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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Less than 30 minutes

02Oct 12

Italian Classics – Affogato

AffogatoWhilst there’s really very little to preparing this exquisitely simple ice cream and coffee dessert; it’s one that I absolutely must share with you. The Italian classic –Affogato, is ridiculously easy to make and holds the essence of Italian intensity in its heart. You can taste the love in lots of simple Italian recipes, and this is no exception.

Strong mocha coffee is poured over vanilla ice cream, drowning it (as the translation of affogato suggests) and melting it under intense aromas. It’s a fabulous summer pick up in the afternoons, or as a refreshing dessert. Serve and enjoy it whilst the coffee is warm for a gorgeous combination of heat and ice, light and dark, bitter and sweet. You can make mocha coffee, keep the coffee pure, or add a generous splash of amaretto liqueur for an extra lick of Italian love.  If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could also make and crumble these almond and chocolate orange biscotti over the top.

The secret to the pleasure here is to use top-notch ingredients. Quality over quantity every time, I say.

Italian Classics – Affogato
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Strong mocha coffee is poured over vanilla ice cream, drowning it (as the translation of affogato suggests) and melting it under intense aromas
Ingredients
  • 100ml just made strong and hot espresso coffee
  • 2 large round scoops of top quality vanilla ice cream.
  • A few squares of plain chocolate if you fancy it.
Instructions
  1. Make 2 espresso coffees as you would if you were serving them in little espresso cups.
  2. If you’re adding chocolate, break it into the hot espresso, let it melt and stir it in.
  3. Scoop a big round ball of ice cream into 2 serving glasses. Then ‘drown’ the ice cream with the mocha coffee.
  4. If you’re adding liqueur, do so now, and serve the affogato up whilst warm and melting. Oh my!

 

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31Aug 12

Veal Milanese

Veal Milanese
These pan-fried veal escalopes splashed with lemon are mouth-wateringly good. Veal Milanese reminds me of authentic trattoria cuisine from when I was a child growing up. The escalopes are best served with a small portion of spaghetti and a fresh Pomodoro sauce, or sautéed potatoes and salad.

If you are having a dinner party and stuck for time or inspiration, then Veal Milanese is a simple dish. It won’t cause a sweat in the kitchen, but will definitely impress your friends.

If you don’t like the idea of cooking veal, then you can use an alternative such as chicken or pork, but really veal is the authentic ingredient and definitely the most delicious meat for this recipe. If you do enjoy veal, then you could also try Brian Turner’s rib of rose veal with honey and soy glaze.

Veal Milanese
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A classic veal dish served with spaghetti Pomodoro or sautéed potatoes.
Ingredients
  • 2 veal escalopes (about 100g each)
  • 1 large egg
  • 150g flour
  • 150g white breadcrumbs
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary, discard the stalks and very finely chop the leaves
  • Handful of basil leaves, chopped very finely
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lemon, quartered to serve
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. You need to flatten the veal escalopes, so place them in clingfilm, and using a rolling pin, gently pound them, being careful not to tear the meat - it just needs to be a little thinner and stretched.
  2. Crack the eggs into a dish and beat them lightly together with some salt and black pepper. Mix the finely chopped rosemary and basil into the breadcrumbs and spread on a plate. Now season the flour with salt and black pepper and spread on to another plate.
  3. Dip each escalope, first into the flour, then the beaten egg and finally into the breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess breadcrumbs. Then place the escalopes onto a clean plate.
  4. Heat half the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat; when sizzling hot, add the escalopes to the pan. Cook them for 4-5 minutes on each side or till crisp and golden brown.
  5. Sprinkle with a little salt and serve with the lemons to squeeze over, grated Parmesan and your choice of side dish.

 

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29Aug 12

Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari

 

Fried Calamari is a must-know for any aspiring Italian chef. I often serve mine alongside home-made chips, taking advantage of the already heated and ready-to-go deep fryer. Besides, that combination sort of gives a nod to the British classic fish and chips.

