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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Less than 90 mins

12Sep 12

Beef Canneloni

Beef Canneloni

 

There are a million ways you can make canneloni. The combination of fillings and sauces are up to your imagination! My mum used to cook up a beef canneloni with a tomato filling, and so I followed suit. Of course I experiment with other possibilities, but I consider this the classic recipe.

Some people use the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking pan, placing the canneloni on top of the passata and then smothering it with cheese. Others place the canneloni in first and then pour the tomato on top. My personal preference is combining the two and using both as filling, while drizzling over a delicious buttery cheese sauce. And if you really like cheese, you could sprinkle some extra on top afterwards!

Canneloni is a bit like lasagne: there are a million options for combinations, and the ingredients are made separately and then combined in the oven. Try this fantastic vegetable lasagne, and you’ll see what I mean.

Beef Canneloni
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
My mum's recipe for classic beef canneloni
Ingredients
  • 6 large canneloni tubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 230g ground beef
  • 400ml passata
  • 25g butter
  • 12g flour
  • 170ml milk
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • 50g cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
Instructions
  1. Cook canneloni according to packet instructions.
  2. Next, pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground beef and fry for about 5 minutes.
  4. Next, pour in the passata, a pinch of salt, a couple twists of black pepper and the basil. Let it all simmer together between 15 and 20 minutes.
  5. While the meat is simmering, you can prepare the topping and preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan. When completely melted, whisk in the flour for a minute or two. When completely dissolved, you can add the milk. This step should be done slowly and carefully so as to avoid lumps.
  7. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer for five minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  8. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes, stirring them all together.
  9. Take the meat and tomato mixture, stuffing it inside the canneloni.
  10. Gently place the canneloni side-by-side in a large baking dish, pouring the cheese sauce on top.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes and serve piping hot. But be careful not to burn your mouth!

 

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07Aug 12

Aubergine Parmigiana

Aubergine Parmigiana
Aubergine Parmigiana
or La Parmigiana Melanzane originates from the beautiful coastal province of Puglia, set in the heel of Italy. It’s a great way to serve up aubergines, layering them with tomato and cheese, almost like the classic lasagne, minus the pasta.

Serve with fresh garlic bread and a rocket salad. Perfect accompanied with a classic northern Italian red wine, such as Villa Casetta – Barbera d’Alba. Divino!

Aubergine Parmigiana
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A delicious, warming aubergine dish layered with cheese and tomato
Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes, or 500g of fresh ripe tomatoes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 leaves of shredded basil
  • 2 medium aubergines
  • 1 ball Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced
  • Splash of wine vinegar
  • Handful of Parmesan cheese
  • Handful of dried breadcrumbs
  • Pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. If you use fresh tomatoes, which will be sweeter if they are in season, you first need to de-skin them. Prick the skins and put them in a pan of boiling water for 40-50 seconds. Spoon them out and drop them into a bowl of cold water. Leave for 30 seconds, then remove their skins. Cut up the flesh, removing the seeds.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan. Add the garlic, onion and dried oregano and gently cook for 7-8 minutes until the onion is soft and the garlic turns a golden brown.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cinnamon and simmer for around 15 minutes until you have a thickened sauce. Season with the basil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove the cinnamon stick.
  5. Whilst the tomato sauce is simmering, slice the aubergines lengthways about 1cm thick. Brush both sides with oil and a little salt. Pan fry or chargrill, turning a few times until tender. It's important to get the aubergine as tender as possible, so give it time, but don’t burn them! Put them to one side.
  6. Now take an ovenproof dish and spoon a layer of the sauce in the bottom of the dish, cover with aubergine and then the Mozzarella. Repeat 3 or 4 times and finish with a thin layer of tomato sauce.
  7. Sprinkle with Parmesan and breadcrumbs and bake for 30-40 minutes until the dish is bubbling and the Parmesan and breadcrumbs are golden brown.

 

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25Jul 12

Bacon and Borlotti Soup

Bacon and Borlotti Soup

 

I’ve called this bacon and borlotti partly for the benefit of English readers, and partly because I like the alliteration. You could of course use bacon instead of the pancetta I suggest, but of course thin rashers of bacon aren’t rustic, authentic or, let’s face it, macho! (For a vegetarian recipe using similar kidney beans, try this cheesy chilli sin carne.)

