From 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
1 rabbit, cut into portions
50g lardo, guanciale or fatty pancetta
2 glasses of dry white wine (Slow Food recommends Valcalepio)
4 sage leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
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
Reduce the heat a little and add the lardo, butter, clove and sage. Brown the meat.
Polenta cuni browning the rabbit
Add the wine and let it evaporate, stirring from time to time.
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 🙂
Inspector Montalbano is a popular fictional Sicilian police detective, created by Andrea Camilleri. The stories are set in the small town of Vigata , and, being Italian, feature food quite prominently. In the story Inspector Montelbano’s Arancini (Gli arancini di Montalbano), the famous Sicilian dish is used as a plot device. Does the inspector want to leave Sicily to be with his girlfriend in Paris, or does he want to stay and eat his housekeeper Adelina’s arancini. I won’t tell you what he decides, but you can probably guess 😉 My father is a fan of the books, and he is fond of arancini when he visits me, so I decided to recreate this recipe from the book. The main differences between Adelina’s dish, and the more well known version is that she uses béchamel sauce instead of cheese. Also the ragù is made with whole pieces of meat, not mince.
For the ragù
150g of reasonably fatty beef in one piece
150g of reasonably fatty pork in one piece
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
a sprig of parsley
a few leaves of basil
250ml of passata
1 heaped tablespoon of tomato purée
extra virgin olive oil to taste
salt and pepper to taste
For the risotto
500g risotto rice
1 small onion
oil and butter to taste
150g of shelled peas (use fresh or frozen depending on the season)
oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but you can use peanut oil or similar)
salt and pepper to taste
Arancini Ragù ingredients
Fry the onion and celery gently in a little oil. Add the two pieces of meat and brown them on all sides.
Add the passata and tomato purée diluted in a little hot water. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, and adding more water if needed. Cook slowly for at least an hour and a half, longer if possible. Add the chopped parsley and basil, and cook for a further half an hour. This sauce can also be made in advance.
Arancini Ragù cooked
Make a classic risotto following the standard recipe, but without wine or cheese. It should be quite dry. Montalbano is quiet clear that it should be without saffron. (senza zaffirano, pi carità!)
Arancini cooking risotto
Tip the risotto out onto a marble slab (or a large tray), let it cool a little and then mix with a little of the tomato sauce and stir in the eggs. Let it cool completely. Put it into the fridge for about half an hour.
Arancini risotto cooling
Meanwhile, cook the peas in boiling salted water. Chop the meat with a mezzaluna or a knife. Montalbano forbids the use of a food processor (nenti frullatore, pi carità di Dio!) 🙂 Mix some of the béchamel sauce with the peas and salami cut into small cubes. Add enough of the tomato sauce from the meat to make a fairly thick mixture.
Arancini mixed filling
Slightly dampen your hands and take some of the rice and roll it in the palm of your hand trying to make a sort of bowl. Put a spoonful of the ragù mixture in the middle. Cover with a little more rice and form it into a ball.You are aiming for about tennis ball size. Continue until you run out of rice. You probably won’t need all of the filling.
Arancini ready for coating
Put them in the fridge again for half an hour or so to firm up. Coat with egg, and then roll in bread crumbs.
Arancini ready for cooking
Fry the arancini in hot oil (about 165°C) until they are golden brown. Drain on kitchen towels. They are best eaten hot, but are also good cold.
Pizza di patate e prosciutto. From Bari. This is a more complicated version of the traditional potato “pizza”. They call it a pizza here, but that name is quite confusing as it does not contain any bread or flour. To confuse matters further it is also known as Torta di patate or Gateau di patate in various regions. It is basically a potato pie filled with ham and spinach. The ham can easily be left out to make it vegetarian (if you are careful about what cheese you use of course). It can be eaten warm or cold and will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. It also freezes well. Serves about 8 as a main course.
Potato pizza ingredients
1.2 kg floury potatoes.
