Neapolitan mixed fritters

Mixed fritters finished dish

Mixed fritters finished dish

Napoli crestPasta cresciuta. From Naples. My local pizzaria here in Bari is Neapolitan and cooks what the locals regard as “thick” pizzas. The Barese go there when they want some foreign food :-) They also cook a few specialities from Naples, such as arancini and this dish. Pasta cresciuta means “grown dough”, because the batter contains yeast. You can cook them without a filling, or with some of the more  traditional ones such as courgette flowers or anchovies. Alternatively experiment with what you have to hand. The batter will make about 60-80 pieces.

Mixed fritters ingredients

Mixed fritters ingredients

  • Sun-dried tomato halves, soaked to soften
  • Courgette (Zucchini) flowers picked over to make sure they don’t contain any insects etc.
  • Large sage leaves
  • Anchovy fillets
  • Oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but sunflower oil is acceptable)

For the batter

  • 1 cube of fresh yeast
  • 320ml lukewarm water
  • 300g oo flour
  • A pinch of salt

First make the batter. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture. Beat it with a whisk until smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 – 2 hours to rise. It should about double in size.

Mixed fritters batter

Mixed fritters batter

Heat a pan full of oil to a medium heat, about 180°c. If the oil is too hot the fritters will be raw on the inside and burnt on the the outside. If the temperature is too low they will be soggy. A litte experimentation may be needed to get it right.

Mixed fritters cooking

Mixed fritters cooking

To make plain fritters, drop tablespoons of the batter into the hot oil. Cook until they are lightly browned, turning once. You are aiming to keep a reasonably soft texture. Think savory doughnuts. Drain on kitchen paper. Dip the various fillings into the batter and continue as before.

They are best eaten hot, but may also be eaten cold.

Eggs mimosa

Eggs mimosa finished dish

Eggs mimosa finished dish

Hard boiled eggs are of course an important symbol of Easter in Italy. They are often eaten as part of an Easter antipasto. This is one of the simplest, and in my opinion best recipes.

  • 6 hardboiled eggs
  • 6 anchovy fillets or 2 tablespoons anchovy paste
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • chopped parsley or chives
  • pepper
Eggs mimosa ingredients

Eggs mimosa ingredients

Halve the eggs and put the yolks in a bowl along with the anchovies and pepper to taste. Blend with a blender, adding the olive oil little by little, until you have a smooth paste. Fill the empty halves of the eggs with the mixture, sprinkle with parsley or chives and serve.

Eggs mimosa blending stuffing

Eggs mimosa blending stuffing

Pasta with beans and mussels

Pasta with beans and mussels finished dish

Pasta with beans and mussels finished dish

Napoli crestPasta con fagioli e cozze.  From Naples. This is a variation on the classic Neapolitan dish of pasta and beans. The pasta is cooked in the sauce which makes it very tasty. Serves 4.

  • 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
Pasta with beans and mussels ingredients

Pasta with beans and mussels ingredients

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

Pasta with beans and mussels opening the mussels

Pasta with beans and mussels opening the mussels

Remove the mussels from their shells and strain and reserve the cooking liquid.

Pasta with beans and mussels cooking the pasta

Pasta with beans and mussels cooking the pasta

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

“Caviar” Mousse

Lumpfish mousse finished dish

Lumpfish mousse finished dish

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
Lumpfish mousse ingredients

Lumpfish mousse ingredients

  1. 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.
  2. Blend the drained cannellini beans,  the leaves from the rosemary sprig and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. 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.
  4. Garnish with a little chopped smoked salmon.
  5. Serve with toast or bread sticks (grissini).

Baked mussels

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.

Baked mussels finished dish

Baked mussels finished dish

Baked mussels ingredients

Baked mussels ingredients

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.

Baked mussels opened with cooking liquid

Baked mussels opened with cooking liquid

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.

Baked mussels removed from their shells

Baked mussels removed from their shells

Place each mussel on a half shell.

Baked mussels on the half shell

Baked mussels on the 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.

Baked mussels with white sauce

Baked mussels with white sauce

Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top and bake at 190°c for 15 minutes.

Orecchiette with cime di rape

Orecchiette con cime di rape. This probably the most well known dish from Bari. Cime di rape are known as turnip tops in British English. It’s funny, but I’ve never seen turnips in Italy. It must be a real problem for the ex-pat Scots on Burns’ night. They are known as rapini or broccoli rabe in American English. In fact if you can’t find cime di rape you can use broccoli. The results won’t be the same, but it will be in the same ball park. I have seen recipes that also use cherry tomatoes which are added to the oil after the anchovies have dissolved. You can cook the cime di rape along with the pasta or, as I prefer, cook the cime di rape and then cook the pasta in the same water. Some recipes also don’t use chillies and/or anchovies so the dish can easily be made vegetarian. Serves 4

Orecchiette con cime di rape finished dish

Orecchiette con cime di rape finished dish

  • 400 g orecchiette
  • 800 g cime di rape
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoon or more olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 dried chilli (optional)
Orecchiette con cime di rape ingredients

Orecchiette con cime di rape ingredients

Wash the cime di rape well. I prefer to discard the larger stalks, but some people leave them in.