This recipe calls for “small soup pasta”. We have terms like ‘pasta in brodo’, which translates as pasta in broth, or ‘pastina’, the latter meaning literally, little pasta. Such pasta comes in many forms including, amongst the smaller types suitable for this recipe, annellini, grattini or stellini, the last of which are, as the name suggests, little stars! Nowadays many stores sell bags of small pasta in mixed sizes and shapes specifically for soup, so you can you have fun seeing what you can find.

Once the pasta is ready, take the soup off the heat and let stand to cool off a little before serving. Nobody wants to scald their mouth; we like to taste our food after going to the effort of cooking it!

Have a nice crusty loaf of unsliced bread and some butter handy, so you break off nice chunks and dip them in the soup. The Parmesan shaving, parsley sprigs and olive oil are all optional extras, and you may not feel you need them.

Bacon & Borlotti Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A hearty and savoury soup with Borlotti beans and small soup pasta
Ingredients
  • 100 ml water
  • 15g dried porcini
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 200g canned borlotti beans, drained and washed
  • 100g small soup pasta
  • 75g pancetta, cubed
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan shavings, parsley sprigs and extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
Instructions
  1. - Dried mushrooms need reviving, 'ravvivare' as we say: boil the 100ml of water, pour into a heat-proof bowl or container, and plop your porcini in, making sure they're all taking a proper hot bath! Soak for 15 minutes, drain (reserving the flavoured fluid), gently squeezing out any excess moisture.
  2. - Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, over a low heat, adding the cubed pancetta, carrot, onion and celery. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up to medium and add rosemary, garlic and porcini, allowing to cook through for a minute or two.
  3. - Add the borlotti beans and red wine, turn up the heat and boil off the wine. Stir in the tomato purée, followed by the chicken stock and the liquid from soaking the mushrooms. Bring back to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the soup gently for about ten minutes.
  4. - Bring the soup back to the boil again and add your pasta, keep stirring the whole mixture, cooking it till the pasta is al dente. Small pasta is best for this recipe, as it keeps the soup kind of rustic and manageable, and also, importantly, will cook quickly.
  5. – Let cool just a bit before serving.

 

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25Jun 12

Pigeon Risotto

Pigeon risottoOne species that’s learned to live alongside us pretty well is the pigeon. In our towns and cities, they’re hardly an endangered species! They’ve often been seen as pests, and they certainly can be something of a nuisance. But, seriously, if you can get hold of pigeon, then why not try this delicious risotto recipe? (For a veggie risotto, try this asparagus risotto recipe.)

Ingredients:

For the risotto:

  • 600ml stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 small/medium onion (or half a large onion)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g Arborio rice
  • 1 medium glass of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 60g grated Parmesan cheese

For the pigeon ragout:

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 Pigeon (prepared by your butcher)
  • Half a medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 small stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced very thinly
  • 2 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 glass of red or white wine, according to preference
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – Since it’ll take significantly longer than the rice, start with the bird. In a casserole or similar type dish, combine two-thirds of the olive oil with the wine and some salt and pepper. Place the pigeon into the liquid, and put in an oven preheated to 180°C. Cook for 25 minutes, then remove, place the meat in a bowl to cool and reserve the cooking liquid.

2 – With the remainder of the olive oil in the casserole dish, fry the herbs gently over a low-medium heat for a few minutes before adding the garlic. Gently sauté the garlic for a couple more minutes before adding the pigeon. After a few minutes, pour in the wine mixture and gently simmer for up to an hour to reduce the liquid and cook the bird.

3 – Once the pigeon’s simmering, make a start on the risotto: heat the stock in a pan. Melt about one third of the butter in another deep pan over a low heat. Add the olive oil and then gently sauté the onion, before adding the garlic. In 5-10 minutes the onion and garlic will be ready; add the rice and fry gently for a couple of minutes.

4 – Pour in the white wine. When the wine has cooked off, start adding stock, a ladle-full (or two) at a time, stirring all the while. Risotto rice should be a little like al dente pasta: soft, but with some bite. When the rice is cooked, add the remaining butter and the Parmesan cheese.

