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.

Spaghetti with mussels

Spaghetti with mussels ingredients

Spaghetti with mussels ingredients

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.
Serves 4
  • 1kg Mussels weighed with the shells
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g peeled tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • A few sprigs of chopped parsley
  • Chilli (optional to taste, can be fresh or dried)
  • 320g Spaghetti
  1. Sauté the garlic for a few minutes so that it softens, but doesn’t brown.
  2. Add the chilli (if fresh, if you are using dry, add it after the tomatoes)
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the mussels and cook uncovered over a medium heat until they are all open
  5. Add the parsley and stir
  6. Mix with the cooked spaghetti and serve.
Spaghetti with mussels finished dish

Spaghetti with mussels finished dish

Mackerel in tomato sauce

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
  1. In a pan big enough to accommodate the fish (a fish kettle would be ideal), soften the onions in half the olive.
  2. Add the carrots, garlic and parsley and fry for a further couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the oil, 2 glasses of water and the passata. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a simmer and add the fish. If the fish isn’t covered by the liquid, add a little more hot water.
  5. Cover and cook until the mackerel are done, about 10 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool before serving. This dish is best served warm or cold.
  7. 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.

Mackerel in tomato sauce 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

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

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