Garlic soup

Garlic soup finished dish

Garlic soup finished dish

Zuppa di aglio. Versions of this soup exist all over the world. I used to live in the Czech Republic and česnečka was said to be a fantastic cure for a hangover ;) It is best made with new season “wet” garlic, but regular dried garlic will give good results. Use very good stock, it will be so much better than cubes. It can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and a vegetarian cheese. Serves 4.

Garlic soup ingredients

Garlic soup ingredients

  • 1 litre of good chicken stock
  • 100g garlic about 2 or 3 heads, peeled and finely diced
  • 200g potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 slices rustic white bread, toasted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 60g parmesan or grana
  1. Simmer the garlic and potato in the stock for about 20 minutes. The garlic and potato should be very tender.
  2. Liquidize until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut a clove of garlic in half and rub the cut side on both side of the toast. This will produce quite a strong garlic flavour, so be careful. If you prefer a mild flavour, leave out this step altogether.
  4. Drizzle the toast with olive oil, put a slice into each bowl, pour the hot soup on top and sprinkle with parmesan.

Swiss chard frittata

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Frittata di bietole. This is one of the myriad of  recipes for frittate or Italian style omelettes. If you can’t find swiss chard, fresh spinach would be a good substitute.

Swiss chard frittata ingredients

Swiss chard frittata ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 kg of swiss chard, only the green leaves, use the stalks for something else.
  • 1 clove  of garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • A handful of fresh marjoram leaves or about a teaspoon of dried (optional)
  • 100g of grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
Swiss chard frittata prepared

Swiss chard frittata prepared

Fry the whole clove of garlic and the finely chopped onion gently in a little olive oil. After a few minutes, when the clove is lightly brown, remove it and discard. Add the chard and marjoram if used. Season with salt and pepper. Cook gently for a few minutes until the chard is completely wilted. You don’t have to add any water, the water left clinging to the leaves after washing should be enough.

Swiss chard frittata wilting chard

Swiss chard frittata wilting chard

Allow to cool and squeeze out as much water as possible. Mix together the lightly beaten eggs, the chard and the cheese.

Swiss chard frittata ready to cook

Swiss chard frittata ready to cook

Heat a large frying pan to a medium. Add a couple of table spoons of oil an add the egg mixture. Fry until the top has started to set.

Swiss chard frittata ready to turn

Swiss chard frittata ready to turn

Flip the frittata by placing a large plate on top. Turn out onto the plate and then slide back into the pan. Finish off for a couple of minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Swiss chard frittata finished dish

Bagna cauda

Bagna caoda fished dish

Bagna caoda fished dish

Piedmont-flagBagna caôda.From Piemonte. The rough translation of title is “hot bath” , which in my opinion is always preferable to a cold one :-) This dish is well known outside of Italy, but as is often the case it often is very different from the original. It is basically a warm anchovy and garlic dip for raw vegetables. These are two of my favourite things, so it’s one of my favourite antipasti. A lot of versions include milk or cream, but these are not found in the original Piemonte version

Bagna caoda ingredients

Bagna caoda ingredients

  • About 6 anchovy fillets per person. Salted are best, but tinned in oil will do. Soak them in a little white wine.
  • Garlic (from 2 or 3 cloves per person up to a whole head)
  • Olive oil, the best you can find, about 1/2 a wine glass per person. Only olive oil will do.
  • About 20 g of unsalted butter per person.
  • 1 egg per person(optional)

To serve, dip vegetables into the mixture. The recipe I have is very prescriptive and says you can only use vegetables that are in season and grow in Piedmont. I think this is going a bit far though. Some suggestions on what to serve with the Bagna Cauda (raw unless otherwise stated):-

  • Fresh bread
  • potatoes cooked in their skins and then peeled
  • Peppers roasted and peeled or raw
  • Onions boiled or baked
  • Sliced apples
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Jerusalem artichokes (raw or cooked))
  • Fennel
  • Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
  • Endive
  • Celery
  • Courgettes
  • Small globe artichoke
  • Cardoons
  • Cucumber
  • Radicchio
  • Asparagus
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Spring onions
  • Small whole mushrooms
Bagna caoda vegetables

Bagna caoda vegetables

Slice the garlic very thinly and soak it in cold water for a couple of hours. Some recipes call for it to be boiled in milk, but I think this is unnecessary.

Add all the ingredients to an earthenware pot along with a small ladle of oil and cook very slowly for about half an hour. Don’t let the garlic brown. Stir it constantly with a wooden spoon. When the anchovies and garlic have dissolved into the sauce, add the rest of the oil.

Bring the pot to the table and keep it warm with some kind heat source.  You can buy special pots for this purpose, but fondue sets work well. Serve it with your selection of vegetables.

