Parmigiana di Melanzane (Aubergine)

A simple and humble dish that leaves you wanting more, every time.

One of my family and friends all-time comfort food. I have read and tried countless Parmigiana di Melanzane recipes and researched on its origin, yet I am nowhere close to finding the truth.

Some Italians argue that this is a Northern dish with cheese that originated from Parma. Hence it is called ‘Parmigiana di Melanzane’ others say that the traditional preparation of this dish originates from Naples, the cooking preparation is classic to Napoli, but the Sicilians have a very different viewpoint. One of which is that the recipe is not from Parma in Northern Italy where Parmigiano cheese is from instead the dish got its name from ‘parmiciana’, the equivalent in Sicilian dialect to “Persian,” and therefore the dish’s name did not derive from Parmigiano cheese of Parma. Food authorities, food writers and critics argue that the dish must be of Sicilian origin since aubergine first came to Sicily and that throughout the fourteenth-century Parmigiano was a widely traded cheese and found throughout Italy including Naples, Sicily and Calabria. Therefore, although the dish contained Parmigiano cheese from Parma, it is not a Northern dish.

Wherever the dish originates, highest respect to its inventor that centuries on, it’s well-loved, adored and fought over by both the Northern and Southern Italians. The mystery and admirers of the Parmigiana di Melanzane shall no doubt continue for centuries more to come.

Here is my take on a shortcut version of Parmigiana di Melanzane without the boiled egg and egg batter. Simplified for quicker and efficient cooking but still taste yum! The traditional recipe takes a lot of time to prepare, aubergines needed to be salted, left for a while, rinsed and pat dry before frying them in batches in a lot of oil. The recipe I have written here take less time to cook and need less oil. This recipe is far from the traditional Parmigiana di Melanzane recipe and cooking techniques, but it was created and prepared with loads of love, and attention so I hope you enjoy it.

Serves 4

KITCHEN KIT: knife, chopping board, pastry brush, a large saucepan, wooden spoon and a medium-sized baking tray/oven proof casserole dish.

Ingredients:

For the aubergine

  1. 3 large aubergines, sliced into thin slices ¼ inch thick (* choose the chubbiest aubergines, they are easier to slice and save time on slicing more aubergines, sliced all in equal thickness to make sure they all finish cooking at the same time)
  2. 4 tbsp olive oil
  3. 100g Ricotta cheese
  4. 100g Parmesan cheese, grated
  5. 100g mozzarella cheese, torn
  6. Pinches of salt and pepper (*caution on the salt since the ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan will also add a layer or saltiness to the dish)
  7. Breadcrumbs (Preferably dried panko breadcrumbs, save time on dry frying breadcrumbs)

For the tomato sauce

  1. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  2. 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  3. ½ tsp. chilli flakes
  4. 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  5. 2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes in tomato juice
  6. 2 tsp dried oregano
  7. 2 tbsp. of tomato puree
  8. ½ a tsp. of sugar
  9. Fresh basil, torn
  10. Pinches of salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  2. Brush and coat the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides. Placed on an oiled baking tray until lightly browned approximately 15-20 min. Do this in batches. Set aside cooked aubergines, while preparing the tomato sauce.
  3. For the tomato sauce, heat a large frying pan. Fry the garlic, onion and chilli flakes with a little oil until soft. Add the plum tomatoes, tomato puree, oregano, sugar and basil leaves. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush a medium-sized baking tray/casserole dish with olive oil, spread a little tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of aubergine slices and spread another layer of tomato sauce on top.
  5. Spread half the ricotta on the top and sprinkle with Parmesan, breadcrumbs, a few mozzarella pieces, salt and pepper. Continue to repeat the layers until all the aubergine is used. Finish with a layer of a few mozzarella pieces topped with a final sprinkle of parmesan and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes and serve with freshly torn basil leaves.

 

Note:

This dish reheats well if you have any leftovers but that never happened with my family and friends. I’ve re-heated this dish once when I cooked it just for me during my experimentation days.

Caution on salt and oil since the cheese will add a layer or saltiness and oil into the dish.

 

The Beloved Burrata Caprese Recipe

The last time I posted a blog was on the 29th of May 2016.
I have since moved into a new cosy home with my new kitchen project finished, and my kitchen gadgets finally unpacked. Over the next coming months, I will be spending a lot of my time with my beloved kitchen gadgets experimenting and creating new comfort food recipes dedicated to my lovely family and friends. And so for my first blog in my new home, I dedicate this recipe to my family and friends, who also happened to be ‘Burrata’ superfans!

Burrata, a Puglian cheese is possibly one of the most beloved of cheese by many, for some perhaps the one and only ULTIMATE beloved cheese!
Sadly, burrata and my other favourite Italian cheese Stracciatella di bufala are not widely available in many supermarkets in the UK. Waitrose stock burrata but often it is sold out, which is a real disappointment when my cravings kick in! In times of those emergency moments, mozzarella combined with mascarpone can often be a good substitute for burrata.

Serves 4

KITCHEN KIT: Knife, a small whisk, a bowl and a serving plate.

Ingredients:

  1. 200g Burrata cheese, preferably buffalo’s milk.
  2. Fresh basil, torn.
  3. fresh vine tomatoes, sliced
  4. 1 clove of garlic, sliced (optional)
  5. 1 tbsp. Italian aged balsamic vinegar
  6. 3 or 4 tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil, preferably use Californian cold pressed olive oil.
  7. Pinch of salt.
  8. Pinch of pepper.

Method:

  1. Rinse and slice (room temperature) tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle sliced garlic (optional).
  2. Mix/ whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Drizzle over tomatoes.
  3. Scatter torn basil leaves over sliced tomatoes, Add drained burrata.
  4. Serve and eat immediately before your eating companions scoff it off!

Buon Appetito!

For a wine and cheese pairing, I recommend:

Tocai Friulano from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Northeast of Italy or Piemonte’s Langhe Rosso Wine.

Stracchino Cheese Pizza

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Pizza obsessive?  That’s me alright! I had the most unforgettable yet humble Stracchino Pizza from Pizzeria Antica Porta in Florence. It was a simple pizza with a thin and crispy crust, the based was just a basic yet tasty tomato sauce, top with just Stracchino cheese and nothing else…. yet, it was sublime!

It is amazing how a few good quality ingredients can really transform a meal.  Since then, I have been in search of Stracchino cheese in England.  Sadly, despite looking at every imaginable supermarket, Italian delicatessens and specialist Italian supermarkets, to my great disappointment, I’ve had no luck, until…… of all places Lidl had it! While they were having one of their Italian seasons! I have been hunting for this glorious cheese for a year and I could not delay my pizza experiments for a moment now that I have finally found the long awaited Stracchino cheese! I am sure my Mom, relatives and friends who asked me to email them recipe links would be sick by now by the number of pizza recipes I have on my blog. Nevertheless, there can never be too many pizza choices! People do say that if you’re tired of London that you are tired of life.. for me it would be more like.. if you are tired of pizza, pasta and pastries then you are definitely tired of life! If you are a cheese lover as I am, you would not want to miss trying this amazingly creamy cheese.

