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Archive for the ‘Italian’ Category

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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We adore spinach and dishes that are full of it, like this spinach, tomato & chickpea curry. Great served with rice or naan breads and some yoghurt. Couldn’t be easier!

Wine Suggestion: A dish like this loves medium weight Grenache based wines like Roc des Anges, l’Effet de Papillon rouge. A velvety, juicy, damson and raspberry flavoured glass with hints of spice.

Chana Saag – Spinach, tomato & chickpea curry – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2cm ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 2 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 500g baby spinach, washed

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, then add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Stir for a minute, then add the chopped onions.

Fry for 10 to 12 minutes or until starting to caramelise, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, crushing them with you hand as they go in. Fill the tin a third full with water and add to the pan.

Cook for 10 minutes or until quite dry and paste-like, then add the chickpeas. Warm through for a few minutes, then add the coriander, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Stir well to combine, then add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Cook for about 5 minutes or until the spinach is cooked. Serve with naan bread or basmati rice and some yoghurt.

(Original recipe from Fresh India by Meeera Sodha, Fig Tree, 2016.)

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Game season comes and goes every year and sometimes we don’t get around to cooking any before it’s over, which is a shame as we love the flavours. This year, however, we got ourselves organised and made this rich and full-flavoured pheasant ragu for pasta. Your butcher should be able to order a pheasant for you if it’s not something they usually stock.

Wine Suggestion: Find yourself a good Nebbiolo with a little bit of age on it. Sitting in our cellar was a Pira Luigi Barolo Marenca from 2012. A combination of fresh, dried and morello cherry flavours with classic rose and tar aromas; massive, under-stated power, elegantly refined and opening up beautifully over a number of hours. At eight years old this is still evolving nicely and has a good life ahead of it … wish we had a few more!

Pheasant ragu for pasta – serves 4

  • 250ml chicken stock
  • a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pheasant
  • 80g pancetta cubes
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a bay leaf
  • 125ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • ½ lemon
  • 400g tagliatelle, cooked to serve
  • Parmesan, to serve

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer, then add the mushrooms and leave them in the hot stock while you brown the pheasant.

Brown the pheasant in a heavy-based casserole dish in a little olive oil, you want it to be nicely coloured on all sides. When the pheasant is browned, add the pancetta cubes and allow to brown. Add the shallots and garlic and stir for a minute before adding the bay leaf. Pour in the white wine and bubble for a minute. Add the stock and the mushrooms, leave any gritty bits behind in the pan. Season well and bring to a simmer, then cover with a tight lid and cook gently for about an hour or until the meat starts to fall off the bones.

Remove the pheasant from the pan and discard the bay leaf. Let the pheasant cook for a bit, then strip the meat off the bones and tear into pieces. Meanwhile, simmer the sauce to thicken it a little and cook the tagliatelle in lots of salty water.

Return the shredded pheasant to the sauce with the chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Toss with the tagliatelle and serve with Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Lulu Grimes in Olive Magazine, October 2014.)

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We grew borlotti beans in our little city garden this year. We didn’t get a huge crop but satisfying nonetheless. As we had a load of things going on when we picked these, we froze them for a couple of weeks until we were ready. It made this lovely pasta and bean dish by Joe Trivelli and it felt a bit like late summer again for a moment.

Wine Suggestion: A crisp, dry White or Rosé would be our first choice with a seafood pasta like this. As it’s full flavoured we avoided a lighter style and went for Graziano Pra’s Soave “Otto”, vibrantly full of crisp apples and pears, impressive length and a nutty, saline finish

Pasta with Beans & Mussels – serves 4

  • 1kg mussels
  • 300g fresh borlotti beans
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 celery stick, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 ripe tomato, halved
  • 75ml dry white wine
  • a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 dried chilli
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 200g tubetti pasta

Put the beans into a large pan with 4 of the garlic cloves, the celery and tomato. Cover with 6cm of water and a splash of olive oil, then bring to the boil. Simmer until cooked, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pan until hot, then add the mussels with a tablespoon of oil and the wine. Cover and keep over a hight heat, shaking, until the mussels have just opened. then drain into a colander over a bowl to catch the juice. Don’t be tempted to cook them for any longer. Pick the mussels from the shells.

When the beans are cooked, chop the last clove of garlic. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the garlic, most of the parsley and the chilli and fry for  a minute before adding the anchovies. As soon as they have melted, pour over the mussel juice (leave any grit behind) and bring to the boil. Add the borlotti beans with their liquid and the pasta.

Cook until the pasta is al dente, stirring often so the pasta doesn’t stick. You can add more hot water if you need. When the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, add the rest of the parsley, the mussels and seasoning. Cover and leave to sit off the heat for 5 minutes before serving.

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

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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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