Washed cime di rape

Washed cime di rape

Boil the rape in plenty of salted water until it is cooked to your liking. I find 3 or 4 minutes is enough. Drain them saving the water.

Cooked cime di rape

Cooked cime di rape

Cook the orecchiette  until they are al dente in the water you used to cook the cima di rape. Meanwhile fry the anchovies, whole garlic clove and chilli in the olive oil. Stir until the anchovies dissolve. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat.

Frying the anchovies and chilli

Frying the anchovies and chilli

Remove the garlic clove and add the cime di rape. Mix well. Finally add the oriecchette and serve.

Panzerotti

Panzerotti. From Bari. These are one of the most famous and popular dishes from Bari. They are deep fried pockets of dough stuffed with a variety of fillings. Two of the most common are mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and oregano and ricotta forte (also called skuanda), cherry tomatoes, onion and anchovies. Ricotta forte is a bit of a “Marmite” ingredient. By that I mean it is very strongly flavoured and you either love it or hate it.  I am in the first camp, lovely stuff. Rather than cherry tomatoes, “appesi” are more traditional. These are small tomatoes which are picked when still not completely ripe and hung up for later consumption. As these are hard to find, you can use any type. I went to a party here and a lady was employed just to make panzerotti all evening. The last round was filled with Nutella! The size of the panzerotti varies, but I made 12 with this recipe.

Panzerotti ingredients

Panzerotti ingredients

For the pastry

  • 500 g 00 flour
  • 100 ml tepid milk
  • 1 cube of fresh yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 10 g salt

Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the milk to the flour, oil and salt along with enough tepid water to make a smooth dough.

Oil the dough, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for up to 2 hours.

Separate the dough into 12 portions and roll into small balls. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for a further half an hour.

Panzerotti balls of dough

Panzerotti balls of dough

Take one ball of dough and roll it into a large disc. Place a large tablespoon of filling in the middle of each one. Fold the dough over to form a half moon shape. Press down well and try to exclude as much air as possible. Either fold over and crimp the edges or cut off the excess pastry with a pasty wheel and seal the edges with a fork.

Panzerotti ready to cook

Panzerotti ready to cook

Deep fry the panzerotti until they are lightly golden. Some people use extra virgin olive oil and some people use regular vegetable oil. You can also bake them in an oven at 200 °C for 15 minutes, but the result is quite different.

Panzerotti finished dish

Panzerotti finished dish

Fillings

  • 200 g mozzarella
  • 300 g cherry tomatoes
  • Oregano
  • Chop and drain the tomatoes. Cube the mozzarella.  Mix together with a generous amount of mozzarella.
  • 50 g ricotta forte
  • 100 g cherry tomatoes
  • 50 g onions
  • An anchovy
  • Salt and pepper.
  • Fry the onion in some oil, bone and chop anchovy. Spread each disc of dough with ricotta forte. Add a piece of tomato, some onion and a piece of anchovy. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 100 g ricotta forte
  • 20 g grated pecorino romano
  • 2 cherry tomatoes for each panzerotto
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • Mix together the ricotta forte and the pecorino. Some people like to add an egg yolk to the mixture. Place a tablespoon of the filling and 2 chopped tomatoes in each panzerotto.
  • Radicchio and gorgonzola.
  • Fried minced pork mixed with parmsan and mozzarella. This is traditional on shrove Tuesday.

And of course the very untraditional but popular with children young and old:-

  • Nutella :-)
Peppina at the party

Peppina at the party

Onion pizza

Pizza di cipolle. From Bari. This is another “pizza” that is in fact a pie or calzone. This can be made with “long onions” which I have never seen outside Italy, but this recipe uses white onions which are easy to find. Indeed if you can’t find then I’m sure you would get good results with other types of onion. There are versions without the olives and/or anchovies so feel free to leave them out if you prefer. The dough is made without yeast so it is very quick. Serves 6 to 8.

Onion pizza ingredients

Onion pizza ingredients

For the dough

  • 500 g 00 flour
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 200 ml white wine or water
  • salt

For the filling.

  • 1 kg white onions, chopped
  • 5-6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 g stoned olives
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 50 g parmesan, grated
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Lightly seson and fry the onions in a little oil until they are soft. Add the tomatoes, olives and anchovies and cook for a further few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan.