5 – Hopefully, if you’ve timed it right, your pigeon and risotto are now both ready. Risotto rice needs to sit for a few minutes before serving: once it’s rested a little, mix in the pigeon ragout, and serve in warmed bowls.

Pigeon is sufficiently robust; it can be paired with lighter red wines, rosés, or more obviously, dry whites like pinot grigio. But I like the peppery Gruner Veltliner grape, associated more with Austria than Italy, I know, but very versatile with food!

Serves: 2
Total Time – 1 hour 30 minutes (preparation, 15 minutes; cooking time, up to 1 hour and 15 minutes)

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21Jun 12

Italian Classics – Spaghetti Bolognese

spaghetti bolognese
You know I’m a linguine lover, but there are some days when only a classic Bolognese will do, and that means classic spaghetti. I use fine spaghetti rather than the usual thicker stuff – but go for whatever shape strikes your fancy.  So here it is, my classic spaghetti Bolognese.

There’s something really satisfying about twirling the strands of spaghetti in your fork, isn’t there? And I still like those odd moments when you have to suck in a strand that’s left dangling from your mouth. It takes me back to being a boy and lapping up my mum’s spaghetti Bolognese. This might not be the ideal thing to serve up on a first date – though it could be an ice-breaker if you’ve both got a good sense of humour! If you fancy a bolognese with a difference, take a peek at my favourite bolognese recipe, lamb and linguine bolognese.

Italian Classics – Spaghetti Bolognese
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
You know I’m a linguine lover, but there are some days when only a classic Bolognese will do, and that means classic spaghetti.
Ingredients
  • 250g lean minced beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely sliced
  • 75g Portobello mushrooms, use chestnut mushrooms if you can’t find them, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced or minced
  • 80ml red wine – we like to drink a glass while we cook together too, and chat in the kitchen
  • ½ tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • ½ -1 tsp sugar
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • A generous pinch of dried oregano or mixed Italian herbs
  • Fresh Parmesan, grated, to serve
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
  • Fresh oregano or fresh basil to garnish
  • 150g dried fine spaghetti
Instructions
  1. Dry fry the mince in a pan along with the onion, garlic, carrots and celery, for around 7-10 minutes, until the beef browns.
  2. Toss the mushrooms into the pan and continue to fry for a few minutes.
  3. Shake over the flour, mixing it in well.
  4. Splash in the wine, and add the tomato purée, tinned tomatoes and 150ml cold water.
  5. Give it all a good old stir before crumbling in the stock cube, sprinkling on the sugar and shaking over the dried herbs.
  6. Twist over with black pepper, I like to use a fair bit myself in this recipe for a good old peppery edge.
  7. Stir everything together and bring the sauce up to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat and simmer on low for around 30-40 minutes. You don’t need to cover it, but do give it a stir every now and then.
  8. Boil a large pan of water, add a pinch of salt and a swirl of olive oil and add the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti for the time recommended on the packet – usually around 10 minutes. Drain to serve.
  9. For the last 10 minutes of the cooking time, turn the heat of the Bolognese sauce up a little to reduce the liquid, and it will thicken up nicely.
  10. Season again and serve the sauce piled on top of the spaghetti. Top off with the grated Parmesan and the fresh herb garnish, and tuck in!

 

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14Jun 12

Italian Classics – Lasagne

Lasagne

 

A classic Italian dish known all around the world, there’s no need to wonder why lasagne is so popular… it’s simply delicious! This recipe assumes you have some ready-made Bolognese sauce to hand. So, if you need help with that, look back through my posts for my spaghetti Bolognese recipe, and use that.

This recipe also calls for béchamel sauce, delicious and creamy. You can buy it at the store, but as always, I prefer to make mine from scratch. So the first step in the recipe below explains the method of preparation for the sauce using bay leaf, milk, butter and nutmeg. That is the first part of the recipe, and you´ll want to start with that.

Now the fun bit: assembling your lasagne. I like to imagine I’m laying the strata of rocks and earth in an imaginary edible geological cross-section!

