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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with celery

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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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.)

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Method:

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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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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05Mar 12

Soft cheese and celery pasta

Soft Cheese and Celery PastaWith a comforting richness, this soft cheese and celery pasta is really refreshing on a warm day, eaten in the shade with some chilled water or fruit juice on hand.

Although some may not consider cheese a “light” dish, I think it is quite healthy and a delicious source of calcium.

Simplicity itself, this is a good recipe when you’re short of time.

If you want to give the dish more kick, add a clove or two of garlic when you fry the shallots and celery. This dish is also nice with tinned tuna and mayonnaise instead of the soft cheese and yoghurt, although obviously the method will differ if you change the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 75g soft cheese, such as Brie or Camembert
  • 75g plain yoghurt
  • 1 celery stick trimmed and finely sliced
  • 150-200g penne or similar tubular pasta
  • Small handful of finely chopped parsley
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 a lime

Method:

1 – In a large pan, bring some lightly-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until it’s al dente. If you’ve got the right pans, you can steam the chopped celery over the pasta for the first three or four minutes of its cooking time.

2 – While that lot is bubbling away, combine the soft cheese and yoghurt in a bowl, adding the grated nutmeg and some salt and pepper, set aside.

3 – As the pasta nears completion, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, and sauté the celery, shallots and most of the chopped parsley, over a medium-low heat for about five minutes, until softened. By this time the pasta should be ready: drain the pasta and combine it with the vegetables.

4 – Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese and yoghurt mixture, combining well. Return to a low heat and gently warm through for three to five minutes. Serve with a leafy Caesar salad, squeezing some lime juice and sprinkling the remaining parsley over the pasta, if desired.

Serves: 2

Time: 30 minutes: 10 minutes preparation, 20 minutes cooking.

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05Mar 12

Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom RisottoWhen I am hungry and cold, there is no better way to fill my belly and warm me up than with a steaming hot rice dish such as my mushroom risotto. I am also partial to a squash and garlic risotto. The other day, I came home from work extremely tired and ravenous. My wife took one look at my weary face and without a word, started preparing my favourite risotto.

 

Earthy mushrooms combined with creamy Arborio rice, the zesty citrus tang of orange zest, and the aniseed-like flavour of fennel. Her care and this risotto made my day much better.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Boletus mushrooms
  • 225g Chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 bulb of fennel, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • 1 celery stick trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, finely sliced
  • 1 medium orange
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 150-200g Arborio rice
  • Salt and white pepper

Method:

1 – In a small pan, soak the Boletus mushrooms for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside, covered. Prepare the fennel: trim, remove the leaves – setting them aside for later – and thinly slice the bulb.

2 – In a large pan bring the stock to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium sized casserole dish, add the sliced fennel bulb, Chestnut mushrooms, celery and leek, and gently fry for three or four minutes, allowing the vegetables to soften, before stirring in the mayonnaise. Allow about a minute for this to all combine over a very low heat, stirring all the while. Now add the rice, turning the heat up a little but keeping it gentle, and stir regularly as the rice cooks for another two minutes.

3 – Add the stock slowly, one ladle-full at a time, and stirring all the while. Continue this process for about 20 to 25 minutes, testing the rice towards the end. It should have a creamy texture, with the rice tender but firm.

4 – Grate the zesty rind from the orange, and then slice and extract the juice, mixing both into the rice.

5 – Add the Boletus mushrooms and mix together for about a minute or two. Season to taste with salt and a little white pepper. Serve garnished with the fennel leaves.

We sometimes add Parmesan shavings to this meal and serve with a nice crusty white loaf. A peppery white wine from the Rhone valley also goes well with this dish.

Serves 2 – approx 60 minutes:

15 minutes preparation, 45 minutes cooking.

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14Feb 12

Lamb and Linguine Bolognese

Lamb and Linguine BologneseWhilst respecting culinary tradition, we young Italians also enjoy coming up with our own variations of classic themes. I’m a linguine-lover: there’s that little extra bite with linguine, and if you’re crazy about pasta, these small things matter! I also make a salmon linguine dish, but I made this dish with lamb mince and a chili punch.

 

Ingredients:

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 15-20g butter
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional)
• 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)
• 1 finely chopped fiery red chili (seeds removed)
• 1 small (or 1/2 large) onion, chopped finely
• 1 stick of celery, sliced very finely
• 200-250g minced lamb
• 1 large glass robust red wine
• 1 200g tin of chopped tomatoes or 250/300g fresh tomatoes, chopped
Note: for a fuller flavour, use 250/300g fresh tomatoes – blanched in boiled water, peeled, and then pressed through a sieve to remove seeds
• 300ml lamb stock
• 200g linguine
• salt and pepper
• freshly grated Parmesan – as much or as little as you like!

Method

1 – Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-based pan and add the onion, celery and bay leaf. Stir continuously over low heat for 5-10 minutes until the onions become softened and slightly transparent. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper, and cook gently until all the flesh has browned.

2 – Add the wine (and balsamic vinegar), bring to a boil, and simmer between 10-20 minutes, until the wine has reduced significantly. Add the tomatoes and chilli (and nutmeg). This is the long part: simmer very, very gently between 1-4 hours. Be sure to check regularly, adding the stock as necessary, 50ml or 100ml at a time, to prevent the sauce drying out and sticking to the pan.

3 – As the meat reaches the end of its cooking time, prepare the pasta. Bring the water to the boil, add a pinch of salt, and cook until al dente. Drain the linguine, reserving a small cup of the cooking liquid. Mix the pasta and meat sauce together, adding a little of the pasta liquid to help the sauce coat the linguine nicely. Serve immediately with grated Parmesan and the remains of that robust red wine.

Serves 2

Time Up to 4 hours – 15 mins prep, 1-4 hrs cooking (the longer you can leave the sauce cooking, the richer and better combined the flavours will be.)

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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.