Mix together the ingredients for the dough with enough water or wine to make it smooth. Leave to rest for about half an hour.

Grease a pizza tin  with olive oil and dust with a little flour.

Onion pizza ready to be filled

Onion pizza ready to be filled

Roll out half of the dough so it fits the tin.

Onion pizza with filling

Onion pizza with filling

Fill the tin with the onion mix.

Onion pizza ready to cook

Onion pizza ready to cook

Roll out the other half to make the top of the pie. Place on top and trim the edges. Cover the top with a little olive oil and pierce with a fork to allow the steam to escape.

Bake at 200 °C for 30 minutes.

Onion pizza finished dish

Onion pizza finished dish

Spaghetti with mussels

Spaghetti with mussels ingredients

Spaghetti with mussels ingredients

Spaghetti con le cozze. This is a recipe that I cook a lot, but have never got round to posting. I, like the Barese, love mussels.  They are always cheap and are available all year. Here the size changes with the season, but you can make this dish with big or small mussels, it doesn’t matter. They say that the smaller ones have a better flavour. Some people open the mussels raw for this dish. To be honest the flavour is probably marginally better, but I am not very good at opening them so I never have time. If you are adept at opening mussels, feel free to remove the shells before adding them, but don’t forget to include any water that comes out. Some people also remove the shells after they have opened. Again, it depends on my mood, but I usually don’t.You can also use fresh or tinned tomatoes.
Serves 4
  • 1kg Mussels weighed with the shells
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g peeled tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • A few sprigs of chopped parsley
  • Chilli (optional to taste, can be fresh or dried)
  • 320g Spaghetti
  1. Sauté the garlic for a few minutes so that it softens, but doesn’t brown.
  2. Add the chilli (if fresh, if you are using dry, add it after the tomatoes)
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the mussels and cook uncovered over a medium heat until they are all open
  5. Add the parsley and stir
  6. Mix with the cooked spaghetti and serve.
Spaghetti with mussels finished dish

Spaghetti with mussels finished dish

Mackerel in tomato sauce

Sgombri in salsa di pomodoro. The “tomato sauce” in this recipe is really a tomato flavoured poaching liquid. The recipe appears to contain an awful lot of oil, but you wont actually be eating much of the sauce, so it’s not as bad as it seems.Serve warm or cold. Serves 4.

Mackerel in tomato sauce ingredients

  • 1 kg Mackerel – cleaned.
  • 3 onions – sliced
  • 3 carrots – finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
  • 6 tbsp passata
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 glass of olive oil
  1. In a pan big enough to accommodate the fish (a fish kettle would be ideal), soften the onions in half the olive.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic and parsley and fry for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the oil, 2 glasses of water and the passata. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the fish. If the fish isn’t covered by the liquid, add a little more hot water.
  5. Cover and cook until the mackerel are done, about 10 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before serving. This dish is best served warm or cold.
  7. Alternative method: Add the fish. When the liquid returns to the boil, remove from the heat, cover and allow the fish to cool in the liquid.

Mackerel in tomato sauce finished dish

Baked anchovies

Alici arraganate. From Puglia. There is probably not much chance of finding fresh anchovies in the UK, but if you do, this is a good recipe to try. It takes a fair bit of preparation, but it’s worth it in the end. You need to clean them as soon as you get them home as they will spoil extremely quickly. Do not do as I did this morning and leave yourself 30 minutes to clean a couple of hundred anchovies before you have to go to work :-) To clean them, snap the back bone just behind the head and pull. The guts should come out with the head. If you can’t get the hang of that, use a small sharp knife to cut through the back bone, taking care not to cut all the way through and pull. Next remove the backbone by running your thumb along the spine of the fish, flattening it out into two fillets. The backbone should then be easy to pull out. “Close” the fillets by folding them along the line of the backbone. The recipe says this will feed 4 as an antipasto, but it would feed at least that number as a British style starter.

Baked anchovies ingredients

  • 800g fresh anchovies
  • 60g pecorino – grated
  • 80g dry bread crumbs
  • 2 ripe tomatoes – sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Dry white wine
  • Olive oil
  1. Clean and prepare the anchovies as above.
  2. Mix together the pecorino, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano and parsley
  3. Grease an oven dish with a little  oil. I used 4 individual dishes.
  4. Line the dish with a little of the breadcrumb mix. Add a layer of anchovies and cover with the breadcrumb mix. Repeat until all the anchovies are used up, finishing with a layer of breadcrumbs.
  5. Top with the tomato slices and a little more of the breadcrumb mix.
  6. Splash some wine and drizzle olive oil on top.
  7. Bake at 180C until golden brown and sizzling.

