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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with butter

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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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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14Aug 12

Pumpkin and Sage Crisp Risotto

pumpkin and sage crisp risotto
The delicious sweetness of ripe pumpkin combines deliciously with the crispy sage and Parmesan cheese to create this sublime dish from Northern Italy. Pumpkin and Sage Crisp Risotto is simple to prepare, and wonderfully filling, so you don’t need to think about side dishes.

If you can’t find fresh sage leaves, you can mix dried sage into the rice mixture. It’s not the same, but it still gives you the aromatic flavour that enhances the traditional pumpkin risotto. Other fantastic rice meals include this delicious asparagus risotto and my tempting game Pigeon Risotto.

As an accompaniment, I recommend a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, served ice cold.

Pumpkin and Sage Crisp Risotto
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
The sweetness of the pumpkin combined with aromatic sage is divine.
Ingredients
  • 400g ripe pumpkin, deseeded and cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200g risotto rice, preferably Arborio
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 50g butter
  • 50g Parmesan, freshly grated, plus shavings to serve
  • 8-10 sage leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add the pumpkin and cook gently until just softened, around 10 minutes.
  2. Stir occasionally, making sure that the pumpkin doesn’t brown. When the pumpkin is tender, add the white wine and stir until it has evaporated.
  3. Set aside one-third of the cooked pumpkin.
  4. Put the rest of the pumpkin into a food processer and whiz until smooth. If necessary, add a touch of hot water to get the mixture moving.
  5. If you are using a ready-made stock, you will need to heat it in a saucepan, keeping it at a gentle simmer. Or prepare your stock-cubes in boiling water and put to one side.
  6. Next heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the rice. Cook, stirring frequently, for one minute, to ensure that all the rice is coated in the olive oil.
  7. Add a small amount of the hot stock, enough to cover the rice, and stir until it is almost all absorbed. Repeat until you only have a few ladles of stock left. Check the rice to see if it is ‘al dente’. If not, you can add more stock.
  8. Add the pumpkin purée and cooked pumpkin, stir through the rice mixture and season to taste.
  9. Stir in the butter and the grated Parmesan. Put to one side, covered to keep warm.
  10. Finally heat a little olive oil in a small frying pan until hot. Fry the sage leaves for a few seconds until crispy and drain on kitchen paper.
  11. Ladle the risotto onto warm plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil and top with the Parmesan shavings and sage leaves.

 

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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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18Jul 12

Porcini Papardelle

Porcini PappardellePappardelle is a broader version of tagliatelle, usually about an inch (2.5/3 cm) wide. It’s a delicious form of pasta, and reputedly gets its name from the verb “pappare”, which translates as to ‘scoff’ or ‘gobble’ up. Very appropriate!
Porcini mushrooms, whose Italian name is derived from ‘piglet’, belong to the genus Boletus, and are unquestionably the emperor amongst fungi, at least as far as we in Italy are concerned. (In England, they are called ceps.)You could use other mushrooms in this dish, but why do that? This recipe is really all about the particular flavour of the porcini, which is a blend of creamy, meaty and nutty flavours, a literal taste of their symbiotic relationship with the wooded areas where they grow (at least the wild ones).
I also recommend my mushroom risotto. Delicious! (If I do say so myself!)

It doesn’t take much to modify this dish. You could add bacon, chicken, courgettes, or all three. Or some cream, or a little dry white wine. We enjoyed a version of this we once tried where we used a little leftover roast rabbit. A green leafy salad, some crusty bread, and a dry white wine will all complement this dish perfectly.

