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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

Vitello Tonnato

Well it’s the last day of summer on this side of the world but we’re still hanging on for a while longer. Vitello tonnato is a true holiday dish and one we can never resist when we see it on a menu – forever summer!

You need to cook the veal and make the mayonnaise the night before you wish to serve.

Wine suggestion: naturally this goes with a range of Italian wines, either white or youthful reds. Make sure they aren’t too lush though and keep a bit of acidity or else the caprrs will work against you and you’ll lose the delicate flavour balance. To push out of this comfort zone though we headed east to Greece and a new found favourite: Thymiopoulos’ Xinomavro Jeunes-Vignes from Naoussa. With hints of youthful Burgundy and Piedmont, touches of crunchiness, delightful earthy red fruits and plenty of class to match the dish.

Vitello tonnato – serves 6

  • 2 banana shallots, halved lengthways
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 celery stick, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • small bunch of thyme
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 200ml white wine
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 600g rose veal fillet, trimmed of any fatty bits and sinew

FOR THE MAYONNAISE:

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 198g tin tuna in sunflower oil, drained
  • 1 tbsp baby capers, drained
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, plus extra to season
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 50ml olive oil

TO GARNISH:

  • 2 tbsp baby capers, drained
  • roughly chopped parsley
  • 12 caper berries
  • lemon wedges

Put the shallots, carrot, celery, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, wine and chicken stock into a large saucepan. Add 1 tsp of salt and bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Place the veal into the stock, then turn down to a bare simmer and poach for 15 minutes, turning regularly. Remove from the liquid and set aside to cool. Keep 100ml of the cooking liquid for the mayonnaise.

When the veal has cooled, season it generously with black pepper and wrap tightly in clingfilm. Put in the fridge and chill overnight.

To make the mayonnaise, put the egg yolks, tuna, capers, 1 tbsp of the lemon juice, mustard and sugar into a food processor. Season with salt and black pepper. Whizz until well combined, then gradually add both the oils and blend until smooth and thickened.

Add 2 tbsp of the reserved cooking liquid and blend again to give a soft consistency, add a bit more if you need. Spoon the mayonnaise into a bowl, then season again and add some more lemon juice if needed. Cover the surface with clingfilm and chill in the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve, slice the veal very thinly and arrange in overlapping slices on a platter and top with spoons of the tuna mayonnaise. Garnish with baby capers, parsley and caper berries, then season again with black pepper and a little salt. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

(Recipe from the Hairy Bikers’ Meat Feasts by Si King and Dave Myers, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015.)

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Tuna cooked in lentils

This really is the perfect dish by Joe Trivelli. Chunky pieces of tuna, earthy lentils and sweet tomatoes. We really recommend this one.

Wine Suggestion: Chill down a Grignolino, a red from Piedmont, and you’ve got a joyful  match. A friend brings in Olim Bauda’s version which is excellent, but we’re conscious this is a hard grape to find so if you can’t find one try a chilled, youthful Beaujolais or a Dolcetto.

Tuna Cooked in Lentils – serves 4

  • 200g dried lentils
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 350g thick tuna steak, cut into 3 cm chunks
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • small bunch of basil leaves
  • 40g butter
  • 1 lemon
  • best extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the lentils and cook in water until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain.

Season the flour with salt and stir in the crushed coriander seeds. Lightly dust the tuna in the flour mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a wide pan and fry the garlic until golden. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the tuna. Turn quickly, then add the tomatoes and basil, followed by the lentils. Toss a few times, then turn off the heat. Put the butter on top and leave in the pan for 8 minutes, basting the tuna with the lentils. Squeeze over some lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

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

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Caprese pasta salad

We regularly have a caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella & basil) for lunch in the summer months. This pasta version is a good one and makes it a bit more substantial.

Caprese pasta salad – serves 4

  • 200g orecchiette, cooked and rinsed under cold water, then drained again
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 150g baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 150g bocconcini (mini mozzarella) or a ball of mozzarella, torn into small pieces
  • a bunch of basil, shredded

Put the cooked pasta into a serving bowl with the olive oil, red wine vinegar and tomatoes, then season and toss.

Add the avocado, bocconcini and basil. Toss again gently and serve.

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

 

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Orecchiette with Broccoli, Cauliflower & Pecorino

We ate this as a main for 2 but it really is flavour-packed and would work really well in smaller portions as a starter.

