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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Meal for 6 people

27Jun 12

Spinach and Rabbit Tortelli

Spinach and Rabbit TortelliniIn Italian, this dish is ‘tortelli di coniglio e spinaci’. Tortelli is, like ravioli, a variety of stuffed pasta, only more generously proportioned. As this is a bit more of a complex dish, perhaps the kind of thing you might cook for guests at a dinner party, my ingredients this time cater for a larger gathering. This is delicious and impressive handmade pasta with rustic rabbit appeal! (For a vegetarian-friendly filled pasta, why not give this pumpkin ravioli a go?)


  •  1 medium-sized rabbit (about 1.5kg), cut into 8 pieces*
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • A generous handful of spinach (250g), finely chopped (no stems!)
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 50g butter
  • 1 small glass of dry white wine
  • 1/2 a nutmeg seed kernel, freshly grated
  • 150g freshly grated Parmesan (or similar) cheese
  • Salt and pepper

* I almost always ask my butcher to do this for me!


1 –Melt half the butter in a large casserole or cast iron frying pan, and add the rabbit, carrot, onion, celery, bay leaves, and most of the rosemary and sage, setting a little of each aside (finely chop what remains, for later use). Season lightly with good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Gently cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes, occasionally turning the rabbit pieces: it’s nice if they’ve taken on a bit of colour before before adding the wine. Add the wine and cook till the rabbit is tender, which should take another 10-20 minutes.

2 – While your rabbit cooks, get your pasta ready: I’m assuming you’re using dough you made earlier (if not see my previous post about making pasta dough). Whether you’re rolling your pasta by hand or with a machine – and you really ought to use a machine for thin filled pasta – you need a thickness of about an 1/8th of an inch, i.e. not thicker than 3mm. What you want is a strip of pasta about 50cm long, and at least 15cm wide.

3 – Once the rabbit is cooked, remove the meat from the bones and set aside. Keep the bones and vegetables; we’ll need them later! Purée the meat in a food processor, pop it in a bowl, and mix together with the cheese, spinach and nutmeg, adding a little seasoning.

4 – Dollop 8 generous teaspoonfuls, evenly spaced (each tortelli should be about 6cm long) and just off-centre, along your strip of pasta, bearing in mind that you’ll be folding over the sheet, and that each little portion needs to be sealed around the three non-folded edges. Using the ‘heel’ of your clenched fist, thump the pasta dough between the portions of filling. Then, with as crinkly-edged pasta or dough cutter, first cut along the length of the pasta opposite the folded edge, before cutting width-wise, i.e. between each portion of filling (and don’t forget the ends!), to separate the individual tortelli. Set aside your pasta on a floured dish or tray as you make up the batches. *

5 – In your original dish, put 350ml of water and the bones and vegetables. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and then strain the liquid into a bowl and discard the bones and veg. Melt the remaining butter in the same pan, add the chopped parsley, sage and rosemary. Cook on a low-medium heat for a minute or two, then add the liquid stock you made earlier and a pinch of salt, and simmer until reduced to a third of the original amount. Remove from the heat and keep covered/warm.

6 – Check that your tortelli are all sealed and there are no ‘air pockets’, pressing the pasta lightly together with your fingers if need be. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the tortelli in several batches (3 or 4 is about right). The pasta should only need 2-3 minutes per batch. Add the batches to a large warm earthenware bowl (I cover it with a tea-towel to keep the pasta warm). When all the pasta is cooked, pour over the sauce, toss together to combine, and serve immediately.

* Confused? Admittedly this is a more complex recipe than most I’ve posted so far. There are videos of chefs making this on YouTube!

Makes: 6-8 servings.

Total Time – 2 hours (preparation, 40 minutes; cooking time, 1 hour 20 minutes)

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21May 12

Pizza Dough

Pizza DoughPizza, thought of worldwide as a quintessentially Italian food, actually originated in Greece before spreading all around the Eastern Mediterranean. The word itself derives, in its Italian form, from the Latin term pinsere, meaning “to press”.

This flat form of bread also gives us the root for things like pitta. There are a lot of things you can do with pitta, such as Tamzin’s Taramasalata and Watercress Pitta. But whereas that has evolved into a kind of oval-shaped bread pocket, the Italian ‘pizza pie’ is usually a round base on top of which the ‘filling’ is piled. The modern form we now know worldwide is a Neapolitan creation, and in its authentic form is usually thin.

I favour making my own pizza bases. Making your own pizza from the bottom up makes for a much more satisfying meal than simply buying ready-made pizza bases and then putting your toppings on them.

Note: use ‘00’ pizza-making flour for your bases; it’s milled finer than ordinary bread-making flour and has a higher gluten content, making the perfect soft, light, springy pizza dough.


  • 650 ml lukewarm water
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar
  • 15 g dried yeast
  • 1 kg of ‘00’ pizza flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


1 – Sieve the flour and salt onto a clean work surface, making sure it’s piled into a good little hill. Make a hole in the top of the hill, so it looks like an extinct volcano. Mix the olive oil, yeast and sugar into the warm water and allow to stand for several minutes.

2 – Pour the yeast mix into your dormant flour Vesuvius. With a fork, gradually work the flour into the liquid. Patiently do this step slowly, until all the flour is mixed in and the whole lot aggregates into a sticky ball.

3 – Wash your hands and dust them with flour, then knead the dough into a spongy ball. Pop it in a large flour-coated mixing bowl, and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Leave this somewhere for an hour, in which time it should double in size.

4 – Make sure your work surface is clean, sprinkle it with a small amount of flour, and knead the dough a second time to remove some of the air from it.

5 – Divide the dough into as many helpings as you want pizza bases, and wrap any you won’t be cooking in clingfilm to refrigerate. You can also freeze the dough if you want to keep it longer. Only roll your bases out when you come to cook the pizza.

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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.