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.

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 🙂

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.

“Caviar” Mousse

Lumpfish mousse finished dish

Lumpfish mousse finished dish

Mousse con uova di lompo. This dish doesn’t in fact use real caviar, but red lumpfish roe. Lumpfish mousse doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though 🙂 If you can only find black roe, feel free to use that, the taste is exactly the same. This is a very easy antipasto, especially if you use tinned beans, but looks quite impressive. The original recipe used smoked trout, but I found it impossible to find both here and in the UK, so I got very good results when I used smoked salmon. It is worth spending a little extra on the smoked salmon though, as the cheaper varieties tend to be very salty. Be careful when seasoning the beans for this reason. Serves 4.

  • 140g smoked salmon
  • 600g plain yoghurt
  • 400g boiled cannellini beans, canned are fine
  • Red lumpfish roe, enough to make a thin layer, 1 jar will probably be enough
  • Lemon juice
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • Olive oil
Lumpfish mousse ingredients

Lumpfish mousse ingredients

  1. Blend the smoked salmon, the yoghurt and a tablespoon of lemon juice in a liquidiser. Keep a little of the smoked salmon aside to use as a garnish.
  2. Blend the drained cannellini beans,  the leaves from the rosemary sprig and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Assemble the mousse in 4 wine glasses, a layer of  cannellini beans, a thin layer of lumpfish roe and a layer of the smoked salmon and yoghurt mixture.
  4. Garnish with a little chopped smoked salmon.
  5. Serve with toast or bread sticks (grissini).

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

Chickpea and tagliatelle soup

Matera crestMinestra di ceci from Matera. A few weeks ago some friends and I visited the beautiful town of Matera in Basilicata. After a very pleasant morning sightseeing we visited a restaurant that had been recommended in the ‘Slow Food’ guide – ‘Le Botteghe’ in Piazza San Pietro Barisano. Wonderful simple food. This is my attempt to recreate one of their specialities.

botteghe entrance

Chickpea soup ingredients

Chickpea soup ingredients

  • 250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 150g fresh tagliatelle, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 30g smoked pancetta, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Fry the pancetta and garlic cloves in a little olive oil for a few minutes.
  2. Add the chickpeas together with a litre of water and bring to the boil.
  3. Add the rosemary, cover and cook over a moderate heat for around 2 hours.
  4. Remove the rosemary and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the taglietelle and cook for a further few minutes.
  6. This dish is sometimes served topped with fried breadcrumbs.

Variation: When the chickpeas are cooked remove half the chickpeas, liquidize them and return them to the soup.

Roast spareribs with garlic and rosemary

 

Serves 4

Roast spare ribs ingredients

Roast spare ribs ingredients

  • 1 kg  Pork spareribs
  • 2 cloves  garlic
  • 2 sprigs  rosemary — removed from the stalk and roughly chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Make incisions in the meat and insert slivers of garlic
  2. Drizzle on some olive oil and make sure the ribs are well covered
  3. Season with salt and pepper and add the rosemary
  4. Roast at 180 °C for about 1 1/4 hours
  5. The ribs should be well coloured and very tender
Roast spare ribs finished dish

Roast spare ribs finished dish