Stracchino cheese is an Italian cow’s milk cheese, a typical cheese from Lombardy. It has a very delicate and mild flavour. It is so creamy that it just melts in your mouth and is, dare I say it, creamier than dolce latte! Apparently it is also known as crescenza, its name was derived from Lombard ”stracch”, which means “tired”. In my view that means you can never be ‘tired’ of too much Stracchino cheese! So let’s celebrate this glorious cheese and put it in the oven where it can melt away! Let’s begin..

KITCHEN KIT:
A large bowl, a 10 inch pizza baking pan or any flat baking tray will do as well; a food mixer machine with a dough hook for mixing and kneading, if you haven’t got the machine you can knead the dough by hand instead and mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon.
A tea towel or cling film that has been sprayed with oil.

Ingredients Makes 4 Pizzas (approximately 10 inches in size):

For the pizza dough:
1.  300g strong bread flour
2.  4g fast action yeast
3.  4g fine salt
4.  180ml  warm water
5.  20ml full fat milk
6.  10ml olive oil

For the sauce base:
7.  150ml passata
8.  2tbsp.dried oregano (½ tbsp per pizza)
9.  60g grated parmesan cheese (15g per pizza)
10. 4 pinches of ground black pepper ( a pinch per pizza)
11. 4 pinches of chili flakes
12. 2 tbsp olive oil (½ tbsp per pizza)

For the toppings:
13. 130g mozzarella sliced into chunky pieces
14. 10/12   cherry tomatoes, slice in halves.
15. a handful of fresh Spinach (soaked a couple of minutes in hot water then squeeze out all the liquid).
16. a handful of rocket leaves.
17. 4-6 slices of chorizo slices.
18. 200g. stracchino cheese (yum!)

For the pizza dough:
For a step by step visual guide, you can find this on my previous pizza blog here: “Chorizo and Olives Thin Crust Pizza” 
1. Put the flour into a large bowl; add the yeast on one side of the bowl and the salt directly on the opposite of the yeast (don’t combine the salt and yeast as the salt will kill the yeast and will prevent the dough from rising).
2. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour in 180ml warm water, 20ml milk and 10m olive oil.  Mix well until you have fairly wet dough.
3. On a well-floured surface, transfer your dough and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth alternatively mix and knead on a food mixing machine for 5 minutes.
4. After kneading, cover the dough with a tea towel or cling film that has been sprayed with oil, placing the oil side first onto the dough so the dough can rise and does not stick to the cling film. You can now leave the dough to rise for 10-15 minutes to get a thicker pizza base, but if you want a very thin crust you don’t have to leave the dough to rise, you can use it immediately or reduce the rising time to 5 minutes.
5. If you’ve left the dough rise, knead it again for just 1-2 minutes, and then split the dough into 4 balls.
6. On a well-floured surface, place the dough ball, using a rolling-pin roll it until it is very thin as it will rise in the oven.
7. Sprinkle some flour over the pizza baking tray so the dough doesn’t stick to it.

For the sauce base and toppings:
8. Pre-heat oven to 200ºC. Spoon over the passata first on the rolled out pizza dough, then add all the other ‘sauce base’ ingredients listed above.
9. Sprinkle the toppings all over the pizza.
10. Place the pizza in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes or until crisp.

Enjoy!

Note:
Making a crispy base pizza:
Spoon over the passata and toppings just before you bake the pizza in the oven, leaving it for more than 5 minutes will make the pizza base less crisp and in some cases soggy.
Storing the dough:
Once you have made the dough and have given it time to rise, tear it into small balls. The ones you don’t want to use immediately wrap in a cling film (air tight) and place in the fridge overnight and use the next day, alternatively you can also freeze them and use when needed.  If you decide to put it in the fridge make sure you knead the dough for a couple of minutes before rolling the dough out to make a pizza base. If you do freeze the dough then you will have to defrost it at room temperature which will probably take 6-8 hours, you will have to knead the dough for a couple of minutes before rolling the dough out to make a pizza base. Do not put it  in a microwave and defrost it. I have tried it and it became like a stress ball that you can throw at the wall and it will bounce backstage you, you definitely can’t roll it out.

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Simple Orecchiette with Broccoli and Asparagus:

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This recipe is one created out of left over vegetables. I came home one evening wondering what I can do with some left over  asparagus and tender steam broccoli. I went online looking for some inspirations and found an Orecchiette with Broccoli recipe which originated from Puglia.  I adapted the recipe adding asparagus into this light as spring dish and rather than using a parmesan or pecorino cheese, I used breadcrumbs instead. I love experimenting in the kitchen and this one is one of those experiments that has now become a regular part of my  weekly meal repertoire. It’s easy and quick to make and it’s tasty too.

KITCHEN KIT:
A large pasta pan, a deep large frying pan, a small sauce pan.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 200g orecchiette pasta
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil for cooking.
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over and finish the dish.
  • 6 anchovy fillets in oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp. chili flakes
  • 220g tender stem broccoli, chopped into 1inch length.
  • 110g baby asparagus, sliced in halves
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup of panko breadcrumbs or just breadcrumbs

Process:

  1. Cook the orecchiette pasta following pack instructions.
  2. In a small pan, over low heat, dry fry (no oil) the panko-bread crumbs until golden, then set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. of the olive oil in a pan over a low heat. Add the anchovy fillets, garlic and chili flakes for 3-4 minutes until the anchovies melt into the sauce.
  4. When the pasta has 4-5 mins left before they are cooked, add the broccoli. Then 2 minutes later add the asparagus.
  5. When cooked, drain the pasta and vegetables, reserving ½ a cup of the pasta water, then add to the frying pan with the garlic and anchovies sauce. Stir and cook over a low heat for a further 2 mins. Season with salt and pepper, serve in a plate and then drizzle over some very good quality olive oil. Finally sprinkle over some bread crumbs over the top.

Buon appetito!

Note:

If you can get hold of panic bread crumbs, I would highly recommend you use this instead of just regular breadcrumbs as it is crispier in my view which for me is tastier adding that extra crunchy texture to this dish.

Tuscan Ribollita (Reboiled Soup)

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During my visit to Florence I discovered this humble soup in Trattoria da Roco. Although it doesn’t look so apetising, it is a very comforting; a hearty soup that is tasty and filling. I have been making this soup since I came back from Florence and have tried a few different ways of making it. I tried using thyme and added other vegetables to it. The key ingredient is the Tuscan Kale and the beans, which I didn’t omit in any of my previous experiments. Recently, to my surprise I discovered that there is an official ‘authentic’ Ribollita recipe issued by the Tuscan Tourist office.  Although, my recipe is not the authentic recipe endorse by the Tuscan authorities it is one of my favourite experiments and the stubborn side of me can’t help but stick to my easier and quicker version. Though, I would certainly try making the authentic recipe the next time I am in Tuscany and can get access to ‘Tuscan Kale’. The best part of making this soup is that it tastes even better the day. It is no wonder the Italian’s named it Reboiled Soup.