Wine Suggestion: This strong combination of flavours pairs well with characterful, fuller bodied Italian whites like Verdicchio and one of our favourites, the Sartarelli Classico, was our match this evening.

Orecchiette with Broccoli, Cauliflower & Pecorino – serves 4 as a starter

  • a large handful of coarse breadcrumbs (we used panko)
  • 100g orecchiette
  • a bunch of long-stemmed broccoli, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 150g cauliflower florets
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 x 45g tin anchovies, drained
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • a large handful of shaved pecorino, to serve (we used Parmesan)

Spread the breadcrumbs out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in the oven at 200ºC for about 8 minutes or until crispy and golden. Leave to cool.

Cook the orecchiette in lots of salty water according to the timing on the pack.

Bring another large pan of salty water to the pan, then blanch the broccoli, followed by the cauliflower, for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Scoop out of the water with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Heat  150ml of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then add garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes or until golden. Add the broccoli and cauliflower and toss to combine. Add the breadcrumbs, anchovies and drained orecchiette and heat through, you can add another splash of oil if needed to keep it moist.

Season to taste with salt, then serve with the parsley and pecorino on top.

(Original recipe from Maggies’ Kitchen by Maggie Beer, Lantern, 2008.)

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Ferran Adria's Bolognese

An easy Bolognese that is super tasty and feeds a crowd from one of the world’s most celebrated chefs. Despite having never eaten at his table we completely respect him as this is all about depth of flavour and comfort which says more about his food values than any prettily displayed dish. You should have enough sauce to serve over 20 people so don’t be put off by the large quantities of butter and oil, it makes for a rich and delicious sauce. We’ve made this many times to stash in the freezer but this is the first time we’ve remembered to take a photo.

Wine suggestion: As Ferran is Spanish we went for a red from the same country, the Dominio de Tares Baltos, a Mencia with juicy black fruits, subtle and gentle spices and a vibrant freshness.

Bolognese Sauce – makes 2.5kg (serves many people!)

  • 225g butter
  • 1.2kg beef mince
  • 350g pork sausage meat
  • 500g onions, finely chopped
  • 150g celery, finely chopped
  • 400g carrots, finely chopped
  • 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12g tomato purée
  • 1.6kg tinned chopped tomatoes (4 x 400g tins)
  • a pinch of sugar

Put a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it melt before adding the beef mince. fry until browned, then add the sausage meat. Cook for another few minutes, then season well with salt and pepper, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring, until golden brown.

Put another large pan over a low heat, then add the olive oil. Gently fry the chopped onions, celery and carrot until softened, about 12 minutes.

Add the meat to the vegetables and stir well to combine. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. Season again with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Simmer for 90 minutes, or until the meat is really tender.

Serve with pasta and grated Parmesan of course.

(Original recipe from the Family Meal: Home Cooking With Ferran Adrià, Phaidon, 2011.)

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Monkfish Stew with Tomatoes, Garlic, Chilli & Black Olives

This is delicious served on some toasted sourdough and drizzled with your best olive oil.

Wine Suggestion: The dish is from the Marche and from near the region’s capital, Ancona s grown some of the best Verdicchio and we’re lucky to be friends with the Sartarelli family who make some of the best. Our regular is their Tralivio made from the oldest vineyards in the property, though if you push to the Balciana you’ll get one of the best Verdicchio’s in Italy and something quite special. Both work with this dish.

Monkfish stew with tomatoes, garlic, chilli & black olives – serves 6

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 mild red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 4 tbsp black olives, stones removed
  • 1.5kg monkfish fillet, cut into chunks (make sure the fishmonger removes the grey membrane for you)
  • 70ml white wine
  • 500ml good fish stock
  • 4 tbsp tomato passata
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved

To serve:

  • 6 large slices of good bread, toasted
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Heat a splash of olive oil in a large deep sauté pan with a lid. Add the garlic, chilli, rosemary sprigs and chopped rosemary, and sauté for a minute.

Add the olives, then the fish and season. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring.

Add the wine and bubble to burn off the alcohol, then add the fish stock, tomato passata and tomatoes. Cover with the lid and cook for 10 minutes or until the fish is tender. Discard the rosemary sprigs and  transfer to a large serving dish.

Our monkfish threw heaps of watery liquid. If this happens to you, just scoop the fish out with a slotted spoon and reduce the sauce, then return the fish to the stew and continue to cook as above.

