Onion pizza

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.

Onion pizza ingredients

Onion pizza ingredients

For the dough

  • 500 g 00 flour
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 200 ml white wine or water
  • salt

For the filling.

  • 1 kg white onions, chopped
  • 5-6 tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 g stoned olives
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 50 g parmesan, grated
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Lightly seson and fry the onions in a little oil until they are soft. Add the tomatoes, olives and anchovies and cook for a further few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan.

Mix together the ingredients for the dough with enough water or wine to make it smooth. Leave to rest for about half an hour.

Grease a pizza tin  with olive oil and dust with a little flour.

Onion pizza ready to be filled

Onion pizza ready to be filled

Roll out half of the dough so it fits the tin.

Onion pizza with filling

Onion pizza with filling

Fill the tin with the onion mix.

Onion pizza ready to cook

Onion pizza ready to cook

Roll out the other half to make the top of the pie. Place on top and trim the edges. Cover the top with a little olive oil and pierce with a fork to allow the steam to escape.

Bake at 200 °C for 30 minutes.

Onion pizza finished dish

Onion pizza finished dish

Aubergine parmigiana

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.

Aubergine parmigiana

Aubergine parmigiana

  • 1.5 kg aubergines
  • 700 g tomato pulp or passata
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g grated parmesan
  • 400 g mozzarella cut into small cubes
  • Flour
  • Basil, about 10 leaves torn into pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, whole
  • Olive oil
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bake for 1 hour at 200°c. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with aluminium foil.
Aubergine parmigiana finished dish

Aubergine parmigiana finished dish

Puglia style meatloaf

Polpettone pugliese. This is another recipe that I cook a lot. Other recipes cook the meatloaf in a tomato sauce, but this one roasts it dry. It uses minced veal, but if you can’t find it then minced beef will be fine. Italians don’t use the crated “white” variety anyway, so the veal is very pink. This is often served with roast potatoes. Serves 6.

Meatloaf ingredients

Meatloaf ingredients

  • 800 g minced veal
  • 2 stale bread rolls
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g grated parmesan or pecorino
  • Milk
  • Olive oil
  1. Break the bread rolls into small pieces and moisten with some milk.
  2. Mix together all the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Form into a loaf and bake for 30 minutes at 200°C.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for a few minutes before slicing.
Meatloaf finished dish

Meatloaf finished dish

Ricotta and mozzarella pizza

Pizza mozzarella e ricotta. From Puglia. This was cooked for me last week by the mother of a student. Hers of course was better, but mine wasn’t bad either 🙂 It is called a pizza here, but it is actually a type of pie or calzone. Serves 6

Update: Mrs C Looked at the recipe and said it is slightly different than the one she uses. She adds 100 g of salami or 100g of mixed mortadella and ham cut into small cubes. She uses nutmeg instead of pepper and gives the dough 1 hour to rise. Finally, she doesn’t drizzle olive oil on the top. Many thanks.

Ricotta pizza ingredients

Ricotta pizza ingredients

Pastry for stuffed pizzas

  • 500 g 00 flour
  • 1/2 cube of fresh yeast (or 1 packet of dried)
  • 50 cc olive oil
  • 200 ml milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the tepid milk
  2. Mix together the flour, olive oil, salt and enough of the milk to form a smooth dough.
  3. Knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. The dough doesn’t require much rising. Just leave it to rest for half an hour.
  • 500 g ricotta
  • 200 g mozzarella cut into small cubes
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp grated parmesan
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Make the filling by beating the ricotta until it is smooth then mix in the mozzarella, eggs and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roll out half the dough so that it is a little bigger than the pizza tin. Oil the tin and put the base of the pizza into it. Push the dough down with your fingers to exclude as much air as possible.
  3. Spread the filling inside the tin. Roll out the rest of the dough until it is a little bigger than the tin. Cover the pie with the base. Pinch together and then fold over and crimp the edges.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the surface and make some air holes with a fork.
  5. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 40 minutes.
Ricotta pizza finished dish

Ricotta pizza finished dish

Pasta with ricotta

Pasta e ricotta. This is a very simple dish, but delicious all the same. The quality of the ricotta is very important. You can of course make this dish with ordinary supermarket ricotta and the results will be perfectly acceptable, but it will be much better with the fresh version. If you can find sheep’s milk ricotta, even better. This being Bari, I made it with it with orecchiette, but it goes with just about any type of pasta. There are lots of things you can add that change the character of the dish drastically. Serves 6.

pasta with ricotta ingredients

pasta with ricotta ingredients

  • 500 g pasta (any type)
  • 500 g ricotta – the best you can find, preferably sheep’s milk.
  • Optional ingredients:-
  • Add parmesan for a stronger cheese taste.
  • Add paprika to make the dish a little bit spicy.
  • Add fresh basil and mint for an aromatic version.
  • There is even a sweet version which includes a good pinch of cinnamon and a tablespoon of sugar
  1. Cook the pasta until it is al dente.
  2. Add a little of the pasta cooking water to the ricotta and beat well until it is smooth.
  3. Dress the pasta with the ricotta and serve immediately.
pasta with ricotta finished dish

pasta with ricotta finished dish

Potato Pizza

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

Potato pizza ingredients

• 800 g  potatoes
• 150 g scamorza or mozzarella
• 2 eggs
• About 50 g Grana padano or Parmesan
• Butter
• Dry breadcrumbs

  1. Boil and mash the potatoes. I prefer to boil them whole and unpeeled, allow them to cool for a few minutes and then peel.
  2. Add the eggs and Grana to the potatoes and mix well.
  3. Well grease a pizza tin or spring form cake tin with butter. Dust the tin with breadcrumbs.
  4. 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.
  5. Sprinke the top of the pizza with some more dry breadcrumbs and dot with small knobs of butter.
  6. 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.
  7. Can be eaten hot, warm or even cold.
Potato pizza finished dish

