From Bergamo. Polenta e cüní. This is the most common Sunday lunch in Bergamo, and is one of the dishes I miss from my time living there. The are many variations on the recipe. This one comes from Slow Food Italy. Serves 4
Polenta cuni ingredients
1 rabbit, cut into portions
50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
4 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
Put the rabbit in a pan large enough to contain it in a single layer. Place over a high heat for a few minutes to completely dry out the pieces.
Polenta cuni lardo
Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.
Polenta cuni browning the rabbit
Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.
Polenta cuni with wine
Reduce the heat to low, cover and continue cooking until the rabbit is tender. There shouldn’t be a lot of liquid while it’s cooking, but if it looks like drying out, add a little stock. The cooking time will vary according to the rabbit, but it will be at least two hours, maybe longer.
About five minutes from the end of cooking, add the remaining butter and the chopped rosemary. The rabbit should be quite dry, almost crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside.
Serve it with polenta made according to the instructions on the packet. If I don’t have a polenta machine available to stir it, I usually use the quick cooking variety. A lot of Bergamasci regard this as a heinous crime though :)
Fry the whole clove of garlic and the finely chopped onion gently in a little olive oil. After a few minutes, when the clove is lightly brown, remove it and discard. Add the chard and marjoram if used. Season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for a few minutes until the chard is completely wilted. You don’t have to add any water, the water left clinging to the leaves after washing should be enough.
Swiss chard frittata wilting chard
Allow to cool and squeeze out as much water as possible. Mix together the lightly beaten eggs, the chard and the cheese.
Swiss chard frittata ready to cook
Heat a large frying pan to a medium. Add a couple of table spoons of oil an add the egg mixture. Fry until the top has started to set.
Swiss chard frittata ready to turn
Flip the frittata by placing a large plate on top. Turn out onto the plate and then slide back into the pan. Finish off for a couple of minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.
Pizza di patate e prosciutto. From Bari. This is a more complicated version of the traditional potato “pizza”. They call it a pizza here, but that name is quite confusing as it does not contain any bread or flour. To confuse matters further it is also known as Torta di patate or Gateau di patate in various regions. It is basically a potato pie filled with ham and spinach. The ham can easily be left out to make it vegetarian (if you are careful about what cheese you use of course). It can be eaten warm or cold and will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. It also freezes well. Serves about 8 as a main course.
Potato pizza ingredients
1.2 kg floury potatoes.
250g scamorza, provola or mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced.
Cook the potatoes in their skins in lightly salted water. Drain and peel when cool enough to handle.
Potato pizza cooking potatoes
Mash the potatoes and mix with the egg yolks and parmesan.
Potato pizza mixed with cheese
Fry the whole garlic clove for a few minutes in a little olive oil. Remove and add the spinach. There should be enough water clinging to the leaves after washing. Add a little salt and couple of grates of nutmeg. Cook over a medium heat until the spinach has completely wilted. Leave to cool and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Potato pizza cooking spinach
Grease a 24cm cake tin and dust with bread crumbs. Use 2/3 of the potato to make the base of the pizza. Build up the sides a little to contain the filling. Add the spinach.
Potato pizza with spinach
Add the ham
Potato pizza with ham
Cover with the cheese
Potato pizza with cheese
Close the pizza with the remaining 1/3 of the potato. Cover the top with bread crumbs and dot liberally with knobs of butter.
Potato pizza ready for the oven
Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for 50 minutes.
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
Remove the tough central rib from 12 cabbage leaves.
stuffed cabbage removing stalk
Blanch the leaves in abundant boiling water. Take 150g of the more tender centre of the cabbage and chop finely.
stuffed cabbage cooking filling
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.
stuffed cabbage filling rolls
Take a cabbage leaf and place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture on each one.
stuffed cabbage filled roll
Roll the leaf up to make a compact parcel. Hide the open seam underneath.
stuffed cabbage ready for the oven
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.