Serve the fish on top of the toasted bread, drizzled with your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from Made at Home by Giorgio Locatelli, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2017.)

 

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Pasta with Cauliflower, Anchovies, Saffron, Pine Nuts & Raisins

We halved this recipe and made it for 2 with a tiny but perfect, new-season cauliflower. You might have everything else in the cupboard already.

Wine Suggestion: Keep it Italian, given the origin of the dish, southern and white. Fiano, Greco, Falanghina … all good as long as the one you have isn’t too heavy. Our Macchialupa Falanghina was a delightful choice.

Pasta with cauliflower, anchovies, saffron, pine nuts & raisins (Pasta chi vrocculi arriminati) – serves 4

  • 1 head of cauliflower, about 1 kg, cut into florets
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 50g raisins, softened in a little hot water
  • 6 tbsp of good olive oil
  • a pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil (we like Ortiz)
  • 50g pine nuts
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 500g dried pasta e.g. bucatini, casarecce or penne

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and season well with salt. Add the cauliflower and cook until tender, about 6 minutes but do check as you don’t want to overcook it.

Warm the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over a low heat. Add the onion and fry gently until soft, then add the chilli and anchovies. Keep frying until the anchovies have dissolved.

Lift the cauliflower from the water with a slotted spoon and add to the onion pan, stir and cook for another couple of minutes to let the flavours combine.

Drain the raisins, squeeze out any excess water, and add to the pan with the pine nuts and saffron. Taste and season with salt if needed, then remove from the heat.

Bring the cauliflower-cooking water back to the boil and use it to cook the pasta until al dente. Lift the pasta out with a slotted spoon and add to the frying pan. Return the cauliflower and pasta pan to the heat and cook for another minute or two, then serve.

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

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Pasta with Cime di Rapa

So clearly this is not orecchiette but trofie is all we could get and we’re not fussy. We’re very excited to get cime di rapa, also known as broccoli rabe, and very similar to turnip tops. These delicious greens are grown in Ireland – who knew? You need to trim any of the thicker stalks as they tend to be a bit stringy and unpleasant, the rest however is delicious. Cheese is apparently not traditional on this dish but we like it.

Wine suggestion: Italian inspired and from the south we found a bottle of the Gulfi Vulcanzjria, a Chardonnay, Carricante, Albinello blend grown on Mt Etna. Fresh, full and intense with a stoney core. Good alternatives would have been Greco di Tufo, Falanghina, or some more serious, but not too hot Vermentinos.

Orecchiette with Greens – serves 4

  • 400g orecchette or whatever short pasta you’ve got
  • 500g cime di rapa (you could also use sprouting broccoli, kale or cavalo nero), discard the thicker stalks, leave the broccoli looking bit whole and shred the finer stalks and leaves into 3cm pieces
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, grated, to serve

Boil the pasta in load of salty water according to the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, put the cime di rapa into a large pot and pour in about 3 cm depth of water and season with salt. Bring the water to the boil, then cover and cook for 5 minutes or until tender and wilted. Drain.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the garlic for a minute or so, don’t let it brown. Add the drained greens, chilli flakes and lemon zest. Season well with salt and pepper.

Reserve a mug of the cooking water before draining the pasta. Add a few tbsp of the water to the greens if they need moistening, then tip in the pasta. Toss everything together in the pan for a minute, then serve in warm bowls with the cheese sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2017.)

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Mozzarella with salami, cannellini beans & olives

If you can find a ball of buffalo mozzarella, then lucky you. There is none to be had in our vicinity at the moment, but it will return. This is a super simple idea from the River Café which makes a lovely lunch or a starter for sharing – for when we can share stuff again. We will share stuff again.

Salami with Cannellini Beans & Olives

  • 1 x 400 tin of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • small black olives, we like the wrinkly ones, pitted
  • finely sliced fennel salami – of course any salami or other cured meat will do, and there are loads of brilliant Irish producers to choose from
  • a ball of buffalo mozzarella

Gently heat the beans with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some olive oil. Season and purée – a stick blender does the job here.

Toss the olives in a little of your special bottle of olive oil.

Put the salami on a plate with the mozzarella and serve with the bean purée alongside and the olives scattered over.

Simple and delicious.

(Original idea from Italian Two Easy by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Clarkson Potter, 2006.)

