Stuffed cabbage leaves

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Involtini di verza. This is a good winter dish. There are many versions, but I prefer this one because the stuffing is not so heavy as it contains rice and chopped cabbage rather than all meat. It can be served as an antipasto or a second course, but it is quite substantial, so it is probably better as a second course. Serves 6

  • 1l vegetable stock
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 80g grated parmesan
  • 280g risotto rice
  • 350g sausages, skinned
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 200ml white wine

To cook

  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp parmesan

Remove the tough central rib from 12 cabbage leaves.

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

stuffed cabbage removing stalk

Blanch the leaves in abundant boiling water. Take 150g of the more tender centre of the cabbage and chop finely.

stuffed cabbage cooking filling

stuffed cabbage cooking filling

Melt the butter in a pan and fry the carrot, celery and onion gently for about 15 minutes. Be careful that they do not brown. Increase the heat and add the rice and “toast” for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the white wine, the sausage and the chopped cabbage. Stirring constantly wait until the liquid has been absorbed. Add a ladle of the hot stock and wait for the liquid to be absorbed. Continue using the standard risotto method until the rice is cooked. Mix in the parmesan.

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

stuffed cabbage filling rolls

Take a cabbage leaf and place a couple of tablespoons of the mixture on each one.

stuffed cabbage filled roll

stuffed cabbage filled roll

Roll the leaf up to make a compact parcel. Hide the open seam underneath.

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

stuffed cabbage ready for the oven

Cover the base of a casserole with little olive oil and half a ladle stock. Arrange the cabbage rolls in the dish. Cover the dish with melted butter and parmesan.

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Stuffed cabbage finished dish

Bake at 200°C for 15 minutes, finish off under the grill for 5 minutes. Let the rolls rest for 10 minutes and the serve.

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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

Red wine risotto

Risotto al Vino Rosso. You need to use a good, full bodied red wine – the best you can afford. The basic rule applies. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it 🙂 I used a Primitivo di Maduria , but next time I’m flush, I’ll try it with a Barolo.

Red wine risotto ingredients

Red wine risotto ingredients

Serves 4

  • 400g risotto rice
  • 2 glasses full bodied red wine
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • About 1 1/2 litres vegetable sock
  • 40g parmesan, grated
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Fry the onion in the olive oil until they start to become transparent.
  2. Add the rice and stir for few moments.
  3. Add the red wine and cook over a medium heat, stirring all the time, until the wine has been absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock and continue cooking as per the standard risotto recipe.
  5. When the rice is cooked al dente , remove from the heat, season and stir in the butter and parmesan.
  6. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.
Red wine risotto

Red wine risotto

Risi e bisi

Venezia crestIf you prepare this on April 25, you will be carrying on an ancient tradition that dates from the days of the Republic of Venice. This springtime dish of creamy rice and peas is made in Venice and its surroundings area to celebrate the feast day of its patron, Saint Mark. Almost the consistency of a soup, risi e bisi should be served as a course of its own. In the past, risi e bisi was presented on Saint Mark’s Day with much ceremony to the doge, the leader of Venice. You can streamline this dish by using small frozen peas.
Serves 6

  • 500g risotto rice
  • 700g fresh peas (unshelled weight), shelled
  • 80g butter
  • 40g pancetta, cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • parsley to taste, finely chopped
  • 60g parmesan cheese
  • stock (vegetable or chicken)
  1. Fry the onion, pancetta and parsley in half the butter. When the onions start to colour, add the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes
  2. Add a couple of ladles of hot stock and bring to the boil. Add the rice and stir.
  3. Continue in the usual way for risotto – note: use more stock than for a standard risotto. The finished dish should be quite sloppy – almost like a soup.
  4. When the rice is cooked al dente remove from the heat. Adjust salt and pepper, stir in the parmesan and the rest of the butter. Serve immediately

Giorgio Mantello used the picture above to illustrate an article on his site a cena da Giorgio. This is a translation of his comments:

I chose this image because it shows excellently  what should be the consistency of the risotto – neither too thick nor too liquid – in Venice is said to be “moeche”. which translates as soft and a little sticky. enjoy!

Bucatini with artichoke carbonara or Springtime carbonara

Bucatini alla carbonara di primavera. This dish works very well. It’s now my new favourite artichoke dish (for a week or so anyway 🙂 ) If, like mine, the artichokes are very small, use 6. Serves 4

artichoke carbonara ingredients

320 grams bucatini
3 artichokes — prepared and sliced

40 grams pancetta — cubed
1/2 clove garlic
100 ml vegetable stock
1 sprig parsley — chopped
1 lemon
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
20 grams grana padano — grated
10 grams pecorino Romano — grated
olive oil
salt and pepper

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the pancetta for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the artichokes, garlic, parsley and stock.
  • Salt and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes covered and a further 15 minutes uncovered. Keep warm.
  • Take a large bowl (which will be used to serve the pasta). Add the eggs and yolks, a pinch of salt, a generous amount of pepper and the cheese. Beat until you have a smooth paste.
  • Cook the pasta until al dente
  • Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the egg mix. Toss until the bucatini are well coated. Add the artichokes and mix again.
  • Serve immediately

artichoke carbonara finished dish

Fennel and lemon risotto

Risotto ai finocchi e limone. This is a Valentina Harris recipe. Serves 6

fennel and lemon risotto ingredients

fennel and lemon risotto ingredients

  •   500 grams  fennel bulbs
  •   1 onion — peeled and finely chopped
  •   75 grams  unsalted butter
  •   500 grams  risotto rice
  •   2 tablespoons  lemon juice
  •    grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
  •    salt and pepper
  •   1.5   litres chicken or vegetable stock
  •   75 grams  freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  •   2 tablespoons  finely chopped mint or parsley — or both
  1. Take off all the hard external leaves of the fennel and trim away all the green bits. You should be left with tender, white fennel hearts.
  2. If you like a very strong flavour of fennel, add the discarded parts of the vegetable, carefully washed, to the stock.
  3. Slice the tender bulbs thinly and evenly. Fry the sliced fennel gently with half the butter and the onion until the fennel is tender, then add all the rice and stir.
  4. Add the lemon juice and stir again. Season thoroughly and continue in the usual way.
  5. At the end of cooking, stir in the rest of the butter, the lemon zest and the cheese.
  6. Cover and take off the heat, leave the rice to rest for about 4 minutes, then stir once more before transferring on to a warmed platter.
  7. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve at once.
fennel and lemon risotto finished dish

fennel and lemon risotto finished dish

Cream of celery soup

Crema di sedano.  Serves 4.

celery soup ingredients

celery soup ingredients

  • 1 litre stock (vegetable or meat)
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 400g celery, chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes, diced
  • 50ml milk
  • salt
  • parmesan cheese
  1. Heat the butter and oil in a pan, add the celery and onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring from time to time.
  2. Pour in the stock, add the potatoes, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. Puree using a stick blender until smooth. Warm the milk, remove the soup from the heat, stir in the milk.
  4. Serve with parmesan cheese.
celery soup finished dish

celery soup finished dish