Pan brioche. This is a nice, versatile recipe, similar to the French brioche. The sweet version is perfect for an Italian breakfast with a cappuccino, and the savoury version is good for almost every other occasion. Use your favourite jam for the sweet version, and your favourite type of ham and cheese for the savoury version. Many thanks to Michaela for the recipe.
500g oo flour
70g unsalted butter
1 egg white (use the yolk to brush the brioche)
1 cube fresh yeast, or 1 sachet of dried.
1 pinch of salt
250ml lukewarm milk
Mozzarella, smoked mozzarella (scamorza), or any cheese you prefer.
Ham, raw ham (prosciutto crudo) or speck. Jam for the sweet version.
Dissolve the yeast in the milk. Mix together with all the other ingredients.
Knead the mixture until smooth, about 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into two parts and roll each half into rectangle about 5mm thick. Top with the cheese and ham.
Spread with jam for the sweet version.
Roll up and brush with egg yolk, sprinkle the sweet version with sugar.
This dish, paradoxically, is from Naples. It is a bit of an institution there. Many families cook it for Sunday lunch. It is a type of “white” ragù, that is it is cooked for a long time without tomatoes. It will taste even better if you make it the day before, and heat it up before serving. It is usually served with ziti, broken in half, but any tubular pasta, such as penne or rigatoni will do. Some versions cook the beef as a whole piece, and serve the meat as the main course, but this recipe cooks it until it breaks down into the sauce.
The origins of the name are a bit of a mystery. Some say it was first prepared in the port of Naples, where it was popular with sailors from Genoa. Others say it is a dish originally prepared by cooks from Genoa.
500 g beef (topside or rump)
450 g onions
60 g celery
60 g carrots
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 litre beef stock
Finely chop the carrots and celery and thinly slice the onions.
Genovese chopped veg
Chop the beef into large cubes.
Saute the carrot and celery for a few minutes in a pan big enough to take all the beef.
Genovese browning veg
When they have taken some colour, turn down the heat and add the onions. Stir With a wooden spoon until the onions have softened.
Add the beef, rosemary and bay leaf. Cook over a very low heat for at least 3 hours. Check every half and hour or so, and add a little stock if it starts to get dry.
Genovese adding beef
After 3 hours add the rest of the stock and continue cooking until the beef has completely disintegrated and the sauce is thick and tasty.
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.
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.
From Lazio. What is Carbonara? If You ask an Englishman they’ll probably tell you it’s a dish prepared with cream and ham! Nooooooo!!!!! 😉 More crimes against Italian food have been committed under the name of Carbonara than any other dish.
So, in an attempt to set the records straight, I present the authentic recipe (as deposited in the archive of Acadamia Italiana della Cucina). No cream! No ham! And don’t you dare cook the eggs! 🙂 Serves 6.
600 grams spaghetti or bucatini
120 grams guanciale or pancetta — diced or cut into strips
Cook the guanciale in a pan along with the whole peeled garlic clove and a little oil, until the guanciale is well coloured. Discard the garlic.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with a little of the cheese and a pinch of salt.
Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pan with the guanciale.
Lower the heat to a minimum and add the egg mixture. Mix well. Be careful not to let the eggs set. If the dish is a little dry, beat in a little of the pasta cooking water. This is not mentioned by the academy, but some people say it’s essential for the “creaminess” of the sauce.
Remove from the heat and add the rest of the cheese. Mix again and serve immediately.
Here’s a quote from Kate/Susan over at Kate, Katie, Susan, Sue who cooked the recipe as part of an Italian evening.
“That carbonara was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, certainly the best pasta dish I’ve ever eaten. I would rank it above lasagna in my estimation.”
The bottom line… carbonara typically feels too heavy and sickening after a while because of the addition of cream (an American adulteration). The egg way produces a much lighter, more palatable dish. And it was really the best carbonara I’ve ever had, ever. I tend to serially order carbonara at Italian restaurants because it is by far my favourite pasta, and I’ve had a lot of carbonara, but I feel like I can’t have it with cream any more after trying this.
Spaghetti all’ amatriciana. From Lazio. This is another Italian classic. Pasta with pancetta (or guanciale if you want to be really authentic), tomatoes and chilli. It is more traditionally served with bucatini, but is just as often served with spaghetti. Serves 4.
Heat a little oil in a pan. Add the pancetta and chilli and cook until the pancetta is lightly browned.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook over a low heat for around 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to minimum and stir in the cream. Cook very gently until the sauce starts to thicken – about 5 minutes.
Cook the pasta, drain and add to the sauce. Cook for 30 seconds or so, stirring all the time, to allow the pasta to take up the sauce.
Spaghetti al pomodoro crudo. This is a really good dish for a hot summer’s day. It’s only worth doing if you can find really ripe, tasty tomatoes though. If all you can find are the usual UK supermarket version ie. hard as a golf ball and flavourless – don’t bother 😉 Serves 4.
500g ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
10 basil leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic,peeled
salt and pepper
Put the tomatoes into a large bowl along with the oil, whole garlic and basil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Cover and leave in a cool place to allow the flavours to develop – at least 1 hour but the longer you can leave it the better. Remove the garlic before serving.
Cook the spaghetti until al dente, drain and mix with the sauce.
In 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.
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 (ragù 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 ragù in this country, it is also the most misunderstood.
The ragù 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 ragù.
True ragù 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 ragùs, 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
Fusilli Ai Funghi. This dish works best if you use a mix of different types of mushrooms. To all my Czech wild mushroom hunter friends – this is the perfect recipe :-). It works with any type however, and on this occasion I cooked it with standard field mushrooms. Serves 4.
800g mushrooms (as many different types as possible), chopped
250g tomatoes (tinned, pasatta or fresh – skinned seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sprig parsley, chopped
parmesan cheese, optional
1 knob butter, optional
salt and pepper
Wash and chop the mushrooms. How finely you chop them depends on taste and the varieties you are using. I could only get standard field mushrooms, so I chopped them quite finely.
Fry the onion and mushrooms in olive oil until the mushrooms start to release their liquid.
Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over a low heat for 45 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the parsley.
Cook the fusilli in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and toss with a knob of butter (optional).
Mix the pasta with the mushroom sauce and serve with parmesan cheese on the side.
Fave e cicorie. This is one of the most traditional and most loved dishes from Puglia. The recipe varies from town to town and even from family to family. Many thanks to Grazia from Altamura for her recipe. I don’t know if ‘wild’ chicory is available outside Italy, but if you can find it, this dish is well worth trying.