KITCHEN KIT:
A 5 litre ceramic caserole dish and a wooden spoon.

Serves: 8

Ingredients:
1. 6 tbsp of olive oil
2. 65g, diced pancetta
3. 3 cloves of peeled garlic, grated
4. 2 onions, finely chopped
5. 3 celery sticks, finely chopped into little cubes
6. 3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped into little cubes
7. 1 courgette, finely chopped into little cubes
8. 2 bay leaves
9. 2 rosemary sprigs
10.400g chopped tomatoes (from a tin)
11.400g of cannellini beans (from a tin)
12.600ml chicken stock
13. 2 tbsp. of tomato paste
14. 2 slices of a loaf of bread, torn into small pieces.
15. 1/2 tsp of salt
16. 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
17. 80g of chopped Kale
18. 4 tbsp. of grated parmesan cheese

Process:
1. Place the caserole in a medium heat, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Fry the garlic, pancetta, onion, rosemary and bay leaves for 5 minutes or until the onions turns translucent. Keep stirring to prevent the garlic from getting burnt.

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2. Add the chopped celery, carrots, courgettes and soften for 5 minutes.

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3. Add the chopped tomatoes,cannellini bans, chicken stock, tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat (lowest heat possible), stir and cover the casserole for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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4. After 30-45 minutes, add the bread and kale, stir them in and cover the caserole again. Cooked for another 10 minutes before adding the 3 tbsp. of olive oil.  Season to taste and just before serving garnish the soup with some grated parmesan cheese.

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That’s it! buon appetito!

Tips:
You can add more water if you find that the soup is becoming slightly dry. If you do add more water, give the soup a good stir and just let it simmer for a couple of minutes so you do not lose the flavour of the soup.

You can also cook this dish at the lowest possible heat for 24 hours, you need to cover the casserole to ensure that the liquid does not evaporate too much, stirring occasionally to also ensure the vegetables and bread does not get burnt. I find that this dish is actually better the next day when reheated and all the flavours of the vegetables are infused into the soup and bread. This a soup that taste good when reheated which I think could be the reason why they named it ‘reboiled soup’ in Tuscany.

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Trattoria Da Rocco, Firenze Italy

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Category: Trattoria (Canteen)
Cuisine: Traditional Italian
Price Range on Average: EUR 12.00 per person starter, main and dessert
Ambiance: Traditional, Rustic Italian Trattoria
Address: Piazza Ghiberti, 50121 Firenze, Italy
Tel: +39 339 296 3055
Website: www.trattoriadarocco.it
Opening Hours:Sun – Sat 11:00 am – 3:30 pm
Last Visited: spring of  2014 for lunch

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Review:
I visited Florence (Firenze) in spring time of 2014.  Thousands of tourists visits this amazing city of culture, art, great architecture and food. Finding a good place to eat that is not at the heart and heat of the crowded tourist attraction is hard to find in Florence. It is even harder to find a reasonably price place to eat or to just have a cup of espresso. Florence, although beautiful and is certainly worth visiting is incredibly pricey which is not surprising when millions of tourists would be willing pay a fortune for a cup of espresso.
If you are looking for a simple Italian food, just a step away from the centre of the tourist attractions. Then, the Trattoria Da Rocco is the place for you.
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This Tratorria offers humble, authentic Tuscan dishes, cooked simply, are tasty and reasonably price. It is located inside the historic covered market of Sant’Ambrogio. The market is frequented both by locals and tourists, fresh fish, seafood, ham, cheese and vegetables are sold here. You can therefore shop and eat at the same site.

Trattoria Da Rocco is popular both for locals and tourists. Hence, you will find that they turn they tables constantly as guests comes and goes. The service is quick and the food is already made at the centre of the restaurant. They simply dish up the food you order and serve it quickly to your table. Although, I have always preferred food cooked to order, I cannot complain when the main course is price at €5 euros. The food is also tasty and the ambiance is busy and lively. It was a memorable place to visit mainly because I’ve had my first Ribollita soup here. A hearty Tuscan soup made with vegetables and bread. I am now obsess with Ribollita and have since tried experimenting different recipes to relive the moment when I first I had it. Other dishes they serve includes pasta with tomato and mozzarella, tripe in tomato sauce, roast beef, roast chicken, baked lasagna and panzanella . This is not a place to experience haute cuisine but a place where you can try something simple and tasty at a reasonably price trattoria that is full of character.
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La Tagliatella Almería, Spain

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Cuisine: Italian
Price Range on Average: EUR 20-25 per person for 3 course meal with soft drinks
Ambiance: Busy and Lively
Address: Rambla Federico Garcia, Lorca 2, 04004, Almeria, Spain
Tel: +34 950 245 424
Website: www.latagliatella.es

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Opening Hours:
LUNCH:
13:00 – 16:30(SUNDAY-THURSDAY)
13:00 – 16:30(FRIDAY-SATURDAY)
DINNER:
20:00 – 0:00(SUNDAY-THURSDAY)
20:00 – 0:00(FRIDAY-SATURDAY)
Last Visited: summer and winter of 2014 for late lunch

Review:
The first time I visited Almeria, I arrived during the siesta hours when majority of the shops were closed. I went looking for a restaurant to eat and just stumbled across La Tagliatella restaurant located just by the port of Almeria and at the beginning of the Rambla Federico.

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In my travels I would always prefer to try something new, try the local regional food and eat at family ran restaurants.
But after having Spanish food for 5 consecutive days, the thought of a nice pizza for a change was just so tempting to refuse and so I went into this restaurant expecting simple, basic pizza food. But I was surprised and impressed with the extensive menu and the quality of the food they served. Although La Tagliatella is a chain restaurant, it certainly didn’t feel like it is. In fact I didn’t know that it is until I came back into the UK and did some research on them. The service was friendly and accommodating and the pizza were crispy thin and packed full of flavour. Upon arrival, the waitress came over with a nice ricotta puff with a sweet sauce and balsamic dressing, which may sound like a strange combination but it did taste good.

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For mains I had the aubergine pizza, perhaps, it is common to have an aubergine pizza but I have not tried it before nor have I seen it in any Italian menus. It was certainly a pleasant surprise to try the Melanzana pizza, made with thinly sliced caramelised aubergine, balsamic vinegar and honey.

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The Pepperoni piccante pizza came with humble slices of spicy salami from Calabria with a simple tomato based sauce.

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The cream of zucchini soup was rich and comforting.

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The cheesecake de La Tagliatella dessert had a lovely spanish twist to it, it was a cheese cake with a ‘Tocino de cielo’ botttom a Spanish egg flan dessert, drizzled with rich caramel sauce.

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The two times I’ve visited this place the service and the old have been equally good that I would certainly go back to this restaurant again. It is a restaurant worth a detour and deserve a good review. The value for money was excellent. The atmosphere of the restaurant is also welcoming. On my last two visits the restaurant was packed with local families and I cannot help noticing that people just keep coming into the restaurant. There’s always a queue which is always a good sign for a restaurant.