You may have noticed that most seafood platters are served with lemon wedges, which is interesting to me. The combination of the citric fruit and fish comes from the olden days when it was more difficult to keep fish fresh for a long time. As there wasn’t ice in those days, the product often developed an unpleasant odor after being stored or transported to a nearby city, the journey often taking a few days. Lemon was used to combat the smell of the less-than-fresh seafood. Others say that it was used like salt to help preserve the quality of the nutrients and avoid any bacterial problems.

But now that transportation and keeping our seafood fresh isn’t a problem, we still use lemon! My parents were against the use of lemon and claimed that it is an insult to the chef to use it. If you like the combination, you are free to eat it as you choose. However, maybe you could try it without and enjoy the flavours of the fish exactly as they should be savoured.

(Also try this sea bass with white bean mash.)

Fried Calamari
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Fried Calamari is a must-know for any aspiring Italian chef
Ingredients
  • 400g calamari, cleaned and cut up in rings
  • 130g flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 130g breadcrumbs
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 lemon, cut up into wedges for serving
  • 200ml marinara sauce
Instructions
  1. Take the calamari, and with a paper towel, pat out any remaining water.
  2. Place the flour in a sandwich bag, along with the calamari, and shake, thoroughly coating all of the squid with the flour.
  3. Using a sieve in a bowl, dump out the contents of the bag into the sieve, and the excess flour will fall into the bowl.
  4. Beat the two eggs in another bowl, and carefully dip the flour-covered calamari into the egg.
  5. Next, pour the breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper or whatever other seasonings you like into a sandwich bag.
  6. Repeat the process from before, dumping the egg-coated squid into the Ziploc bag. Shake and sieve out the excess breadcrumbs and seasoning.
  7. Meanwhile, heat up the deep fryer to cook the calamari, approximately 3 minutes until they turn a golden brown.
  8. Invert the squid onto a plate covered with paper towel to soak up any dripping oil.
  9. Remove the paper towel and serve alongside a few lemon wedges and the marinara sauce for dipping.

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27Jul 12

Taleggio, Ham and Sage Gnocchi

Taleggio, Ham and Sage GnocchiGnocchi are basically a kind of small, soft dumpling, which can be made from a variety of ingredients, including flour, semolina and potato, or numerous other combinations. Recently a friend of ours cooked us gnocchi made with chestnut flour, which was new to us, and very delicious. I’d like to try it myself some time soon. If and when I do, I’ll post it here.

Taleggio is a soft cheese named for the beautiful Val Taleggio in Lombardy. It is what is called ‘washed rind’ and ‘smear-ripened’. These terms refer to the maturation processes, and the result in this case is a pungent-smelling but pretty mild-tasting cheese, ideal for melting in dishes such as this.

Last time we ate this, we had one of our favourite super simple salads with it, consisting merely of watercress with Parmesan shavings, lightly drizzled in olive oil, with a slug of balsamic vinegar and a twist of pepper, and a freshly baked (from the supermarket, admittedly) white baguette. (For dessert, why not try this white chocolate mousse?)

Taleggio, Ham and Sage Gnocchi
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Gnocchi are basically a kind of small, soft dumpling, which can be made from a variety of ingredients, including flour, semolina and potato, or numerous other combinations.
Ingredients
  • 15g butter, cubed
  • 60g pancetta, cubed
  • 100ml double cream
  • 3 or 4 sage leaves (cut length-wise into thin strips)
  • 50g Taleggio cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 teaspoon of fine flour
  • 200g gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, over a low heat, melt the butter. Add the pancetta and cook slowly, until beginning to caramelize (approx 10 minutes).
  2. Add the cream and sage and stir together. Increase the heat, bringing the mixture to the boil, thicken and reduce for several minutes. Add the Taleggio and Parmesan, stirring them in, and then remove the pan from the heat. Once the cheese has melted, taste, and then season lightly with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook the gnocchi as per the packet instructions. This is usually only a matter of some minutes, and waiting for the gnocchi to float to the water surface. Drain and return to the pan. Pour over the sauce and serve to warmed plates or bowls.

