and a round and juicy core of fruit; very pleasurable without being too weighty.

Tomato sauce with porcini mushrooms – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp finely chopped shallot or onion
  • 35g butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp pancetta/prosciutto cut in strips, we used cubed pancetta
  • 400g top quality plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted (see below)
  • 450g pasta, we used penne, cooked to serve
  • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

To reconstitute the mushrooms: soak the mushrooms in 500ml of barely warm for at least 30 minutes. Lift the mushrooms out of the water and squeeze out as much water as possible, do this over the bowl to catch the liquid. Rinse the mushrooms if needed to get rid of any soil, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Reserve the liquid.

Put the shallot into a saucepan with the butter and oil, over a medium heat. Cook until the shallot turns pale golden, then add the pancetta and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, the reconstituted mushrooms, the reserved mushroom liquid, salt and plenty of black pepper. Let the sauce bubble at a steady simmer for about 40 minutes, you want the fat and the tomato to separate and the sauce to reduce to a nice consistency. Turn it up and bubble a bit faster to reduce if you need.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe from The Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Macmillan London Limited, 1992.)

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We love cavolo nero and it was so good in this simple pasta dish. No cheese and you won’t miss it as this has a really deep, savoury flavour.

Wine Suggestion: The beauty of this dish is the immediacy and simplicity, so a young red with joyful fruit as you’ll find in Beaujolais is perfect. If you find yourself in Nouveau season then hunt out a good bottle from a quality producer. We’re a few weeks out but had a bottle from Domaine Chasselay still hanging around and it was joyful.

Orecchiette with anchovies, cavolo nero and caramelised onions – serves 2

  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • 200g orecchiette
  • 4 anchovies in olive oil, drained and cut into pieces
  • 100g cavolo nero, discard the woody stalks and shred the leaves

Fry the onions in a little oil and butter over a medium heat until golden and caramelised, about 30 minutes. Don’t rush this stage as you want proper caramelisation. If they start to stick, just add a splash of water.

Meanwhile, boil the orecchiette in lots of very salty water according to the timing on the pack. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain it.

Add the cavolo nero and anchovies to the onions and fry for a couple of minutes until the anchovies have melted and the cavolo nero has wilted. Add a little more butter if the onions stick. Tip in the drained pasta and a splash of cooking water. Season well and toss to coat.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, November 2016.)

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