Potato pizza finished dish

Pesto Genovese – Official recipe

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

Pesto Genovese Ingredients

Pesto Genovese Ingredients

  • 50g of basil leaves (from Genoa of course)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (from Liguria)
  • 6 Tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the pine kernel and grind some more.
  4. Add the cheese and mix well.
  5. Add the oil, little by little, until the pesto has the right consistency – a matter of taste.
  6. 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.
Pesto Genovese finished dish

Pesto Genovese finished dish

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

Gratinated mussels

Cozze gratinate. From Puglia. I wanted to try this recipe to see if it makes a difference cooking the mussels from raw, rather than opening them in a hot pan first. I have to say it does! They were much nicer. Use a short knife to open the mussels over a bowl to catch the liquid. I still need a bit of pratice, but I was getting it towards the end. Serves 4 as a main course, more as an antipasto.

Gratinated mussels ingredients

  • 1 kg mussels – well cleaned and opened on the half shell (reserve the liquid)
  • 100g dry breadcrumbs
  • 100g parmesan – grated
  • A few sprigs of parsley – finely chopped
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A clove of garlic – finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  1. Mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, oregano, parsley and garlic.
  2. Arrange the mussels on a baking tray and top each one with a little of the mixture.
  3. Put a few drops of the mussel liquid on to of each one and drizzle with olive oli.
  4. An alternative method is to mix the mussel liquid in to the breadcrumb mix to form a dryish paste. Press a little of the paste into each mussel and drizzle with oil as before.
  5. Grill the mussels until they are golden brown and sizzling.

Gratinated mussels 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

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

Fettuccine Alfredo – Authentic recipe

I was curious to find out exactly what fettuccine Alfredo is. I’ve frequently heard it mentioned in American TV shows and movies, but I’ve never found anyone in Italy who has heard of it. So I did a little research and came up with this.

Alfredo's restaurant

Alfredo's restaurant

Fettuccine dressed with butter and parmesan has been eaten for hundreds of years in Italy. The story goes that in 1914 Alfredo di Lelio

Alfredo

Alfredo

had the bright idea to add a lot more butter. Apparently he thought it might help his heavily pregnant wife keep her lunch down. Just what you need when you’re feeling queasy, half a pound of butter 😉 With the help of a bit of nifty PR (courtesy of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford), the dish became popular in the US. Alfredo’s restaurant still exists in Rome and enjoys a great deal of custom from American tourists. Alfredo’s now also has three restaurants in the states. Over the years American chefs have amended the recipe to include cream.

This is the original recipe from Alfredo’s restaurant. The recipe is for 4 portions, but it’s sooo heavy, I reckon 6 would be nearer the mark.

By the way, it does taste very nice, but I think I can feel my arteries hardening as I type 🙂

Fettuccine Alfredo ingredients

Fettuccine Alfredo ingredients

  1. Beat the butter and cheese together in a bowl until you get a smooth paste.
  2. Cook the fettuccine for  3 minutes.
  3. Drain the pasta quickly and add to the bowl with the cheese and butter. You should allow a little of the cooking water to cling to the pasta.
  4. Toss the pasta in the sauce and serve.
Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo

Lasagne Bolognese – Authentic recipe

Bologna crestLasagne Bolognese. There isn’t one authentic recipe for lasagne Bolognese, but there are lots of things you can do to make an inauthentic one. One of my friends in Bari is still in shock from the time he was served a lasagne in Newcastle which included sweetcorn 🙂

Sweetcorn aside, the main difference between lasagne Bolognese served in Italy and those commonly served in other countries is that the Italians use far less cheese and usually have only about four layers of pasta.

This recipe uses fresh homemade pasta. I really recommend trying it with fresh lasagne, you’ll really notice the difference. The next best choice would be shop bought fresh lasagne, then dried egg lasagne which you need to precook and last, and definitly least, dried lasagne that needs no precooking.  Serves 4-6

    • Roll out the pasta into sheets. They need to be a little thicker than for tagliatelle. On my pasta machine I use the setting which is two up from the thinnest.
    • Cut the pasta into rectangles which are roughly 10cm by 8cm.
Lasagne sheets

Lasagne sheets

  1. Cook the lasagne, a few at a time, in plenty of salted boiling water. About 2-3 minutes. If you add a little oil to the water it helps to stop them sticking together.  Drain and lay them on a damp tea towel.
  2. Grease a lasagne dish with a little butter.
  3. Arrange a layer of lasagne on the bottom of the dish. Spread one third of the ragù on top, spoon on some white sauce and sprinkle with a little cheese. Dot with some of the butter.  Cover with a layer of lasagne.
  4. Repeat until you have used all of the ragù, finishing with a layer of lasagne. Cover with the rest of the white sauce.
  5. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 30 minutes. Be careful not to let the top get too brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before dividing into portions.
Lasagne Bolognese

Lasagne Bolognese

Red wine risotto

Risotto al Vino Rosso. You need to use a good, full bodied red wine – the best you can afford. The basic rule applies. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it 🙂 I used a Primitivo di Maduria , but next time I’m flush, I’ll try it with a Barolo.

Red wine risotto ingredients

Red wine risotto ingredients

Serves 4

  • 400g risotto rice
  • 2 glasses full bodied red wine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • About 1 1/2 litres vegetable sock
  • 40g parmesan, grated
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Fry the onion in the olive oil until they start to become transparent.
  2. Add the rice and stir for few moments.
  3. Add the red wine and cook over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until the wine has been absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock and continue cooking as per the standard risotto recipe.
  5. When the rice is cooked al dente , remove from the heat, season and stir in the butter and parmesan.
  6. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Red wine risotto

Red wine risotto