Pasta con le sarde (Sicilian pasta dish)

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This is a simple Sicilian pasta dish that is usually made with sardines, fennel, anchovies and sometimes capers too. My version doesn’t include fennel or capers. You can add them if you want to but I find this simplified version as tasty without them. For me, it is the saltiness of the sardines and anchovies and the sweetness of the golden currants that really makes this dish.

KITCHEN KIT:
A large pasta pan, a deep large frying pan, a small sauce pan.

Ingredients Serves 2:
150g bucatini pasta
6 tbsp. Olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets, in oil
120g.can boneless sardines in water or oil, drained
1 tbsp strattu or 1 1/2 tbsp tomato purée
30g sultanas, or golden currants
A few strands of saffron
3 pinches of salt
2 pinches of black pepper
1/4 of the starchy water from the boiling pasta water
10cherry tomatoes, halves
10g pine nuts
10g breadcrumbs

Pasta con le sarde:
In a large pan season your water with 1 tbsp. of oil and 2 pinches of salt.Bring the water to a boil, add your pasta and cooked until al dente. (cook according to packet instructions as the pasta’s cooking time varies.)

While your pasta cooks, heat 4 tbsp. of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and fry for 1 minute until softened. Add sardine flakes and the strattu or tomato paste. Stir for a few minutes then add the currants and saffron. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.Cook gently for 1 minute. Add 1/4 of the starchy water from the boiling pasta water.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook for less than a minute.

Finally, on a separate pan, fry the breadcrumbs and pine nuts with 1 tbsp. of oil over a medium-high heat until they turn golden-brown and crunchy.

Drain the bucatini and mix with the sardine sauce, sprinkle over the pine nuts and breadcrumbs.

Serve immediately.

Bucatini alla carbonara

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KITCHEN KIT:
A large pot, a large bowl and a medium size pan.

Ingredients:
For the Carbonara:
1. 1tbsp. butter
2. 2 tbsp. olive oil
3. 200g. Guanciale, diced (alternatively use pancetta or streaky bacon)
4. 2 large eggs
5. 4 tbsp. grated pecorino cheese
6. a pinch of salt
7. a pinch of ground black pepper

For the Pasta:
6. 220g. Bucatini
7. pinch of salt
8. 2 tbsp.oil

For the Carbonara:
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the pasta, salt and oil. Cook the pasta aldente following the pasta packet instruction.

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2. Place a medium size pan in a medium heat, add 2 tbsp. of oil, followed by the diced guanciale. Cook until crisp and golden. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and add the butter.
3. Drain the pasta and add into the pan with the cooked guanciale. Turn off the heat.

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4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and pecorino cheese. Mix with the freshly cooked pasta and guanciale. The hot  pasta will cook the egg.s

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Serve immediately by itself or with some chopped parsley.

Lasagne

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Lasagne for me is one of the ultimate comfort food. Lasagne is a labour of love on a plate, as it does takes time to cook and prepare, I hardly make this dish but the few times I have made a lasagne is to either show love or comfort to family or friends. It was one of my favourite dish as a young child and is also now my Mom’s favourite dish. When she came to visit me in England from Macau the first thing she asked me to do was cook lasagne for her soon as she lands and this recipe was created specially for her. I hope you enjoy this too!

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KITCHEN KIT:
A large casserole pan with a lid, a medium size sauce pan and an oven-proof dish.

Ingredients Serves 4:
For the Lasagne filling:
1. 1 tbsp. butter
2. 2 rashers of pancetta, finely chopped
3. 1/4 tsp. cinnamon powder
4. 3 tbsp. olive oil
5. 1 medium onion approximately 150g, finely chopped
6. 2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
7. 1 carrot, finely chopped
8. 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
9. 1 butternut squash approximately 600g, deseeded and chopped into small cubes
10. 2 bay leaves
11. ¼ tsp. salt
12. ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
13. ¼ tsp. chilli flakes
14. 1 tsp. dried oregano
15. 1 tsp. dried basil leaves
16. 3 sprigs of thyme
17. 1 sprigs of rosemary
18. 3 Sprigs of sage
19. 400g. minced beef
20. 400g. tinned plum tomatoes
21. 2 tbsp. tomato paste
22. 1 tsp. sugar
23. 250ml. full bodied red wine
24. 300ml. beef stock

For the pasta:
25. 400g fresh lasagne sheets

For the Béchamel Sauce:
26. 30g butter
27. 30g flour
28. ½ pint of full fat milk
29. 80g grated mature cheddar cheese (if you are strict Italian feel free to substitute to parmesan)
30. Pinch of salt
31. Pinch of pepper
32. ¼ tsp. nutmeg
33. ½ tsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
34. 120g mozzarella, sliced into small pieces

For the Lasagne filling: Preheat the oven to 200ºC
1. Fry the 1 tbsp of butter with pancetta and cinnamon in a large pan over medium heat, until golden.
2. Then add 3 tbsp. of olive oil, stir in the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, butternut squash, bay leaves, salt, pepper, chilli flakes and all the herbs, fry for 2-3 minutes.
3. Next, add the beef and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, wine and beef stock, bring to boil.
4. Once it starts to boil, lower the heat (lowest heat possible) and cover the pan with a lid. Allow cooking for 1½ hour, stirring occasionally to ensure that the meat and vegetables does not stick into the pan.

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For the Béchamel Sauce:
5. On a small sauce pan over low-medium heat, make your roux; melt butter and stir in the flour, constantly stirring until well combined. Slowly add milk and grated cheese stirring constantly. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and parsley. Stop adding milk and remove from heat once the béchamel sauce is thick and smooth.

For the layering of the lasagne:
6. After 1 ½ hour, pre-heat your oven to 200ºC.
7. Lay some sheets of lasagne at the bottom of your lasagne dish, then add a layer of meat, then another layer of lasagne sheet and again meat, repeat the layers, until you reach the top of your dish. Finish it with a layer of lasagne sheets covered with Béchamel sauce.
8. Finally grate some cheddar or Parmesan cheese and place the mozzarella pieces all over your Béchamel sauce. Cook in the preheated oven for 30–35 minutes until golden.

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Serve immediately with a lovely salad on the side and finish with a yummy Tiramisu.

Basil and Pine Nuts Pesto

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This versatile sauce can be used in many different dishes; it can be added into pasta, risotto, meat or fish or even just as flavourings for roasted vegetable dishes. You can also be creative with pesto, you can use walnuts instead of pine nuts for instance, use watercress and basil, or spinach for instance. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice or even lime.

Ingredients
1.  30g. fresh basil leaves
2.  10g. toasted pine nuts
3.  15g. grated parmesan cheese
4.  ½ clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
5.  40ml. of extra virgin olive oil
6.  1 pinch of salt
7.  1 pinch of ground black pepper

The Pesto:
1.  Add the basil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper into a food processor.
2.  Whiz all the ingredients together while it is whizzing, gently pour the oil in a steady stream, until the pesto starts to thicken.
3.  When all the ingredients are well combined and the pesto is thick it’s ready. You can now use your pesto for your pasta, bruschetta, pizza, risotto or even just with your toast.

