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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with flour

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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12Jun 12

Pasta Dough

Pasta DoughNowadays, when we want pasta, we’re spoiled with choices as we can buy it ready-made either in its dried or fresh form. But the best is when we can make it ourselves! In order to do this fine food justice, you need to take on another of the essential basics for any budding Italian chef: making fresh pasta.

Use this fresh pasta in any of my delicious recipes or with others such as this pasta with chestnut mushrooms and Grana Padano Cream.

Ingredients:

  • 400g Tipo ‘00’ flour (plus a little extra for dusting the work surface)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of fine salt

Method:

1 – Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. I do it in a bowl instead of a flat surface as I find it easier and a little less messy. Just as we did for pizza dough last week, make a big dip in the top of your ‘hill’.

2 – Break the eggs, either into the hole or a bowl, and beat with a fork till smoothly combined. Then, using your fingertips, gradually work the eggs into the flour. Once it’s all combined into a big ball, knead it thoroughly. Really work the dough, pounding it, stretching it, rolling, folding and recombining it. The initially floury texture should ultimately become smoother, taking on an almost satin sheen.

3 – Divide the pasta into generous fist-sized portions, rolling each into smooth balls and wrapping them in clingfilm. Rest the pasta dough somewhere cool for a full hour. Whatever you’re using right away is then ready for step four. What’s left over can be frozen in sealed plastic bags.

4 – Now it’s time to roll out the dough. If you’ve got a pasta-making machine, simply follow the instructions for making wide thin sheets. I roll mine out with a rolling pin because that way I feel more in control. Dust the worktop with some of the extra flour, and roll out a full fistful of dough at a time, into something as near rectangular as you can manage, aiming for pasta as thin as you can get it, dusting the pasta afresh with each pass.

Technology can speed things up: you could use a food processor on ‘pulse’ to mix your dough. But when it comes to rolling the pasta, whether you go the old-fashioned rollingpin route, or use a modern pasta-making machine, either way will take a bit of time. Just be patient and think of the lovely fresh pasta you’ll have as a result of all your efforts.

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25May 12

Sage and Gorgonzola Fettucine

Sage and Gorgonzola Fettucine

You might notice that I like my ribbon pastas. This one’s also suitable for vegetarians (but not vegans): it’s another delightfully simple pasta dish – almost stupidly so! – with a rich, creamy, meat-free sauce.

Gorgonzola has been around for over a thousand years, is named after a town in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, and is a soft, crumbly, blue-veined cheese made from the milk of goats or cows. Very similar to the French Roquefort, both cheeses are made by the addition of varieties of penicillin bacteria. Whilst this might not sound very appetizing, the results are simply delicious.

Last time my wife and I had this, we experimented with a contrasting side dish. Take 10 or 12 small shallots, boil them for ten minutes in lightly salted water, and then roast under the grill for five minutes (to caramelize). You’ll need to do this before preparing the pasta. Then, whilst the pasta and sauce cook, mix a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a couple of olive oil, and a small amount (one tablespoon) of brown sugar together. Pour over the roasted shallots, and heat through in a frying pan for about five minutes, making sure they’re covered in the sticky brown sauce. We liked the contrast of this sweet and sour side dish with the creamy pasta. If you try them together, let me know what you think. If you prefer to play it safe, a salad with some bite, such as this curly asparagus salad with goat’s cheese and Medjool dates, will do ideally.

Sage & Gorgonzola Fettucine
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
This one’s also suitable for vegetarians (but not vegans): it’s another delightfully simple pasta dish
Ingredients
  • 25g butter, cubed
  • 6-8 sage leaves, chopped roughly (set several aside for garnishing)
  • 120g Gorgonzola cheese
  • 80ml double cream
  • 1 tablespoon of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon of fine flour
  • 200g fettuccine pasta
  • 50-100g Parmesan cheese shavings
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. As the sauce element is so stunningly simple, start off by getting the pasta going: bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta till al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a good cast iron skillet, or heavy-bottomed frying pan. Crumble the Gorgonzola into the pan, and heat for 2 or 3 minutes until the cheese has melted. Add the cream, vermouth and flour, stirring vigourously and continually, to combine into a smooth sauce.
  3. Add the chopped sage, and continue stirring constantly. Let the sauce reach boiling point and thicken a little, then season and remove from the heat. Drain the pasta, and then return it to the pan. Pour over the sauce, and toss or stir it all together, coating all the pasta. Serve immediately, garnished with the last sage leaves.

 

 

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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.

 

Ingredients:

  • 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

 Method:

  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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17Apr 12

Biscotti di Prato

Biscotti di Prato

This traditional biscuit from Prato, a wonderful city in Tuscany, is supposed to be very dry and crunchy; in fact, it is Tuscany’s traditional dipping biscuit, and one of the local specialities. Nowadays they are also called cantucci, even though that is a completely different type of biscotti. (Also try these Amaretti Chocolate Sticks.)

You might like to know that Prato is the centre of the ‘slow food movement’, which an international campaign founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986, promoted as an alternative to fast food. It works to preserve traditional and regional cooking and encourages farming in the local ecosystem.

I recommend enjoying these “biscuits” after a meal with a nice glass of Vin Santo.

Ingredients:

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 300g sugar
  • 250g almonds, whole
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • grated peel of one lemon

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Sift the flour and sugar in a bowl. Then add eggs and the other ingredients until it all becomes a ball of dough.

3. On a clean surface, shape the dough into a 3cm wide roll that extends the length of a baking tray. Cover the tray with a piece of parchment paper to prevent the biscuits from sticking and then place the dough on top, flattening it softly with your fingers.

4. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the roll from the oven.

5. Place it on a cutting board and cut diagonally, making 1cm wide slices.

6. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet, making sure you leave some space between each slice. Slide the baking tray back into the oven.

7. Lower the temperature to 150°C . Bake for 15 minutes, then take the biscotti out and turn them onto the other side and bake another 15 minutes.

8. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remember to store them in an air-tight container to keep fresh.

Serves: 3 dozen aprox.

Time: preparation time 15 min/ cooking time 1 hour

Difficulty: medium

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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.