When you have had your fill of vegetables you can add a beaten egg to what’s left in the pot.

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

Osso bucco with risotto

Ossobucco finished dish

Ossobucco finished dish

MilanoOssibuchi con il risotto. From Milan. Veal has gone out of fashion in the UK at the moment. It never did in the Italy because they don’t use the “crate” method. Italians are more practical when it comes to food. The aversion to “white” veal has nothing to do with ethics, it doesn’t taste as nice. This is one of the most famous Italian veal dishes. In my opinion the best bit of the dish is the marrow, which I always save until the end. Serves 4.

Ossobucco finished dish

Ossobucco finished dish

  • 4 slices of veal shank with the bone in the centre (ossibuchi)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • optional: 1 small stick of celery
  • 30g butter
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Plain flour for dusting
  • Parsley
  • The zest of half a lemon
  • Dry white wine
  • A little beef stock.

For the risotto

  • 320g risotto rice
  • 1 small glass of dry white wine
  • 50g butter
  • 1 small onion
  • 1.5 litres of beef stock
  • 1 sachet of saphron
  • 4 tablespoons of grana padano
  1. Fry the onion (and the celery if used) and the whole garlic clove, over a low heat, for a few minutes in the butter until softened.  Remove the garlic before serving( if you want a stronger garlic flavour, chop the clove and fry it along with the onion).
  2. Lightly flour the veal slices and add them to the onions. Fry them on both sides until they are lightly browned. Be careful not to disturb the marrow in the centre of the bone.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the glass of wine. Let it almost completely evaporate.
  4. Add a ladle of hot stock, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes until tender.
  5. Cook the risotto using the usual method, adding the saffron along with the last ladle of stock.
  6. When the veal is cooked add the chopped lemon zest, half a clove of chopped garlic(optional) and chopped parsley (gremolata) and serve on top of the risotto.

Baked mussels

Cozze ripiene gratinate. This is quite an unusual mussel recipe. Mussels baked on the half shell are a very common antipasto here, but this recipe treats them a bit like the French scallop dish coquilles saint-jacques. They are baked with white sauce, cheese and wine. Serves 4 as a main course, many more as part of an antipasto.

Baked mussels finished dish

Baked mussels finished dish

Baked mussels ingredients

Baked mussels ingredients

Clean the mussels well. Place them in a pan along with half the clove of garlic, a sprig of parsley and the wine. Open the mussels by placing the pan over a high heat. Drain the mussels and filter and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove them from their shells.

Baked mussels opened with cooking liquid

Baked mussels opened with cooking liquid

Mix the mussel meat with 2 tbsp of olive oil, a chopped sprig of parsley, the rest of the garlic, chopped and a tbsp of the cooking liquid. Season with pepper.

Baked mussels removed from their shells

Baked mussels removed from their shells

Place each mussel on a half shell.

Baked mussels on the half shell

Baked mussels on the half shell

Mix together the white sauce, the egg yolk and a couple of tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Top each shell with some of the mixture.

Baked mussels with white sauce

Baked mussels with white sauce

Sprinkle breadcrumbs on the top and bake at 190°c for 15 minutes.

Bergamo style Casoncelli

Casonsei alla Bergamasca. When I lived in Bergamo we used to drive up into the mountains once or twice a year to eat polenta taragna. The starter was invariably casoncelli, or casonsei in the bergamasco dialect. Slightly sweet filled pasta dressed with sage and pancetta.  Makes a generous 8 servings.

Casoncelli finished dish

Casoncelli finished dish

For the pasta:-

  • 400 g 00 flour
  • 100 g durum wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
Mix together all the ingredients along with enough water to make a dough. Knead until smooth. Let it rest for half an hour or so and then roll out into reasonably thick sheets. A hand cranked pasta machine will be a great help with this.
Casoncelli filling ingredients

Casoncelli filling ingredients

For the filling:-

  • 125 g dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 70 g grated grana
  • 150 g sausage meat or minced pork
  • 100 g cooked roast beef
  • 1 amaretti biscuit
  • 10 g sultanas
  • 1/2 medium pear
  • Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Chop all the ingredients together in a food processor to make a smooth paste.
Method 1
This method is used by people who need to prepare large quantities.
Cut the sheet of pasta in half lengthways.
Casoncelli pasta

Casoncelli pasta

Place a teaspoon of the filling at regular interval at regular intervals along the strip of pasta.
Casoncelli pasta with filling

Casoncelli pasta with filling

Fold over the pasta and press down to seal. Try to exclude as much air as possible to avoid them bursting when cooked.
Casoncelli folded pasta

