Fave con pecorino. This is not so much a recipe as a serving suggestion. People tend to forget that broad beans (known as fava beans in the US) can be eaten raw. So, for that matter, can peas. Also there is a bit of a misunderstanding about what exactly is pecorino. Any sheep’s milk cheese is a pecorino, from pecora, which means sheep in Italian. The only pecorino commonly available outside of Italy is Pecorino Romano and is usually used grated as a seasoning, in a similar way to parmesan. This recipe calls for a younger, less salty cheese. Of course, you can break with tradition and use a cow’s milk cheese. When broad beans come into season, this is one of the most popular way to eat them. Some people serve them shelled and the cheese cut into little squares, but most people provide a pile of beans and a lump of cheese and let their guests get on with it. Eat each bean with a small piece of cheese. They are served as an antipasto or at the end of the meal, before the dessert.
Involtini di verza. This is a good winter dish. There are many versions, but I prefer this one because the stuffing is not so heavy as it contains rice and chopped cabbage rather than all meat. It can be served as an antipasto or a second course, but it is quite substantial, so it is probably better as a second course. Serves 6
- 1l vegetable stock
- 30g unsalted butter
- 1 head of savoy cabbage
- 1 small onion
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 80g grated parmesan
- 280g risotto rice
- 350g sausages, skinned
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 carrot
- 200ml white wine
- 50g butter
- 2 tbsp parmesan
Remove the tough central rib from 12 cabbage leaves.
Blanch the leaves in abundant boiling water. Take 150g of the more tender centre of the cabbage and chop finely.
Melt the butter in a pan and fry the carrot, celery and onion gently for about 15 minutes. Be careful that they do not brown. Increase the heat and add the rice and “toast” for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the white wine, the sausage and the chopped cabbage. Stirring constantly wait until the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladle of the hot stock and wait for the liquid to be absorbed. Continue using the standard risotto method until the rice is cooked. Mix in the parmesan.
Take a cabbage leaf and place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture on each one.
Roll the leaf up to make a compact parcel. Hide the open seam underneath.
Cover the base of a casserole with little olive oil and half a ladle stock. Arrange the cabbage rolls in the dish. Cover the dish with melted butter and parmesan.
Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes, finish off under the grill for 5 minutes. Let the rolls rest for 10 minutes and the serve.
Bagna caôda.From Piemonte. The rough translation of title is “hot bath” , which in my opinion is always preferable to a cold one :-) This dish is well known outside of Italy, but as is often the case it often is very different from the original. It is basically a warm anchovy and garlic dip for raw vegetables. These are two of my favourite things, so it’s one of my favourite antipasti. A lot of versions include milk or cream, but these are not found in the original Piemonte version
- About 6 anchovy fillets per person. Salted are best, but tinned in oil will do. Soak them in a little white wine.
- Garlic (from 2 or 3 cloves per person up to a whole head)
- Olive oil, the best you can find, about 1/2 a wine glass per person. Only olive oil will do.
- About 20 g of unsalted butter per person.
- 1 egg per person(optional)
To serve, dip vegetables into the mixture. The recipe I have is very prescriptive and says you can only use vegetables that are in season and grow in Piedmont. I think this is going a bit far though. Some suggestions on what to serve with the Bagna Cauda (raw unless otherwise stated):-
- Fresh bread
- potatoes cooked in their skins and then peeled
- Peppers roasted and peeled or raw
- Onions boiled or baked
- Sliced apples
- Savoy cabbage
- Jerusalem artichokes (raw or cooked))
- Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
- Small globe artichoke
- Carrot sticks
- Cherry tomatoes
- Spring onions
- Small whole mushrooms
Slice the garlic very thinly and soak it in cold water for a couple of hours. Some recipes call for it to be boiled in milk, but I think this is unnecessary.
Add all the ingredients to an earthenware pot along with a small ladle of oil and cook very slowly for about half an hour. Don’t let the garlic brown. Stir it constantly with a wooden spoon. When the anchovies and garlic have dissolved into the sauce, add the rest of the oil.
Bring the pot to the table and keep it warm with some kind heat source. You can buy special pots for this purpose, but fondue sets work well. Serve it with your selection of vegetables.
When you have had your fill of vegetables you can add a beaten egg to what’s left in the pot.