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Tagliatelle with Prawns and a Creamy Brandy Sauce

We bought a pasta machine when we were on honeymoon in Italy … quite a while ago now. We had a delicious lunch in a tiny Tuscan village, probably with a bit more wine than we needed, and bought a pasta machine from the window of a little shop that sold hardware, cookware and everything else. We have used it only a few times since then, but we took it out of the box this evening and made fresh pasta, and very satisfying it was too. So, if you’ve got a pasta machine we suggest you dust it off and give this a go. We haven’t given the recipe and instructions for making the tagliatelle – widely available online or in any Italian cookbook you might have on your shelves; though roughly 1 egg for 100g flour plus a little salt and olive oil.

Wine Suggestion: Tonight a bottle from our holidays last year in the Loire, the Charles Joguet Chinon Rosé. Delightfully dry, mid-weight and with light flavours of red fruits; a good match and a good memory of summer holidays in a tent in France.

Tagliatelle with prawns and a creamy brandy sauce (Tagliatelle con Gamberi e Brandy) – serves 4

  • 30g salted butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 60g walnuts, chopped
  • 300g uncooked prawns, peeled
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 60ml brandy
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 400g fresh egg tagliatelle (look it up online, it’s easy)
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley

Melt the butter and oil in a large frying pan over a gentle heat. Add the shallots and walnuts and cook gently for 2 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium and add the prawns and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds.

Add the brandy and cook for a minute to allow the alcohol to evaporate, then add the cream and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a loads of very salty water until al dente – a minute or two. Drain and tip back into the pasta pan.

Pour in the creamy sauce, add the parsley, and toss gently for 30 seconds to combine.

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

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Chicken Cacciatore

We were missing all the family and friends we were supposed to be with on Easter Sunday but had fun with an Easter egg hunt, Quiche Lorraine for lunch and this for dinner, which was truly delicious. Served with Italian-style roast potatoes, plus we pulled the rest of the chicken off the bones and stirred into the sauce for pasta another day. Our little bunny has already claimed the leftovers for her dinner for the rest of the week.

Wine Suggestion: As it was Easter and we wanted to have something special with dinner … off to the small cellar of hoarded wines we went. The first Italian we came across was chosen, and though we knew it wasn’t cheap, we’d purchased it many years ago at a very good price. We very much enjoyed the Sassicaia 2008. A classic wine of the world, made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and drinking truly fabulously now. Interestingly it was the vintage that had no “signature” head winemaker at the winery; well done those cellar hands and winery workers who just made the wine as it should be! Ignore the price if you have one and just enjoy this wine as a special event like we did. Lucky us, and pity we only had a single bottle.

Chicken cacciatore – serves 4

  • 1 large chicken jointed into 8, we used 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 70g pancetta cubes – didn’t have these so cut some thick-cut back bacon into strips
  • a glass of red wine, about 200ml
  • 2 x 400g tins of cherry tomatoes or tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
  • 10 black olives, pitted and halved
  • a handful of basil leaves

When you get your chicken home, remove all the packaging and season it generously with salt, then put back into the fridge until ready to cook. If, like us, you had the chicken in the freezer and forgot to season, take it out of the fridge and season with salt, then leave out of the fridge for 30 minutes before you start cooking.

Before you start to cook, season the chicken all over with some black pepper.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken until golden all over. You will probably need to do this in two batches. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic and cook gently until soft. Add the pancetta (or bacon substitute) and continue to cook for another few minutes.

Add the glass of wine to the pan and simmer until almost evaporated, then add the tomatoes and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the capers and olives.

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

Tip the sauce into an ovenproof dish that can fit the chicken in a single layer. Lay the chicken pieces into the sauce, leaving the skin exposed. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in the basil and serve.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes & Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, April 2012)

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Spaghetti with Roasted Red Mullet

It feels a bit weird posting recipes like this but at the same time we think its important to remember that there are no food shortages. The fish shops are open and fishermen continue to fish and while this continues, we’re going to make the most of it.

Wine Suggestion: a good rule of thumb when matching wines is to look at the source of the food and see what is being grown nearby. Today, an Italian seafood pasta drags us to the Poggio ai Ginepri Vermentino, grown on the Tuscan coast; both floral and salty in equal amounts with a good dollop of tasty fruit in the middle.

Spaghetti with roasted red mullet – serves 2

  • 4 small fillets of red mullet – ask the fish shop to fillet them for you and make sure you check them over for tiny bones
  • a handful of black olives, pitted
  • a dried chilli or half a tsp of dried chilli flakes
  • 200g cherry tomatoes
  • your best extra virgin olive oil
  • some fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 200g spaghetti

Preheat your oven to 200C/400F.