Casoncelli folded pasta

Separate the pasta using a round pastry cutter. You should have a half moon shape.
Casoncelli half moons

Casoncelli half moons

Turn the half moon on its side and flatten it a little with your thumb.
Casoncelli shaped

Casoncelli shaped

Method 2
This method takes a little longer, but is a little easier if you haven’t had a bit of practice.
Cut out 7 cm discs of pasta using a pastry cutter. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre of each disc. Fold over and seal to form a half moon shape. Continue as in method 1.
Cook the casoncelli in plenty of salted water. Meanwhile fry the pancetta and sage in the butter until it is well flavoured. Serve the pasta dressed in the butter and topped with the grana.
Casoncelli dressing

Casoncelli dressing

To dress the pasta:-

  • 80 g butter
  • 100 g cubed pancetta
  • 100 g grated grana
  • A few sage leaves

Aubergine parmigiana

Parmigiana di melanzane. From Puglia. This is a really common dish here. It takes a bit of time to prepare, so it tends to be a celebration dish. It’s worth the effort though. Lots of people, even Jamie Oliver, assume it’s a northern dish because of it’s name. It is in fact named after the cheese not the city and is a southern dish.He also says to grill the aubergines rather than fry them. I’ve tried it this way and although the dish is undoubtedly less calorific,  I think the taste suffers considerably.  The dish is claimed by Puglia, Campania and Sicily and possibly other regions as their own.  I’ve seen similar recipes from the states called “eggplant lasagne” even though it contains no béchamel sauce or … erm … lasagne. Even though it’s a vegetarian dish it’s quite heavy so I wouldn’t recommend eating it too often. Serves at least 6 as a main course, many more as part of an antipasto.

Aubergine parmigiana

Aubergine parmigiana

  • 1.5 kg aubergines
  • 700 g tomato pulp or passata
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g grated parmesan
  • 400 g mozzarella cut into small cubes
  • Flour
  • Basil, about 10 leaves torn into pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, whole
  • Olive oil
  1. Wash and dry the aubergines. Slice into 5 mm rounds. Dust with flour. Dip in the eggs and fry for a minutes in olive oil. Drain on kitchen paper.
  2. Fry the clove of garlic in 4 table spoons of olive oil until it is brown. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the garlic.
  3. Cover the bottom of an oven proof dish with tomato sauce. Add a layer aubergines. Add a layer of mozzarella and then parmesan. Repeat until all the aubergine is used up. Finish with a layer of aubergines covered with tomato sauce and parmesan.
  4. Bake for 1 hour at 200°c. If the top starts to get too brown, cover it with aluminium foil.
Aubergine parmigiana finished dish

Aubergine parmigiana finished dish

Pesto Genovese – Official recipe

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

Pesto Genovese Ingredients

Pesto Genovese Ingredients

  • 50g of basil leaves (from Genoa of course)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (from Liguria)
  • 6 Tbsp grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
  • 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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Add the pine kernel and grind some more.
  4. Add the cheese and mix well.
  5. Add the oil, little by little, until the pesto has the right consistency – a matter of taste.
  6. 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.
Pesto Genovese finished dish

Pesto Genovese finished dish

Spaghetti with Gurnard

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

  • 320g spaghetti
  • 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)
  • Olive oil
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Flake the fish taking care to remove all the bones.
  4. Mince together the lemon zest, the garlic and the parsley.
  5. 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.
  6. Cook the spaghetti in the stock until al dente
  7. Just before the spaghetti is done, add the minced ingredients and the tomatoes to the fish and warm through.
  8. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan with the fish. Mix well and cook for a further minute or so.
  9. Serve immediately.

spaghetti with gurnard finished dish

Gratinated mussels

Cozze gratinate. From Puglia. I wanted to try this recipe to see if it makes a difference cooking the mussels from raw, rather than opening them in a hot pan first. I have to say it does! They were much nicer. Use a short knife to open the mussels over a bowl to catch the liquid. I still need a bit of pratice, but I was getting it towards the end. Serves 4 as a main course, more as an antipasto.

Gratinated mussels ingredients

  • 1 kg mussels – well cleaned and opened on the half shell (reserve the liquid)
  • 100g dry breadcrumbs
  • 100g parmesan – grated
  • A few sprigs of parsley – finely chopped
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A clove of garlic – finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  1. Mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, oregano, parsley and garlic.
  2. Arrange the mussels on a baking tray and top each one with a little of the mixture.
  3. Put a few drops of the mussel liquid on to of each one and drizzle with olive oli.
  4. An alternative method is to mix the mussel liquid in to the breadcrumb mix to form a dryish paste. Press a little of the paste into each mussel and drizzle with oil as before.
  5. Grill the mussels until they are golden brown and sizzling.

