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

Slow Cooked Octopus “alla Luciana”

“Purpo” alla Luciana. From Campania. A nice way to cook a large octopus. Very simple, but delicious. The octopus ends up very tender and the liquid it produces makes a very tasty sauce. Serves 3-4

Octopus Luciana ingredients

  • 1 Octopus weighing about 1kg – cleaned and tenderised.
  • 1/2 glass olive oil
  • Parsley – chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic – chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Remove the eyes and beak from the octopus.
  2. Place the octopus in a (preferably) terracotta pot. The pot should be just larger than the octopus so it’s a reasonably tight fit.
  3. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt though.
  4. Cover the pot with aluminium foil or grease proof paper and tie as tightly as possible with kitchen string. Cover with a lid.
  5. Cook over a very low heat for two hours. Shake the pot from time to time to prevent sticking.
  6. Remove the foil, add the garlic and parsley, and cook for another few minutes.
  7. Serve hot or leave to cool in the cooking liquid and serve cold as an antipasto.
Octopus Luciana finished dish

Octopus Luciana finished dish

Grilled, Marinated Bream

Orata ai ferri. I’ve decided to make better use of my local fish market seeing as it’s just five minutes walk away from my flat. I’d forgotten that Monday is a bad day to go, as the day boats don’t go out on a Sunday. As a result, all that was available was either farmed or frozen. I made the best of it however and bought a couple of very fresh bream. So fresh in fact that they were still in rigor mortis.

Update: I’ve just realised that I cooked this recipe about a year ago and it’s already on the blog. D’oh! Oh well, it proves I like it I suppose 🙂

Grilled, marinated bream ingredients

  • 1 medium sea bream per person – cleaned and scaled
  • Plenty of chopped parsley (pref. flat leaf)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fine dry breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  1. Make a marinade by mixing together roughly equal amounts of lemon juice and olive oil. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour the marinade over the fish making sure that some gets into the cavity. Leave to marinate for a few hours in the fridge.
  3. Drain the fish well, reserving the marinade. sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
  4. Cook under a medium grill for around 15 minutes (depending on the size of the fish). Turn two or three times during cooking. Baste with the marinade every so often.
  5. Serve immediately.

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

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

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

Fusilli with mushrooms

Fusilli Ai Funghi. This dish works best if you use a mix of different types of mushrooms. To all my Czech wild mushroom hunter friends – this is the perfect recipe :-). It works with any type however, and on this occasion I cooked it with standard field mushrooms. Serves 4.

  • 320g fusilli
  • 800g mushrooms (as many different types as possible), chopped
  • 250g tomatoes (tinned, pasatta or fresh – skinned seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 sprig parsley, chopped
  • parmesan cheese, optional
  • 1 knob butter, optional
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

 

  1. Wash and chop the mushrooms. How finely you chop them depends on taste and the varieties you are using. I could only get standard field mushrooms, so I chopped them quite finely.
  2. Fry the onion and mushrooms in olive oil until the mushrooms start to release their liquid.
  3. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the parsley.
  5. Cook the fusilli in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and toss with a knob of butter (optional).
  6. Mix the pasta with the mushroom sauce and serve with parmesan cheese on the side.

 

 

 

 

Octopus salad

puglia crestInsalata di polpi. From Puglia. This is one of my favourite antipasti.

 

Octopus salad ingredients

Octopus salad ingredients

 

  • 1 large Octopus (at least 500g), cleaned
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • White wine vinegar
  • 1 clove Garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

 

 

 

  1. Put the octopus in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil and cook over a medium heat until tender – about 25 minutes.
  3. Allow to partially cool in the cooking liquid.
  4. Cut into bite size pieces, dress with vinegar and garlic and allow to marinate for at least a couple of hours.
  5. When you are ready to serve, adjust the seasoning and dress with olive oil and parsley.
  6. Serve as an antipasto or main course
  7. Variation: Substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.

 

 

Octopus salad finished dish

Octopus salad finished dish

 

Stuffed mussels

Cozze ripiene. From Bari. This recipe was given to me by Marilisa – thanks a lot for taking the trouble. They were delicious 🙂 It’s actually her granny’s recipe and Marilisa’s favourite. The recipe seems a bit daunting as you have to open the raw mussels, but it’s really not that difficult. Follow the link below if you want to know how. Serves 4-5

Stuffed mussels ingredients

Stuffed mussels ingredients

  • 1 kilogram large mussels
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 bread roll — crust removed
  • parsley — finely chopped
  • 100 grams Pecorino Romano or Parmesan — grated
  • milk
  • olive oil
  • garlic to taste — finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • kitchen string
  • 2 bottles passata
    • Clean the mussels and open them keeping the shells attached
    • Soak the bread roll in a little milk and tear into small pieces.
    • Beat the eggs in a bowl and mix with the cheese, garlic, parsley and bread. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Add breadcrumbs little by little until you have a fairly dry stuffing mix.
    • Stuff the mussels with the mixture and tie them almost closed with kitchen string. Don’t tie them too tightly as the stuffing has to come into contact with the cooking sauce.
Stuffed mussels ready to cook

