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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with cream

02May 12

Sprout, Chestnut and Thyme Tagliatelle

Sprout_Chestnut_and_Thyme_TagliatelleThis one’s a little more unusual, mainly due to the sprouts. It’s a vegetarian pasta dish, but it packs a very full-flavour punch! We had a large crop of Brussel sprouts on our allotment last autumn, and decided to try them in place of meat in one of our favourite dishes. We think they work a treat: the sprouts have a really strong flavour (and aroma), as do the chestnuts. We had to lessen the amount of thyme from the meat version of this dish, as otherwise there’s simply too much flavour! Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Ingredients

  • 25g butter
  • 2 small shallots, chopped roughly
  • 150g Brussel sprouts: peel and cut an ‘x’ in the top
  • 50-75g vacuum-packed ready-to-cook chestnuts, chopped into halves
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped thyme
  • small glass dry white wine
  • 150ml double cream
  • 200g tagliatelle
  • salt and pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese

Method

1 – Before you get the whole meal started, part-cook the Brussel sprouts: about 10 mins in very lightly salted boiling water should be enough, but it depends on the size of the sprouts. Then chop them up roughly, so that the sprout pieces are just a bit larger than the chopped chestnuts.

2 – Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pan, add the shallots and fry for 2 mins. Add the sprouts, chestnuts and thyme, cooking for 1 or 2 minutes (a little colour/caramelisation looks nice and adds flavour). Add the white wine and cook for 2-3 minutes to reduce. Add the cream and simmer gently for a couple of minutes to reduce further. Now is a good time for seasoning, but be careful, these ingredients already have a lot of powerful flavour!

3 – Whilst the main ingredients are cooking, start the pasta: bring sufficient lightly salted water to the boil, and cook your tagliatelle till al dente. Drain the pasta, and combine with the sauce. Check the seasoning and serve, adding grated parmesan. This dish is great with dry peppery white wine, like a Gruner Veltliner, or Gewurtztraminer.

Notes: if you don’t like sprouts, and I know quite a lot of people don’t, then instead use sausages: using Italian salciccia you can either cut them lengthways, and then roughly chop them up, or just cut slice them transversely, but a bit thinner.

Serves 2

Time: 30 mins – about 10 mins prep & 20 mins cooking

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14Apr 12

Bacon and Avocado Strozzapreti

Bacon and Avocado StrozzaprettiBacon and avocado make a wonderful combination: intensely rich, dark and naturally salty, the flavour of the bacon combines perfectly with the soft, smooth and light, but equally rich avocado, whilst the rough crunch of the former contrasts nicely with the buttery smoothness of the latter.

For a more rustic Italian feel, use lardons, or thick slices of bacon chopped into roughly equal sized and fairly small cubes. If you’re using thinner bacon slices, chop the pieces slightly larger, about 2.5 cm square.

Strozzapreti is traditionally hand-made, so why not try it with homemade pasta dough? Being very rustic irregular shapes and sizes are part of its peasant charm.

The etymology of this pasta is fascinating: ‘strozzapreti’ literally translates as ‘strangle-priest’ or, rendered less clumsily, ‘priest-choker’! There are numerous explanations as to how the pasta got this rather alarming anti-clerical sounding name.

The least dramatic is that the chef is ‘choking’ the pasta dough by the actions required to make it. Much juicier and more thrilling are these more complex or comedic explanations: that this was a form of pasta cooked by peasants in part payment of church rents, or best of all, that the clergy are so gluttonous that they stuff down this delicious pasta so quickly they choke themselves!

On that last count, who can blame them? (I’m sure they would have also loved this pasta salad with broccoli and bacon. Different veggies, but still a great flavour!)

Ingredients:

  • 30g butter
  •  200g strozzapretti pasta (or similar, e.g. fusilli)
  • 100g bacon (uncooked)
  •  1/2  medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
  •  1 large ripe avocado, diced.
  •  Several cloves of cloves of garlic (according to taste), peeled, crushed against the blade of a knife, and coarsely chopped.
  •  150ml cream*
  •  100g grated Parmesan cheese.
  •  Salt and pepper.
  •  Optional tablespoon or two of olive oil for the pasta

* You can use either single or double cream, depending how rich and creamy you want it to be; remember though that avocados have both these qualities to begin with!

Method:

1 – Start your water for the pasta. In a frying pan, melt one-third of the butter and fry the bacon till it’s taken on a rich dark tone, as the sugars begin to caramelize, releasing those fabulous aromas and flavours (it was my wife frying bacon in the mornings that ended my experiment with vegetarianism!). Ideally you want the bacon to have some crunch in this dish.

2 – By the time the bacon’s starting to crisp a little, the water should be boiling, so drop your pasta into the pan, cover and reduce to a low medium heat to cook the pasta. Add half of the remaining butter and fry the onion until golden. Now add what’s left of the butter and drop in the garlic. Lower the heat a little and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

3 – Making sure the heat is now very low, pour in the cream and the stir the mixture to combine with any remaining butter. When the mix is a silky smooth delight, add the chopped avocado and grated Parmesan, gently stirring and allowing all the ingredients and flavours to combine for a couple more minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

4 – Drain the pasta and serve into generous deep plates or bowls, before spooning over your richly delicious bacon and avocado mix. Grate a little more Parmesan over it all, and perhaps a little freshly ground pepper, and dive in!

Serves: 2

Total time: 35-40 minutes (15 minutes preparation; 25 minutes cooking)

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24Mar 12

Pancetta and Pea Penne

Pancetta and Pea GemelliHam, peas and mint are a classic Italian combination, and after a cold winter, and with spring in the air, they have a fresh, zingy lightness, whilst packing a flavoursome punch. I like this dish with a number of different pastas. I suggest penne here, but you could also use fusilli, gemelli or rigatoni. Dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc brings out the spring zing, whilst cream softens that transition out of winter.

Ingredients

• Olive oil: as needed (2 or 3 tablespoons should be about right)
• 20g butter
• 1 clove of garlic
• 1 small onion, or better still 2 shallots
• Small glass dry white wine
• 75-100g pancetta, in little chunks or strips
• 200g peas
• 1 small handful of mint: 1/2 chopped for cooking, and half to garnish the finished dish
• 150-200ml single cream
• 200-300g penne pasta – 200g is for a leaner, lighter meal, 300g if you’re really hungry
• salt and pepper
• Parmesan shavings

Method

1 – This is quite a quick and easy dish, so the first thing I do is get the pasta pan and water started. In a decent sized pan, pour in sufficient water for the amount of pasta you’re cooking, add a little salt, and bring to a boil.

2 – Meanwhile, crush the garlic with the flat of your knife to release those oils, and chop finely. Chop your onions into chunky pieces. Melt the butter in a heavy frying pan and add the olive oil. Toss in your garlic and onions and cook on a low-medium heat till the onions become translucent. Add the white wine and simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce.

3 – Put the pancetta in with the onions, turn the heat up a fraction, and in two or three minutes that lovely pork should start to crisp and caramelize a little. Be careful not to overdo the heat; the onions and garlic might turn a little bitter if burned.

4 – Keeping watch over your pasta, add the peas and chopped mint to the onions and pancetta. Remember, fresh peas will need a bit longer than frozen. Season with salt and pepper, and check that the flavours are just right. Add the cream and simmer gently for a couple more minutes.

5 – Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it over your peas and pancetta, mixing it all up. Garnish with Parmesan shavings and the remaining mint and serve immediately.

6 – Eat and enjoy with the rest of that dry white wine!

Serves 2

Time: 30 mins – about 15 mins prep and 15 mins cooking

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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.