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 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.
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.
Cook the pasta until it is al dente and drain, reserving some of the cooking water.
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.
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.
1kg Mussels weighed with the shells
1 clove of garlic
500g peeled tomatoes
A few sprigs of chopped parsley
Chilli (optional to taste, can be fresh or dried)
Sauté the garlic for a few minutes so that it softens, but doesn’t brown.
Add the chilli (if fresh, if you are using dry, add it after the tomatoes)
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
Add the mussels and cook uncovered over a medium heat until they are all open
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
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
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.
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.
Add the pine kernel and grind some more.
Add the cheese and mix well.
Add the oil, little by little, until the pesto has the right consistency – a matter of taste.
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.
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
1 clove of garlic – finely sliced
1 shallot – finely sliced
1/2 glass white wine
Fry the shallot and the garlic in olive oil until it starts to colour.
Add the anchovies, half the pine nuts, the olives and the tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the capers and tuna. Cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the wine and allow to reduce a little.
Remove from the heat. Add the lemon zest, parsley and the rest of the pine nuts.
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
Flake the fish taking care to remove all the bones.
Mince together the lemon zest, the garlic and the parsley.
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.
Cook the spaghetti in the stock until al dente
Just before the spaghetti is done, add the minced ingredients and the tomatoes to the fish and warm through.
Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the fish. Mix well and cook for a further minute or so.
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
Pasta 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).
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)
Gently fry the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets in the oil. Mash the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they have completely dissolved.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Immediately before serving, stir in the olive oil and the basil.
From 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
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.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with a little of the cheese and a pinch of salt.
Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale.
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.
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.”
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 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.