Gratinated mussels finished dish

Neapolitan meatloaf – Authentic recipe

Napoli crestPolpettone alla napoletana. This is a tasty and economical recipe. In Naples it is also known as ‘polpettone in salsetta’ – meatloaf in sauce. The sauce is used to dress pasta for the first course and the meat is eaten as the second course. The recipe calls for buffalo mozzarella and Neapolitan salami, but I’m sure it would be fine with whatever you have handy. Thank to Gino for the advice. Serves 4-6.

Meatloaf ingredients

Meatloaf ingredients

  • 500g minced beef
  • 4 eggs
  • 50g cooked ham (about 2 slices)
  • 50g Neapolitan salami (optional)
  • 40g parmesan, grated
  • 40g pecorino, grated
  • 50g buffalo mozzarella, sliced (not too fresh)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, whole but lightly crushed
  • Flour
  • 100g stale bread
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 50g concentrated tomato puree
  • A large sprig of basil, torn
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hardboil 2 of the eggs and allow them to cool.Slice them thinly.
  • Moisten the bread with a little cold water and break into small pieces.
  • Mix together the meat, the raw eggs, the bread, the parmesan, the pecorino and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Knead with your hands until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Spread the paste on a square of kitchen paper to form a 2cm thick rectangle.  Cover with the slices of ham, the salami, the mozzarella and the sliced eggs.
Meatloaf with filling

Meatloaf with filling

    • Using the kitchen paper to help, roll up, pressing together firmly, to form the meatloaf.
meatloaf ready to cook

meatloaf ready to cook

    • Dust with flour and fry the loaf in olive oil in a large pan until it is browned on all sides. Lower the heat, cover and continue cooking for 30 minutes.
    • In a seperate pan, fry the garlic for a few minutes in 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, the tomato puree mixed with a little water, the basil and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes.
    • Add the tomato sauce to the meatloaf and cook for a further 30 minutes.
    • When the meatloaf is cooked, remove it from the sauce and allow it to cool slightly. Slice into 1-2cm slices and serve with a little of the tomato sauce.
Meatloaf with tomato sauce

Meatloaf with tomato sauce

The best baked ziti ever!

puglia crestIMHO :-) Pasta al forno Pugliese. Baked pasta is popular all over Italy. This version comes from Puglia. It uses Scamorza cheese instead of mozzarella. If you can’t find scamorza you can use mozzarella, but make sure it’s not too fresh as it will make the dish too wet. Actually, that probably wouldn’t be a problem outside Italy ;-) It is traditionally made with pecorino, but nowadays most people use parmesan. There is a lighter meatless version that leaves out the meatballs. Thanks to Grazia and Tiziana for the advice. Serves 6

Baked ziti ingredients

Baked ziti ingredients

  • 500g mezzi ziti or rigatoni
  • 200g scamorza cheese, finely diced
  • 50g pecorino Romano or parmesan
  • 800g passata
  • 1 onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the meatballs:

Meatballs ingredients

Meatballs ingredients

  • 250g minced beef
  • 50g pecorino Romano or parmesan
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 medium eggs
  • sprig of parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
    • Make a tomato sauce by frying the onion for a few minutes in plenty of olive oil. Add the passata, season and cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes.
    • Make the meatballs by mixing all the ingredients together. Form into small balls about the size of a hazelnut. Fry in olive oil until well browned. Drain on kitchen paper.
  • fried meatballs

    fried meatballs

    • Boil the pasta until it is very al dente, two or three minutes less than the usual cooking time.  Dress with a couple of ladles of the tomato sauce and half the parmesan.
    • To assemble the dish take a high sided baking tray and put a layer of the pasta in the bottom. Cover with tomato sauce and sprinkle with meatballs, diced scamorza, and parmesan.
  • partially assenbled dish

    partially assenbled dish

  • Continue until you have used up all the pasta. The last layer should be pasta covered with tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with parmesan
  • Assembled dish
  • Bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes.
Baked ziti

Baked ziti

Spaghetti with tuna

Spaghetti con il tonno. This is a good store cupboard standby. Serves 4

Spaghetti with tuna ingredients

Spaghetti with tuna ingredients

  • 360 grams spaghetti
  • 1 clove garlic — peeled
  • 80 grams tin of tuna — drained and flaked
  • 3 tablespoons concentrated tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a pan, add the garlic, cook until browned and remove and discard.
  2. Add the tuna and mix well.
  3. Loosen the tomato puree with a couple of tablespoons of warm water and add to the pan and stir well. Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve with the cooked spaghetti.
Spaghetti with tuna finished dish

Spaghetti with tuna finished dish

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.