Prick the cherry tomatoes with a fork, then toss with a little olive oil, season and spread over a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

Put the fillets of red mullet in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, sprinkle with thyme and the dried chilli, then season. Drizzle with oil and roast in the oven for 5 minutes.

Cook the spaghetti in loads of salty water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan.

Add the olives and tomatoes to the pasta with 1 tbsp of olive oil and season. Add the red mullet and toss gently, then serve.

(Original recipe from Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes form the London River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, Clarkson Potter, 2006)

 

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Genoese Squid with Potatoes

Mothers Day dinner 2020. Not a huge roast or a barbecue with the rest of the family but a glorious sunny day and this Diana Henry recipe, which was perfect! Great for all of us on a budget now too, squid is cheap, and not everyone realises that you can slow cook it. The sauce this dish has is so vibrant and rich and when we reheated the leftovers in the oven two days later it was still amazing.

Wine Suggestion: we chose a classic wine for seafood and an explemary winery, the  Pazo de Señorans Albariño 2018 which is a wine we love both in youth and as it ages and gains texture and complexity. The salty sea air ideas you get from Albariño just seem to work so well.

Genoese squid with potatoes – serves 4

  • 750g squid, cleaned (look up online how to do it if you need, we used some pre-cleaned squid tubes from the fish shop)
  • 550g waxy potatoes
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 350ml white wine
  • leaves from 2 oregano/marjoram sprigs
  • 2½ tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 400g tin cherry tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil, to finish

Wash the squid and remove any gunge from the inside the tubes. Cut the tubes into thick rings. Cut the hard bit from the end of each tentacle and slice the wings into 2 or 3. Cut the tentacles too if they’re big. Rinse everything in a sieve, then dry well with kitchen roll.

Wash the potatoes (you can peel or not) and cut into 4cm thick slices.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. When the oil is really hot, tip in the squid and garlic and toss around for a minute. Add the white wine, oregano, 1½ tbsp of the parsley, tomatoes and plenty of seasoning. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes, then season again, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Taste again for seasoning, you might need to add a bit of extra salt to make the sauce sing, sprinkle over the rest of the parsley and serve with your best olive oil drizzled on top.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010)

 

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Ditali Pasta with Cauliflower, Saffron and Tomato Cream Sauce

We made this Sicilian pasta dish by Rick Stein on Valentine’s Day and it was lovely.

Wine Suggestion: this dish needs a rich white wine to match the cream and saffron and a vibrancy for the anchovies. We opened a Gulfi Carjcanti, a Sicilian white made from the local carricante grape. Complex and refreshing with apples, blossom and hints of sea breezes on the nose and vibrant, juicy and mineral on the palate.

Ditali pasta with cauliflower, saffron and tomato cream sauce – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 25g anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets (discard the core) – about 750g
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-hot red chilli, seeded and finely chopped or ½ tsp crushed dried chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste
  • a large pinch of saffron strands
  • 450g ditali or other small tubular pasta
  • 5 plum tomatoes from a tin
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • finely grated Parmesan, to serve

Melt the anchovies in a small frying pan over a lowish heat, then set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a large, deep frying pan, add the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until golden and crispy. Season with salt and pepper, then tip onto a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Heat the remaining 4 tbsp of oil in the same pan, add the cauliflower and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes without colouring, until starting to soften. Add the garlic, chilli, season and cook for another minutes.

Mix the sun-dried tomato paste with 120ml of water and stir this into the cauliflower. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes or until just tender.

Meanwhile, pour 50ml of warm water over the saffron strands and leave to soak.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add lots of salt (Rick suggests 8 tsp – we just add a load). Cook the pasta according to the timings on the pack.

Add the saffron water, tomatoes and anchovies to the cauliflower and season. Increase the heat slightly and cook uncovered until the cauliflower is very soft. You might need to break it up a bit with a wooden spoon to help it along. When the cauliflower is completely soft add the cream and the parsley.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the cauliflower mixture and toss everything together well and spoon into warm bowls. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and cheese.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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Red Onion, Mushroom & Blue Cheese Pizza

We’ve been experimenting with our new Ooni Pro pizza oven. This is the very first pizza we made and it turned out pretty good. The recipe is by Gill Meller (of River Cottage fame) and we’ve since seen that he’s working with Ooni – a match made in heaven!