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Note:
Storing pesto:  You can store your pesto in a jar or any airtight container. Drizzle some olive oil on the top of your pesto, cover with a cling film before sealing your jar or container; this will keep the pesto fresh and green and prevents it from oxidizing and turning brown.
Pesto in an airtight container can be stored in the fridge for a week. You can also store it in a freezer plastic bag, or ice cube bags in the freezer for six months, before using frozen pesto best to thaw it in the fridge.

 

Foccacia

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KITCHEN KIT:
A baking tray, a cling film, a rolling pin, a bread mixer.

Ingredients:
1. 510g.strong white bread flour, (500g for the foccacia and 10g for dusting)
2. 2 tsp. of sea salt
3. 7g.fast action yeast
4. 70ml. extra virgin Olive Oil
5. 250ml. warm water
6. A handful of fresh rosemary
7. Oil or butter spray

The Foccacia:
1. Preheat the oven to 200C and dust your baking tray with strong white bread flour.
2. Put the flour into a large bowl or bread mixer, make a well in the middle and add the water and oil. Next, add the salt and add the yeast (the yeast should be right opposite the salt or the salt will kill the yeast)

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3. Knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes or for 5 if using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Poke the dough with a well floured finger and if the indent disappears the dough is ready, if it stays then continue to knead for a couple of minutes longer.

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4. Shape the dough into an oval shape.Then place it in a well floured baking tray. Cover the dough loosely with an oiled/buttered cling film, making sure it is airtight. (You can use an oil or butter spray to oil or butter your cling film, this will then prevent the cling film from sticking to the dough.)

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5. You can now leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

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6. After 45 minutes, roll the dough in a well floured work surface into an oval shape, the length and width can be however you want it to be, you can even shape it as squares or small round balls, or in this case I did an oval shape one.

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7. Once you have rolled the dough, poke some holes all over the dough, you can use the back of a wooden spoon to do this, or use a well floured finger. Insert some rosemary into the holes, sprinkle some more salt all over the top and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes. It should rise a bit and have a lovely pale brown colouring all over it.

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8. Once baked, place in a baking tray to cool for 3-4 minutes, drizzle with some more olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper and serve.

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Chorizo and Olives Thin Crust Pizza

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Pizza and Tapas for me is the ultimate social food. It’s a lot of fun to make with family and friends and so easy to prepare as well. All you need is a dough base and you can choose whatever toppings it is you want.  You can have a simple classic margherita with just tomatoes, basil and mozzarella topping or a full on meat feast with different hams and spices and meat, alternatively have a vegetarian version with a medley of roasted vegetables as your pizza topping, yum!!
On this recipe, I just used whatever it is I could find in my fridge. I didn’t have any fresh tomatoes left so I just used the dried tomatoes hanging over my kitchen and hydrated them over hot water before slicing and adding them onto the pizza. So feel free to use whatever you have at home as your pizza topping and enjoy the experiment and most importantly the eating process with your family and friends! Buon Appetito!

Health and Safety Warning: Do not throw the pizza dough too high up or it might just end up on your head as it did to me on many occasions…. apart from that.. throw, turn and toss away!

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KITCHEN KIT:
A large bowl, a 10 inch’ pizza baking pan or any flat baking tray will do as well; a food mixer machine with a dough hook for mixing and kneading, if you haven’t got the machine you can knead the dough by hand instead and mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon.
A tea towel or a cling film that has been sprayed with oil.

Ingredients Makes 4 Pizzas (approximately 10 inch’ in size):

For the pizza dough:
1.  300g strong bread flour
2.  4g. fast action yeast
3.  4g. fine salt
4.  180ml.  warm water
5.  20ml. full fat milk
6.  10ml. olive oil

For the sauce base:
7.  150ml. passata
8.  2tbsp.dried oregano (½ tbsp. per pizza)
9.  60g. grated parmesan cheese (15g. per pizza)
10. 4 pinches of ground black pepper ( a pinch per pizza)
11. 4 pinches of chili flakes
12. 2tbsp.olive oil (½ tbsp. per pizza)
For the toppings:
13. 130g. mozzarella slice into chunky pieces
14. 8 slices of picante chorizo.
15. 4 sundried tomatoes ( if they are completely dry, soaked them first in hot water for 5 minutes to hydrate them before slicing them into strips)
16. 8g. of green olives, stoned and halves

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For the pizza dough:
1. Put the flour into a large bowl; add the yeast on one end of the bowl and the salt directly on the opposite of the yeast (don’t combine the salt and yeast as the salt will kill the yeast and will affect the dough from rising).
2. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour in 180ml warm water, 20ml. milk and 10m.olive oil.  Mix well until you have a fairly wet dough.

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3. On a well-floured surface, transfer your dough and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth alternatively mix and knead on a food mixing machine for 5 minutes.
4. After kneading, cover the dough with a tea towel or a cling film that has been sprayed with oil, placing the oil side first onto the dough so the dough can rise and does not stick into the cling film. You can now leave the dough to rise for 10-15 minutes to get a thicker pizza base, but if you want a very thin crust you don’t have to leave the dough to rise, you can use it immediately or reduce the rising time to 5 minutes.

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5. If you’ve left the dough rise, knead it again for just 1-2 minutes, and then split the dough into 4 balls.
6. On a well-floured surface, place the dough ball, using a rolling pin roll it until it is very thin as it will rise in the oven.
7. Sprinkle some flour over the pizza baking tray so the dough doesn’t stick to it.

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For the sauce base and toppings
8. Pre-heat oven to 200ºC.Spoon over the passata first on the rolled out pizza dough, then add all the other ‘sauce base’ ingredients listed above.
9. Sprinkle the toppings all over the pizza.
10. Place the pizza in the oven to bake for 8-10 minutes or until crisp.

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Serve immediately.

Note:
Making a crispy base pizza:
Spoon over the passata and toppings just before you bake the pizza in the oven, leaving it for more than 5 minutes will make the pizza base less crisp and in some cases soggy.
Storing the dough:
Once you have made the dough and have given it time to rise, tear it into small pieces of balls. The ones you don’t want to use immediately wrap in a cling film (air tight) and place in the fridge overnight and use the next day, alternatively you can also freeze them and use when needed.  If you decide to put it in the fridge make sure you knead the dough for a couple of minutes before rolling the dough out to make a pizza base. If you do freeze the dough then you will have to defrost it at room  temperature which wold probably take 6-8 hours, you will have to knead the dough for a couple of minutes before rolling the dough out to make a pizza base.