 

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22Jul 12

Chilli Crab Spaghetti

Chilli Crab SpaghettiCrab is obviously just one of the many delicious and varied ‘frutti di mare’, or ‘fruits of the sea’ commonly found in Italian food. And, given that almost all of Italy’s regions have stretches of coast, it’s no wonder our rich seafood is omnipresent in our cuisine.

And, of course, feel free to switch out spaghetti for any other similar pasta like tagliatelli or fettucine. Any of those options would work.

A similar-tasting meat is crayfish meat, which are only found in fresh water. If you want to try out a recipe using crayfish, try this crayfish rice with mango recipe.

Like some other of my recipes in the blog, you can start off with the pasta, as the whole meal is done very quickly, whilst the pasta cooks.

A light, leafy green salad, using something like iceberg lettuce or Romaine (also known as Cos) lettuce, makes a good accompaniment to this dish, as would a dry white wine. A floral French Bordeaux wine would be one option, whilst the more flinty taste of Chablis, from Burgundy, would be another. Despite the differences, either type of wine pairs up nicely with crab, I think.

Chilli Crab Spaghetti
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
This is also yet another example of simple and quick pasta that is light and delicious
Ingredients
  • 50ml olive oil (extra virgin is best)
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced into thin strips (set aside some fronds for use as garnish)
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced paper-thin
  • 1 red chilli (fresh), deseeded and finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • A handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 50ml dry vermouth
  • The juice of ½ a lemon
  • 150g fresh crab meat
  • 200g spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook according to the packet instructions, in a large pan of lightly salted water, till the pasta is al dente.
  2. Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan over a low heat. Add the garlic, chilli and fennel, and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the crab meat, and cook for a minute or so before adding the vermouth. Turn up the heat, bringing the liquor to the boil. Reduce for a couple of minutes, until most of the liquor has evaporated.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the remaining oil, the juice of half a lemon, and season. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  4. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the chilli/crab mixture and stir it all together. Serve to warm plates, garnished with the cherry tomatoes and fennel fronds or parsley.

 

 

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03Jul 12

Borlotti Bean and Tuna Antipasto

Borlotti Bean and Tuna Antipasto
Do you ever make time to cook up a three course meal at home just to share some special time with your other half? It’s hard for all of us to make time for that, I know, but it’s something that Teresa and I like to prioritise. Because we find cooking relaxing and fun, some weekends find us together in the kitchen – glass of wine in hand, and conversation flowing, chopping knives doing their work in between sips of the red, or the white stuff. We can catch up on our week together this way.

On these days it’s a regular pleasure for us to put together a borlotti bean and tuna antipasto as a warm up to a plate of clam linguine (if we’re having a seafood night) followed by some home-made tiramisu. On these special nights, we lay a beautiful table, light a few candles, and get the music flowing. Ah, the simple pleasures of life.

Borlotti Bean and Tuna Antipasto
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Borlotti beans, tuna and red onion dressed with Parmesan and lemon
Ingredients
  • 1 can of borlotti beans
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • The juice of a lemon and a little zest if you fancy it – I usually do
  • ¼ red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
  • About 100g drained tuna fish from a can – choose a really good one
  • 1-2 tbsp garlic or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan shavings
  • 1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, squeeze the lemon and sprinkle the zest over the chopped onion and let the flavours mix and absorb.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans, then turn them into a separate mixing bowl.
  3. Open and drain the tuna, arranging it in flakes over the beans.
  4. Cover the beans and tuna with the lemon and onion mix, grind over some salt and pepper and drizzle over with the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Toss the salad to coat the tuna and beans with the dressing, before spooning it out in the salad bowl.
  6. Lightly drop over the Parmesan shavings and sprinkle over the fresh parsley.
  7. Serve with love.