Porcini Papardelle
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
It’s a delicious form of pasta, and reputedly gets its name from the verb “pappare”, which translates as to ‘scoff’ or ‘gobble’ up.
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 25g butter, cubed
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced paper-thin
  • I red chilli (fresh), deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
  • The juice of ½ a lemon
  • 200g porcini mushrooms, cleaned
  • 200g papardelle pasta
  • 50-100g Parmesan cheese shavings
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Start by making the sauce. After cleaning the porcini, slice them quite thinly (2 or 3 mm). Bring the oil in a heavy based frying pan up to a low heat, add the garlic and chilli, allowing them to infuse the oil, but being careful to ensure they don’t burn or get at all scorched.
  2. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, cooking them until they are tender and have taken on some colour, caramelizing very slightly. Turn off the heat and add the butter, stirring it in as it melts. Add the parsley (set a little aside for garnishing) and lemon juice.
  3. Now you can get on with the pasta. Cook the pasta in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water, until al dente. Reserve a cupful of the cooking liquid and drain the pasta.
  4. Mix the pasta with the mushrooms and sauce, and return to a medium heat, adding the reserved cooking liquid. When it’s all combined, and the pasta is unctuously coated, serve onto warmed plates or bowls, adding salt and pepper to taste, generous amounts of Parmesan shavings and the remaining chopped parsley.

 

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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
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This is a dinner party friendly dish with rabbit.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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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11Jul 12

Colomba Pasquale: ‘Easter Dove’ Cake

Colomba pasqualeAlso known as Colomba di Pasqua, the dough used is similar to that which makes Panettone (flour, sugar, eggs, yeast and butter), but with candied peel instead of raisins. For an authentic Italian Easter celebration, the cake is made in the (often very approximate) shape of a dove.

If you’ve only got ordinary round cake-baking tins don’t worry. This tastes equally delicious whatever shape you choose! And I know I’m a bit late for Easter, but maybe it was because I ate too much over the holidays that I didn’t feel like posting this at the time! So here it is, a recipe for one of the many delicious things I just couldn’t give up for Lent!

Don’t be put off by the long preparation time – most of this is just allowing the dough to rise, the main part of which is best done overnight. The kneading is the only really demanding part, and there are machines you can buy that will do that for you if you can’t face it!

I don’t know if this is true or not, but I was once told that there was a law passed to control and regulate the production of this cake. Judging from the varieties I’ve had over the years, the law isn’t being rigorously enforced!

Ingredients:

  • 450g flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 30g baker’s yeast
  • Some warm water
  • 200g butter
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 75-100ml milk
  • 75-80g candied fruit peel, to choose between lemon, lime and orange peel (diced)
  • 20g white hundreds and thousands for extra decoration
  • 75g almonds
  • A pinch of salt

Preparation:

1 – Crumble the yeast into a small amount of warm water, and allow it to dissolve. Then mix in 60g of flour. Roll a compact ball of dough and cut an ‘x’ into the top. Roll the dough-ball in flour, and then place it in a bowl along with a cup-full of warm water. Leave for half an hour, occasionally turning the dough over in the water, when it floats to the surface.

2 – Mix the rest of the flour with the egg yolks and just over half the butter (approx 110-115g), and the sugar, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and the milk (which should be warmed first). Knead this mixture together, then add the already leavened dough and knead for 15-20 minutes (good kitchen exercise!). The smooth dough that results from all this effort should be placed in a covered bowl somewhere warm and allowed to rise for as long as required to increase the volume by roughly 30 per cent, which will probably be a minimum of 4-8 hours (it’s best left to rise overnight).

3 – Knead the dough again, slowly adding about half the remaining butter, in small chunks. Let it rise again, this time doubling in size, which will take up to six hours. Finally, knead one more time, this time adding all the remaining butter and the candied peel. (Set aside some of the candied peel to top the cake with later.) If you’re going for the dove shape, now’s the time! Otherwise place in a cake baking tin, lined with greaseproof paper to stop the cake sticking.

4 – Preheat your oven to 190ºC. Brush the remaining egg yolk over the cake mix (you could add a drop of vanilla essence to the glaze if you feel like it), and press the almonds in, so they won’t fall out as the cake bakes. Sprinkle over the sugar and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 160ºC and bake for a further 20 minutes.

5 – Top it with any candied peel you have set aside along with the hundreds and thousands.

Makes at least 8 generous servings
Total Time – Approx 24 hours (preparation, 20 hours; cooking time, 40 minutes)

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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?)

 Ingredients:

  •  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!

Preparation:

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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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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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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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.