250g scamorza, provola or mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced.
Cook the potatoes in their skins in lightly salted water. Drain and peel when cool enough to handle.
Potato pizza cooking potatoes
Mash the potatoes and mix with the egg yolks and parmesan.
Potato pizza mixed with cheese
Fry the whole garlic clove for a few minutes in a little olive oil. Remove and add the spinach. There should be enough water clinging to the leaves after washing. Add a little salt and couple of grates of nutmeg. Cook over a medium heat until the spinach has completely wilted. Leave to cool and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Potato pizza cooking spinach
Grease a 24cm cake tin and dust with bread crumbs. Use 2/3 of the potato to make the base of the pizza. Build up the sides a little to contain the filling. Add the spinach.
Potato pizza with spinach
Add the ham
Potato pizza with ham
Cover with the cheese
Potato pizza with cheese
Close the pizza with the remaining 1/3 of the potato. Cover the top with bread crumbs and dot liberally with knobs of butter.
Potato pizza ready for the oven
Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for 50 minutes.
From Puglia. This is a puglian version of the more well known Sicilian dish arancini. It is very simple to make however. There are versions that use other chesses and cured meats, but this one uses the easily available (abroad I mean) salami, ham and mozzarella. Serves at least 6 as an antipasto.
400g risotto rice
100g sliced salami (Milanese or similar)
100g sliced cooked ham
200g mozzarella cut into small cubes
40g grated parmesan
1 tsp salt
A pinch of pepper
Oil for frying
Rice croquettes ingredients
Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until done, about 10 minutes. Drain and add the butter. You could substitute vegetable stock for the water if you prefer. Allow to cool completely. You can prepare it the day before if you like.
Roughly chop the salami and ham. Combine with the rice, the mozzarella, the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and finally add the eggs and mix well.
Rice croquettes formed
Form the mixture into cigar shapes, about 50g each. I find it easiest to use my hands.
Rice croquettes ready to fry
Coat them in breadcrumbs and deep fry them in hot oil until golden.
Roselline di prosciutto crudo su fichi. Melon and raw ham is just about ubiquitous in Italian restaurants outside of Italy, and it’s pretty common here too. When they are in season it is very common in Bari to pair ham with figs. In my opinion it is an even better match than melon. There are two ways to present them.“Little roses” looks very nice and is very easy to do. Cut the figs into four lengthways, but don’t cut all the way through. Take a slice of raw ham and twist it around two fingers to form a nest. Open the nest up and place it in the centre of the fig. The other way is to cut the figs completely into four and wrap each piece in ham. The second way doesn’t look so nice, but is easier to eat. I also use other types of cured meats or salumi , for example I especially like using Mortadella.
A note about prosciutto.
The English language is one of the great borrowers. We have taken words from almost every other language on Earth. They don’t always retain exactly the same meaning as in the original language. One example of this is prosciutto. In Italian it means “ham”. This can be leg of pork, cooked ham or raw ham. In English it has come to mean specifically raw ham, or prosciutto crudo in Italian. So when you see a sign for prosciutto ham you are in fact seeing a sign for ham ham. Another example of this is the panino roll. Shall I go into my local salumeria and ask for some ham ham to put into my roll roll? Oh well, I’m off to do a bit of footing now…
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
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
Dissolve the yeast in the tepid milk
Mix together the flour, olive oil, salt and enough of the milk to form a smooth dough.
Knead for about 10 minutes.
The dough doesn’t require much rising. Just leave it to rest for half an hour.
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
Polpettone 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.
Fresh filled pasta takes a bit of time to prepare, but it’s really not that difficult, especially if you have a pasta machine. Ravioli are probably the least fiddly to make, but tortellini look more impressive 😉 . Once you’ve made the first couple it gets easier. This recipe comes from Accademia Italiana della cucina. It was registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce on the 7th of December 1974. An authentic tortellino bolognese must have the following filling. Makes about 800g or 100 tortellini.
