Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

One of those memorable dishes that combines flavours and textures to capture the Sicilian sun and bring it to a grey and wet Dublin summer evening; magic.

Timballo di Maccheroni (Baked Pasta with Aubergine) – serves 6

  • 3 Aubergine, see if you can get the round, pale violet ones for authenticity
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g rigatoni, or penne rigate
  • 60g caciocavallo, or pecorino cheese, grated

Thinly slice the Aubergine, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for at least 2 hours. Squeeze lightly to get rid of excess liquid.

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4.

Grease a round cake tin with the unsalted butter; we used one that was 23cm wide and 3.5cm deep. put in 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and shake and turn the dish so that that they stick to the butter and line the dish.

Heat about 6mm of olive oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the aubergine slices in batches until lightly coloured. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper. Using about three quarters of the aubergine cover the base and sides of the breadcrumbed tin. Make sure that you overlap the slices so that there are no gaps.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft, but not coloured. Add the tin of tomatoes and season with salt. Cover with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes.

While this is cooking bring a pan of water to the boil, salt well and cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than the packet instructions, so that it is still al dente. Reserve some cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Spoon a layer of the pasta into the aubergine lined tin followed by tomato sauce, a layer of the aubergine and a layer of grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining pasta, tomato sauce, and a final layer of aubergine. Finish with the remaining breadcrumbs to form a coating on the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes and until golden.

Let stand for about 10 minutes. This will allow the dish to firm up.

Put a plate over the top of the tin and holding both the plate and dish firmly, turn both over together so that the Timballo turns out onto the plate. Serve in wedges.

Serve with: a southern Italian red like Nero d’Avola or Negroamaro, both of which have a satisfying earthiness but aren’t too heavy for the flavours in this dish.

NB. if you’d like to make your own breadcrumbs, which is both easy and satisfying, then remove the crusts from stale bread, slice and put it on a baking tray in an oven at 80C for an hour to dry out. Either grate and sieve the dried bread (which gives a more random and authentic look) or blitz in a blender.

(Original recipe from Georgio Locatelli: Made in Sicily, Fourth Estate, 2011.)

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We got a surprise call from our great friend Ben who had some live lobsters which he was terrified of. He’s now got over this and is an expert lobster stabber and we got the benefit of two live lobsters too. I made this years ago before I met Jules and have always promised to cook it if two live lobsters arrive on our doorstep, so happy Friday night Jules! This recipe feeds 4 people – we had no problem finding 2 volunteers to help us eat it.

Il miglior brodo siciliano di aragosta – the best Sicilian  lobster broth – to serve 4

  • 150g dried lasagne sheets, smashed up
  • 2 x 1kg live lobsters
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes or 1 or 2 small dried red chillies, crumbled
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, smashed
  • 1/2 a bottle of Sicilian white wine – you can substitute any white wine
  • 850ml passata or 3 x 400g tins plum tomatoes, liquidized
  • a large handful of whole almonds, skins on
  • a small handful of fresh basil leaves
First you’re going to have to kill the lobsters. The best way to do this – and the fairest way for the lobster – is to get a large sharp knife, place the tip on the little crown on the head and chop straight down between its eyes. Be brave! Once you’ve killed your lobsters you need to twist and pull the head away from the tail. Put the tails and claws aside for now. Open the heads and discard the little grey stomach sack which will be near the eyes. Then just cut the head up into little pieces, keeping all the brown meat and other stuff.

Put a large pot on a very gentle heat. When hot, pour a good glug of olive oil in along with all the head pieces and lobster legs. You can turn the heat up a bit now. Add your onions, garlic, carrots, cinnamon stick, chillies and fennel seeds. Continue frying this for about 15 minutes – keep moving it around in the pot – so the onions take on a bit of colour but careful they don’t burn. If the pan gets too hot just splash in a bit of water.

