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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Spaghetti with olives

Spaghetti con le olive. This is a good store cupboard standby. Try to use the best olives you can find though as they make a big difference to this dish. Serves 4

Spaghetti with olives ingredients

Spaghetti with olives ingredients

  • 400g passata
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 100g olives in brine, chopped, stones removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Oregano
  • Olive oil
  • 320g spaghetti
  1. Fry the onion in some olive oil.
  2. Add the passata, the olives and the capers. Season with salt and pepper and add a good pinch of oregano.
  3. Cook over a low heat for half an hour.
  4. Mix with the cooked pasta and serve.
Spaghetti with olives finished dish

Spaghetti with olives finished dish

Sun dried tomato struzzichini

In Italy it is regarded as essential to eat something if you are drinking.  Only a reckless madman (or uncouth foreigner) would ever consider not doing so. 🙂 Struzzichini are little snacks to go with your drink. It might be something as simple as a bowl of peanuts or something  more elaborate, like the following dish. In Lombardy the bars compete to provide the best selection. There is one bar I used to go to in Bergamo that served such a large variety that I very rarely had any appetite for a meal after my apperitivo. If you are using tomatoes preserved in oil, you of course don’t need to soak them. It’s worth doing with the dry variety though if you can find them.

Sun dried tomato struzzichini ingredients

Sun dried tomato struzzichini ingredients

  • Sun dried tomatoes – soaked for an hour in a mixture of water and vinegar
  • Olives – stoned and cut into slivers
  • Capers – soaked for a few minutes and drained
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Anchovy fillets
  • Olive oil
Assembling the struzzichini

Assembling the struzzichini

  1. Drain the tomatoes and dress with olive oil.
  2. On top of each tomato place 2 capers, a piece of anchovy, a sliver of olive and basil leaf.
  3. Roll up and secure with a tooth pick.
Sun dried tomato struzzichini finished dish

Sun dried tomato struzzichini finished dish

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes

Spaghetti zucchine e gamberetti. I cooked this to use up the leftover prawns from yesterday’s trip to the  fish market. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes ingredients

  • 320g spaghetti
  • 300g medium prawns, legs and antenae removed.
  • 1tbsp capers – soaked for a few minutes and drained.
  • 3 small or 1 large courgette -sliced thinly into rounds or quartered lengthways and sliced into quadrants if large.
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • Tomato sauce or passata
  • A pinch of dried thyme
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the onion gently in the oil until it starts to soften.
  2. Add the tomato sauce, the capers and the thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile fry the courgettes gently in olive oil until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the prawns to the tomato sauce and cook for a further few minutes until the prawns are cooked.
  5. At the last minute add the courgetttes to the sauce.
  6. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti until al dente.
  7. Dress the pasta with the sauce and serve.

Spaghetti with prawns and courgettes 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

 

Tuna loaf

Polpettone di tonno ai capperi. This is the favourite dish of Macio, one of my friends from Bergamo. He always cooks it when he has guests. It comes from Sale & Pepe, one of the better food magazines. It can be served as an antipasto or a main course. When I made it I didn’t process the paste long enough, so the loaf was a bit loose. It was delicious though. Serves 4 as a main course 8-10 as an antipasto.

Tuna loaf ingredients

Tuna loaf ingredients

  • 2 200g tins of tuna in brine
  • 2 egg whites
  • 20g grated grana or parmesan
  • 2 tbsp capers in vinegar
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  1. Drain the tuna and mash with a fork.
  2. Combine the tuna, egg whites, grana, the zest of the lemon and the drained anchovy fillets and whiz in a food processor until you get a uniform paste. Mix in the whole capers.
  3. Soak a sheet of grease proof paper in water for a couple of minutes and lay it flat on the work surface.
  4. Place the tuna mix onto the centre of the paper and form into a thick sausage shape. It help if you do this with wet hands.

  5. Roll up the paper and twist the ends to form a ‘Christmas cracker’ shape. Tie the ends with kitchen string.

    Tuna loaf ready to cook

    Tuna loaf ready to cook

    Poach the roll in just boiling water for 45 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

  6. When ready to serve, unwrap the loaf and cut into 1-2 cm rounds.
  7. Make a dressing by mixing the olive oil, the juice from the lemon, chopped basil leaves and a pinch of salt.
  8. Serve with green salad leaves (rocket, lambs lettuce etc. anything you fancy)
Tuna loaf

Tuna loaf