 

Spaghetti Meatballs

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KITCHEN KIT:
Pasta pan or large sauce pan and a frying pan

Ingredients Serves 2:

For the Meatballs:
1.  450g minced beef
2.  ½ tsp. salt
3.  ½ tsp. ground black pepper
4.  ½ tsp. chili flakes
5.  ½ tsp. dried oregano
6.  ½ tsp. dried parsley
7.  2 tbsp. olive oil (for frying)
 

For the Sauce:
8.  2 tbsp. olive oil
9.  1 tbsp. butter
10. 1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
11. 1 onion, finely chopped
12. 150g chesnut mushroom, finely chopped  
13. 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
14. 1 tbsp. tomato paste
15. 200g of small fresh vine tomatoes, finely chopped
16. 100 ml. good quality full bodied red wine
17. 300ml beef stock
18. ¼ tsp. chili flakes
19. ½ tsp. sugar
20. ½ tsp. salt
21. ½ tsp. ground black pepper

 

For the Pasta:
22. 1.5 ltr. Boiling water
23. Pinch of salt
24. 1 tsp. olive oil
25. 150g spaghetti (preferably fresh pasta)

For Garnish:
26. A handful of basil leaves

 
For the Meatballs:
1.  In a bowl, mix all the ‘meatballs’ ingredients listed above until well combined. Make small little balls from this mixture of a approx. ½ inch in size.
2.  Place your frying pan over high heat, add the oil and when it is smoking hot add the meatballs.
3.  Cook the meatballs for 3 minutes on all sides stirring gently to prevent the balls from falling apart. Once cooked, remove and set aside on a plate.

For the Sauce:
4.  Using the same pan to cook the meatballs, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil and butter. When smoking hot, add garlic, onion, chestnut mushroom and celery. Cook for 2 minutes.
5.  Next add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, wine, beef stock, allow it to boil.
6.  Once it starts to boil add the meatballs back into the pan, lower the heat, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes.
7.  Season with chilli flakes, sugar, salt and pepper.
For the Pasta:
8.  Bring salted water with oil to a boil. Once it is boiling add your pasta and cook until aldente. If using dried pasta follow the packet instructions as cooking time varies.
9.  Drain cook pasta, add into the sauce and coat evenly with the sauce. Sprinkle over some torn basil leaves.
Serve Immediately.

Caprese – Tomato, Mozarella and Basil Leaves Salad

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This is certainly one of the favourites in our household, so easy to prepare, no cooking involve at all yet taste superb everytime. This is also great for dinner parties as it can be prepared well in advance. For this salad it is important though to get really good quality tomatoes.  

KITCHEN KIT:
A big plate and a small bowl

Ingredients Serves 4:

For the Tomato and Mozzarella:
1. 125g mozzarella pearls, drained
2. 250g cherry vine tomatoes, sliced
3. A handful of basil leaves, torn into smaller pieces
4. 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

For the dressing:
5. A pinch of salt
6. A pinch of ground black pepper
7. 2 tsp. of Balsamic Vinegar
8. 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
 

For the Tomato and Mozzarella:
1. On a plate lay your sliced tomatoes, add the garlic slices basil and mozzarella pearls on top of the tomatoes.

For the dressing:
2. On a bowl mix the all the dressing ingredients listed above, drizzle over the tomato and mozzarella. Garnish with some torn basil leaves.
Serve Immediately.

Salmon and Cockles Farfalle with Mascarpone and Belarusian Caviar

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KITCHEN KIT:
A pasta pan/ large sauce pan and a frying pan.

Ingredients Serves 2:

For the pasta:
1.  150g Farfalle (preferably fresh)
2.  Pinch of fine salt
3.  1 tbsp. olive oil

For the salmon, cockles’ sauce and caviar:
4.  2 tbsp. olive oil
5.  2 small shallots, finely chopped
6.  1 clove of garlic, crushed or grated
7.  A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
8.  1 tsp. of butter
9.  100ml of good quality white wine
10. 2 pinches of fine salt
11. 2 pinches of ground black pepper
12. A pinch of chilli flakes
13. 200g Salmon, skin and bone removed, cut into strips
14. 100g cooked cockles

For the garnish:
15. Another handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
16. 20g grated parmesan cheese
17. 1 tsp of mascarpone cheese (for each plate)
18. 1 tsp of caviar (for each plate)

For the pasta:
1.  On a pasta pan over a high heat, boil some water with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
2.  Once the water starts to boil cook your fresh pasta for 3-4 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Drain all the water from the pasta. If you are using dried pasta follow the packet cooking instruction as some pasta takes longer cooking time.

For the salmon, cockles’ sauce:
3.  Add olive oil into your frying pan over a medium heat, fry your shallots, garlic, parsley and chili flakes for 1-2 minutes then add your butter in. Allow to melt then add your white wine. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4.  Season with salt, pepper and add in your cockles and salmon. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
5.  Add your cooked pasta covering it with the sauce all over.

Serve immediately with mascarpone cheese, chopped parsley, caviar and grated parmesan cheese.

Pancetta gnocchi in brown butter sage and courgette

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KITCHEN KIT
Potato masher

Ingredients Serves 4:
For the Gnocchi:
1.  4 large baking potatoes approx. 550g
2.  2 medium eggs
3.  150g flour
4.  Pinch of salt
5.  Pinch of pepper
6.  25g polenta (for dusting)
7.  2 pancetta slices

 

For the Sage and Butter Sauce:
8.  40g butter
9.  1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
10.  8 Sage leaves
11. 1 Courgette, finely chopped into small squares.
12. Pinch of Salt
13. Pinch of Ground Black Pepper
14. Pinch of Chilli flakes
15. 2 tbsp.Parmesan cheese, grated

 

For the Gnocchi:
1.  In a large saucepan bring some water to the boil, add unpeeled potatoes and cook for 45-50 minutes.
2.  Drain potatoes on a colander (return boiled water onto the sauce pan), peel the potato skin off.
3.  Transfer peeled potatoes on a large bowl, season with a bit of salt and pepper and mash until smooth.
4.  Add the flour and eggs one at a time, mixing to the mash potato. Knead the potato dough (the dough should be moist and not sticky, add a sprinkling of flour if it is sticky)
5.  Roll the dough like a cigar on a flour dusted surface. Slice the dough in half, insert the pancetta and seal the dough again. Slice the dough in small squares approx. 1cm thick.

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6.  Sprinkle some polenta on a plate then add your gnocchi.
7.  Reheat your sauce pan, add a pinch of salt, and add your gnocchi onto the boiling water one batch at a time. The gnocchi will rise up and float on the surface of a boiling water when they are cooked. Once cooked drain the gnocchi and plate.

For the Sauce:
8.  On a large sauce pan over low heat, melt half of the butter with the chilli flakes and courgettes. Cook for 1 minute and add into your gnocchi.
9.  Reheat your sauce pan, melt the remaining butter with the garlic for 1 minute. Add the sage leaves and cook till crisp.Spoon over the brown butter and sage into your gnocchi.

Serve immediately.

