Rabbit with polenta

Polenta cuni finished dish

Polenta cuni finished dish

bergamo crestFrom 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

Polenta cuni ingredients

  • 1 rabbit, cut into portions
  • 50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
  • 100g butter
  • 2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 clove

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

Polenta cuni lardo

Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.

Polenta cuni browning the rabbit

Polenta cuni browning the rabbit

Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.

Polenta cuni with wine

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 :)

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.

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

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.

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.

Baked anchovies

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.

Baked anchovies ingredients

  • 800g fresh anchovies
  • 60g pecorino – grated
  • 80g dry bread crumbs
  • 2 ripe tomatoes – sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Dry white wine
  • Olive oil
  1. Clean and prepare the anchovies as above.
  2. Mix together the pecorino, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano and parsley
  3. Grease an oven dish with a little  oil. I used 4 individual dishes.
  4. Line the dish with a little of the breadcrumb mix. Add a layer of anchovies and cover with the breadcrumb mix. Repeat until all the anchovies are used up, finishing with a layer of breadcrumbs.
  5. Top with the tomato slices and a little more of the breadcrumb mix.
  6. Splash some wine and drizzle olive oil on top.
  7. Bake at 180C until golden brown and sizzling.

Baked anchovies finished dish

Bavette with clams and courgettes

Bavette alle vongole e zucchine. This is a nice alternative to the standard spaghetti alle vongole recipe. Serves 4.

  • 320g bavette
  • 800g clams
  • 1 shallot – finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic – peeled, whole
  • 1 chilli (fresh or dried) or to taste
  • 300g courgettes – cut into match sticks
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 200g tomatoes – peeled and diced
Bavette with clams and courgettes ingredients

Bavette with clams and courgettes ingredients

  1. Open the clams by  putting them in a dry pan over a high heat for about 5 minutes. Reserve any liquid that is produced.
  2. Remove the clams from their shells and put aside.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan and cook the shallot, chilli and garlic clove until softened.
  4. Remove and discard the garlic.
  5. Add the clams, courgettes and parsley and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add the wine and the liquid from the clams and allow to reduce for a while.
  7. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook  until the sauce thickens – about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Cook the bavette until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the sauce and mix well.
Bavette with clams and courgettes finished dish

Bavette with clams and courgettes finished dish

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

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

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

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

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

Ragu alla Barese

Bari crestThis is another recipe from Tiziana (many thanks). This one of the most common ‘Sunday lunches’ in Bari. I think it’s known as “Sunday gravy” in the Sates. The recipe doesn’t give very precise measurements as it depends how many people you are cooking for and your personal taste.  As a rough guide allow 2-300g of meat per person. Tiziana usually serves the ragu with orecchiette, but you can use your favourite pasta. Serve the meat separately as the second course.

Ragu alla Barese ingredients

Ragu alla Barese ingredients

  • Thin slices of meat (you can use beef, veal, pork, or horse meat),flattened with meat mallet
  • Pieces of lamb (preferably on the bone)
  • Lardo(salted lard) or prosciutto fat or fatty pancetta
  • Parsley
  • Garlic
  • Pepper
  • Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • Passata or tomato pulp
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine
  1. Chop together the lardo, parsley, garlic, pepper and pecorino to make a coarse paste.
  2. Place a little of the paste in the middle of each slice of meat. Roll up and secure with a toothpick.
  3. Take a large pan(NOT nonstick) and add the onion, some olive oil, the meat rolls, the lamb pieces and half a glass of water.
  4. Cook over a high heat making sure that the meat catches on the bottom of the pan but doesn’t burn. Scrape the pan frequently with a wooden spoon. This is an important step as it contributes a lot of the flavour of the sauce.
  5. Add the wine and allow to evaporate
  6. Add enough passata to cover the meat well
  7. Cook over a very low heat until the meat is tender. (A slow cooker would be ideal)
  8. A few minutes before the end of cooking, season with salt and pepper.
  9. For the best results, allow to cool, refrigerate over night and reheat the next day.
  10. When you are ready to serve, remove the meat and keep warm.
  11. Serve the sauce with pasta as the first course followed by the meat as the second course.
Ragu alla Barese orecchiette

Ragu alla Barese orecchiette

Ragu alla Barese meat

Ragu alla Barese meat

Lumache with whelks

Lumache con lumache di mare. Or snails with sea snails! I was mightily confused when I first translated this recipe until I realised that they meant the pasta shapes known as snails with whelks.

Whelks are more often eaten poached and eaten as part of a seafood antipasto. They can also be dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Serves 4

Pasta with whelks ingredients

Pasta with whelks ingredients

  • 350 g lumache (or similar pasta shape)
  • 500 g whelks — thoroughly washed and soaked in cold water for 3-4 hours
  • 1 medium onion — chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 100 g tomatoes — chopped
  • 1 chilli — chopped
  • olive oil
  • fish stock
  1. Drain the whelks. Add to a pan along with the tomatoes garlic and chilli. Cover with fish stock and simmer until the whelks can be removed from their shells (with the aid of a tooth pick) About 10 minutes. Keep a couple of shells for decoration. Discard the stock.
  2. In a clean pan, fry the onion in a little olive oil. Add the whelk meat and fry for another minute. Add the wine and let it evaporate. Add the parsley and remove from the heat.
  3. Cook the pasta and toss with the whelk sauce. Serve immediately
Pasta with whelks finished dish

Pasta with whelks finished dish

PS The more sharp eyed among you will have noticed that when I cooked this dish I couldn’t find lumache. Isn’t that just typical :-) I used gnocchi instead.