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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Meal for 4 people

15Jul 12

Rabbit Emilia-Romagna

Rabbit Emilia RomagnaI’m crazy about rabbit! (As you can probably tell by my post on braised rabbit.) If you liked my previous post, here’s another dinner party friendly dish with rabbit. This time it’s a regional speciality from the wealthy Emilia-Romagna, the ‘administrative region’ of northern Italy, home not only to some great food, but also to some other modest home-grown Italian successes like Lamborghini, Ducati, and Ferrari.

This goes well with rice, potatoes or polenta. Last time we had it, we had the potatoes dauphinoise style, – rich and creamy – and we loved it!

As for wine, you could go red, rosé or white with this fairly richly flavoured rabbit dish. We had Cuvée Mythique with it last time, a French red wine that I’d remembered as being very smooth. It was a bit sharper than I had remembered, but we still liked it. Nevertheless, perhaps next time I would try a different wine pairing for this delicious rabbit.



Rabbit Emilia-Romagna
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
This is a dinner party friendly dish with rabbit.
  • 1 medium-sized rabbit (about 1.5kg), cut into 8 pieces by your butcher
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 125ml passata (tomato sauce)
  • 50g butter
  • 100g lard
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  1. In a casserole dish, melt the butter and lard. Over a medium heat, cook the onions and celery and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onions turn golden. Add the rabbit pieces and continue to cook, turning the meat over to cook evenly. A couple of minutes on either side should be enough.
  2. Add the wine, cook for 2 minutes, and then add the passata. Stir thoroughly to coat all the meat with the tomato, and then add half the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 1 hour, turning the meat every 15 minutes and keeping an eye to ensure the food doesn’t dry out. If the sauce is disappearing, top up with some more stock.
  3. Mix the chopped garlic and parsley and add to the casserole, stir well, and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. At this point remove the lid, and depending on the level of liquid sauce, either serve immediately or cook for 5-10 minutes more to reduce the sauce even further.

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14Jun 12

Italian Classics – 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
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
A classic Italian dish known all around the world
  • 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.
  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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06Jun 12

Pumpkin Fusilli

Pumpkin FusilliYou might remember that I mentioned having a glut of sprouts on our allotment. Well, my wife Teresa loves pumpkins, and we grew quite a few last year. One of the recipes we enjoyed in the Autumn was this delicious pumpkin fusilli.

One of the reasons we love this recipe so much is the memories that it brings whenever we take a bite. We had a very enjoyable and memorable plateful of this on our honeymoon in Varenna, (Italy) by lake Como. Many people wondered why we chose to stay in Italy instead of traveling to a different country, as most newly-weds choose to do. However, we both love Italy so much, and often, we don’t take time to explore our own country. And I’m glad we did, because I had a lovely honeymoon and discovered one of our new favourite dishes!


  • 400g fusilli pasta
  • 1 medium-sized pumpkin, or 350 ml pumpkin purée
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 350ml vegetable broth
  • 60ml natural yoghurt
  • 60g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Cut the pumpkin into eight equal pieces. Sprinkle a little olive oil on each chunk, and roast in the oven. Remove and allow to cool, before scooping the soft flesh out.
  2. In a bowl, combine the pumpkin flesh with the Parmesan, nutmeg and other spices.
  3. In a frying pan, sautée the onion and garlic until soft. Then add the pumpkin mixture, vegetable broth, butter and brown sugar. Stir well and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Bring a pan of lightly-salted water to the boil, and toss in the fusilli pasta. The pasta should be ready in a matter of minutes.
  5. In the pumpkin sauce, add the yoghurt to lighten up the dark orange colour.
  6. Mix in the pasta so that it is completed coated with the sauce.
  7. Serve immediately with salt, pepper and grated Parmesan on top.

I recommend serving this pasta with a side salad like this crunchy sprout salad with pumpkin seeds and balsamic vinegar.

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07May 12

Braised Rabbit

Braised Rabbit

Nowadays you don’t have to go out with a gun to bag your own bunny; local farmers sell it at market or in their increasingly common farm shops. Most butchers can get it easily if they don’t already have it, and some of the bigger stores might have it on the meat counter.

Farmed rabbit tends to be plumper, whilst wild rabbit is leaner, darker, and might have lead shot in it, depending on how it was killed (make sure you find out!). It’s most convenient to buy rabbit prepared. Cooking a whole rabbit should feed four modestly or provide enough for two meals if cooking for just two. (Also try this English rabbit pie.)


  • 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 100ml white wine
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (balsamic is best!)
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 rabbit (prepared by your butcher), chopped into nugget-sized serving pieces
  • 300ml stock (can be vegetable, chicken or lamb)
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary*
  • 1 teaspoon thyme*
  • 1 teaspoon oregano*
  • 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

* These herbs can be fresh or dried.


