Spaghetti al cartoccio (in a package)

puglia crestFrom Puglia. This dish looks fairly impressive, but is in fact quite easy to do. Spaghetti or linguine is mixed with seafood, and baked in the oven. The pasta absorbs the flavours from the seafood and the sauce is concentrated wonderfully. I had this dish at a restaurant near here “Zia Teresa” in Torre a Mare a while back. They served it using foil packets, but some people use greaseproof paper. Make one large package, or as I prerfer, one package per person. The recipe is really just a guide. The seafood is different from chef to chef and from day to day, depending on what is available. Include some kind of mollusc, like mussels or clams, something from the squid family, like calamari or octopus and something from the prawn family like prawns, scampi and shrimps. Some people also include a little fish, about 200 g, such as red mullet, sea bream or bass. Serves 4.

  • 350 g spaghetti
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
  • 1 kg of fresh tomatoes
  • 200 g unpeeled raw prawns/shrimps
  • 350 g clams (vongole veraci)
  • 500 g mussels
  • 200 g baby octopus or baby squid
  • A large sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 chillis (optional, use the chillis which you are used to. It is usually made quite mild here)
  • Dry white wine

Wash the mussels and clams under cold running water and pull the beards off. Put them into a large pan along with a clove of garlic, the parsley and half a glass of wine. Put on a high heat until all the shellfish are open. Remove  most of them from the shells (you leave a few whole for garnish, if you like)  and reserve the cooking liquid, strained if need be.

Blanch the tomatoes for a few seconds in boiling water, and then peel and deseed them. Roughly chop.

Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic. When they have browned, remove them from the oil. Add the octopus or squid, and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes.

 

 

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the cooking liquid from the shell-fish and the chopped chillis (leave them whole if you want to remove them at the end of cooking)  and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the unpeeled prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes. If you’d prefer to peel the prawns you can, but you’ll be losing quite a lot of flavour.

Cook the pasta about half the time recommended time on the packet. Drain and mix with the sauce.

Use a large square of kitchen foil, or 4 smaller ones for individual portions. Bring all 4 sides up and pinch together the corners, so you have a sort of foil “basket”. Fill each pouch with the pasta and fold over the top to close. Dont close them too tightly, leave some room. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for about 10 minutes.

Unwrap the package or packages at the table and have some finger bowls and napkins handy.

Garlic soup

Garlic soup finished dish

Garlic soup finished dish

Zuppa di aglio. Versions of this soup exist all over the world. I used to live in the Czech Republic and česnečka was said to be a fantastic cure for a hangover ;) It is best made with new season “wet” garlic, but regular dried garlic will give good results. Use very good stock, it will be so much better than cubes. It can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and a vegetarian cheese. Serves 4.

Garlic soup ingredients

Garlic soup ingredients

  • 1 litre of good chicken stock
  • 100g garlic about 2 or 3 heads, peeled and finely diced
  • 200g potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 slices rustic white bread, toasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 60g parmesan or grana
  1. Simmer the garlic and potato in the stock for about 20 minutes. The garlic and potato should be very tender.
  2. Liquidize until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side on both side of the toast. This will produce quite a strong garlic flavour, so be careful. If you prefer a mild flavour, leave out this step altogether.
  4. Drizzle the toast with olive oil, put a slice into each bowl, pour the hot soup on top and sprinkle with parmesan.

Swiss chard frittata

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Frittata di bietole. This is one of the myriad of  recipes for frittate or Italian style omelettes. If you can’t find swiss chard, fresh spinach would be a good substitute.

Swiss chard frittata ingredients

Swiss chard frittata ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 kg of swiss chard, only the green leaves, use the stalks for something else.
  • 1 clove  of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • A handful of fresh marjoram leaves or about a teaspoon of dried (optional)
  • 100g of grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
Swiss chard frittata prepared

Swiss chard frittata prepared

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

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

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

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.

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

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.

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

Osso bucco with risotto

Ossobucco finished dish

Ossobucco finished dish

MilanoOssibuchi 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.

Ossobucco finished dish

Ossobucco finished dish

  • 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
  • Parsley
  • 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
  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the glass of wine. Let it almost completely evaporate.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes until tender.
  5. Cook the risotto using the usual method, adding the saffron along with the last ladle of stock.
  6. 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.

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.