Add your white wine and boil hard for 5 minutes before adding the passata and the same quantity of water. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 or 30 minutes. Now put a colander on top of another large pot and pass the soup through it. Press down on the shells with the back of a ladle and let them drip for 5 minutes to make sure you get all the flavour out of them. You can now throw the shells away. Put the soup back on the heat to simmer. It should look like tomato soup – if you think it looks to thick you can add a little water.

Slice the lobster tails across, through the shell and the meat, into 2.5cm slices and put these into the broth. Crack open the claws and pick out all the meat and add this to the broth too. Continue to simmer for 8 more minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water, then drain and toss into the soup for 4-5 minutes.

Chop the almonds very finely and stir into the soup. Taste and season if needed. Divide between 4 bowls, tear over some basil leaves and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Wine Suggestions: as this is such a rich dish you need to pair it with a wine that is a little more robust and full-bodied. For whites there are a couple of options: stay local and choose Sicilian wines like Inzolia or Grillo which have weight and a herbal minerality. The other option is to look at a classic Chardonnay with a bit of oak for structure. Try to pick one that has a little bit of acidity for freshness too. This was the option we went for and it worked a treat. For red, do the opposite and look for a fruity, but lighter style of wine like an easy and inexpensive Pinot Noir or Grenache – you want to avoid too much tannin and weight which would overwhelm the sweet, delicate lobster.

(Original recipe by Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s Italy)

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Otherwise known as “Jamie’s Pasta Bake”; a simple, tasty dish that can be easily doubled for parties. Delicious hot for dinner with some garlic toasts and also cold the next day for lunch.

The recipe suggests using orecchiette but any pasta shapes will do so it’s a great way to use up all the packets lying around the cupboard.

Baked pasta with tomatoes and mozzarella (serves 4 generously)

  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped (white onions are suggested but any other onion lying to hand will do)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 to 2 dried chillies, crumbled
  • 3 x 400g tins of good quality plum tomatoes
  • large handful of basil, torn
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 400g short, any shaped dried pasta, preferably orecchiette
  • 4 very big handfuls of freshly grated parmesan
  • 3 x 150g balls of mozzarella, sliced
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6.

Heat a saucepan on Medium-low heat and a couple of glugs of olive oil, onion, garlic and chill. Slowly fry for 10 minutes until softened but not coloured.

Add tinned tomatoes and a small glass of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Wizz sauce until smooth add basil leaves, red wine vinegar and season.

Boil a large pot of salted water and cook the pasta shapes according to packet instructions. Drain and then toss with half the tomato sauce and a handful of parmesan.

Rub a little olive oil in a baking tray and layer a third of the pasta in the bottom. Follow by a layer of tomato sauce a handful of parmesan and 1 mozzarella ball. Repeat two more times and until ingredients are used up. Make sure that there is a good layer of cheese on the top.

Cook in oven for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Original recipe: Jamie’s Italy

Wine suggestions: This will work equally well with a nutty, dry white like a Verdicchio or Greco di Tufo or  a mid-weight red like Barbera, Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo or a fruity Chianti. You don’t need to get too complex as this is a very social dish so it suits a social and easy style of wine.

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I would like to point out that the plate above is Jono’s and not mine – he’s much greedier than me.

If you don’t like Italian food you might want to ignore us for the next while as we’re somewhat smitten.

We tasted a few stews in Italy, peppery and otherwise, and they were fantastic. Jono’s had his eye on this recipe for ages too so we got on to Tom O’Connor in Glasthule, our butcher, who rose to the challenge as always.

You can use beef or veal shin for this recipe (we used veal). Jamie suggests buying the whole bone, slicing the meat off, and adding the bone to the stew. We got it osso bucco style which worked brilliantly.

There is a shocking amount of black pepper and garlic in this recipe. You hardly notice the garlic by the time it’s cooked but the pepper is fierce. Jamie recommends 4 tablespoons of fresh ground black pepper. I think we’ll try two next time which might be safer for a crowd.