Have a piquant peppery green-leaf salad with your lasagne, a salad with a bit of bite! Oh, and don’t forget, a hearty and robust red wine is an essential accompaniment. I know I should probably recommend an Italian wine, but I love Chateaneuf du Pape, when I can afford it! And afterwards, you can savour this Negroni cocktail, another Italian favourite!

Italian Classics - Lasagne
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A classic Italian dish known all around the world
Ingredients
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500ml milk
  • 40g butter
  • 40g flour
  • ½ teaspoonful of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 350ml (i.e. approx 4 servings) of Bolognese sauce
  • 160g dried lasagne sheets*
  • 100g grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • * Or you could roll out your pasta dough if you have some you’ve made yourself.
Instructions
  1. To make the béchamel sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a pan with the bay leaf in it. Take off the heat and stand for 15-20 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavour of the bay leaf. Melt the butter in another pan, over a low heat. Add the flour and stir.
  2. Watch closely and monitor the heat. In a minute or two, the flour and butter mixture will have combined and ‘cooked’. Remove from the heat and slowly and gradually add the infused milk, having first strained it through a sieve to get rid of the bay leaf (and anything else that might make the sauce lumpy!), stirring all the while.
  3. Once it’s all combined and you’re sure it’s mixed smoothly, return to the heat and gently simmer until it thickens, which should only take a minute or two. Add the grated nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Next, get started on your pasta. I’m assuming the use of dried pasta sheets for this recipe. Cook them in batches in salted boiling water, until al dente, as usual.
  5. As you take each batch out, drain off excess water, rinse in cold water to refresh, and lay on a kitchen towel or tea towel, to absorb any moisture.
  6. While you’re doing this, you can reheat your Bolognese sauce in a pan or microwave.
  7. In a suitably sized ovenproof dish, start with the Bolognese sauce: go for three layers - you should have the perfect amount of everything enabling you to divide the pasta, Bolognese and béchamel sauces in thirds. So on top of one-third of your meaty sauce, put one-third of the béchamel, then a layer of pasta. Repeat the process two more times, reserving a little béchamel for the top of the last layer of pasta, before finally sprinkling over the Parmesan. We sometimes add small amounts of Parmesan in each layer as well, over the béchamel sauce, for added cheesiness.
  8. Bake at 220ºC until the top turns a beautiful golden brown, which should take 15-20 minutes, and then remove from the oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, before serving.

 

 

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27Apr 12

Paperdelle with Wild Boar

Papperdelle con Cinghiale

You may have noted that you can buy boar either wild or farmed, but nowadays, truly wild boar is less easily had. Boar is such a different beast from the more commonly farmed breeds of domesticated pig; it’s a deliciously strong, earthy flavour, and something everyone should try. (For more gamey recipes, try this potpie of roe deer with root vegetables.)

Ingredients:

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small bunch flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Small sprig of rosemary
  • 2 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced very finely
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (a red onion if possible)
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 large glass of robust red wine
  • 500g wild boar meat, finely chopped or minced
  • 1kg pappardelle
  • Pecorino, grated
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – In the olive oil, gently fry the herbs for several minutes, along with the bay leaf, in a heavy-bottomed frying pan or casserole. Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for 3-5 minutes before adding the garlic. Cook for a couple more minutes and then add the meat.

2 – Pour in the wine. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the liquid is almost completely reduced. Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for a further fifteen minutes.

3 – In a large pan of lightly salted boiling water, cook the pasta till al dente, as per the packet instructions. If you don’t have papardelle, then fettucine, tagliatelle, or even linguine or spaghetti will suffice.

4 – Drain the pasta and serve into large, deep preheated plates, before serving the wild boar sauce. Have a bowl of pecorino on hand so you can sprinkle the wild boar paperdelle liberally with cheese.

Wild boar meat can be very strongly flavoured, so you need a muscular red wine to stand up to it! Rhone valley reds, like the classic Chateauneuf-du-Pape, seem like an obvious option. A good crusty loaf of brown bread and some extra virgin olive oil will go well with this scrumptious meal.

Serves: 2
Total Time: – 1 hour (preparation, 15 minutes; cooking time 45 minutes)

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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.