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