This is a really easy dish to cook but it takes 6 hours in the oven (or overnight if you like) so be prepared. This gives intense flavour and makes the meat melt – you can literally lift the bones out and carve the meat with a spoon.

Peposo (the famous hunter’s peppery beef stew) – serves 10

  • 2.5 kg beef or veal shin on the bone (see advice above)
  • 20 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4 heaped tbsp freshly ground black pepper (we’ll go for 2 tbsp next time we think)
  • 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 bottles of Chianti (we just used a decent fruity red wine from Gascony cause that’s what we had)
  • 2 bay leaves
If your meat is in one piece, slice the meat off the bone in big chunky slabs (keep the bone). If it is osso bucco style leave it as it is.
Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
Put a layer of sliced meat in the bottom of your biggest casserole, cover with some garlic cloves and sprinkle with a tbsp of pepper and a little salt.
Add 2 sprigs of rosemary and repeat with another layer of meat. Keep going like this until your ingredients are used up and you have a full pot.
Pour the wine over the top, add any left over bones and the bay leaves. Top up with water if necessary to cover the meat.
Bring to the boil and cover tightly with double thick foil and the lid.
Cook in the oven for 6 hours (or overnight at 140C/275F/Gas1).
When it’s done, skim off any fat, remove the bones, bay leaves and rosemary twigs.
Serve on toast (hunter style) or with some new potatoes and carrots (Jono and Jules’ style).
It’s good!

(Original recipe from Jamie’s Italy).

Wine Suggestion: An Italian red with a good dollop of Sangiovese for tannin and fresh acidity. We drank some Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino which matched the spiciness and had majestic fruit. Perfect

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BBQ Steak

We don’t need to tell you how to do this, but we used sirloins which tend to be tastier than fillets and our trusty barbeque – I don’t know how we could live without it!

Root Vegetable Mash (serves 4)

This is really tasty and a nice change from the usual mash. We’re using the leftovers for bangers and mash tomorrow night.


  • 2 large baking potatoes, cut into chunks
  • half a turnip, cut into chunks
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 25g butter




Put the potatoes, turnip and carrots in a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil.

Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, then drain and mash.

Add butter and plenty of salt and pepper.


Roast field mushrooms (serves 2)

  • 8 field mushrooms
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • a few drops of Worcestershire sauce
  • olive oil
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C.

Put the mushrooms in a small roasting tin and top with garlic and thyme.

Sprinkle over the Worcestershire sauce and a little oil.

Cover with foil and roast for 15 minutes.

Discard the foil and toss the mushrooms around in their juice. Return to oven for another 20 minutes.

Season and add lemon juice and parsley.

Wine Suggestion: This worked great with this Barbera from Italy: Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Nizza, 2007.

From what is regarded as the best vineyard area for Barbera in Piedmont, Italy (the home of the grape) this wine has good depth and really nice personality.

Aromas and flavours of dark cherries, chocolate, menthol, nuttiness, pencil shavings and tobacco. The medium body works well with the depth of flavours and the lovely freshness of acidity, which is common in Italian wines. A wine of charm and thoroughly enjoyed by us.

Available from The Lighthouse in Whiteabbey Village, Newtownabbey for just over 20 pounds and well worth it.

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Oops, we’ve broken our price point slightly on this one – the rule for wine of the week is to stay under €15.00, but this was the cheapest Italian red in Fallon & Byrne on Exchequer Street, Dublin and came in at €15.99. As we had a hankering for an Italian at the time to go with our meatballs (see below), this wine gets to be our Wine of the Week!

From an area slightly less prestigious than Chianti Classico, this Chianti Rufina delivers on value and flavour. It had a lovely, juicy cherry flavour which was balanced with fine, and slightly rustic tannins. This gave the wine a delightful character and was perfect with the Meatballs.

I am sure this would have been a few Euro more if from Chianti Classico as it had personality and good levels of fruit.

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