Spaghetti al cartoccio (in a package)

puglia crestFrom Puglia. This dish looks fairly impressive, but is in fact quite easy to do. Spaghetti or linguine is mixed with seafood, and baked in the oven. The pasta absorbs the flavours from the seafood and the sauce is concentrated wonderfully. I had this dish at a restaurant near here “Zia Teresa” in Torre a Mare a while back. They served it using foil packets, but some people use greaseproof paper. Make one large package, or as I prerfer, one package per person. The recipe is really just a guide. The seafood is different from chef to chef and from day to day, depending on what is available. Include some kind of mollusc, like mussels or clams, something from the squid family, like calamari or octopus and something from the prawn family like prawns, scampi and shrimps. Some people also include a little fish, about 200 g, such as red mullet, sea bream or bass. Serves 4.

  • 350 g spaghetti
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and bruised
  • 1 kg of fresh tomatoes
  • 200 g unpeeled raw prawns/shrimps
  • 350 g clams (vongole veraci)
  • 500 g mussels
  • 200 g baby octopus or baby squid
  • A large sprig of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 chillis (optional, use the chillis which you are used to. It is usually made quite mild here)
  • Dry white wine

Wash the mussels and clams under cold running water and pull the beards off. Put them into a large pan along with a clove of garlic, the parsley and half a glass of wine. Put on a high heat until all the shellfish are open. Remove  most of them from the shells (you leave a few whole for garnish, if you like)  and reserve the cooking liquid, strained if need be.

Blanch the tomatoes for a few seconds in boiling water, and then peel and deseed them. Roughly chop.

Heat about 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pan with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic. When they have browned, remove them from the oil. Add the octopus or squid, and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes.



Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the cooking liquid from the shell-fish and the chopped chillis (leave them whole if you want to remove them at the end of cooking)  and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the unpeeled prawns and cook for a further 5 minutes. If you’d prefer to peel the prawns you can, but you’ll be losing quite a lot of flavour.

Cook the pasta about half the time recommended time on the packet. Drain and mix with the sauce.

Use a large square of kitchen foil, or 4 smaller ones for individual portions. Bring all 4 sides up and pinch together the corners, so you have a sort of foil “basket”. Fill each pouch with the pasta and fold over the top to close. Dont close them too tightly, leave some room. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for about 10 minutes.

Unwrap the package or packages at the table and have some finger bowls and napkins handy.

Pasta with beans and mussels

Pasta with beans and mussels finished dish

Pasta with beans and mussels finished dish

Napoli crestPasta con fagioli e cozze.  From Naples. This is a variation on the classic Neapolitan dish of pasta and beans. The pasta is cooked in the sauce which makes it very tasty. Serves 4.

  • 700g mussels, cleaned
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 50 ml white wine
  • 450g cooked cannellini beans (You can use canned if you like)
  • 200g chopped tomatoes
  • 200g short pasta such as ditali, gnochetti sardi etc
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Red chilli to taste, fresh or dried
Pasta with beans and mussels ingredients

Pasta with beans and mussels ingredients

Soften the garlic in a little olive oil. Add the mussels and the wine, cover and cook over a high heat until the mussels have opened. About 5 minutes

Pasta with beans and mussels opening the mussels

Pasta with beans and mussels opening the mussels

Remove the mussels from their shells and strain and reserve the cooking liquid.

Pasta with beans and mussels cooking the pasta

Pasta with beans and mussels cooking the pasta

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the beans. Stir in the tomatoes, the reserved cooking liquid and the stock and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until it is done (refer to the packet for cooking times).

Remove from the heat, stir in the mussels and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and chilli

Spaghetti with green beans

Spaghetti with green beans finished dish

Spaghetti with green beans finished dish

puglia crest

From Puglia. This is another very simple recipe that I cook a lot when green beans are in season. The pictures have been sitting on my computer for a while, so they are no longer in season, but should be fairly easy to get. The recipe uses ricotta marzottica or dura, which is hard to get outside Italy. The best substitute is grana or parmesan. Don’t use regular ricotta, it’s a different thing completely. The beans are cooked for quite a long time and you might consider them to be overcooked, but it works well with the pasta. If you prefer, you could add the beans along with the spaghetti.Serves 4.

