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.
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
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
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
200 g mozzarella
300 g cherry tomatoes
Chop and drain the tomatoes. Cube the mozzarella. Mix together with a generous amount of mozzarella.
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.
Parmigiana di melanzane. From Puglia. This is a really common dish here. It takes a bit of time to prepare, so it tends to be a celebration dish. It’s worth the effort though. Lots of people, even Jamie Oliver, assume it’s a northern dish because of it’s name. It is in fact named after the cheese not the city and is a southern dish.He also says to grill the aubergines rather than fry them. I’ve tried it this way and although the dish is undoubtedly less calorific, I think the taste suffers considerably. The dish is claimed by Puglia, Campania and Sicily and possibly other regions as their own. I’ve seen similar recipes from the states called “eggplant lasagne” even though it contains no béchamel sauce or … erm … lasagne. Even though it’s a vegetarian dish it’s quite heavy so I wouldn’t recommend eating it too often. Serves at least 6 as a main course, many more as part of an antipasto.
Wash and dry the aubergines. Slice into 5 mm rounds. Dust with flour. Dip in the eggs and fry for a minutes in olive oil. Drain on kitchen paper.
Fry the clove of garlic in 4 table spoons of olive oil until it is brown. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the garlic.
Cover the bottom of an oven proof dish with tomato sauce. Add a layer aubergines. Add a layer of mozzarella and then parmesan. Repeat until all the aubergine is used up. Finish with a layer of aubergines covered with tomato sauce and parmesan.
Bake for 1 hour at 200°c. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with aluminium foil.
Potato Gnocchi don’t come from one particular region in Italy, but they are more of a northern thing. A sort of pasta for potato lovers. They are fairly easy, although time consuming to make. You can however freeze the gnocchi. Cook from frozen for 6-7 minutes. Some people like to make ridges using a fork, grater or a special tool. I don’t bother as this takes ages and I don’t think it adds much to the dish.
1 kg potatoes
300 g 00 flour
salt and pepper
Put the unpeeled potatoes into cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until tender.
Peel using a kitchen towel to protect your hands from the hot potatoes.
Mash the potatoes preferably using a potato ricer or vegetable mill.
Add the egg and mix quickly to avoid it cooking from the residual heat in the potato.
Add the flour and knead until you get a smooth dough. This shouldn’t take too long.
Break off a fist sized piece of dough and roll out a sausage about 3cm wide. Cut into 2cm pieces.
To cook, tip the gnocchi into boiling salted water. They are ready when they have all floated to the surface.
Drain the gnocchi and toss with a little olive oil to stop them sticking together.
Serve the gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce or maybe plain with a little parmesan.
Focaccia alla barese. I have never really had much success with bread in my cooking career, so I decided to give it one more go. It actually came out really well. The main differences between Bari focaccia and regular focaccia is the use of coarse hard flour (semola rimacinata di grano duro) and the inclusion of potatoes in the dough. There is also no olive oil included within the dough, only in the tin and poured over the top. I just caught it before it burnt, so it looks a little dark. See the recipe for some advice on how to avoid this.
500g coarse hard flour (semola rimacinata di grano duro) Use strong white bread flour if you can’t get it.
150g mashed potatoes
1 cube of fresh yeast (or 1 sachet of dried)
1 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of fine table salt
Disolve the yeast in 300ml of tepid water to which the teaspoon of sugar has been added.
Make a fairly wet dough from the flour, mashed potatoes, table salt and yeast and water mix.
Knead the dough well for at least 10 minutes. You should get a smooth, elastic dough after a while.
Leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size – 1 to 2 hours.
This recipe is for a rectangular baking tray 30cm by 40cm. Grease the tray well with olive oil. Knock the dough back and pull it by hand to fit the tray.
Push halved cherry tomatoes into the focaccia at regular interval. Sprinkle with a little rock salt and drizzle with plenty of olive oil.
Allow to rise again – 1/2 to 1 hour.
Bake in an oven preheated to 250°c for 15 to 25 minutes. The focaccia is ready when the underside is brown. If the top starts to become too brown before it is cooked, cover the top with foil and continue cooking.
Variations. A lot of people also sprinkle dried oregano over the focaccia after the tomatoes have been added. You can use pitted olives as well as, or instead of, the tomatoes.
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.
1kg Mussels weighed with the shells
1 clove of garlic
500g peeled tomatoes
A few sprigs of chopped parsley
Chilli (optional to taste, can be fresh or dried)
Sauté the garlic for a few minutes so that it softens, but doesn’t brown.
Add the chilli (if fresh, if you are using dry, add it after the tomatoes)
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
Add the mussels and cook uncovered over a medium heat until they are all open
Pizza di Patate. From Bari.This is another recipe from Nonna Stella. Calling it a pizza is a bit misleading as no bread or flour is involved. It is basically mashed potato baked with a cheese filling. Serves about 6 as a side dish.
Potato pizza ingredients
• 800 g potatoes
• 150 g scamorza or mozzarella
• 2 eggs
• About 50 g Grana padano or Parmesan
• Dry breadcrumbs
Boil and mash the potatoes. I prefer to boil them whole and unpeeled, allow them to cool for a few minutes and then peel.
Add the eggs and Grana to the potatoes and mix well.
Well grease a pizza tin or spring form cake tin with butter. Dust the tin with breadcrumbs.
Spread half of the potato mix over the base. Cover with the grated scamorza or mozzarella. Finally add the rest of the potato to form a layer over the cheese.
Sprinke the top of the pizza with some more dry breadcrumbs and dot with small knobs of butter.
Bake at 200°C for about 30 minutes. The pizza is ready when the top is nicely brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.
Basil is very much in season here at the moment, so I bought a couple of bunches at the market and decided to make pesto.I dug out the official recipe from Consorzio Pesto Genovese. It’s very specific about exactly where the ingredients should come from. I’m providing the original recipe, but feel free to substitute ingredients from another region. eg. Basil not from Genoa The recipe also calls for a pestle and mortar. This is undoubtably the best way, but you can get very acceptable results using a blender. Just put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until almost smooth. Serves 6
2 Tbsp Pecorino (romano, toscano, sardo or siciliano)
2 cloves of garlic (can be omitted)
1 Tbsp pine kernels (from the Mediterranean area)
1 tbsp chopped walnuts can be substituted for the pine kernels (must be European from the species “Juglans regia”)
Coarse sea salt
The traditional method uses a wooden pestle(where the dish gets its name from in a round about way) and a marble mortar. Start by pounding the garlic and salt until you get a smooth paste.
Add the basil, a handful at a time, and keep grinding using a circular motion until each batch of the leaves is incorporated. To preserve the essential oils in the basil, you shouldn’t be too rough with it.
Add the pine kernel and grind some more.
Add the cheese and mix well.
Add the oil, little by little, until the pesto has the right consistency – a matter of taste.
Serve with pasta or added to minestrone. The recommended pastas are troffie, trofiette or trenette, but it goes with just about any pasta. I usually serve it with spaghetti or linguine.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
Assembling the struzzichini
Drain the tomatoes and dress with olive oil.
On top of each tomato place 2 capers, a piece of anchovy, a sliver of olive and basil leaf.
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.