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

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

Bavette with fresh tuna

Bavette al tonno fresco. I’m not sure where this dish originates, but it feels like a Sicilian recipe due to the inclusion of tuna and pine nuts. It’s quite economical too as 200 grams of tuna feeds four people. My problem now is trying to think of a way to use up the other 800g I bought at the fish market this morning. I couldn’t resist, it was €2 a kilo :-) Serves 4.

Bavette with tuna ingredients

  • 320g bavette (or spaghetti or linguine) I used bavettini – a smaller version of bavette
  • 100g cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 2 anchovy fillets – chopped
  • 20g pine nuts
  • 70g good quality black olives
  • 200g fresh tuna – cut into small cubes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic – finely sliced
  • 1 shallot – finely sliced
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  1. Fry the shallot and the garlic in olive oil until it starts to colour.
  2. Add the anchovies, half the pine nuts, the olives and the tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the capers and tuna. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and allow to reduce a little.
  5. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest, parsley and the rest of the pine nuts.
  6. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the pan with the tuna. Return to the heat and mix well.  Allow the pasta to take up the flavours for a minute or so, remove from the heat and serve.

Bavette with tuna finished dish

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

Bucatini and Mussels all’Amatriciana

Bucatini e cozze all’amatriciana.  This is a new twist on the classic amatriciana. The addition of mussels works surprisingly well. It is adapted from “Sale e Pepe” which is something like the Italian equivalent of “Good Food Magazine”. The original recipe calls for guanciale, but as this is hard to find, even in Italy, this is my version using pancetta. Serves 4

Bucatini amatriciana with mussels ingredients

  • 320g bucatini or spaghetti
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 400g passata
  • A clove of garlic
  • 50g pancetta – cubed
  • 1/2 a glass of dry white wine
  • Pecorino romano cheese – grated
  • Chilli powder to taste
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the pancetta in a little oil along with the whole garlic clove.
  2. When the garlic has browned, remove and discard.
  3. Add the chilli and fry for a few seconds.
  4. Add the passata and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile put the mussels in a pan along with the wine and cook over a high heat until the mussels have opened. Drain and reserve the liquid.
  6. Shell the mussels, reserving a few for decoration.
  7. Pour the mussel liquid into a large pan and add water to make it up to about 3 litres. Bring to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente.
  8. Shorlty before the pasta is ready, add the mussels to the tomato sauce and allow to heat through for a minute or so.
  9. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with tomato sauce.
  10. Mix well and serve with the pecorino on the side.

Bucatini amatriciana with mussels finished dish

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes

Spaghetti zucchine e gamberetti. I cooked this to use up the leftover prawns from yesterday’s trip to the  fish market. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes ingredients

  • 320g spaghetti
  • 300g medium prawns, legs and antenae removed.
  • 1tbsp capers – soaked for a few minutes and drained.
  • 3 small or 1 large courgette -sliced thinly into rounds or quartered lengthways and sliced into quadrants if large.
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • Tomato sauce or passata
  • A pinch of dried thyme
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the onion gently in the oil until it starts to soften.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, the capers and the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile fry the courgettes gently in olive oil until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the prawns to the tomato sauce and cook for a further few minutes until the prawns are cooked.
  5. At the last minute add the courgetttes to the sauce.
  6. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until al dente.
  7. Dress the pasta with the sauce and serve.

Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes finished dish

Neapolitan meatloaf – Authentic recipe

Napoli crestPolpettone 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.

Meatloaf ingredients

Meatloaf ingredients

  • 500g minced beef
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g cooked ham (about 2 slices)
  • 50g Neapolitan salami (optional)
  • 40g parmesan, grated
  • 40g pecorino, grated
  • 50g buffalo mozzarella, sliced (not too fresh)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, whole but lightly crushed
  • Flour
  • 100g stale bread
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 50g concentrated tomato puree
  • A large sprig of basil, torn
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hardboil 2 of the eggs and allow them to cool.Slice them thinly.
  • Moisten the bread with a little cold water and break into small pieces.
  • Mix together the meat, the raw eggs, the bread, the parmesan, the pecorino and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Knead with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Spread the paste on a square of kitchen paper to form a 2cm thick rectangle.  Cover with the slices of ham, the salami, the mozzarella and the sliced eggs.
Meatloaf with filling