Baked anchovies finished dish

Bavette with clams and courgettes

Bavette alle vongole e zucchine. This is a nice alternative to the standard spaghetti alle vongole recipe. Serves 4.

  • 320g bavette
  • 800g clams
  • 1 shallot – finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic – peeled, whole
  • 1 chilli (fresh or dried) or to taste
  • 300g courgettes – cut into match sticks
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 200g tomatoes – peeled and diced
Bavette with clams and courgettes ingredients

Bavette with clams and courgettes ingredients

  1. Open the clams by  putting them in a dry pan over a high heat for about 5 minutes. Reserve any liquid that is produced.
  2. Remove the clams from their shells and put aside.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan and cook the shallot, chilli and garlic clove until softened.
  4. Remove and discard the garlic.
  5. Add the clams, courgettes and parsley and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add the wine and the liquid from the clams and allow to reduce for a while.
  7. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook  until the sauce thickens – about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Cook the bavette until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the sauce and mix well.
Bavette with clams and courgettes finished dish

Bavette with clams and courgettes finished dish

Sea bass in “acqua pazza”

Branzino all’acqua pazza. This is a very simple way to poach fish. Acqua pazza translates as “crazy water”. Just what exactly is meant to be so crazy about it, I’ve no idea. :-) It works best with firm, white fleshed fish. You can use fillets, steaks or whole fish. On this occasion I used fillets. Serves 4

Bass in acqua pazza ingredients

Bass in acqua pazza ingredients

  • 4 sea bass – filleted
  • 400g cherry tomatoes – halved or left whole according to preference
  • A few sprigs of parsley – chopped
  • A clove of garlic – chopped
  • 1 chilli – fresh or dried (optional)
  • Dry white wine
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the garlic and chilli in olive oil until the garlic has started to colour. Use a pan big enough to take all the fish in a single layer.
  2. Add the tomatoes, parsley and a generous slug of white wine.
  3. Add the fish in a single layer. Add water to bring the level of liquid up to about halfway up the fillets.
  4. Cover and simmer until the fish is done. About 10 minutes for medium sized fillets.
Bass in acqua pazza finished dish

Bass in acqua pazza finished dish

Sun dried tomato struzzichini

In Italy it is regarded as essential to eat something if you are drinking.  Only a reckless madman (or uncouth foreigner) would ever consider not doing so. :-) Struzzichini are little snacks to go with your drink. It might be something as simple as a bowl of peanuts or something  more elaborate, like the following dish. In Lombardy the bars compete to provide the best selection. There is one bar I used to go to in Bergamo that served such a large variety that I very rarely had any appetite for a meal after my apperitivo. If you are using tomatoes preserved in oil, you of course don’t need to soak them. It’s worth doing with the dry variety though if you can find them.

Sun dried tomato struzzichini ingredients

Sun dried tomato struzzichini ingredients

  • Sun dried tomatoes – soaked for an hour in a mixture of water and vinegar
  • Olives – stoned and cut into slivers
  • Capers – soaked for a few minutes and drained
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Anchovy fillets
  • Olive oil
Assembling the struzzichini

Assembling the struzzichini

  1. Drain the tomatoes and dress with olive oil.
  2. On top of each tomato place 2 capers, a piece of anchovy, a sliver of olive and basil leaf.
  3. Roll up and secure with a tooth pick.
Sun dried tomato struzzichini finished dish

Sun dried tomato struzzichini finished dish

Sea bass on a bed of lemons.

Spigola su letto di Limoni. This recipe comes from an Italian tv chef. It’s a bit showy as you might expect. You have to clean the fish by making a slit down either side of the back bone. Snip through the back bone and remove it along with the guts. If you’re not so worried about the look of the thing, I’m sure it would taste just as good if you cleaned it the usual way, via the belly. Better still, you could fillet the bass and bake the fillets covered with the chopped tomato mixture. Serves 4

Sea bass on a bed of lemons ingredients

  • 4 small sea bass – prepared as above
  • 100g cherry tomatoes – chopped
  • 8 whole cherry tomatoes
  • 2 or 3 lemons thinly sliced
  • A few needles of fresh rosemary
  • 1 clove of garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 sprigs of parsley – finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Mix together the chopped tomatoes, rosemary, garlic,  parsley and a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity of the fish with this mixture.
  2. Add two slices of lemon to each fish, one on each side of the cavity. They should look something like the leaves of an open book.
  3. Add two whole cherry tomatoes to each fish and drizzle with a little more oil.
  4. Crumple a sheet of aluminium and use this to support the fish and keep them upright while cooking.
  5. Bake for ten minutes at 180C
  6. Cover a serving plate with the rest of the lemon slices arrange the cooked fish on top.

Sea bass on a bed of lemons finished dish