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

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.

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

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

Sea bass in “acqua pazza”

Branzino all’acqua pazza. This is a very simple way to poach fish. Acqua pazza translates as “crazy water”. Just what exactly is meant to be so crazy about it, I’ve no idea. 🙂 It works best with firm, white fleshed fish. You can use fillets, steaks or whole fish. On this occasion I used fillets. Serves 4

Bass in acqua pazza ingredients

Bass in acqua pazza ingredients

  • 4 sea bass – filleted
  • 400g cherry tomatoes – halved or left whole according to preference
  • A few sprigs of parsley – chopped
  • A clove of garlic – chopped
  • 1 chilli – fresh or dried (optional)
  • Dry white wine
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the garlic and chilli in olive oil until the garlic has started to colour. Use a pan big enough to take all the fish in a single layer.
  2. Add the tomatoes, parsley and a generous slug of white wine.
  3. Add the fish in a single layer. Add water to bring the level of liquid up to about halfway up the fillets.
  4. Cover and simmer until the fish is done. About 10 minutes for medium sized fillets.
Bass in acqua pazza finished dish

Bass in acqua pazza 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

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


Spaghetti amatriciana

Lazio crestSpaghetti 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.

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

Spaghetti amatriciana ingredients

  • 360 grams Spaghetti
  • 100 grams pancetta — cubed
  • 1 onion — thinly sliced
  • 500 grams tomatoes — peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 fresh (or dried) chilli — seeded and chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese to serve (optional)
  1. Grease a flameproof casserole with oil, add the pancetta and cook over a low heat until the fat starts to run.
  2. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chilli, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 40 minutes. If it looks like drying out, add a little water.
  4. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Spaghetti amatriciana finished dish

Rabbit fricassee

Coniglio in fricassea. There are many recipes for rabbit in fricassea but this is the simplest and most straight forward I could find. It’s basically rabbit served with a sauce made from egg yolks and lemon juice. Serves 4.

Rabbit fricassee ingredients

Rabbit fricassee ingredients

  • 1 medium rabbit — cut into portions, washed and dried with kitchen paper
  • 2 egg yolks
  • plain flour
  • the juice of a Lemon
  • 1 whole Chilli – fresh or dried
  • olive oil
  • 1 knob butter
  1. Lightly dust the rabbit with flour.
  2. Fry the pieces in a little olive oil to which you’ve added the knob of butter.
  3. When the rabbit is nicely coloured, season with salt, add a ladle of water and cook over a low heat for around an hour and a half. If it looks like drying out, add a little more water.
  4. When the rabbit is done remove to a serving plate and keep warm.
  5. Beat the egg yolks together with the lemon juice and add the mixture to the cooking liquid left in the pan. Stir rapidly until you have a smooth sauce.
  6. Top the pieces of rabbit with the sauce and serve.
Rabbit fricassee finished dish

Rabbit fricassee finished dish


Farfalle with pancetta

Farfalle alla pancetta. Serves 4.

  • 360 g farfalle
  • 100 g smoked pancetta, diced
  • 250 g tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli (or dried), seeded and chopped
  • 200 ml double cream
  • 25 g parmesan cheese, grated
  • olive oil
  1. Heat a little oil in a pan. Add the pancetta and chilli and cook until the pancetta is lightly browned.
  2. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook over a low heat for around 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to minimum and stir in the cream. Cook very gently until the sauce starts to thicken – about 5 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta, drain and add to the sauce. Cook for 30 seconds or so, stirring all the time, to allow the pasta to take up the sauce.
  4. Serve topped with the parmesan.

Red pepper and aubergine carbonara

Serves 4.

Red pepper and aubergine carbonara ingredients

  • 320g gnocchetti di sardi
  • 1 medium red pepper, cut anto small dice
  • 1 medium aubergine, cut into small dice
  • 1 stick celery, cut into small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1 whole small chilli
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 80g parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Fry the pepper, aubergine, celery, garlic cloves marjoram and chilli in half the olive oil for about 15 minute.
  2. Remove from the heat and discard the garlic and chilli. Keep warm
  3. Beat together the eggs, cheese and the rest of the oil.
  4. Cook the pasta until al dente
  5. Add the drained pasta to the vegetables and mix well
  6. Finally, add the egg mixture and stir thoroughly.