Stuffed cabbage finished dish
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.
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)
Chicken cacciatore ingredients
Brown the onions, the celery and the garlic in a large pan.
Chicken cacciatore browning the onions
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.
Chicken cacciatore browning the chicken
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.
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.
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
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
Place each mussel on a 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
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top and bake at 190°c for 15 minutes.
Polpettone pugliese. This is another recipe that I cook a lot. Other recipes cook the meatloaf in a tomato sauce, but this one roasts it dry. It uses minced veal, but if you can’t find it then minced beef will be fine. Italians don’t use the crated “white” variety anyway, so the veal is very pink. This is often served with roast potatoes. Serves 6.
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
In a pan big enough to accommodate the fish (a fish kettle would be ideal), soften the onions in half the olive.
Add the carrots, garlic and parsley and fry for a further couple of minutes.
Add the rest of the oil, 2 glasses of water and the passata. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and add the fish. If the fish isn’t covered by the liquid, add a little more hot water.
Cover and cook until the mackerel are done, about 10 minutes.
Allow to cool before serving. This dish is best served warm or cold.
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.
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
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
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.
Add the tomatoes, parsley and a generous slug of white wine.
Add the fish in a single layer. Add water to bring the level of liquid up to about halfway up the fillets.
Cover and simmer until the fish is done. About 10 minutes for medium sized fillets.
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
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.
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.
Add two whole cherry tomatoes to each fish and drizzle with a little more oil.
Crumple a sheet of aluminium and use this to support the fish and keep them upright while cooking.
Bake for ten minutes at 180C
Cover a serving plate with the rest of the lemon slices arrange the cooked fish on top.
Cozze gratinate. From Puglia. I wanted to try this recipe to see if it makes a difference cooking the mussels from raw, rather than opening them in a hot pan first. I have to say it does! They were much nicer. Use a short knife to open the mussels over a bowl to catch the liquid. I still need a bit of pratice, but I was getting it towards the end. Serves 4 as a main course, more as an antipasto.
Gratinated mussels ingredients
1 kg mussels – well cleaned and opened on the half shell (reserve the liquid)
Orata ai ferri. I’ve decided to make better use of my local fish market seeing as it’s just five minutes walk away from my flat. I’d forgotten that Monday is a bad day to go, as the day boats don’t go out on a Sunday. As a result, all that was available was either farmed or frozen. I made the best of it however and bought a couple of very fresh bream. So fresh in fact that they were still in rigor mortis.
Update: I’ve just realised that I cooked this recipe about a year ago and it’s already on the blog. D’oh! Oh well, it proves I like it I suppose :-)
Grilled, marinated bream ingredients
1 medium sea bream per person – cleaned and scaled
Plenty of chopped parsley (pref. flat leaf)
Fresh lemon juice
Fine dry breadcrumbs
Make a marinade by mixing together roughly equal amounts of lemon juice and olive oil. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Pour the marinade over the fish making sure that some gets into the cavity. Leave to marinate for a few hours in the fridge.
Drain the fish well, reserving the marinade. sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
Cook under a medium grill for around 15 minutes (depending on the size of the fish). Turn two or three times during cooking. Baste with the marinade every so often.
Gamberoni alla brace. This recipe is claimed by Sicily, but prawns are cooked this way all over Italy, and indeed the world. It’s about as easy as you can get. The only thing to remember is to not overcook the prawns. If you are using a barbecue, leave a distance of around 30cm between the coals and the prawns.
Large, raw, unshelled prawns
Brush the prawns with oil and arrange on the grill.
Polpettone alla napoletana. This is a tasty and economical recipe. In Naples it is also known as ‘polpettone in salsetta’ – meatloaf in sauce. The sauce is used to dress pasta for the first course and the meat is eaten as the second course. The recipe calls for buffalo mozzarella and Neapolitan salami, but I’m sure it would be fine with whatever you have handy. Thank to Gino for the advice. Serves 4-6.