Genovese Ragù

Genovese finished dish

Genovese finished dish

Napoli crestThis dish, paradoxically, is from Naples. It is a bit of an institution there. Many families cook it for Sunday lunch. It is a type of “white” ragù, that is it is cooked for a long time without tomatoes. It will taste even better if you make it the day before, and heat it up before serving. It is usually served with ziti, broken in half, but any tubular pasta, such as penne or rigatoni will do. Some versions cook the beef as a whole piece, and serve the meat as the main course, but this recipe cooks it until it breaks down into the sauce.
The origins of the name are a bit of a mystery. Some say it was first prepared in the port of Naples, where it was popular with sailors from Genoa. Others say it is a dish originally prepared by cooks from Genoa.

Genovese ingredients

Genovese ingredients

  • 500 g beef (topside or rump)
  • 450 g onions
  • 60 g celery
  • 60 g carrots
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 litre beef stock

Finely chop the carrots and celery and thinly slice the onions.

Genovese chopped veg

Genovese chopped veg

Chop the beef into large cubes.

Genovese meat

Genovese meat

Saute the carrot and celery for a few minutes in a pan big enough to take all the beef.

Genovese browning veg

Genovese browning veg

When they have taken some colour, turn down the heat and add the onions. Stir With a wooden spoon until the onions have softened.

Genovese onions

Genovese onions

Add the beef, rosemary and bay leaf. Cook over a very low heat for at least 3 hours. Check every half and hour or so, and add a little stock if it starts to get dry.

Genovese adding beef

Genovese adding beef

After 3 hours add the rest of the stock and continue cooking until the beef has completely disintegrated and the sauce is thick and tasty.

Genovese end of cooking

Genovese end of cooking

Serve with ziti, snapped in half before cooking.

Inspector Montalbano’s Arancini

Arancini finished dish

Arancini finished dish

Coat_of_arms_of_SicilyInspector Montalbano is a popular fictional Sicilian police detective, created by Andrea Camilleri. The stories are set in the small town of Vigata , and, being Italian, feature food quite prominently. In the story Inspector Montelbano’s Arancini (Gli arancini di Montalbano), the famous Sicilian dish is used as a plot device. Does the inspector want to leave Sicily to be with his girlfriend in Paris, or does he want to stay and eat his housekeeper Adelina’s arancini. I won’t tell you what he decides, but you can probably guess ;) My father is a fan of the books, and he is fond of arancini when he visits me, so I decided to recreate this recipe from the book. The main differences between Adelina’s dish, and the more well known version is that she uses béchamel sauce instead of cheese. Also the ragù is made with whole pieces of meat, not mince.

For the ragù

  • 150g of reasonably fatty beef in one piece
  • 150g of reasonably fatty pork in one piece
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • a sprig of parsley
  • a few leaves of basil
  • 250ml of passata
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of tomato purée
  • extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the risotto

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 1 small onion
  • oil and butter to taste
  • beef stock
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g of shelled peas (use fresh or frozen depending on the season)
  • 80g of spicy salami in a single piece
  • béchamel sauce made with 250ml of milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but you can use peanut oil or similar)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Arancini Ragù ingredients

Arancini Ragù ingredients

Fry the onion and celery gently in a little oil. Add the two pieces of meat and brown them on all sides.
Add the passata and tomato purée diluted in a little hot water. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if needed. Cook slowly for at least an hour and a half, longer if possible. Add the chopped parsley and basil, and cook for a further half an hour. This sauce can also be made in advance.

Arancini Ragù cooked

Arancini Ragù cooked

Make a classic risotto following the standard recipe, but without wine or cheese. It should be quite dry.  Montalbano is quiet clear that it should be without saffron.  (senza zaffirano, pi carità!)

 Arancini cooking risotto

Arancini cooking risotto

Tip the risotto out onto a marble slab (or a large tray), let it cool a little and then mix with a little of the tomato sauce and stir in the eggs. Let it cool completely. Put it into the fridge for about half an hour.

 Arancini risotto cooling

Arancini risotto cooling

Meanwhile, cook the peas in boiling salted water. Chop the meat with a mezzaluna or a knife. Montalbano forbids the use of a food processor  (nenti frullatore, pi carità di Dio!) :) Mix some of the  béchamel sauce with the peas and salami cut into small cubes. Add enough of the tomato sauce from the meat to make a fairly thick mixture.