Plum Cake. You see this cake all over Italy. It is a type of sponge cake, baked in a loaf tin, similar to what is known as a loaf cake in the UK. In my opinion Italy does most things to do with food extremely well. One possible exception is breakfast. It is usually just coffee and some variety of cake. The coffee is very good though :-) This is a very common breakfast cake. I haven’t translated the name. It always appears in English, although the pronunciation is more ploomcake. It never, however, contains plums, or indeed any other kind of fruit. I have asked around, but nobody has any idea how it got its name. If anybody knows, please let me know.
- 200g icing sugar
- 4 eggs, seperated
- 200g unsalted butter
- 200g 00 flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- A few drops of vanilla essence
- A pinch of salt
Beat the butter together with the sugar using a wooden spoon.
When they are combined, add the egg yolks and continue beating until you get a smooth mixture.
Whip the egg white, together with a pinch of salt, with an electric whisk until you get stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the egg whites, into the egg yolk mixture.
Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and the vanilla essence.
Grease a large loaf tin with butter and dust with flour. Pour in the mixture.
Bake at 170°c for 40-45 minutes. When a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, it is ready.
From Piemonte. In my experience the bread you can buy from a good baker is usually a superior product to home-made, unless you have a great deal of time to invest and a very good oven. Here in Italy very few people make bread at home. Focaccia and other bread like products are another thing though. It is quite easy to make grissini, or breadsticks, at home and they will usually be much better than the shop bought variety, especially outside of Italy. The original recipe is from a baker, so has been scaled down drastically, by a factor of about 10. The quantities and proving time are not extremely sensitive, so you have a bit of leeway.
- 500g 00 flour or similar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp malt (or sugar)
- 1 cube of fresh yeast or the equilvalent amount of dried
- 1 tsp of lard (replace with oil if you want a vegetarian version)
- Up to 300ml of tepid water
- A little semolina for dusting
Mix together the flour, salt, malt, yeast and lard. Add water, little by little, until you get a soft pliable dough. Make sure you knead it well.
Form into a rectangle about 15cm long by 3cm deep. Cover with a clean towel and leave to prove for about 2 hours.
Cut the dough into 2cm strips and stretch to make the grissini shapes. I prefer them quite chunky, but remember that they will about double in size in the oven.
Bake them at 200°C until golden brown (about 18-20 minutes).
- 700g mussels, cleaned
- 1 clove of garlic
- 50 ml white wine
- 450g cooked cannellini beans (You can use canned if you like)
- 200g chopped tomatoes
- 200g short pasta such as ditali, gnochetti sardi etc
- 100ml vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- Red chilli to taste, fresh or dried
Soften the garlic in a little olive oil. Add the mussels and the wine, cover and cook over a high heat until the mussels have opened. About 5 minutes
Remove the mussels from their shells and strain and reserve the cooking liquid.
Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the beans. Stir in the tomatoes, the reserved cooking liquid and the stock and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until it is done (refer to the packet for cooking times).
Remove from the heat, stir in the mussels and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and chilli
Pollo alla cacciatora. It is very common to find versions of this dish outside of Italy, especially in the United States, however they often bear little resemblance to dishes found here. Even the spelling has been changed, possibly reflecting a dialect spelling originally used by Italian immigrants to the States. The name translates as hunter’s style chicken. I am a bit unsure why as I am unaware of anybody hunting chickens :-) You can also prepare rabbit in this way so maybe that was the original recipe. There are many versions in Italy, but the common factor is the chicken is cooked with white wine and tomatoes. This version is from Liguria. As always, if you can find a really good free range, or at least corn fed chicken it will improve the dish no end. Serves 4-6.
- 1 chicken cut into cut into 6 or 8 pieces
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion, chopped
- Half a celery stalk, chopped
- A sprig of rosemary
- 2 fresh sage leaves
- A bay leaf
- A glass of white wine
- 6 fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded (or an equivalent amount of tinned)
Brown the onions, the celery and the garlic in a large pan.
Add the chicken pieces, rosemary, sage and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes over a reasonably high flame.
Lower the flame and add the wine and cook until it has almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes, stir and cook until the chicken is done. About 45 minutes. Serve directly from the pan.
- Some people like to add a little chopped parsley at the end
- You can also add sliced fresh or reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms along with the chicken.
From Puglia. This is a puglian version of the more well known Sicilian dish arancini. It is very simple to make however. There are versions that use other chesses and cured meats, but this one uses the easily available (abroad I mean) salami, ham and mozzarella. Serves at least 6 as an antipasto.