Wine Suggestion:  a joyful red, preferably Italian to match the mood. Tonight the Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico, but we’ve equally enjoyed wines from Abruzzo, Piedmont and Sicily to name a few with pizzas like these. Just make sure it isn’t too heavy or alcoholic though – light to medium bodied.

Gill’s Favourite Pizza – makes 3 large pizzas

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (good ones!)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf

FOR THE BASE:

  • 500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 320ml lukewarm water

FOR THE TOPPING (PER PIZZA):

  • 3-4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, torn
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 75g blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 or 3 thyme springs, leaves picked

To make the sauce, heat a medium pan over a moderate heat. Heat the olive oil in the pot, then add the garlic. Sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes,  half a tin of water and the bay leaf. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make the base, put the flour, salt and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a dough hook. Combine the yeast and water in a jug and whisk to dissolve. Pour this over the flour and allow the machine to run for 4-5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. You can also knead by hand but it will take a lot more effort and about 10 to 12 minutes.

Lightly grease a bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside. Cover with a damp tea towel and allow to prove for 3-4 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9½ (or if you have a pizza oven you can get it going).

Heat a baking sheet or pizza stone inside the oven.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, knock it back, then left it rest for a few minutes. Dust the dough with more flour, then roll each ball out thinly. Remove the hot baking sheet or pizza stone from the oven and lay on the pizza dough. Top the pizza as quickly as you can. Gill suggests tomato sauce followed by mozzarella, mushrooms, onion, blue cheese and thyme. Trickle some olive oil over the top and season well. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crispy and golden. Serve straight away and repeat with the remaining dough.

(Original recipe from Time: A Year & a Day in the Kitchen by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

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Mussels & cockles with garlic breadcrumbs

This is a great starter from Polpo that tastes similar to stuffed mussels but is nowhere near as fiddly to prepare. We used cockles instead of clams as that is what we could get the day we cooked this.

Wine Suggestion: we’d suggest a white from central or sourther Italy for this dish. Tonight it was a Verdicchio from the Marches, the Tralivio by the Sartarelli family which combines citrus, apricots and wild herbs with texture, body and hints of a bitter almond on the finish. Very attractive, refreshing and a perfect food wine.

Mussels & Clams with Garlic Breadcrumbs – serves 4 – 6 as a starter

  • 100g old bread
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a small handful of flat parsley leaves, chopped
  • a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • flaky sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 1kg clams
  • 100ml white wine
  • bread, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.

Tear the old bread into pieces, then scatter over a baking tray and pour over plenty of olive oil over them. Put the tray into the oven for 5 minutes or until the bread is crisp and golden, then set aside.

When the bread has cooled blitz it in food processor with the chopped parsley, half the dried chilli, half the garlic and some seasoning. When the bread has turned to fine crumbs, taste some and adjust the seasoning and add some more oil if they are too dry.

Clean the mussels and clams in cold running water and discard any that are damaged or that stay open when tapped.

Heat a large pan and add some olive oil. Throw in the mussels and clams with the rest of the chilli and garlic and stir until the shells start to open. As they do, pour in the white wine and cover the pan with a lid. The shells should all have opened after a couple of minutes, throw away any that haven’t opened.

Add a handful of breadcrumbs to the pan to thicken the sauce. Spoon the mussels and clams into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the rest of the crumbs. Serve immediately with crusty bread if you like.

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

 

 

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Fusilli with Chestnut Mushrooms, Leeks and Mascarpone Cheese

This pasta sauce can literally be made in the same time as it takes to boil the pasta. The recipe is easily halved for two and therefore good for using up mascarpone.

Wine Suggestion: A tasty supper like this pairs well with unoaked Chardonnay, particularly from slightly cooler areas like the Maçon in Burgundy. Tonight’s choice, the Domaine Manciat-Poncet Maçon-Charnay which has a fresh joy to it with red apples and citrus flavours.

Fusilli with chestnut mushrooms, leeks and mascarpone cheese – serves 4

  • 45g butter
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped chives
  • 4 pinches of cayenne pepper
  • 400g fusilli pasta
  • plenty of freshly grated Parmesan to serve

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the butter and allow to melt. When the butter is foaming add the mushrooms, leeks and garlic and fry for 5 minutes.