Creamy Salmon Pasta with Belarusian Caviar

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Although this dish couldn’t be more Italian, I must admit that I have never had this in Italy. I first had this dish during a work trip in Minsk, Belarus at the Grand Cafe in Lenin Street. Unfortunately as I couldn’t speak a word of Russian I couldn’t ask them for their recipe. So here is my version of their Belarusian Caviar pasta dish, which does taste similar to the one I’ve had at the Grand Cafe. Although,  I am not a massive fan of caviar like my sister who can eat it anytime of the day, I do like caviar in this dish. If you are not a big fan of caviar as I am, try this dish as it may just change your mind. This dish is so simple to make so I hope it won’t put you off trying to make this dish in your home. Bon Appétit or as they say in Belarus Dobry apietyt!

KITCHEN KIT:
A pasta pan/ large sauce pan and a frying pan.

Ingredients Serves 2:

For the pasta:
1.  150g spaghetti (preferably fresh)
2.  Pinch of fine salt
3.  1 tbsp. olive oil

For the salmon, sauce and caviar:
4.  2 tbsp. olive oil
5.  2 small shallots, finely chopped
6.  1 clove of garlic, crushed or grated
7.  A handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
8.  1 tsp. of butter 
9.  100ml of good quality white wine
10. 2 pinches of fine salt
11. 2 pinches of ground black pepper
12. 200ml Double cream
13. 300g Salmon, skin and bone removed, cut into strips
14. 1 tsp of caviar (for each plate)

For the garnish: 
15. Another handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
16. 20g grated parmesan cheese 
For the pasta:
1. On a pasta pan over a high heat, boil some water with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
2. Once the water starts to boil cook your fresh pasta for 3-4 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Drain all the water from the pasta. If you are using dried pasta follow the packet cooking instruction as some pasta takes longer cooking time. 

For the salmon, sauce and caviar:
3. Add olive oil into your frying pan over a medium heat, fry your shallots, garlic and parsley for 1-2 minutes then add your butter in. Allow to melt then add your white wine. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
4. Season with salt, pepper and add in your double cream and salmon. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add your cooked pasta covering it with the sauce all over.

Serve immediately with chopped parsley, caviar and grated parmesan cheese.

Baked Peach with Amaretti biscuits

 

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KITCHEN KIT:
An ovenproof dish

Ingredients Serves 4:
1.  15g soft butter
2.  4 peaches, slice in half and stones removed
3.  25 pcs. Small amaretti biscuits, crushed
4.  4 tbsp. Tia Maria Liqueur
5.  50g light brown sugar
6.  20g icing sugar 

Baked Peach with Amaretti biscuits:
1.  Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Butter your oven proof dish.
2.  On a bowl mix your amaretti biscuits,Tia Maria Liqueur and brown sugar. Spoon this over your peaches and then place them on the ovenproof dish.
3.  Dust with icing sugar and bake for 25 minutes in the oven.
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Serve warm with mascarpone cheese or vanilla gelato.

Tiramisu

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Ingredients Serves 6:
1.  32 ladyfinger sponge biscuit ( Savoiardi)
2.  2 egg yolks
3.  120g caster sugar
4.  1 tsp. vanilla extract
5.  400ml mascarpone cheese
6.  100ml single cream
7.  250ml strong espresso coffee
8.  20g light brown sugar
9.  4 tbsp. Tia Maria Liqueur
10. 20g cocoa powder for dusting

For the Garnish: (OPTIONAL)
11.  6 small amaretto biscuits
12.  30g dark chocolate, melted
13.  Pinch of chopped hazelnut

Tiramisu:
1.  On a bowl mix the egg yolks, caster sugar and vanilla extract. Then add the mascarpone and single cream into this mixture. Stir until well combined and set aside.

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2.  On a separate bowl mix the espresso coffee, with the Tia Maria liqueur and light brown sugar. Dip the ladyfinger biscuits in the espresso mixture, don’t dip them too long as they will become too soft.

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3.  Layer the container with the ladyfingers that has been soaked in espresso mixture then spoon over the mascarpone cream mixture on top. Do this twice, so you’ll have 2 layers of lady fingers and 2 layers of mascarpone mixture.

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4.  Dust with cocoa powder and put into the fridge to set and chill for at least 1 hour.

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5.  OPTIONAL: Coat your amaretti biscuits in melted dark chocolate, sprinkle chopped hazelnut on top. Leave to cool and set for 15 minutes. Serve on top of the Tiramisu slices.

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Serve immediately.

 

Spaghetti alla Bolognese

KITCHEN KIT:
A large frying pan with a lid and a medium sauce pan.

Ingredients Serves 4:
1.  300g spaghetti
2.  2 tbsp. Olive oil
3.  120g smoked pancetta, diced
4.  ¼ tsp. cinnamon powder
5.  ½ tsp. chilli flakes
6.  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
7.  2 small shallots, finely chopped
8.  1 carrot, chopped into small cubes
9.  2 sticks celery, finely chopped
10. 500g lean minced beef
11. 2 bay leaves
12. 1 thyme sprig
13. 1 rosemary sprig
14. 200 ml, good quality red wine (full bodied)
15. 140g tomato purée
16. 600 ml, beef stock
17. Pinch of Salt
18. Pinch of sugar
19. Pinch of ground black pepper
20. Fresh basil leaves (for garnish)
21. 30g parmeggiano cheese, grated (for garnish)

 

For the Bolognese:
1.  On a large frying pan over a medium heat add 1 tbsp. of oil. When the oil is smoking hot add the pancetta and cinnamon powder then fry for 2-3 minutes until crisp.
2.  Stir in the chilli flakes, garlic, shallots, carrot and celery. Cover with a lid for 7-8 minutes.
3.  Add your minced beef in, brown slightly for 2 minutes then add in your bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and wine. Burnt off the alcohol for 2-3 minutes.
4.  Next, stir in your tomato puree, then add the beef stock, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for 2 hours stirring occasionally to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan. Sprinkle the basil over.

For Spaghetti:
5.  On a medium size sauce pan, over a medium heat, boil some water with a pinch of salt and some oil. Once the water starts boiling add your spaghetti. (Follow your spaghetti packet instructions) as some spaghetti takes longer cooking time.) Once cooked, drain and set aside.

Serve Immediately with some fresh basil and grated parmeggiano cheese.

 

 

 

Zucchine palle con farfalle (Courgette balls with pasta)

This recipe came about because I had so many leftover courgettes in the fridge. I wanted to create a recipe that was light, tasty and refreshing but also had a nice crunchy texture to it. The breadcrumb coating does add a wonderful crunch to the courgette balls, so I would recommend this version if you have the time. For those in a hurry and in need of a quick meal you can simply fry the courgette balls without coating them in flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. They still taste nice but don’t have the crunchy texture I’m afraid.  If you have some lemon and mint in your fridge I recommend grating some lemon zest onto this dish and garnishing it with some torn mint leaves. It makes a very refreshing dish for a weekday evening supper. Buon appetito!

KITCHEN KIT:
4 bowls, a frying pan and a sauce pan.