1 – Season the rabbit with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron casserole dish (or similar), at a medium setting. Once the oil has heated, brown the rabbit in batches, turning to ensure that both sides are cooked. Remove the rabbit and place on kitchen towel in a bowl.

2 – Put the onions, celery and garlic into the casserole, checking that enough oil remains, and add a drop if need be. There should be some delicious residue left from browning the rabbit, so scrape it from the casserole into the veg mix. An optional pinch of salt can be added at this stage if desired. Sauté over a low heat for several minutes.

3 – Add the wine and vinegar and stir. Increase the heat to a high-medium, and bring the wine and vinegar to the boil for a couple of minutes. Next add the stock and all the herbs, save the parsley.

4 – Finally, add the rabbit, stirring it into the vegetables and broth to combine everything. Take the casserole off the heat (and remember to turn it off!), cover with the lid, and place into a preheated oven (180°C). Cook for between an hour and an hour and a half, or until the rabbit is tender. Taste, and if necessary, adjust the seasoning, finally adding the parsley. Let stand for 15 minutes, to let the rabbit meat rest, and then serve.

Serves: 2-4

Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes (15 mins prep; 1 1/2 hrs cooking)

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25Apr 12

Osso bucco alla Milanese

Osso Buco alla MilaneseI can clearly remember when and where I first tasted Osso bucco, which literally means “bone in a hole”. This absolutely flavourful dish was the first meal I ate when I went to the Italian city of Milan to visit one of my aunts. After that, I just had to get the recipe from her.

I enjoy cooking it, but you have to take into account that normally it’s a dish you might prepare for more than two servings, and is traditionally served with rice and vegetables on the side.

The ingredients are very simple, but the flavours are quite intense because of the gremolada, which is a mix of garlic, parsley and lemon zest, added to the dish a few minutes before serving it. The outstanding part of this dish is given by the bone marrow of the Osso bucco veal steaks that melt while cooking. (If you like veal, try this rib of rose veal with a honey and soy glaze.)

It’s not a difficult recipe; however, there is a lot of prep involved, so give yourself some time.



  • 4 veal shanks cut thick
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 50g flour
  • 50g butter
  • 1/2 glass of white wine
  • 1L beef stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For the “gremolada”:

  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped or pressed with the garlic press
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 tbsp continental parsley, finely chopped


  1. Put the butter and onion in a large pan and let it cook on a very gentle fire until the onion becomes transparent.
  2. Cut the steaks along the outer membrane so they don’t curl while cooking and coat them with a bit of flour.
  3.  Add the steaks, onion and butter and brown them on both sides.
  4.  Add the white wine. You will burn the alcohol off by increasing the flame.
  5.  Pour in some of the beef stock.
  6.  Cover and cook until the meat is very tender. Make sure to add more beef stock as required and to turn them over occasionally, so that the steaks don’t stick to the pan.
  7.  To prepare the gremolada, chop the parsley and the garlic and grate the zest of 1 lemon.
  8.  Mix together and sprinkle on top of the osso bucco steaks a few minutes before turning the fire off.
  9.  Season with salt and pepper depending on taste.
  10. Serve with a side of vegetables and rice.
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01Apr 12

Chilli garlic pasta

Chilli Garlic PastaThe name of this chilli garlic pasta more or less tells the whole story. The best part is that you can pick your favourite pasta! If you pick spaghetti, then you’re basically making the Roman classic ‘spaghetti aglio e olio’, which means “spaghetti with garlic and oil”.

The ingredients are so simple, but the flavour is immense. There are several ways you can prepare this dish, but most recipes I’ve read are quite moderate with the garlic. Since Teresa and I like it plenty, and can handle plenty of it, as you’ll have noticed if you’ve been following this blog, we add a bit more than most versions recommend. Make sure to brush your teeth afterwards, though, to fight the intense aroma of the garlic.

A simple hearty meal that often forms the basis of convivial gatherings, it’s a great meal to throw together in the early-morning hours, after a night on the town. If you want to add fish for extra protein, you can try this salmon with chilli lemon linguine recipe that is quite similar.


  • 400g of your favourite pasta
  • 120ml olive oil
  • 2-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 dried chillis, finely chopped (de-seeded if you want, although we don’t bother)
  • Several sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper


1 – Cook your pasta in a pan of salted boiling water, as per the instructions of your chosen favourite.

2 – In a pan, heat the oil gently. Then add the garlic and a little salt, and allow the garlic to soften and caramelise slightly, turning a pale gold. Remember; don’t overcook the garlic, as it turns bitter if burnt. Add the chopped chilli and stir to combine. If the pasta’s not ready yet, set aside but keep warm by popping the lid on.

3 – Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the other ingredients, stirring the oil, garlic and chilli so they thoroughly coat the pasta. Add the chopped parsley, a generous twist or three from your pepper mill, and a touch of salt if needed. Mix it all up and serve immediately.

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About Gianluca Dievole

My Badge: Assistant


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.