Stuffed mussels ready to cook

  • Heat some oil in a large pan and add some chopped garlic. When the garlic has coloured add the tomatoes. Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Add the mussels and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  • Remove the mussels from the sauce and remove the string.
  • Serve the sauce with spaghetti or linguine as a first course.
  • The mussels can be served as the second course or as part of an antipasto (hot or cold)
Stuffed mussels finished dish

Stuffed mussels finished dish

Stuffed mussels with pasta finished dish

Stuffed mussels with pasta finished dish

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

Risi e bisi

Venezia crestIf you prepare this on April 25, you will be carrying on an ancient tradition that dates from the days of the Republic of Venice. This springtime dish of creamy rice and peas is made in Venice and its surroundings area to celebrate the feast day of its patron, Saint Mark. Almost the consistency of a soup, risi e bisi should be served as a course of its own. In the past, risi e bisi was presented on Saint Mark’s Day with much ceremony to the doge, the leader of Venice. You can streamline this dish by using small frozen peas.
Serves 6

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 700g fresh peas (unshelled weight), shelled
  • 80g butter
  • 40g pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • parsley to taste, finely chopped
  • 60g parmesan cheese
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  1. Fry the onion, pancetta and parsley in half the butter. When the onions start to colour, add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes
  2. Add a couple of ladles of hot stock and bring to the boil. Add the rice and stir.
  3. Continue in the usual way for risotto – note: use more stock than for a standard risotto. The finished dish should be quite sloppy – almost like a soup.
  4. When the rice is cooked al dente remove from the heat. Adjust salt and pepper, stir in the parmesan and the rest of the butter. Serve immediately

Giorgio Mantello used the picture above to illustrate an article on his site a cena da Giorgio. This is a translation of his comments:

I chose this image because it shows excellently  what should be the consistency of the risotto – neither too thick nor too liquid – in Venice is said to be “moeche”. which translates as soft and a little sticky. enjoy!

Tiella of potatoes, rice and mussels – Authentic recipe

Bari crestTiella di patate, riso e cozze. Tiella alla Barese. Riso patate cozze. Finally the definitive recipe! This recipe was given to me by Tiziana who is one of the best cooks in Bari (or so her friend Rosa tells me 😉 ) Many thanks Tiziana. It uses mussels which have been opened when they are still raw. My fish monger did this for me, but in the UK you’ll probably have to do this yourself. Here’s a link to show you how. Good luck 🙂
Serves 6
Tiella ingredients

Tiella ingredients

  • 1.5kg potatoes, sliced
  • 300g risotto rice, soaked in cold water
  • 1kg mussels, opened on the half shell – reserve the liquid
  • onions, sliced
  • olive oil
  • garlic, chopped
  • parsley, chopped
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • pecorino Romano, grated
  • parmesan, grated
  • salt and pepper
  1. Assemble the tiella as follows in an ovenproof dish, preferably terracotta
  2. A layer of onions drizzled with oil
  3. A layer of potatoes seasoned with garlic, tomatoes, parsley, sat and pepper, cheese. Drizzle with oil
  4. A layer of mussels seasoned with garlic and parsley. Drizzle with oil
  5. Drain the rice and distribute it over the mussels. Season with garlic, tomatoes, parsley, sat and pepper, cheese. Drizzle with oil
  6. A layer potatoes.
  7. Add the water reserved when you opened the mussels. Add water so that the final layer of potatoes is just covered
  8. Cover tightly (maybe with alumnium foil) and bake at 180°C for up to two hours. Test from time to time with a skewer.
  9. Uncover for the last 20 minutes of cooking to brown the top.
Tiella finished dish

Tiella finished dish

 

 

Bucatini with artichoke carbonara or Springtime carbonara

Bucatini alla carbonara di primavera. This dish works very well. It’s now my new favourite artichoke dish (for a week or so anyway 🙂 ) If, like mine, the artichokes are very small, use 6. Serves 4

artichoke carbonara ingredients

320 grams bucatini
3 artichokes — prepared and sliced

40 grams pancetta — cubed
1/2 clove garlic
100 ml vegetable stock
1 sprig parsley — chopped
1 lemon
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
20 grams grana padano — grated
10 grams pecorino Romano — grated
olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the pancetta for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the artichokes, garlic, parsley and stock.
  • Salt and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes covered and a further 15 minutes uncovered. Keep warm.
  • Take a large bowl (which will be used to serve the pasta). Add the eggs and yolks, a pinch of salt, a generous amount of pepper and the cheese. Beat until you have a smooth paste.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente
  • Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the egg mix. Toss until the bucatini are well coated. Add the artichokes and mix again.
  • Serve immediately

artichoke carbonara finished dish