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.

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

Puttanesca authentic recipe

campania crestPasta alla puttanesca from Campania. The translation of the title of this dish is “whore’s pasta”! There are a lot of stories as to how it got its name, but one of the most common is that it was a dish that the working girls could quickly prepare between customers. Another version is that is was cooked in brothels so customers would be lured in by the enticing aromas. I don’t really buy that one. I think food would be the last thing on the customers minds 😉 It is a relatively modern dish, probably dating back to the end of the second world war. Both Lazio and Campania claim it as their own. This is the Campania version. The recipe comes from Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

A note about the olives. Use the best you can find. Don’t use pitted black olives as properly matured olives are too soft to have their stones removed mechanically, so they will almost certainly be green olives which have been dyed with ferrous glucomate (E151, a synthetic coal tar).

Puttanesca ingredients

Puttanesca ingredients

Serves 5

 

  • 500g bucatini, linguine, spaghetti or similar
  • 500g peeled tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
  • 2 anchovy fillets (salted or in oil)
  • 100g good quality olives, rinsed. The recipe calls for Gaeta olives, which of course can be green or black, but I have only ever seen this dish prepared with black olives. You can leave them whole or stone them and roughly chop. I prefer half and half.
  • 50g capers, rinsed and roughly chopped. The recipe doesn’t stipulate salted or in brine. I prefer the salted variety
  • 100g olive oil. This seems a lot but you need a fair amount to allow the anchovy fillets to dissolve properly. Use less if you wish
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 chilli (fresh, dried or a good pinch of chilli flakes)
  • Chopped parsley

 

 

 

  1. Gently fry the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets in the oil. Mash the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they have completely dissolved.
  2. Remove the garlic. You can also remove the chilli if you don’t like it too hot. If you prefer a really fiery dish, crush or finely chop the chilli before frying.
  3. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers. Mash the tomatoes thoroughly with a fork and cook over a medium high heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and heat gently for a couple of minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

 

 

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca

 

Tomato sauce

This is a really simple recipe for an Italian style tomato sauce.  In the UK we tend to dress our pasta with a lot more sauce than the Italians do (dare I say too much? ). If you can’t find really ripe fresh tomatoes, use tinned. You won’t get good results with supermarket ‘bounceable’  toms. This recipe is makes enough sauce to dress 4 portions of pasta. Really! Trust me!  🙂 On this occasion I served the sauce with linguine, but it goes equally well with many other short or long pastas (e.g. spaghetti, bucatini , sedani, penne, cavatelli etc.)

Tomato sauce ingredients

Tomato sauce ingredients

  • 250g tinned tomatoes or peeled fresh tomatoes
  • A pinch of sugar (optional)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
  • salt
  1. Put the tomatoes and their juice into a saucepan along with the garlic, sugar and a good pinch of salt. Cover and heat gently for about 30 minutes without stirring.
  2. Remove the garlic and mash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. If you’re using tinned tomatoes cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes  until the sauce has reduced.
  3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Immediately before serving, stir in the olive oil and the basil.
  5. Use to dress pasta
Tomato sauce

Tomato sauce

Linguine with tomato sauce

Linguine with tomato sauce

Stuffed mussels

Cozze ripiene. From Bari. This recipe was given to me by Marilisa – thanks a lot for taking the trouble. They were delicious 🙂 It’s actually her granny’s recipe and Marilisa’s favourite. The recipe seems a bit daunting as you have to open the raw mussels, but it’s really not that difficult. Follow the link below if you want to know how. Serves 4-5

Stuffed mussels ingredients

Stuffed mussels ingredients

  • 1 kilogram large mussels
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 bread roll — crust removed
  • parsley — finely chopped
  • 100 grams Pecorino Romano or Parmesan — grated
  • milk
  • olive oil
  • garlic to taste — finely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • kitchen string
  • 2 bottles passata
    • Clean the mussels and open them keeping the shells attached
    • Soak the bread roll in a little milk and tear into small pieces.
    • Beat the eggs in a bowl and mix with the cheese, garlic, parsley and bread. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Add breadcrumbs little by little until you have a fairly dry stuffing mix.
    • Stuff the mussels with the mixture and tie them almost closed with kitchen string. Don’t tie them too tightly as the stuffing has to come into contact with the cooking sauce.
Stuffed mussels ready to cook

Stuffed mussels ready to cook

  • Heat some oil in a large pan and add some chopped garlic. When the garlic has coloured add the tomatoes. Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Add the mussels and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  • Remove the mussels from the sauce and remove the string.
  • Serve the sauce with spaghetti or linguine as a first course.
  • The mussels can be served as the second course or as part of an antipasto (hot or cold)
Stuffed mussels finished dish

Stuffed mussels finished dish

Stuffed mussels with pasta finished dish

Stuffed mussels with pasta finished dish