100g loin of pork
100g mortadella sausage (It MUST come from Bologna of course 🙂 )
100g parma ham (actually, they don’t specify that it has to come from Parma.It seems any raw ham will do)
From 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
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.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with a little of the cheese and a pinch of salt.
Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale.
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.
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.”
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.
Spaghetti all’ amatriciana. From Lazio. This is another Italian classic. Pasta with pancetta (or guanciale if you want to be really authentic), tomatoes and chilli. It is more traditionally served with bucatini, but is just as often served with spaghetti. Serves 4.
Heat a little oil in a pan. Add the pancetta and chilli and cook until the pancetta is lightly browned.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook over a low heat for around 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to minimum and stir in the cream. Cook very gently until the sauce starts to thicken – about 5 minutes.
Cook the pasta, drain and add to the sauce. Cook for 30 seconds or so, stirring all the time, to allow the pasta to take up the sauce.
In truth there probably isn’t one authentic recipe for Ragu alla Bolognese, but this one is close enough. There are however countless inauthentic ones. It bears little or no resemblance to the dish known as Bolognese or Bolognaise found outside of Italy. It is also never served with Spaghetti!
On October 17, 1982, the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, “after having carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research”, announced the following recipe to be the official one. I’m sure that every family in Emilia Romagna has their own version though. Serves 4.
A ragu Bolognese style is a meat sauce that is slow simmered for at least an hour to develop a complex flavor and proper thickness. Cooking the ragu in a heavy-duty enamel or similar pot will hold the heat steady and help to give a velvety texture to the ragu. Bolognese ragu is a classic sauce for lasagne and tagliatelle. The sauce also freezes beautifully.
Bolognese sauce (ragù alla bolognese in Italian) is a meat- and tomato-based pasta sauce originating in Bologna, Italy. It is typically made by simmering ground meat in tomato sauce, white wine, and stock for a long time (often upward of four hours), so that the meat softens and begins to break down into the liquid medium. The original sauce is not done with minced meat; instead, whole meat, usually beef or veal, is chopped with a knife.
Spaghetti alla Bolognese, or spaghetti bolognese which is sometimes further shortened to spag bol, is a dish invented outside of Italy consisting of spaghetti with a meat sauce. In Italy, this sauce is generally not served with spaghetti because it tends to fall off the pasta and stay on the plate. Instead, the people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous meat sauce with tagliatelle (‘tagliatelle alla bolognese). Outside the traditional use, this sauce can be served with tubular pasta or represent the stuffing for lasagna or cannelloni.
While “Bolognese” is undoubtedly the most popular ragù in this country, it is also the most misunderstood.
The ragù you get by that name is usually a characterless tomato sauce with pea-like bits of ground beef floating in it, bearing little resemblance to anything you’d find in Bologna.
And not, in any sense, a ragù.
True ragù alla Bolognese contains no tomato sauce — just enough fresh or canned tomato to add a hint of sweetness and another layer of flavor to a subtle, complex mix. Like all ragùs, Bolognese is characterized by its long, slow cooking, which in this case starts with simmering the meat in milk (to mellow the acidity of the raw tomatoes added later) and wine (some use white, others red), after which the tomatoes are added. The whole lot is cooked together for about two hours
This 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
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
Chop together the lardo, parsley, garlic, pepper and pecorino to make a coarse paste.
Place a little of the paste in the middle of each slice of meat. Roll up and secure with a toothpick.
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.
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.
Add the wine and allow to evaporate
Add enough passata to cover the meat well
Cook over a very low heat until the meat is tender. (A slow cooker would be ideal)
A few minutes before the end of cooking, season with salt and pepper.
For the best results, allow to cool, refrigerate over night and reheat the next day.
When you are ready to serve, remove the meat and keep warm.
Serve the sauce with pasta as the first course followed by the meat as the second course.
If 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.
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!