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.

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.

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

Spaghetti with green beans

Spaghetti with green beans finished dish

Spaghetti with green beans finished dish

puglia crest

From Puglia. This is another very simple recipe that I cook a lot when green beans are in season. The pictures have been sitting on my computer for a while, so they are no longer in season, but should be fairly easy to get. The recipe uses ricotta marzottica or dura, which is hard to get outside Italy. The best substitute is grana or parmesan. Don’t use regular ricotta, it’s a different thing completely. The beans are cooked for quite a long time and you might consider them to be overcooked, but it works well with the pasta. If you prefer, you could add the beans along with the spaghetti.Serves 4.

Spaghetti with green beans ingredients

Spaghetti with green beans ingredients

  1. Top and tail the beans
  2. Boil the beans in plenty of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the spaghetti to the water and continue cooking until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Drain the beans and pasta and mix with the warmed tomato sauce.
  5. Serve topped with ricotta marzotica or grana.

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

 

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

Carbonara – Authentic recipe

Lazio crestFrom Lazio.  What is Carbonara? If You ask an Englishman they’ll probably tell you it’s a dish prepared with cream and ham! Nooooooo!!!!! ;-) More crimes against Italian food have been committed under the name of Carbonara than any other dish.
So, in an attempt to set the records straight, I present the authentic recipe (as deposited in the archive of Acadamia Italiana della Cucina). No cream! No ham! And don’t you dare cook the eggs! :-) Serves 6.

  • 600 grams spaghetti or bucatini
  • 120 grams guanciale or pancetta — diced or cut into strips
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 medium eggs (very fresh)
  • 100 grams mixed Parmesan and pecorino Romano (or all pecorino) — grated
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cook the guanciale in a pan along with the whole peeled garlic clove and a little oil, until the guanciale is well coloured. Discard the garlic.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a little of the cheese and a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale.
  4. Lower the heat to a minimum and add the egg mixture. Mix well. Be careful not to let the eggs set. If the dish is a little dry, beat in a little of the pasta cooking water. This is not mentioned by the academy, but some people say it’s essential for the “creaminess” of the sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the cheese. Mix again and serve immediately.

Here’s a quote from Kate/Susan over at Kate, Katie, Susan, Sue who cooked the recipe as part of an Italian evening.

“That carbonara was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, certainly the best pasta dish I’ve ever eaten. I would rank it above lasagna in my estimation.”

And this one’s from Cui at Equipoised.

The bottom line… carbonara typically feels too heavy and sickening after a while because of the addition of cream (an American adulteration). The egg way produces a much lighter, more palatable dish. And it was really the best carbonara I’ve ever had, ever. I tend to serially order carbonara at Italian restaurants because it is by far my favourite pasta, and I’ve had a lot of carbonara, but I feel like I can’t have it with cream any more after trying this.