- 400g risotto rice
- 100g sliced salami (Milanese or similar)
- 100g sliced cooked ham
- 200g mozzarella cut into small cubes
- 40g grated parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 40g buttter
- 1 tsp salt
- A pinch of pepper
- Bread crumbs
- Oil for frying
Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until done, about 10 minutes. Drain and add the butter. You could substitute vegetable stock for the water if you prefer. Allow to cool completely. You can prepare it the day before if you like.
Roughly chop the salami and ham. Combine with the rice, the mozzarella, the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and finally add the eggs and mix well.
Form the mixture into cigar shapes, about 50g each. I find it easiest to use my hands.
Coat them in breadcrumbs and deep fry them in hot oil until golden.
From Puglia. This is another very simple recipe that I cook a lot when green beans are in season. The pictures have been sitting on my computer for a while, so they are no longer in season, but should be fairly easy to get. The recipe uses ricotta marzottica or dura, which is hard to get outside Italy. The best substitute is grana or parmesan. Don’t use regular ricotta, it’s a different thing completely. The beans are cooked for quite a long time and you might consider them to be overcooked, but it works well with the pasta. If you prefer, you could add the beans along with the spaghetti.Serves 4.
- Top and tail the beans
- Boil the beans in plenty of boiling water for 10 minutes.
- Add the spaghetti to the water and continue cooking until the pasta is al dente.
- Drain the beans and pasta and mix with the warmed tomato sauce.
- Serve topped with ricotta marzotica or grana.
Ossibuchi con il risotto. From Milan. Veal has gone out of fashion in the UK at the moment. It never did in the Italy because they don’t use the “crate” method. Italians are more practical when it comes to food. The aversion to “white” veal has nothing to do with ethics, it doesn’t taste as nice. This is one of the most famous Italian veal dishes. In my opinion the best bit of the dish is the marrow, which I always save until the end. Serves 4.
- 4 slices of veal shank with the bone in the centre (ossibuchi)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- optional: 1 small stick of celery
- 30g butter
- 1 clove of garlic
- Plain flour for dusting
- The zest of half a lemon
- Dry white wine
- A little beef stock.
For the risotto
- 320g risotto rice
- 1 small glass of dry white wine
- 50g butter
- 1 small onion
- 1.5 litres of beef stock
- 1 sachet of saphron
- 4 tablespoons of grana padano
- Fry the onion (and the celery if used) and the whole garlic clove, over a low heat, for a few minutes in the butter until softened. Remove the garlic before serving( if you want a stronger garlic flavour, chop the clove and fry it along with the onion).
- Lightly flour the veal slices and add them to the onions. Fry them on both sides until they are lightly browned. Be careful not to disturb the marrow in the centre of the bone.
- Turn up the heat and add the glass of wine. Let it almost completely evaporate.
- Add a ladle of hot stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes until tender.
- Cook the risotto using the usual method, adding the saffron along with the last ladle of stock.
- When the veal is cooked add the chopped lemon zest, half a clove of chopped garlic(optional) and chopped parsley (gremolata) and serve on top of the risotto.
Mousse con uova di lompo. This dish doesn’t in fact use real caviar, but red lumpfish roe. Lumpfish mousse doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though :-) If you can only find black roe, feel free to use that, the taste is exactly the same. This is a very easy antipasto, especially if you use tinned beans, but looks quite impressive. The original recipe used smoked trout, but I found it impossible to find both here and in the UK, so I got very good results when I used smoked salmon. It is worth spending a little extra on the smoked salmon though, as the cheaper varieties tend to be very salty. Be careful when seasoning the beans for this reason. Serves 4.
- 140g smoked salmon
- 600g plain yoghurt
- 400g boiled cannellini beans, canned are fine
- Red lumpfish roe, enough to make a thin layer, 1 jar will probably be enough
- Lemon juice
- A sprig of rosemary
- Olive oil
- Blend the smoked salmon, the yoghurt and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a liquidiser. Keep a little of the smoked salmon aside to use as a garnish.
- Blend the drained cannellini beans, the leaves from the rosemary sprig and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Assemble the mousse in 4 wine glasses, a layer of cannellini beans, a thin layer of lumpfish roe and a layer of the smoked salmon and yoghurt mixture.
- Garnish with a little chopped smoked salmon.
- Serve with toast or bread sticks (grissini).
Roselline di prosciutto crudo su fichi. Melon and raw ham is just about ubiquitous in Italian restaurants outside of Italy, and it’s pretty common here too. When they are in season it is very common in Bari to pair ham with figs. In my opinion it is an even better match than melon. There are two ways to present them.“Little roses” looks very nice and is very easy to do. Cut the figs into four lengthways, but don’t cut all the way through. Take a slice of raw ham and twist it around two fingers to form a nest. Open the nest up and place it in the centre of the fig. The other way is to cut the figs completely into four and wrap each piece in ham. The second way doesn’t look so nice, but is easier to eat. I also use other types of cured meats or salumi , for example I especially like using Mortadella.