Spaghetti with green beans ingredients

Spaghetti with green beans ingredients

  1. Top and tail the beans
  2. Boil the beans in plenty of boiling water for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the spaghetti to the water and continue cooking until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Drain the beans and pasta and mix with the warmed tomato sauce.
  5. Serve topped with ricotta marzotica or grana.

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe. From Rome. This is another recipe that I cook a lot, but have never got around to posting. Spaghetti (vermicelli is a synonym for spaghetti) with pecorino and black pepper sauce. Anyone who has ever been to Rome will know it. It seems like almost every trattoria there has it on the menu.   It is very simple, just three ingredients, but one of my favourite ways to eat pasta. It  is always worth spending a little more to get really good quality ingredients, but it is especially important to use good cheese with this dish. Use a good Pecorino Romano DOC (PDO). Serves 4.

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe finished dish

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe finished dish

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe ingredients

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe ingredients

Roughly crack the pepper corns. You can use a pestle and mortar, or as I do a coffee grinder. How much you add is a matter of taste, but it’s very important that it should be freshly ground. Don’t grind it too finely.

Cracked pepper

Cracked pepper

Cook the pasta until it is al dente  and drain, reserving some of the cooking water.

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe mixing the pasta

Spaghetti al cacio e pepe mixing the pasta

Mix the pasta together with some of the cooking water and most of the cheese. You should obtain a creamy sauce that coats the spaghetti well. If the sauce is too wet, add some more cheese. Likewise, if the sauce is too dry, add some more cooking water. Add the pepper and mix again. Serve topped with the rest of the cheese.

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

Orecchiette with cime di rape

Orecchiette con cime di rape. This probably the most well known dish from Bari. Cime di rape are known as turnip tops in British English. It’s funny, but I’ve never seen turnips in Italy. It must be a real problem for the ex-pat Scots on Burns’ night. They are known as rapini or broccoli rabe in American English. In fact if you can’t find cime di rape you can use broccoli. The results won’t be the same, but it will be in the same ball park. I have seen recipes that also use cherry tomatoes which are added to the oil after the anchovies have dissolved. You can cook the cime di rape along with the pasta or, as I prefer, cook the cime di rape and then cook the pasta in the same water. Some recipes also don’t use chillies and/or anchovies so the dish can easily be made vegetarian. Serves 4

Orecchiette con cime di rape finished dish

Orecchiette con cime di rape finished dish

  • 400 g orecchiette
  • 800 g cime di rape
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoon or more olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 dried chilli (optional)
Orecchiette con cime di rape ingredients

Orecchiette con cime di rape ingredients

Wash the cime di rape well. I prefer to discard the larger stalks, but some people leave them in.

Washed cime di rape

Washed cime di rape

Boil the rape in plenty of salted water until it is cooked to your liking. I find 3 or 4 minutes is enough. Drain them saving the water.

Cooked cime di rape

Cooked cime di rape

Cook the orecchiette  until they are al dente in the water you used to cook the cima di rape. Meanwhile fry the anchovies, whole garlic clove and chilli in the olive oil. Stir until the anchovies dissolve. Cook for a few minutes over a medium heat.

Frying the anchovies and chilli

Frying the anchovies and chilli

Remove the garlic clove and add the cime di rape. Mix well. Finally add the oriecchette and serve.

Pasta with ricotta

Pasta e ricotta. This is a very simple dish, but delicious all the same. The quality of the ricotta is very important. You can of course make this dish with ordinary supermarket ricotta and the results will be perfectly acceptable, but it will be much better with the fresh version. If you can find sheep’s milk ricotta, even better. This being Bari, I made it with it with orecchiette, but it goes with just about any type of pasta. There are lots of things you can add that change the character of the dish drastically. Serves 6.

pasta with ricotta ingredients

pasta with ricotta ingredients

  • 500 g pasta (any type)
  • 500 g ricotta – the best you can find, preferably sheep’s milk.
  • Optional ingredients:-
  • Add parmesan for a stronger cheese taste.
  • Add paprika to make the dish a little bit spicy.
  • Add fresh basil and mint for an aromatic version.
  • There is even a sweet version which includes a good pinch of cinnamon and a tablespoon of sugar
  1. Cook the pasta until it is al dente.
  2. Add a little of the pasta cooking water to the ricotta and beat well until it is smooth.
  3. Dress the pasta with the ricotta and serve immediately.
pasta with ricotta finished dish

pasta with ricotta finished dish

Spaghetti with olives

Spaghetti con le olive. This is a good store cupboard standby. Try to use the best olives you can find though as they make a big difference to this dish. Serves 4