Meatloaf with filling

    • Using the kitchen paper to help, roll up, pressing together firmly, to form the meatloaf.
meatloaf ready to cook

meatloaf ready to cook

    • Dust with flour and fry the loaf in olive oil in a large pan until it is browned on all sides. Lower the heat, cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
    • In a seperate pan, fry the garlic for a few minutes in 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree mixed with a little water, the basil and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes.
    • Add the tomato sauce to the meatloaf and cook for a further 30 minutes.
    • When the meatloaf is cooked, remove it from the sauce and allow it to cool slightly. Slice into 1-2cm slices and serve with a little of the tomato sauce.
Meatloaf with tomato sauce

Meatloaf with tomato sauce

The best baked ziti ever!

puglia crestIMHO :-) Pasta al forno Pugliese. Baked pasta is popular all over Italy. This version comes from Puglia. It uses Scamorza cheese instead of mozzarella. If you can’t find scamorza you can use mozzarella, but make sure it’s not too fresh as it will make the dish too wet. Actually, that probably wouldn’t be a problem outside Italy ;-) It is traditionally made with pecorino, but nowadays most people use parmesan. There is a lighter meatless version that leaves out the meatballs. Thanks to Grazia and Tiziana for the advice. Serves 6

Baked ziti ingredients

Baked ziti ingredients

  • 500g mezzi ziti or rigatoni
  • 200g scamorza cheese, finely diced
  • 50g pecorino Romano or parmesan
  • 800g passata
  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the meatballs:

Meatballs ingredients

Meatballs ingredients

  • 250g minced beef
  • 50g pecorino Romano or parmesan
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 medium eggs
  • sprig of parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
    • Make a tomato sauce by frying the onion for a few minutes in plenty of olive oil. Add the passata, season and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
    • Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients together. Form into small balls about the size of a hazelnut. Fry in olive oil until well browned. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • fried meatballs

    fried meatballs

    • Boil the pasta until it is very al dente, two or three minutes less than the usual cooking time.  Dress with a couple of ladles of the tomato sauce and half the parmesan.
    • To assemble the dish take a high sided baking tray and put a layer of the pasta in the bottom. Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with meatballs, diced scamorza, and parmesan.
  • partially assenbled dish

    partially assenbled dish

  • Continue until you have used up all the pasta. The last layer should be pasta covered with tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with parmesan
  • Assembled dish
  • Bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes.
Baked ziti

Baked ziti

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

Puttanesca authentic recipe

campania crestPasta alla puttanesca from Campania. The translation of the title of this dish is “whore’s pasta”! There are a lot of stories as to how it got its name, but one of the most common is that it was a dish that the working girls could quickly prepare between customers. Another version is that is was cooked in brothels so customers would be lured in by the enticing aromas. I don’t really buy that one. I think food would be the last thing on the customers minds ;-) It is a relatively modern dish, probably dating back to the end of the second world war. Both Lazio and Campania claim it as their own. This is the Campania version. The recipe comes from Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

A note about the olives. Use the best you can find. Don’t use pitted black olives as properly matured olives are too soft to have their stones removed mechanically, so they will almost certainly be green olives which have been dyed with ferrous glucomate (E151, a synthetic coal tar).

Puttanesca ingredients

Puttanesca ingredients

Serves 5

 

  • 500g bucatini, linguine, spaghetti or similar
  • 500g peeled tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
  • 2 anchovy fillets (salted or in oil)
  • 100g good quality olives, rinsed. The recipe calls for Gaeta olives, which of course can be green or black, but I have only ever seen this dish prepared with black olives. You can leave them whole or stone them and roughly chop. I prefer half and half.
  • 50g capers, rinsed and roughly chopped. The recipe doesn’t stipulate salted or in brine. I prefer the salted variety
  • 100g olive oil. This seems a lot but you need a fair amount to allow the anchovy fillets to dissolve properly. Use less if you wish
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 chilli (fresh, dried or a good pinch of chilli flakes)
  • Chopped parsley

 

 

 

  1. Gently fry the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets in the oil. Mash the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they have completely dissolved.
  2. Remove the garlic. You can also remove the chilli if you don’t like it too hot. If you prefer a really fiery dish, crush or finely chop the chilli before frying.
  3. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers. Mash the tomatoes thoroughly with a fork and cook over a medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and heat gently for a couple of minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

 

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

 