 

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17Jun 12

Basil and Ricotta Pasta

Basil and Ricotta PastaSometimes you’ve just got no time. For times like that, there’s ‘pasta prestissimo’. Prestissimo is actually a term used in music to indicate ‘play as fast as possible’. With that in mind, here is a no-nonsense, time-saving pasta recipe for basil and ricott pasta – perfect for the modern Italian chef in a hurry. (For another fast Italian recipe, try this pasta with egg yolks and walnuts.)

Make sure you have some quick-cooking pasta handy! The recipe basically takes as long as the pasta requires. I used spaghetti, but you can help it cook faster by breaking it in half before tossing it into the boiling water.

Ingredients:

  • 200g of quick-cooking pasta, penne or fusilli are ideal for this recipe
  • A bottle of olive oil (don’t worry, we’re not using all of it!)
  • 50g sun-dried tomatoes
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • 150g ricotta cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – Boil a half-full kettle and pour the water into a pan that’s on high with an inch or so of water already in the bottom, a pinch of salt in it, and the lid on. (i.e. get that water boiling as quickly as humanly possible!) Once boiling, toss in your pasta.

2 – While the pasta cooks, roughly tear up the basil by hand and crumble your ricotta into nice lumpy chunks. Chop the tomatoes as well.

3 – When your pasta’s cooked, drain it, reserving a small cup or glass full of the cooking liquid. Serve the pasta into two slightly-warmed bowls, and sprinkle over the basil, tomatoes and ricotta. With your thumb over the opening of the olive oil bottle, splash the pasta mix generously with olive oil, along with one or two spoonfuls of the reserved pasta water. Don’t use too much, as you still want a sensuously unctuous plate of pasta, even without going to the trouble of making a sauce. Mix it all together.

4. Season with salt and pepper and tuck in!

If you’ve got a jar or bottle of pitted black olives in brine handy, and can find the time to chop a few up and sprinkle them over, they make a tasty and simple addition!

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14Jun 12

Roast Courgette Ruote

Roast Courgette RuoteThis dish matches wheel-shaped pasta (ruote simply means wheel) with round slices of roast courgette, and pesto if you’ve got any in the fridge.

Despite its earthy simplicity, this dish is somehow light and refreshing, and makes an ideal pairing with cold beer, a good dry white wine, or even prosecco. Eaten outdoors on a balmy night, with a cool refreshing beverage – by water is idyllic – this is a simple, subtly-flavoured food that leaves you quite satisfied.

For more courgette goodness, try these courgette and tomato pizzettas.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large courgette, cut into thin (2-3mm) slices
  • 200g of ruote pasta, or any other fun alternative such as fiori or croxetti
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium-sized onion, fairly coarsely chopped (small stamp-sized pieces)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto (optional)

Method:

1 – Heat your grill to 200ºC, and place the chopped courgette on a baking/roasting tray, on a sheet of foil if need be, but certainly with a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil sprinkled over them. Get them under the heat, as close as safely and reasonably possible, without setting them alight! Keep an attentive eye on them, and turn over when necessary. Lay the courgette slices out so they overlap slightly, as this will mean some of the soft flesh roasts whilst other parts stay tender.

2 – Whilst the courgettes are roasting, get the pasta cooking. The time this recipe takes depends on two things: how long your courgettes take to roast, and how long your pasta needs. Assuming your courgettes char quickly and you time your pasta right, you should be able to get this done in 30 minutes.

3 – With your courgettes roasting and the pasta cooking, in a heavy-based frying pan, heat two tablespoons of oil, fry the onion till golden, adding the garlic after a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat when the onions are well caramelised and the garlic has started to turn golden, and set aside.

4 – Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Mix in the onion and garlic and, if the courgettes aren’t ready yet, keep warm. But hopefully your courgettes are now nicely roasted. Mix them into the pasta, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and serve. You might like to have a little bowl of pesto handy, and plop a dollop on top of your pasta.