Spaghetti with olives ingredients

Spaghetti with olives ingredients

  • 400g passata
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 100g olives in brine, chopped, stones removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil
  • 320g spaghetti
  1. Fry the onion in some olive oil.
  2. Add the passata, the olives and the capers. Season with salt and pepper and add a good pinch of oregano.
  3. Cook over a low heat for half an hour.
  4. Mix with the cooked pasta and serve.
Spaghetti with olives finished dish

Spaghetti with olives finished dish

Spaghetti with mussels

Spaghetti with mussels ingredients

Spaghetti with mussels ingredients

Spaghetti con le cozze. This is a recipe that I cook a lot, but have never got round to posting. I, like the Barese, love mussels.  They are always cheap and are available all year. Here the size changes with the season, but you can make this dish with big or small mussels, it doesn’t matter. They say that the smaller ones have a better flavour. Some people open the mussels raw for this dish. To be honest the flavour is probably marginally better, but I am not very good at opening them so I never have time. If you are adept at opening mussels, feel free to remove the shells before adding them, but don’t forget to include any water that comes out. Some people also remove the shells after they have opened. Again, it depends on my mood, but I usually don’t.You can also use fresh or tinned tomatoes.
Serves 4
  • 1kg Mussels weighed with the shells
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g peeled tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • A few sprigs of chopped parsley
  • Chilli (optional to taste, can be fresh or dried)
  • 320g Spaghetti
  1. Sauté the garlic for a few minutes so that it softens, but doesn’t brown.
  2. Add the chilli (if fresh, if you are using dry, add it after the tomatoes)
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the mussels and cook uncovered over a medium heat until they are all open
  5. Add the parsley and stir
  6. Mix with the cooked spaghetti and serve.
Spaghetti with mussels finished dish

Spaghetti with mussels finished dish

Pesto Genovese – Official recipe

Basil is very much in season here at the moment, so I bought a couple of bunches at the market and decided to make pesto.I dug out the official recipe from Consorzio Pesto Genovese. It’s very specific about exactly where the ingredients should come from. I’m providing the original recipe, but feel free to substitute ingredients from another region. eg. Basil not from Genoa 🙂 The recipe also calls for a pestle and mortar. This is undoubtably the best way, but you can get very acceptable results using a blender. Just put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until almost smooth. Serves 6

Pesto Genovese Ingredients

Pesto Genovese Ingredients

  • 50g of basil leaves (from Genoa of course)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (from Liguria)
  • 6 Tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 2 Tbsp Pecorino (romano, toscano, sardo or siciliano)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (can be omitted)
  • 1 Tbsp pine kernels (from the Mediterranean area)
  • 1 tbsp chopped walnuts can be substituted for the pine kernels (must be European from the species “Juglans regia”)
  • Coarse sea salt
  1. The traditional method uses a wooden pestle(where the dish gets its name from in a round about way) and a marble mortar. Start by pounding the garlic and salt until you get a smooth paste.
  2. Add the basil, a handful at a time, and keep grinding using a circular motion until each batch of the leaves is incorporated. To preserve the essential oils in the basil, you shouldn’t be too rough with it.
  3. Add the pine kernel and grind some more.
  4. Add the cheese and mix well.
  5. Add the oil, little by little, until the pesto has the right consistency – a matter of taste.
  6. Serve with pasta or added to minestrone. The recommended pastas are troffie, trofiette or trenette, but it goes with just about any pasta. I usually serve it with spaghetti or linguine.
Pesto Genovese finished dish

Pesto Genovese finished dish

Bavette with clams and courgettes

Bavette alle vongole e zucchine. This is a nice alternative to the standard spaghetti alle vongole recipe. Serves 4.

