Rabbit alla cacciatore

bergamo crestConiglio alla Cacciatore or Huntsman’s Rabbit. When I lived in Bergamo the Sunday lunch was usually roast rabbit with polenta. I was regularly woken at seven in the morning by my neighbour grinding his polenta under my bedroom window. I’m sure he did it on purpose (we didn’t get on that well 😉 ) I see that rabbit is coming back into fashion in the UK, so I thought I’d share this recipe. It’s not roast rabbit, but another common Bergamasco dish. You can use any type of mushroom, even porcini if your bank balance will stand it. Serves 4

Rabbit with mushrooms ingredients

Rabbit with mushrooms ingredients

  • 1 rabbit cut into portions
  • 400 g mushrooms
  • 100 g passata
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 100 ml chicken stock
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Chop the carrot and celery into small strips and thinly slice the onion.
  2. Add to a pan with 3 tbsp of olive oil and cook over a medium heat until the onions start to go translucent.
  3. Add the rabbit pieces and brown. Sprinkle them with the flour.
  4. Thinly slice the mushrooms and sautĂš them in a separate pan with the rest of the olive oil and the whole, lightly crushed clove of garlic. Cook until they are well coloured and start to give off their juice.
  5. Add to the pan with the rabbit and add the wine. Cook over a high heat until the wine has reduced by half.
  6. Add the passata and stock, season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about and hour over a low to medium heat.
  7. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with polenta.
Rabbit with mushrooms

Rabbit with mushrooms


Spaghetti with courgettes

Spaghetti con le zucchine. Serves 4

  • 360g spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 small onion,peeled
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 stick celery
  • 3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 350g courgettes, thinly sliced
  • 150g mozzarella, diced finely
  • 25g parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • Heat the oil in a pan. Add the whole garlic clove, the whole onion, the sage leaves and the stick of celery and cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium. When boiling add the courgettes. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for around 15 minutes.
  • Remove the garlic, onion, celery and sage and discard.
  • Cook the spaghetti, drain and the toss first with the sauce, then the mozzarella and finally with the parmesan.

Ragu alla Bolognese – Authentic recipe

Bologna crestIn truth there probably isn’t one authentic recipe for Ragu alla Bolognese, but this one is close enough. There are however countless inauthentic ones. It bears little or no resemblance to the dish known as Bolognese or Bolognaise found outside of Italy. It is also never served with Spaghetti!

On October 17, 1982, the Bolognese chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, “after having carried out long and laborious investigations and conducted studies and research”, announced the following recipe to be the official one. I’m sure that every family in Emilia Romagna has their own version though. Serves 4.

  • 400 grams fresh tagliatelle or fettucine
  • 300 grams minced beef – The recommended cut is thin flank aka skirt (finta cartella in Italian) but any good quality mince will do.
  • 150 grams unsmoked pancetta — minced very finely
  • 50 grams carrot — finely chopped or minced
  • 50 grams celery — finely chopped or minced
  • 50 grams onion — finely chopped or minced
  • 30 grams triple concentrated tomato purĂ©e(if using double concentrated, increase the quantity by about a third,  purĂ©e is known as “tomato paste” in the US)
  • 1/2 glass red or white wine
  • 180 ml fresh milk
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Fry the pancetta gently in a little olive oil until it starts to release its fat. Be careful not to burn.
  2. Add the vegetables and fry until the onions are transparent, stirring from time to time.
  3. Add the beef and cook until it is lightly browned. When it starts to make popping noises, it’s done.
  4. Add the tomato puree and the wine and mix well.
  5. Add the milk, little by little until it is completely absorbed.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook very slowly for 3 to 4 hours.
  7. Stir occasionally and if it looks like drying out, add a little more milk.
  8. Serve with Fettuccine or Tagliatelle (NOT Spaghetti!)
  9. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side. Alternatively toss the pasta first in a little butter and then in Parmesan before adding the meat sauce.
  • Variation: The Academy allows the addition of Porcini mushrooms.
Bolognese finished dish

Bolognese finished dish

This is a more detailed explanation of the dish from Bologna Cooking School

A ragu Bolognese style is a meat sauce that is slow simmered for at least an hour to develop a complex flavor and proper thickness. Cooking the ragu in a heavy-duty enamel or similar pot will hold the heat steady and help to give a velvety texture to the ragu. Bolognese ragu is a classic sauce for lasagne and tagliatelle. The sauce also freezes beautifully.