Add the mascarpone and cook for another minute or so, stirring continuously. Stir in the chives and cayenne pepper, then season carefully with salt and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in lots of salty water according to the timings on the pack, then drain and return to the same pan.

Pour the mushroom sauce into the pasta pan and stir together for 30 seconds before dividing between warm bowls.

Sprinkle over the Parmesan and serve.

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

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Spaghetti Carbonara

We’re not in the least offended by a splash of cream in a carbonara but this is the traditional version made with nothing but eggs, pecorino and pancetta. The quality really matters when you’re using just a few ingredients so definitely go for the best you can find or afford.

Wine Suggestion: An Italian white like a Pecorino from the Marches springs to mind, but some of the fuller textured wines from Lugana or Friuli from the North, or a Greco from the South make a good alternative; a layered texture and freshness is what your looking for to match this dish.

Spaghetti all carbonara – serves 4

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 100g pancetta lardons or guanciale
  • butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g pecorino (or Parmesan), grated

Cook the pasta, according to the timings on the pack, in plenty of salty water.

Meanwhile, put the pancetta into a cold frying pan and bring slowly up to a high heat. When the pancetta has started to release its fat, add a knob of butter and the garlic, then turn down to medium. Fry until the pancetta is browned but not too crispy or it will harden. Discard the garlic and keep the pan warm.

Beat the eggs with most of the cheese. When the pasta is done, drain it, and keep a few tablespoons of cooking water. Tip the pasta back into the hot pasta pan, but off the heat. Add the egg mixture and pancetta and toss everything together quickly. Season with plenty of black pepper and add a bit of water to loosen the sauce if needed. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, October 2011.)

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Potato, Courgette, Chickpea and Rosemary soup

This is such a simple soup but it just tastes full of goodness. We loved it and we are loving Rachel Roddy’s cookbook – Two Kitchens – which is full of simple ideas that work perfectly.

Potato, chickpea, courgette and rosemary soup – serves 4 – Zuppa di patate, ceci, zucchine e rosmarino

  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 medium courgettes, diced
  • a pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 800g tinned chickpeas, drained
  • grated pecorino, we used lots but as you please

Warm the olive oil and onion in a heavy-based pan over a medium-low heat and cook until the onion is soft. Add the rosemary and cook for another minute or two.

Add the courgettes and potatoes to the pan with the chilli flakes and stir until everything is coated in the oil.

Add the chickpeas,  1 litre of water and some seasoning.

Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are beginning to fall apart. Taste for seasoning and serve with the cheese.

(Original recipe from Two Kitchens – Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome by Rachel Roddy, HEADLINE HOME, 2017)

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Fish in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Capers and Olives

It seems like so long since we’ve cooked fresh fish, but tonight was the night. We’ve had Rachel Roddy’s book (Two Kitchens: Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome) for ages now but this has been its first outing (for reasons that we won’t bore you with here). This dish was everything we hoped for – quick for a Friday night but absolutely packed with all the flavours that this family loves. We served with couscous but rice or bread are also suggested. Well done Rachel!

Wine Suggestion: we were seduced by the Sicilian white, the Gulfi Carjcanti, a blend of Carricante and the ancient Albanello. Lively and herbal alongside a salty sapiness in the flavour making this a great wine to pair with seafood, let alone the olives, capers and tomatoes in this dish.

Fish in spicy tomato sauce with capers and olives (Pesce all ghiotta) – serves 4

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery sticks, remove the strings and finely dice
  • 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 500g fresh tomatoes, or tinned plum tomatoes drained of the juice
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional but sometimes good if using tinned tomatoes)
  • a pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 50g salted capers, rinsed
  • 60g olives – we used a mixture of green and black
  • 4 fish fillets (cod, bream or hake – we used hake), about 120g each
  • 1 heaped tbsp of chopped flat-leaf parsley

Take your fish out of the fridge and season it with a little salt.

Gently fry the onions in a deep frying pan, large enough to fit the hake fillets in a single layer later, until soft and translucent.

Add the celery and cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and chilli and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Add the capers and olives and simmer for another couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat, make a space in the sauce and arrange the fish fillets, skin-side down, in a single layer, then spoon over some of the sauce. Put the pan back over a low heat and simmer very gently, spooning more sauce over occasionally, until the fish is cooked through – watch carefully as it shouldn’t take too long. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

(Original recipe from ‘Two Kitchens – Family Recipes from Sicily and Rome’ by Rachel Roddy, HEADLINE HOME, 2017)

 

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