  • 320g bavette
  • 800g clams
  • 1 shallot – finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic – peeled, whole
  • 1 chilli (fresh or dried) or to taste
  • 300g courgettes – cut into match sticks
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 200g tomatoes – peeled and diced
Bavette with clams and courgettes ingredients

Bavette with clams and courgettes ingredients

  1. Open the clams by  putting them in a dry pan over a high heat for about 5 minutes. Reserve any liquid that is produced.
  2. Remove the clams from their shells and put aside.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan and cook the shallot, chilli and garlic clove until softened.
  4. Remove and discard the garlic.
  5. Add the clams, courgettes and parsley and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Add the wine and the liquid from the clams and allow to reduce for a while.
  7. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook  until the sauce thickens – about 20-30 minutes.
  8. Cook the bavette until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the sauce and mix well.
Bavette with clams and courgettes finished dish

Bavette with clams and courgettes finished dish

Bavette with fresh tuna

Bavette al tonno fresco. I’m not sure where this dish originates, but it feels like a Sicilian recipe due to the inclusion of tuna and pine nuts. It’s quite economical too as 200 grams of tuna feeds four people. My problem now is trying to think of a way to use up the other 800g I bought at the fish market this morning. I couldn’t resist, it was €2 a kilo 🙂 Serves 4.

Bavette with tuna ingredients

  • 320g bavette (or spaghetti or linguine) I used bavettini – a smaller version of bavette
  • 100g cherry tomatoes – halved
  • 2 anchovy fillets – chopped
  • 20g pine nuts
  • 70g good quality black olives
  • 200g fresh tuna – cut into small cubes
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic – finely sliced
  • 1 shallot – finely sliced
  • 1/2 glass white wine
  1. Fry the shallot and the garlic in olive oil until it starts to colour.
  2. Add the anchovies, half the pine nuts, the olives and the tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the capers and tuna. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the wine and allow to reduce a little.
  5. Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest, parsley and the rest of the pine nuts.
  6. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the pan with the tuna. Return to the heat and mix well.  Allow the pasta to take up the flavours for a minute or so, remove from the heat and serve.

Bavette with tuna finished dish

Spaghetti with Gurnard

Spaghetti con la gallinella. Gurnard is used mainly as a soup fish here. This recipe however serves it poached and flaked with spaghetti. This avoids the problem of navigating the numerous bones.  When you’ve finished you’ll be left with a couple of litres of pretty good fish stock which is worth saving and would freeze well. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with gurnard ingedients

  • 320g spaghetti
  • 300g whole gurnard – cleaned
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • Parsley – finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 100g small or cherry tomatoes – sliced
  • Stock vegetables (Onion, carrot, celery)
  • Olive oil
  1. Peel and chop the stock vegetables. Add to a pan with 3 litres of water and a large pinch of salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. You can omit this step if you are pressed for time.
  2. Add the fish and poach for 5-6 minutes. The fish should be starting to flake, but not dissolving. Remove the fish and allow to cool slightly. Strain and reserve the stock.
  3. Flake the fish taking care to remove all the bones.
  4. Mince together the lemon zest, the garlic and the parsley.
  5. Fry the fish gently in a little olive oil and add a little of the stock. Be careful not to add to much, you don’t want it too sloppy.
  6. Cook the spaghetti in the stock until al dente
  7. Just before the spaghetti is done, add the minced ingredients and the tomatoes to the fish and warm through.
  8. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the fish. Mix well and cook for a further minute or so.
  9. Serve immediately.

spaghetti with gurnard 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

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes

Spaghetti zucchine e gamberetti. I cooked this to use up the leftover prawns from yesterday’s trip to the  fish market. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes ingredients

  • 320g spaghetti
  • 300g medium prawns, legs and antenae removed.
  • 1tbsp capers – soaked for a few minutes and drained.
  • 3 small or 1 large courgette -sliced thinly into rounds or quartered lengthways and sliced into quadrants if large.
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • Tomato sauce or passata
  • A pinch of dried thyme
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the onion gently in the oil until it starts to soften.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, the capers and the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile fry the courgettes gently in olive oil until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the prawns to the tomato sauce and cook for a further few minutes until the prawns are cooked.
  5. At the last minute add the courgetttes to the sauce.
  6. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until al dente.
  7. Dress the pasta with the sauce and serve.

Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes finished dish