Rabbit alla cacciatore

bergamo crestConiglio alla Cacciatore or Huntsman’s Rabbit. When I lived in Bergamo the Sunday lunch was usually roast rabbit with polenta. I was regularly woken at seven in the morning by my neighbour grinding his polenta under my bedroom window. I’m sure he did it on purpose (we didn’t get on that well ;-) ) I see that rabbit is coming back into fashion in the UK, so I thought I’d share this recipe. It’s not roast rabbit, but another common Bergamasco dish. You can use any type of mushroom, even porcini if your bank balance will stand it. Serves 4

Rabbit with mushrooms ingredients

Rabbit with mushrooms ingredients

  • 1 rabbit cut into portions
  • 400 g mushrooms
  • 100 g passata
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 100 ml chicken stock
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Chop the carrot and celery into small strips and thinly slice the onion.
  2. Add to a pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil and cook over a medium heat until the onions start to go translucent.
  3. Add the rabbit pieces and brown. Sprinkle them with the flour.
  4. Thinly slice the mushrooms and sautè them in a separate pan with the rest of the olive oil and the whole, lightly crushed clove of garlic. Cook until they are well coloured and start to give off their juice.
  5. Add to the pan with the rabbit and add the wine. Cook over a high heat until the wine has reduced by half.
  6. Add the passata and stock, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about and hour over a low to medium heat.
  7. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with polenta.
Rabbit with mushrooms

Rabbit with mushrooms

Tomato sauce

This is a really simple recipe for an Italian style tomato sauce.  In the UK we tend to dress our pasta with a lot more sauce than the Italians do (dare I say too much? ). If you can’t find really ripe fresh tomatoes, use tinned. You won’t get good results with supermarket ‘bounceable’  toms. This recipe is makes enough sauce to dress 4 portions of pasta. Really! Trust me!  :-) On this occasion I served the sauce with linguine, but it goes equally well with many other short or long pastas (e.g. spaghetti, bucatini , sedani, penne, cavatelli etc.)

Tomato sauce ingredients

Tomato sauce ingredients

  • 250g tinned tomatoes or peeled fresh tomatoes
  • A pinch of sugar (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt
  1. Put the tomatoes and their juice into a saucepan along with the garlic, sugar and a good pinch of salt. Cover and heat gently for about 30 minutes without stirring.
  2. Remove the garlic and mash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. If you’re using tinned tomatoes cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes  until the sauce has reduced.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Immediately before serving, stir in the olive oil and the basil.
  5. Use to dress pasta
Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce

Linguine with tomato sauce

Linguine with tomato sauce

Black tagliatelle with prawns

campania crestTagliatelle nere con gamberi. From Campania. You can get black tagliatelle in larger supermarkets or good delis. I made my own. Just add a sachet of cuttlefish ink to the basic pasta recipe.

Black tagliatelle with prawns ingredients

Black tagliatelle with prawns ingredients

Black tagliatelle

Black tagliatelle

Serves 4

  • 350g black tagliatelle (dried)
  • 450g chopped tomatoes or tomato pulp
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 400g prawns, shelled weight
  • a handful of rocket, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Fry the garlic cloves in the oil until lightly browned. Remove the garlic and discard.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the prawns and cook until the prawns are done. Not too long as you don’t want them to shrivel.
  • Stir in the rocket and serve with the cooked pasta.
Black taglatelle with prawns

Black taglatelle with prawns

Spaghetti amatriciana

Lazio crestSpaghetti all’ amatriciana. From Lazio. This is another Italian classic. Pasta with pancetta (or guanciale if you want to be really authentic), tomatoes and chilli. It is more traditionally served with bucatini, but is just as often served with spaghetti. Serves 4.

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

  • 360 grams Spaghetti
  • 100 grams pancetta — cubed
  • 1 onion — thinly sliced
  • 500 grams tomatoes — peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 fresh (or dried) chilli — seeded and chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese to serve (optional)
  1. Grease a flameproof casserole with oil, add the pancetta and cook over a low heat until the fat starts to run.
  2. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chilli, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 40 minutes. If it looks like drying out, add a little water.
  4. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Spaghetti with tuna

Spaghetti con il tonno. This is a good store cupboard standby. Serves 4

Spaghetti with tuna ingredients

Spaghetti with tuna ingredients

  • 360 grams spaghetti
  • 1 clove garlic — peeled
  • 80 grams tin of tuna — drained and flaked
  • 3 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, cook until browned and remove and discard.
  2. Add the tuna and mix well.
  3. Loosen the tomato puree with a couple of tablespoons of warm water and add to the pan and stir well. Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti with tuna finished dish

Spaghetti with tuna finished dish