Bolognese sauce (ragĂč alla bolognese in Italian) is a meat- and tomato-based pasta sauce originating in Bologna, Italy. It is typically made by simmering ground meat in tomato sauce, white wine, and stock for a long time (often upward of four hours), so that the meat softens and begins to break down into the liquid medium. The original sauce is not done with minced meat; instead, whole meat, usually beef or veal, is chopped with a knife.
Spaghetti alla Bolognese, or spaghetti bolognese which is sometimes further shortened to spag bol, is a dish invented outside of Italy consisting of spaghetti with a meat sauce. In Italy, this sauce is generally not served with spaghetti because it tends to fall off the pasta and stay on the plate. Instead, the people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous meat sauce with tagliatelle (‘tagliatelle alla bolognese). Outside the traditional use, this sauce can be served with tubular pasta or represent the stuffing for lasagna or cannelloni.

While “Bolognese” is undoubtedly the most popular ragĂč in this country, it is also the most misunderstood.
The ragĂč you get by that name is usually a characterless tomato sauce with pea-like bits of ground beef floating in it, bearing little resemblance to anything you’d find in Bologna.
And not, in any sense, a ragĂč.
True ragĂč alla Bolognese contains no tomato sauce — just enough fresh or canned tomato to add a hint of sweetness and another layer of flavor to a subtle, complex mix. Like all ragĂčs, Bolognese is characterized by its long, slow cooking, which in this case starts with simmering the meat in milk (to mellow the acidity of the raw tomatoes added later) and wine (some use white, others red), after which the tomatoes are added. The whole lot is cooked together for about two hours

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

Soused chicken breasts

Petti di pollo in carpione. I got this recipe from the English translation of il cucchiaio d’argento – The Silver Spoon. This book is I think on the whole a clever marketing trick. It is a 1950s cookbook with a few modern recipes tacked on the end. Add to that an appalling translation, don’t trust any measurements! The recipes still appear in the original Italian alphabetical order even though they have been translated into English. I have met some people who have heard of it here, a bit like the good housekeeping books in the UK, but I have yet to find anybody who has used it. It can be useful for ideas if you already know what you are doing. The following recipe is in fact very nice 🙂 Serves 4

Soused chicken breasts ingredients

Soused chicken breasts ingredients

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast portions
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 g breadcrumbs
  • 25 g butter(or use all oil)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (I usually use much less)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 350 ml white wine vinegar
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 4 fresh sage leaves (or a teaspoon of dried)
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • salt and pepper
  1. Beat the chicken with a meat mallet until evenly thin.
  2. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt in a dish, add the chicken and leave to stand for 15 minutes. Spread out the breadcrumbs in a shallow dish. Drain the chicken and dip in the breadcrumbs to coat.
  3. Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan, add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes until golden brown on both sides.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in another pan, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the vinegar and wine and bring to the boil, then immediately remove from the heat and add the sage and garlic.
  5. Place the chicken in a dish, pour the hot marinade over it, leave to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Soused chicken breasts

Nonna Stella’s Pesto

This recipe is not for what we normally think of as ‘pesto’. A huge number of Italian sauces start with what’s known as a ‘soffritto’. Usually that means finely chopped onions, carrots ,celery, and possibly garlic. Nonna Stella prepares her soffritto in advance and keeps it in a jar in the fridge. She also adds celery leaves, parsley and basil to the mix. When you need to make a sauce, let’s say for example a tomato sauce, all you need to do is fry a couple of tablespoons of the pesto for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes. Cook it down for ten minutes and you’re done. Fast food Italian style 🙂 . This is possibly the most useful recipe I’ve picked up. It will keep almost indefinitely in the fridge, if you remember to keep it covered with about a centimeter of oil.

pesto ingredients

You’ll need:-

  • Good olive oil
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Celery (Including leaves if possible)
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • The quantities are a matter of taste, but I use roughly equal quantities of onions and carrots and halve the quantity of celery.
  1. Peel the onions and carrots.
  2. Roughly chop the onions, carrotts and celery and whizz in a food processor, adding a little oil from time to time, until you have a smooth paste.
  3. Add a good handful each of celery leaves, basil and parsley and process again, adding more oil when necessary, until the herbs are incorporated into the paste.
  4. Transfer to a clean jar, a traditional pickle jar would be ideal, and pour a least a centimeter of oil on top.
    Keep in the fridge until needed.

pesto finished

Here’s Nonna Stella herself to show you how it’s done.

The pesto will only be as good as the ingredients you use. Above all, use the best olive oil you can find. Nonna Stella is very proud of the oil produced by her grandson in Cassano. They don’t have to buy oil in her house. I wish I had a supply 🙂


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