A note about prosciutto.
The English language is one of the great borrowers. We have taken words from almost every other language on Earth. They don’t always retain exactly the same meaning as in the original language. One example of this is prosciutto. In Italian it means “ham”. This can be leg of pork, cooked ham or raw ham. In English it has come to mean specifically raw ham, or prosciutto crudo in Italian. So when you see a sign for prosciutto ham you are in fact seeing a sign for ham ham. Another example of this is the panino roll. Shall I go into my local salumeria and ask for some ham ham to put into my roll roll? Oh well, I’m off to do a bit of footing now…
Cozze ripiene gratinate. This is quite an unusual mussel recipe. Mussels baked on the half shell are a very common antipasto here, but this recipe treats them a bit like the French scallop dish coquilles saint-jacques. They are baked with white sauce, cheese and wine. Serves 4 as a main course, many more as part of an antipasto.
- 2 kg large mussels
- 250 ml bechamel or white sauce
- 50 g grated pecorino romano
- 2 or 3 tbsp of dry breadcrumbs
- 2 sprigs of parsley
- A clove of garlic
- An egg yolk
- Half a glass of white wine
- Olive oil
Clean the mussels well. Place them in a pan along with half the clove of garlic, a sprig of parsley and the wine. Open the mussels by placing the pan over a high heat. Drain the mussels and filter and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove them from their shells.
Mix the mussel meat with 2 tbsp of olive oil, a chopped sprig of parsley, the rest of the garlic, chopped and a tbsp of the cooking liquid. Season with pepper.
Place each mussel on a half shell.
Mix together the white sauce, the egg yolk and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Top each shell with some of the mixture.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top and bake at 190°c for 15 minutes.
Tiramisu is ubiquitous in restaurants within Italy and around the world. The translation literally is “pick me up”. Idiomatically it means something like “make me happy”. It is quite a recent invention and didn’t start to become popular both nationally and internationally until the 80s.
As with most things in Italy there is a great debate about the true origin of tiramisu(or tiramesù in the Venetian dialect). Some sources put its origin as Siena in Tuscany however I think that the most credible claim comes from Treviso, in the Veneto near to Venice. Roberto Linguanotto from the Beccherie restaurant claims to have invented it at the end of the 60s and this is his recipe. People have changed the recipe a lot over the years and the original included no cream or alcohol.
The recipe was for a restaurant size portion but I used a third of the quantities to make 6 or 7 big portions.
- 4 egg yolks
- 160 g sugar
- 330 g mascarpone
- Up to 20 Savoiardi biscuits (also known as ladyfingers)
- Enough strong unsweetened espresso coffee (ristretto) to dip the biscuits in, allowed to cool
- Unsweetened cocoa powder to dust the top
Whip the egg yolks together with the sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is stiff.
Fold in the mascarpone.
Dip half of the biscuits into the coffee. Be careful not to make them too wet as they will disintegrate. Arrange them in a single layer in a dish. Roberto recommends a round one.
Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the biscuit.
Repeat to form a second layer.
Dust the top liberally with cocoa powder.
Chill the dish in the fridge for several hours, preferably overnight.
Meringhette al gelato di cioccolato. One story about the origin of meringues is that they were invented in the Swiss town of Meiringen by an Italian chef named Gasparini. I quite like this story as I am biased because I also have strong links to Switzerland :-) I needed to use up the egg whites left over from a Tiramisu so I did a bit of searching and came up with this from Sale & Pepe magazine. The idea came from the magazine, but the recipe for the meringues is slightly different as I wanted to be more precise with the measurements. The quantities are one part caster sugar, one part icing sugar and one part egg white. Serves 6
- 400 g chocolate ice cream
- 120g caster sugar
- 120g icing sugar
- 120g egg whites (about 4 eggs)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Beat the egg whites and lemon juice with an electric whisk while gradually adding the caster sugar. When the mixture has risen and is shiny and quite dense, carefully fold in the icing sugar.
Make small meringues by placing teaspoons of the mixture on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.
Bake at 90°C with the oven door propped open to allow the moisture to escape. It should take about an hour and a half.
When the meringues are ready, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
Serve them by making a sandwich with two meringues and some ice cream.