Stuffed cabbage leaves

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Involtini di verza. This is a good winter dish. There are many versions, but I prefer this one because the stuffing is not so heavy as it contains rice and chopped cabbage rather than all meat. It can be served as an antipasto or a second course, but it is quite substantial, so it is probably better as a second course. Serves 6

  • 1l vegetable stock
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 80g grated parmesan
  • 280g risotto rice
  • 350g sausages, skinned
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 200ml white wine

To cook

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp parmesan

Remove the tough central rib from 12 cabbage leaves.

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

Blanch the leaves in abundant boiling water. Take 150g of the more tender centre of the cabbage and chop finely.

stuffed cabbage cooking filling

stuffed cabbage cooking filling

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the carrot, celery and onion gently for about 15 minutes. Be careful that they do not brown. Increase the heat and add the rice and “toast” for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the white wine, the sausage and the chopped cabbage. Stirring constantly wait until the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladle of the hot stock and wait for the liquid to be absorbed. Continue using the standard risotto method until the rice is cooked. Mix in the parmesan.

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture on each one.

stuffed cabbage filled roll

stuffed cabbage filled roll

Roll the leaf up to make a compact parcel. Hide the open seam underneath.

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

Cover the base of a casserole with little olive oil and half a ladle stock. Arrange the cabbage rolls in the dish. Cover the dish with melted butter and parmesan.

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes, finish off under the grill for 5 minutes. Let the rolls rest for 10 minutes and the serve.

Bergamo style Casoncelli

Casonsei alla Bergamasca. When I lived in Bergamo we used to drive up into the mountains once or twice a year to eat polenta taragna. The starter was invariably casoncelli, or casonsei in the bergamasco dialect. Slightly sweet filled pasta dressed with sage and pancetta.  Makes a generous 8 servings.

Casoncelli finished dish

Casoncelli finished dish

For the pasta:-

  • 400 g 00 flour
  • 100 g durum wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
Mix together all the ingredients along with enough water to make a dough. Knead until smooth. Let it rest for half an hour or so and then roll out into reasonably thick sheets. A hand cranked pasta machine will be a great help with this.
Casoncelli filling ingredients

Casoncelli filling ingredients

For the filling:-

  • 125 g dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 70 g grated grana
  • 150 g sausage meat or minced pork
  • 100 g cooked roast beef
  • 1 amaretti biscuit
  • 10 g sultanas
  • 1/2 medium pear
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Chop all the ingredients together in a food processor to make a smooth paste.
Method 1
This method is used by people who need to prepare large quantities.
Cut the sheet of pasta in half lengthways.
Casoncelli pasta

Casoncelli pasta

Place a teaspoon of the filling at regular interval at regular intervals along the strip of pasta.
Casoncelli pasta with filling

Casoncelli pasta with filling

Fold over the pasta and press down to seal. Try to exclude as much air as possible to avoid them bursting when cooked.
Casoncelli folded pasta

Casoncelli folded pasta

Separate the pasta using a round pastry cutter. You should have a half moon shape.
Casoncelli half moons

Casoncelli half moons

Turn the half moon on its side and flatten it a little with your thumb.
Casoncelli shaped

Casoncelli shaped

Method 2
This method takes a little longer, but is a little easier if you haven’t had a bit of practice.
Cut out 7 cm discs of pasta using a pastry cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre of each disc. Fold over and seal to form a half moon shape. Continue as in method 1.
Cook the casoncelli in plenty of salted water. Meanwhile fry the pancetta and sage in the butter until it is well flavoured. Serve the pasta dressed in the butter and topped with the grana.
Casoncelli dressing

Casoncelli dressing

To dress the pasta:-

  • 80 g butter
  • 100 g cubed pancetta
  • 100 g grated grana
  • A few sage leaves

Sausages in tomato sauce

Salsicce al pomodoro. This is a great way to turn the humble banger into something special. Use the best quality sausage you can find – at least 90% meat. This dish is often made with chipolatas and served cold as an antipasto. Serves 4.

Sausages in tomato sauce ingredients

Sausages in tomato sauce ingredients

  • 8 sausages (preferably Italian but any high meat content sausage will do)
  • 100 milliliters dry white wine
  • 250 milliliters passata
  • salt and pepper
  1. Prick the sausages with a fork, put the in a pan and add 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over a low heat, turning occasionally. When the water has evaporated the sausages will start to fry in their own fat. Continue until they are golden brown.
  2. Add the wine and cook until it is completely evaporated and the sausages are just starting to fry again.
  3. Add the passata, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for around 15 minutes.
  4. This dish can be cooked with small sausages and served cold as an antipasto.
Sausages in tomato sauce finished dish

Sausages in tomato sauce finished dish


Meatballs in tomato sauce

Polpettine al Sugo. A lot of people mistakenly think that this dish was invented in the USA, but although it’s not nearly as common here as it seems to be in the states, it is Italian through and through. It tastes even better heated up the next day. I served it with linguine(a bit of a crime: ragu should be served with a ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle) the first day and polenta the second, but it goes with pretty much every kind of pasta.

meatballs in tomato sauce ingredients

  • 300g  minced beef
  • 100g Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese — grated
  • 1 egg
  • 30g dry bread crumbs
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 500g passata
  • 1 handful basil leaves, torn
  • olive oil
    1. Mix together the beef, sausage, the breadcrumbs moistened in a little water, garlic and parsley in a bowl. I find it easiest to use my hands. When it is well mixed, season with salt and pepper and mix in the egg.
    2. Form into small meatballs, about the size of a marble.