Red pepper and aubergine carbonara

Lumache with whelks

Lumache con lumache di mare. Or snails with sea snails! I was mightily confused when I first translated this recipe until I realised that they meant the pasta shapes known as snails with whelks.

Whelks are more often eaten poached and eaten as part of a seafood antipasto. They can also be dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Serves 4

Pasta with whelks ingredients

Pasta with whelks ingredients

  • 350 g lumache (or similar pasta shape)
  • 500 g whelks — thoroughly washed and soaked in cold water for 3-4 hours
  • 1 medium onion — chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 100 g tomatoes — chopped
  • 1 chilli — chopped
  • olive oil
  • fish stock
  1. Drain the whelks. Add to a pan along with the tomatoes garlic and chilli. Cover with fish stock and simmer until the whelks can be removed from their shells (with the aid of a tooth pick) About 10 minutes. Keep a couple of shells for decoration. Discard the stock.
  2. In a clean pan, fry the onion in a little olive oil. Add the whelk meat and fry for another minute. Add the wine and let it evaporate. Add the parsley and remove from the heat.
  3. Cook the pasta and toss with the whelk sauce. Serve immediately
Pasta with whelks finished dish

Pasta with whelks finished dish

PS The more sharp eyed among you will have noticed that when I cooked this dish I couldn’t find lumache. Isn’t that just typical 🙂 I used gnocchi instead.


Mussels ‘au gratin’

mussels au gratin ingredients

  • 1 kg mussels,thoroughly cleaned
  • 100g bread crumbs
  • 2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • zest of a lemon, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  1. Open the mussels by putting them in pan with a little olive oil and heating for around 5 minutes
  2. Remove the top shell from each mussel and arrange them in a single layer on a baking tray.
  3. Mix together the bread crumbs, parsley, chilli, garlic and lemon zest in a bowl.
  4. Add a little olive oil and mix again. Keep adding olive oil in the way until the mixture has a ‘crumble’ like consistency
  5. Top each half shell with a little of the mixture.mussels au gratin assembled
  6. Bake for around 15 minutes at 200 C

mussels au gratin finished dish

Gnocchetti sardi with mussels

This is a semi-soup. Be careful when adding the cooking liquid from the pasta, you don’t want it to be too sloppy.  Serves 4

Gnocchetti sardi with mussels ingredients

Gnocchetti sardi with mussels ingredients

  • 400 grams  mussels — thoroughly cleaned
  • 200 grams  Gnocchetti sardi
  • 1 clove  garlic — finely chopped
  • a few chilli flakes
  • olive oil
  • 4 sprigs  parsley — finely chopped
  1. Put the mussels in a pan along with a little olive oil, the garlic, parsley and chilli
  2. Cover and cook over a high heat until the mussels open. About 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the mussels, reserving a few for decoration, and return to the pan.
  3. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid.
  5. Add the pasta and the reserved cooking liquid to the mussels.
  6. Continue cooking for a couple of minutes and serve.
Gnocchetti sardi with mussels finished dish

Gnocchetti sardi with mussels finished dish

Grilled cuttlefish

I was reminded of this recipe by a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in last Thursday’s International Guardian.

I used my own homemade chilli oil. To make it add some dried chillis to a bottle of olive oil and leave it for a couple of weeks. If you can’t wait for 2 weeks, use fresh chilli or chilli flakes.

If you want to know how to butterfly squid or cuttlefish, check out Hugh’s article here. Or watch this video

Serves 4

grilled cuttlefish ingredients

  •   2  medium cuttlefish (or squid) — cleaned and butterflied
  •   chilli oil
  •   1 large clove garlic — finely chopped
  •   salt and pepper
  1. Chop off the tentacles and butterfly the cuttlefish
  2. Divide each set of tentacles into 2
  3. Season the cuttlefish with the garlic, salt and pepper and a good slug of chilli oil
  4. Heat a grill pan to the hottest temperature you can manage
  5. Grill cut side up for about 2 minutes
  6. Turn and grill for a further 2 minutes
  7. Turn once more and grill for a final minute
  8. Serve with a salad on the side
Grilled cuttlefish finished dish

Grilled cuttlefish finished dish