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04Jun 12

Proper tomato sauce for your pizza

Proper tomato sauce for your pizzaIn my goat cheese pizza recipe, I used a very simple tomato sauce that’s easily cooked during the preparation of the pizza itself. For something a bit richer, it’s worthwhile to make your own tomato sauce. This sauce is very simple and can be stored, so in one go you can prepare enough sauce for plenty of pizza-making sessions.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, chopped roughly (or half an onion, if you’ve no shallots)
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic (we actually use more sometimes)
  • 3 x 400 g tins of peeled plum tomatoes
  • A hand full of roughly chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based non-stick pan. Over a low-medium heat, add the garlic and shallots, letting the shallots turn translucent and the garlic colour slightly. While this is happening, empty the tomatoes into a large jug or bowl and – taking care not to cut yourself – go into a chopping frenzy (sometimes I actually do this with the tomatoes still in the can, but be sure to completely remove the can lid and not injure yourself!).

2 – After the garlic and shallots have softened up a bit, add the chopped tomatoes, basil, and freshly ground black pepper. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a sieve into a suitable sized bowl. With the back of a wooden spoon, really press the mixture through, not forgetting to scrape off the red goo from the reverse side of the sieve.

3 – Having removed the coarser elements of the mixture – the onion, garlic and basil – but retaining their rich flavours, scrape all the contents of the bowl back in to original pan and return to the heat. Bring it back to the boil before reducing to a simmer and watching for 5-10 minutes. The sauce should reduce by about a third as the flavours intensify.

Store in a sealable airtight jar, this will keep for a good little while, especially if you add a layer of olive oil over the mixture. It’s lasted several weeks in our fridge on one or two occasions, although it’s usually devoured well before there’s any danger of it going bad. If you’re feeling decadent, you can even add some rich red wine, which makes this sauce an excellent tomato base for a quick ragu.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try Kumato tomatoes for a distinct flavour.

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29May 12

Pasta and tomato sauce

Pasta and tomato sauceThis past weekend was fun, but extremely busy! Friday I had to stay late at work; Saturday I scrambled to buy a gift, attend my nephew’s birthday party, and take my wife out on our weekly date night; Sunday I had what seemed like a billion odd jobs around the house. Before I knew it, Sunday night had arrived, and just as I thought I could relax, my neighbour called and asked for help changing a flat tyre! I was tired and hungry, but I had to eat in a hurry before rushing to his aid. I didn’t have much food in the house, so I cooked up the ever-so-simple yet classic pasta and tomato sauce.

This one is for all you busy guys and gals. We all have those days when we’re just rushed off our feet, but we still crave something satisfying. One of the many fantastic things about Italian food is how quick and easy it can be. And sometimes simple is also best. This classic combination of pasta and tomato sauce might be basic, but it certainly satisfies when time is short.

For a more deluxe combination, while still keeping it simple, try adding a bit of chicken or seafood for more protein. I recommend this clam linguine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves (crush them with the flat of your knife blade if you’re really in a hurry)
  • 250ml passata (sieved tomato sauce)
  • 150-200g of whatever pasta you have within an arm’s reach
  • A chunky knob of butter
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – In a large pan bring some lightly-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente.

2 – Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, and sauté the garlic over a low heat for half a minute. Stir in the passata and increase the heat. Bring the sauce to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

4 – By now the pasta is done, so drain it before combining the sauce and the pasta. Add the butter and mix together. Serve with added Parmesan and seasoning to suit your palate.

Time is tight, so just pop open a handy bag of ready-mixed green leafy salad, and crack open a nice cold beer. Job done!

Serves: 2

Time: 20 minutes: 5 minutes preparation, 15 minutes cooking.

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About Gianluca Dievole

My Badge: Assistant

About

Buon' giorno! Welcome to my Italian food blog. I am Italian, and proud of it! Italy has so much going for it: with one foot quite literally in the beautiful Mediterranean, my country’s climate and location give us an amazing cornucopia of ingredients, which is why our culture is steeped in a hearty romantic culinary tradition. My wife and I love our food, so all my recipes are designed for two. If you're cooking for an average sized modern family - perhaps not the traditional extended Italian family - just double the quantities.