  1. Fry the meatballs in plenty of olive oil until they are evenly browned. Drain on Kitchen towels.
  2. Drain the excess oil from the pan, add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat.
  3. Add the passata and basil, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Add the meatballs and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with your favourite pasta or with polenta.

meatballs in tomato sauce finished dish

meatballs with polenta


Now I’ve been here a while I realise that I’ve been very English and got things a bit wrong. :hangs his head in shame: The recipe above is still authentic, but the Italians don’t serve the meatballs with the pasta. They are eaten as the secondo.

Maryann puts it better than I can(see comments):

I think why most people say spaghetti and meatballs originated in American is that they eat it all on the same plate, in the same course. In my family, first the macaroni, then the meat from the sauce.

Sausage ‘alla cacciatora’

Salsicce alla cacciatora translates as ‘Hunter’s sausage’ . I just thought I’d mention that for those of you that love double entendres 🙂  Serves 4

sausage alla cacciatora

400 grams sausages – preferably Italian
 200 grams mushrooms — sliced
 1/2  medium onion — chopped
 1      clove garlic — chopped
 400 grams tomatoes (fresh or tinned) — peeled and chopped
 salt and pepper

  • Prick the sausage and fry in a little butter until well coloured. Remove the sausages and put aside.
  • Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for ten minutes.
  • Return the sausages to the pan, cover and cook for a further 15 minutes.

sausage alla cacciatora finished dish

Serve with fresh crusty bread

Tagliatelle with sausage and vegetable ragu

Serves 4

tagliatelle with sausage and vegetable ragu ingredients

  •   500 grams  fresh tagliatelle
  •   1      medium  carrot — roughly chopped
  •   1      stick  celery — roughly chopped
  •   1      medium  red onion — roughly chopped
  •   1      medium  courgette — diced
  •   400 grams  italian sausage — skinned
  •   2      tablespoons  cream
  •   1      glass  red wine
  •           olive oil
  •           salt
  •           parmesan cheese to serve
  1. Fry the carrot, celery and onion in a little olive oil for a few minutes.l
  2. Add the courgettes and cook for a few minutes longer.
  3. Add the sausage and mix well. Season with salt and fry for a few minutes
  4. Add the wine and allow it to partially evaporate.
  5. Reduce the heat and cook for a further 20 mins
  6. Remove from the heat and add the cream
  7. Serve with tagliatelle and parmesan.

taglatelle with sausage and vegetable ragu finished dish

Cotechino with lentils

This is a traditional new year’s eve dish. Cotechino Modena or Cotechino di Modena, also sometimes spelled cotecchino or coteghino, is a fresh sausage made from pork and comes from Modena. Zampone Modena is closely related, but uses the pig’s trotter as a sausage case. There are two kinds of cotechino: Raw and precooked, though most Italians buy the precooked kind, which comes in a foil packet which you have to boil gently for 20 minutes. You should be able to get a ready cooked cotechino in an Italian deli.  Serves 4

cotechino ingredients

cotechino ingredients

  • 400 grams  lentils
  • 1 medium  onion — halved
  • 2 sticks  celery
  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • 20 grams  olive oil
  • 600 grams cotechino sausage – precooked
  1. Put the lentils, half the onion and one of the celery sticks in a large
  2. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer over a low heat until
    the lentils are tender – about 45 minutes.
  3. When they are done discard the onion and celery. Chop the remaining onion
    and celery finely.
  4. Heat the oil and butter in a pan. Fry the onion and celery for about 5
  5. Drain the lentil and add to the pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. If using a precooked cotechino, reheat according to the instructions on the packet. If you are using a fresh one, place it in a saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 2 hours for a small (600g) one, up to 4 hours for a larger (1000g) one. At the end of the cooking time, remove from the heat and allow to rest in the cooking liquid for 10 minutes, drain and slice into thick rounds.
  8. Serve the lentils with slices of the sausage on top.
cotechino finished dish

cotechino finished dish

Sausage risotto

It may be difficult to find Italian sausages outside of Italy. This needn’t be a problem as they are usually 100% minced meat, encased in a sausage skin. Therefore, if you can’t find Italian sausage, replace it with minced pork. This is another of the recipes that I remember from my time in the north. Very easy to cook but delicious! Serves 4
Sausage risotto ingredients

Sausage risotto ingredients

  • 150g Italian sausage, skinned
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 stick celery,finely chopped
  • 1 medium, onion, finely chopped
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • Grana Padano cheese to taste (or parmesan)
  • 40g butter
  • 20ml olive oil
  • Beef stock (As much as is needed, maybe as much as a litre)
  1. Fry the onion and celery in the olive oil and half the butter until they start to colour
  2. Break the sausage into small pieces and add to the pan
  3. Fry over a low heat until the sausage is well coloured and then add the wine
  4. Allow the wine to reduce for a while and then add the rice.
  5. Continue in the usual way for risotto – add hot stock, little by little, stirring constantly, until the rice is al dente
  6. When the risotto is ready, mix in the cheese and the rest of the butter.
Sausage risotto finished dish

Sausage risotto finished dish