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini forming

Arancini forming

Slightly dampen your hands and take some of the rice and roll it in the palm of your hand trying to make a sort of bowl. Put a spoonful of the ragù mixture in the middle. Cover with a little more rice and form it into a ball.You are aiming for about tennis ball size. Continue until you run out of rice. You probably won’t need all of the filling.

Arancini ready for coating

Arancini ready for coating

Put them in the fridge again for half an hour or so to firm up. Coat with egg, and then roll in bread crumbs.

Arancini ready for cooking

Arancini ready for cooking

Fry the arancini in hot oil (about 165°C) until they are golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels. They are best eaten hot, but are also good cold.

Arancini cooked

Arancini cooked

Stuffed cabbage leaves

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

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

To cook

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp parmesan

Remove the tough central rib from 12 cabbage leaves.

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

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

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

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture on each one.

stuffed cabbage filled roll

stuffed cabbage filled roll

Roll the leaf up to make a compact parcel. Hide the open seam underneath.

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

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

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.

Bagna cauda

Bagna caoda fished dish

Bagna caoda fished dish

Piedmont-flagBagna 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

Bagna caoda ingredients

Bagna caoda ingredients

  • 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))
  • Fennel
  • Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
  • Endive
  • Celery
  • Courgettes
  • Small globe artichoke
  • Cardoons
  • Cucumber
  • Radicchio
  • Asparagus
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Spring onions
  • Small whole mushrooms
Bagna caoda vegetables

Bagna caoda vegetables

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.

Chicken cacciatore

Chicken cacciatore finished dish

Chicken cacciatore finished dish

LiguriaPollo 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

Chicken cacciatore ingredients

Brown the onions, the celery and the garlic in a large pan.

Chicken cacciatore browning the onions

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

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.

Variations

  1. Some people like to add a little chopped parsley at the end
  2. You can also add sliced fresh or reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms along with the chicken.

Spaghetti with Gurnard

Spaghetti con la gallinella. Gurnard is used mainly as a soup fish here. This recipe however serves it poached and flaked with spaghetti. This avoids the problem of navigating the numerous bones.  When you’ve finished you’ll be left with a couple of litres of pretty good fish stock which is worth saving and would freeze well. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with gurnard ingedients

  • 320g spaghetti
  • 300g whole gurnard – cleaned
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Parsley – finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100g small or cherry tomatoes – sliced
  • Stock vegetables (Onion, carrot, celery)
  • Olive oil
  1. Peel and chop the stock vegetables. Add to a pan with 3 litres of water and a large pinch of salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. You can omit this step if you are pressed for time.
  2. Add the fish and poach for 5-6 minutes. The fish should be starting to flake, but not dissolving. Remove the fish and allow to cool slightly. Strain and reserve the stock.
  3. Flake the fish taking care to remove all the bones.
  4. Mince together the lemon zest, the garlic and the parsley.
  5. Fry the fish gently in a little olive oil and add a little of the stock. Be careful not to add to much, you don’t want it too sloppy.
  6. Cook the spaghetti in the stock until al dente
  7. Just before the spaghetti is done, add the minced ingredients and the tomatoes to the fish and warm through.
  8. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the fish. Mix well and cook for a further minute or so.
  9. Serve immediately.

spaghetti with gurnard finished dish

Ragù for baked pasta

Ragù per pasta al forno. This is used for many dishes – lasagne, baked ziti etc. There are many recipes, but the proportion of meat to tomato is always similar. One of the most common mistakes people make is to add too much tomato. If you have time, the flavour improves if you make it the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Enough for 4-6 portions of pasta.

  • 300g minced beef
  • 75g carrot, finely chopped
  • 75g onion, finely chopped
  • 50g celery, finely chopped
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 250g passata
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, carrot and celery. Fry gently for a few minutes until the onions start to go translucent.
  2. Add the meat and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until it is well browned.
  3. Add the wine and continue cooking until it has almost completely evaporated.
  4. Add the passata, season with salt and cover.
  5. Cook very slowly for at least 2 hours. Add a little water if it starts to dry out.
  6. At the end of cooking, season with freshly ground black pepper.
Ragù for baked pasta

Ragù for baked pasta