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.
Simmer the garlic and potato in the stock for about 20 minutes. The garlic and potato should be very tender.
Liquidize until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
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.
Drizzle the toast with olive oil, put a slice into each bowl, pour the hot soup on top and sprinkle with parmesan.
Pizza di patate e prosciutto. From Bari. This is a more complicated version of the traditional potato “pizza”. They call it a pizza here, but that name is quite confusing as it does not contain any bread or flour. To confuse matters further it is also known as Torta di patate or Gateau di patate in various regions. It is basically a potato pie filled with ham and spinach. The ham can easily be left out to make it vegetarian (if you are careful about what cheese you use of course). It can be eaten warm or cold and will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days. It also freezes well. Serves about 8 as a main course.
Potato pizza ingredients
1.2 kg floury potatoes.
250g scamorza, provola or mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced.
Cook the potatoes in their skins in lightly salted water. Drain and peel when cool enough to handle.
Potato pizza cooking potatoes
Mash the potatoes and mix with the egg yolks and parmesan.
Potato pizza mixed with cheese
Fry the whole garlic clove for a few minutes in a little olive oil. Remove and add the spinach. There should be enough water clinging to the leaves after washing. Add a little salt and couple of grates of nutmeg. Cook over a medium heat until the spinach has completely wilted. Leave to cool and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Potato pizza cooking spinach
Grease a 24cm cake tin and dust with bread crumbs. Use 2/3 of the potato to make the base of the pizza. Build up the sides a little to contain the filling. Add the spinach.
Potato pizza with spinach
Add the ham
Potato pizza with ham
Cover with the cheese
Potato pizza with cheese
Close the pizza with the remaining 1/3 of the potato. Cover the top with bread crumbs and dot liberally with knobs of butter.
Potato pizza ready for the oven
Bake in an oven preheated to 200°c for 50 minutes.
Bagna 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
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):-
potatoes cooked in their skins and then peeled
Peppers roasted and peeled or raw
Onions boiled or baked
Jerusalem artichokes (raw or cooked))
Cauliflower (raw or cooked)
Small globe artichoke
Small whole mushrooms
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.
Potato Gnocchi don’t come from one particular region in Italy, but they are more of a northern thing. A sort of pasta for potato lovers. They are fairly easy, although time consuming to make. You can however freeze the gnocchi. Cook from frozen for 6-7 minutes. Some people like to make ridges using a fork, grater or a special tool. I don’t bother as this takes ages and I don’t think it adds much to the dish.
1 kg potatoes
300 g 00 flour
salt and pepper
Put the unpeeled potatoes into cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until tender.
Peel using a kitchen towel to protect your hands from the hot potatoes.
Mash the potatoes preferably using a potato ricer or vegetable mill.
Add the egg and mix quickly to avoid it cooking from the residual heat in the potato.
Add the flour and knead until you get a smooth dough. This shouldn’t take too long.
Break off a fist sized piece of dough and roll out a sausage about 3cm wide. Cut into 2cm pieces.
To cook, tip the gnocchi into boiling salted water. They are ready when they have all floated to the surface.
Drain the gnocchi and toss with a little olive oil to stop them sticking together.
Serve the gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce or maybe plain with a little parmesan.
Pizza di Patate. From Bari.This is another recipe from Nonna Stella. Calling it a pizza is a bit misleading as no bread or flour is involved. It is basically mashed potato baked with a cheese filling. Serves about 6 as a side dish.
Potato pizza ingredients
• 800 g potatoes
• 150 g scamorza or mozzarella
• 2 eggs
• About 50 g Grana padano or Parmesan
• Dry breadcrumbs
Boil and mash the potatoes. I prefer to boil them whole and unpeeled, allow them to cool for a few minutes and then peel.
Add the eggs and Grana to the potatoes and mix well.
Well grease a pizza tin or spring form cake tin with butter. Dust the tin with breadcrumbs.
Spread half of the potato mix over the base. Cover with the grated scamorza or mozzarella. Finally add the rest of the potato to form a layer over the cheese.
Sprinke the top of the pizza with some more dry breadcrumbs and dot with small knobs of butter.
Bake at 200°C for about 30 minutes. The pizza is ready when the top is nicely brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin.
This is another tiella recipe from Bari. It’s not completely traditional as the mussels are not raw when added to the tiella, but if you don’t fancy opening all those mussels it’s a fair approximation. I’ll post the ‘authentic’ recipe later.
Boil the rice until al dente. Reserve some of the cooking liquid.
Heat the mussels in a pan with a little oil and the chopped garlic. When they have opened, remove from the pan. Strain and reserve the liquid. Remove the top shell from each mussel.
Assemble the tiella in a ovenproof dish. Make layers of the ingredients in the following order – potatoes, rice, onions, tomatoes, a little cheese, parsley. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used up, finishing with a layer of potatoes.
Pour the liquid from the mussels over the tiella. Add some of the cooking liquid from the rice so that the level of liquid comes about two thirds of the way up the dish. Season well with pepper (not salt as the mussel liquid will be quite salty). Drizzle olive oil on top.
Bake uncovered for around 35 minutes at 180C. Add a layer of mussels in the half shells, drizzle on a little more oil and return to the oven for 10 minutes.