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 🙂

Inspector Montalbano’s Arancini

Arancini finished dish

Arancini finished dish

Coat_of_arms_of_SicilyInspector 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
  • beef stock
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g of shelled peas (use fresh or frozen depending on the season)
  • 80g of spicy salami in a single piece
  • béchamel sauce made with 250ml of milk.
  • 2 eggs
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for deep frying (traditionally olive oil, but you can use peanut oil or similar)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Arancini Ragù ingredients

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

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

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

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

Arancini mixed filling

Arancini forming

Arancini forming

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

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

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.

Arancini cooked

Arancini cooked

Potato pizza with ham and spinach

Potato pizza finished dish

Potato pizza finished dish

Bari crestPizza 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

Potato pizza ingredients

  • 1.2 kg floury potatoes.
  • 250g scamorza, provola or mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced.
  • 500g fresh spinach
  • 150g cooked ham
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 70g grated parmesan
  • Dry bread crumbs
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Nutmeg 

Cook the potatoes in their skins in lightly salted water. Drain and peel when cool enough to handle.

Potato pizza cooking potatoes

Potato pizza cooking potatoes

Mash the potatoes and mix with the egg yolks and parmesan.

Potato pizza mixed with cheese

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

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

Potato pizza with spinach

Add the ham

Potato pizza with ham

Potato pizza with ham

Cover with the cheese

Potato pizza with 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

Potato pizza ready for the oven

Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for 50 minutes.

Rice Croquettes

Rice croquettes finished dish

Rice croquettes finished dish

puglia crestFrom 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
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g buttter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A pinch of pepper
  • Bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying
Rice croquettes ingredients

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

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

Rice croquettes ready to fry

Coat them in breadcrumbs and deep fry them in hot oil until golden.

Figs and ham

figs and ham rose

figs and ham rose

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…

figs and ham wrapped

figs and ham wrapped

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

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

Authentic tortellini bolognese

Bologna crestFresh 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.

Tortellini ingredients

Tortellini ingredients

Serves 6

  • 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)
  • 150g parmesan (parmigiano reggiano)
  • 1 egg
  • A few grates of nutmeg

You will also need one quantity of pasta dough.

  • Make the filling by frying the pork loin gently in a little butter. Chop roughly and whiz together with the other ingredients  in a food processor until you get a smooth paste.
Tortellini filling

Tortellini filling

    1. Roll out the pasta as thin as you can.
    2. Use a pastry cutter or a glass to stamp out 7cm diameter discs or cut into 7cm squares.
    3. Place a small amount of filling on the centre of each disc (about 5g)
Tortellini with filling

Tortellini with filling

    1. Moisten one edge and fold in half to make half moons. Be careful to avoid air pockets.
    2. Using your finger and thumbs bring the edges (at the widest part) towards each other so that the dampened corners stick together.
Finished tortellino

Finished tortellino

    1. Allow to dry for about an hour before cooking.
Tortellini ready to cook

Tortellini ready to cook

    1. Tortellini are traditionally served poached in meat broth. On this occasion I served then dressed in a little butter and topped with parmesan.
Tortellini finished dish

Tortellini finished dish

Here’s a video from Youtube that shows the whole process.

Carbonara – Authentic recipe

Lazio crestFrom 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
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 medium eggs (very fresh)
  • 100 grams mixed Parmesan and pecorino Romano (or all pecorino) — grated
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. 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.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with a little of the cheese and a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”

And this one’s from Cui at Equipoised.

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 amatriciana

Lazio crestSpaghetti 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.

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

  • 360 grams Spaghetti
  • 100 grams pancetta — cubed
  • 1 onion — thinly sliced
  • 500 grams tomatoes — peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 fresh (or dried) chilli — seeded and chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese to serve (optional)
  1. Grease a flameproof casserole with oil, add the pancetta and cook over a low heat until the fat starts to run.
  2. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chilli, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 40 minutes. If it looks like drying out, add a little water.
  4. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Farfalle with pancetta

Farfalle alla pancetta. Serves 4.

  • 360 g farfalle
  • 100 g smoked pancetta, diced
  • 250 g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli (or dried), seeded and chopped
  • 200 ml double cream
  • 25 g parmesan cheese, grated
  • olive oil
  1. Heat a little oil in a pan. Add the pancetta and chilli and cook until the pancetta is lightly browned.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Serve topped with the parmesan.

Ragu alla Bolognese – Authentic recipe

Bologna crestIn 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.

  • 400 grams fresh tagliatelle or fettucine
  • 300 grams minced beef – The recommended cut is thin flank aka skirt (finta cartella in Italian) but any good quality mince will do.
  • 150 grams unsmoked pancetta — minced very finely
  • 50 grams carrot — finely chopped or minced
  • 50 grams celery — finely chopped or minced
  • 50 grams onion — finely chopped or minced
  • 30 grams triple concentrated tomato purée(if using double concentrated, increase the quantity by about a third,  purée is known as “tomato paste” in the US)
  • 1/2 glass red or white wine
  • 180 ml fresh milk
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Fry the pancetta gently in a little olive oil until it starts to release its fat. Be careful not to burn.
  2. Add the vegetables and fry until the onions are transparent, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add the beef and cook until it is lightly browned. When it starts to make popping noises, it’s done.
  4. Add the tomato puree and the wine and mix well.
  5. Add the milk, little by little until it is completely absorbed.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook very slowly for 3 to 4 hours.
  7. Stir occasionally and if it looks like drying out, add a little more milk.
  8. Serve with Fettuccine or Tagliatelle (NOT Spaghetti!)
  9. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side. Alternatively toss the pasta first in a little butter and then in Parmesan before adding the meat sauce.
  • Variation: The Academy allows the addition of Porcini mushrooms.
Bolognese finished dish

Bolognese finished dish

This is a more detailed explanation of the dish from Bologna Cooking School

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

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!