Ingredients Serves 2:

For the Courgette balls coating: (optional)
1.  35g plain flour
2.  1 egg, beaten
3.  35g dried breadcrumbs

 

For the Courgette balls:
4.  370g Cougettes, grated
5.  20g of parsley, finely chopped
6.  4 spring onions, finely chopped
7.  100g ricotta cheese
8.  35g parmesan cheese, grated
9.  55g bread crumbs
10. ½ tsp.of ground black pepper
11. ½ tsp.of grated nutmeg
12. 150ml Olive oil
For the Pasta and Sauce:
13. 150g dried Farfalle
14. 2 tbsp. olive oil
15. 2 cloves of garlic,grated or crushed
16. ¼ tsp. dried chili flakes or 1 birds eye chili,finely chopped
17. 20g of parsley, finely chopped
18. 2 spring onions, finely chopped
19. 100g Courgettes, grated
20. Pinch of Salt
21. Pinch of ground black pepper
For the Courgette balls:
1.  On a bowl grate courgettes, mix with the chopped parsley, spring onions, ricotta cheese, grated parmesan, bread crumbs, ground black pepper and grated nutmeg. Make small balls, approx. 1inches in size.  (if you find it hard to shape the courgettes into small balls add more breadcrumbs it will make it easier to handle and shape.)


2.  Coat the courgette balls in flour, then egg and finally breadcrumbs.Set aside. (This bit is optional, you can fry the courgette balls without coating them. For this recipe I made both versions, for the first batch I made courgette balls with coating of breadcrumbs and for the second batch I simply shallow fried the courgette balls without coating them in breadcrumbs; as per the pictures below).


3.  On a frying pan over high heat, add olive oil. Once it is hot, add your courgette balls and fry for 2 minutes until lightly golden brown. Set aside on a kitchen paper to drain off excess oil. Remove oil from your frying pan and wipe with a kitchen paper.

The Pasta and Sauce:
4.  On a medium size sauce pan, over a medium heat, boil some water with a pinch of salt and some oil.
5.  Once the water starts boiling add your pasta. (Follow pasta packet instructions) as some pasta takes longer cooking time.) Once cooked, drain and set aside.
6.  Reheat your frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp. of olive oil and when it is smoking hot add your garlic, chilli flakes, parsley, spring onions and grated courgettes. Stir constantly for 1 minute, season with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss in your pasta.


7.  Plate your pasta, add the courgette balls on top and garnish with some fresh chopped parsley.

Serve Immediately.

 

 

 

Spaghetti ai frutti di mare (Spaghetti with Clams, Mussels and Tiger Prawns)

Spaghetti Alla Vongole
KITCHEN KIT:
Large pan with a lid and a pasta pan

Ingredients Serves 2:
1.     150g freshly made spaghetti
2.     400g clams, 100g mussels (mussels optional)
3.     4 Madagascan Tiger Prawns
4.     3 tbsp of olive oil
5.     ½ tsp of olive oil for the pasta
6.     3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
7.     ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
8.     130 ml dry white wine
9.     Pinch of salt
10.    Pinch of pepper
11.    A bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

The Pasta:
1. On a pasta pan over a high heat, boil some water with 1 tsp of olive oil  and pinch of salt.
2. Once the water starts to boil cook your fresh pasta for 3-4 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Drain all the water from the pasta, leaving only 4 tbsp of the pasta water.

The Clams and Prawns:
3. Wash and clean your prawns, mussels and clams on a cold running water, for mussels and clams that are open or slightly open, tap them lightly and if they do not close discard them.
4. On a large pan, over high heat add 3 tbsp of olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, some of your chopped parsley, pinch of salt, pepper and sauté for 1 minute.
5. Add mussels, clams, prawns and white wine; allow it to simmer for 2 minutes then cover with a lid.
6. Leave to cook for 5 minutes gently shaking the pan a few times. Once the mussels and clams have all opened, add 4 tbsp of pasta water and stir in the pasta gently for 1 minute.

Serve warm.

Extra Tip: A traditional Neapolitan cuisine, which translates to Spaghetti with clams. A favourite family weekday meal in our household that is easy as well as quick to prepare and cook. This recipe is a different version from the traditional Spaghetti alle Vongole many Italians cook, which only has clams, on this recipe I added prawns and mussels which I truly adore, I have tried this dish with only clams and prawns or clams only and it still taste as good. The fresh flat parsley is the key to making this dish, without it the dish seems to lack the freshness it brings to this amazingly easy to cook dish.

Gnocchi alla Crema

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KITCHEN KIT
Potato masher

Ingredients Serves 4:

The Gnocchi:
1. 4 large baking potatoes
2. 2 eggs
3. 150g flour
4. Pinch of salt
5. Pinch of pepper
6. 25g polenta

The Cream Sauce:
1. 1 tbsp of oil
2. 250g / 1 bag of spinach
3. A handful of pine nuts
4. 170ml single cream
5. 170g mascarpone
6. 3 cloves of thinly slice garlic
7. 4 rashers of diced bacon
8. A handful Dolce latte for garnish
9. Grated Parmeggiano cheese
10. Pinch of salt
11. Pinch of pepper
12. Pinch of nutmeg

The Gnocchi:
1. In a large saucepan bring some water to the boil, add unpeeled potatoes and cook for 50 minutes.
2. Drain potatoes on a colander (return boiled water onto the sauce pan), peel the potato skin off.
3. Transfer peeled potatoes on a large bowl, season with a bit of salt and pepper and mash until smooth.
4. Add the flour and eggs one at a time, mixing to the mash potato. Knead the potato dough (the dough should be moist and not sticky, add a sprinkling of flour if it is sticky)
5. Roll the dough like a cigar on a flour dusted surface. Slice the dough in small squares approx. 1cm thick.

gnocchi
6. Sprinkle some polenta on a plate then add your gnocchi.
7. Reheat your sauce pan, add a pinch of salt, and add your gnocchi onto the boiling water one batch at a time. The gnocchi will rise up and float on the surface of a boiling water when they are cooked. Once cooked drain the gnocchi and plate.

gnocchi

gnocchi

The Cream Sauce:
1. Put a sauce pan on a medium heat, add 1 tbsp of oil, add diced bacon cook until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside.
2. Using the same sauce pan with the bacon fat and remaining oil, add the sliced garlic cook for 1 minute. Then add the spinach, cream, and mascarpone, ½ of the pine nuts, pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg and some grated parmeggiano cheese. Stir until the sauce starts to thicken.
3. Remove from heat, pour the sauce over the gnocchi, sprinkle with crispy bacon, some pine nuts, some grated cheese and garnish with small torn dolce latte cheese.

gnocchi

Serve warm.

Extra Tip: If you would like to make gnocchi tricolore (red, white and green gnocchi). Divide the gnocchi dough into 3 equal parts, and set one portion aside. Mix a portion of the dough with tomato paste, this makes the red gnocchi. For the green gnocchi, mix a portion of the dough with cooked, drained and finely chopped spinach, mix all together. Roll the red and green dough separately like a cigar on a flour dusted surface. Slice the 2 portions of dough in small squares approx. 1cm thick