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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with garlic

29Jun 12

Salsiccias with Polenta and Spicy Tomato Salsa

Salsiccias with Polenta and Spicy Tomato SalsaIn Italy there’s a plethora of sausage varieties; but here in our neck of the woods, the easiest salsiccias to get hold of are simply known as… ‘Italian Sausages’. You can generally take your pick between ‘hot’ and ‘sweet’, the hot variety containing hot red pepper flakes in the mix of spices. The other magical ingredients which bump up the distinctive flavours of Italian sausages are fennel and anise. You may discern one, or a mixture of both.

It goes without saying that I’m talking Italian salsa di pomodoro here (tomato sauce), and not the Mexican salsa we often associate with the word. And as a twist from my usual tack of making everything up from scratch, I’m suggesting for once that you buy a really good quality ready-made tomato and chilli sauce. And the reason for this tangent? Well, sometimes you have all the time in the world to do it all yourself; and sometimes well, you just don’t.

So this recipe is here to offer you a delicious Italian inspired meal that’s simple to put together and is still going to dance a salsa on your taste buds. If you want to stick to making your own sauce, which as you know, I always prefer when time allows- find my basic tomato sauce recipe and spice it up with a little chilli.  For another quick to make,  Italian-inspired meal, take a peek at this mushroom lasagne with mozzarella and tomatoes.

Salsiccias with polenta and spicy tomato salsa
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Italian sausages piled onto polenta, swimming in a sauce that will dance a salsa on your taste buds
Ingredients
  • 4 -6 Italian sausages
  • 10ml chilli oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp Marsala
  • 1 large jar of top notch tomato and chilli sauce
  • 100ml water
  • Chicken stock, sufficient to cook the polenta
  • 175g instant polenta
  • A little olive oil
  • A sprinkling of fresh oregano to garnish
Instructions
  1. Fry the sausages in the chilli oil over a medium to high heat in a frying pan. Seal and colour them for around 5 minutes then add the Marsala and the garlic, and leave to bubble for a couple of minutes more.
  2. Add the tomato and chilli sauce and the 100ml water and simmer the sausages in the spicy juice for around 15 minutes or until cooked throughout.
  3. Meanwhile prepare the polenta in hot chicken stock rather than water; it will give it a wonderful flavour. Follow the preparation instructions on the packet. Remember, we’re talking easy for this meal.
  4. Swirl the olive oil over the polenta when it is cooked, stirring it in with a fork.
  5. Serve the sausages over the polenta and cover with the spicy sauce and a sprinkling of fresh oregano.

 

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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

Clam Linguine

Clam LinguineThis is another of those dishes that have simple, humble origins, but can now often cost top dollar in fancy restaurants.

Some form of rustic herb-bread, ideally something chunky with rosemary or sun-dried tomatoes in it makes a good accompaniment. Try this rosemary focaccia bread.

Have some extra-virgin olive oil handy as well, preferably in a jug or decanter with a spout; sprinkling some extra-virgin olive over the pasta and clams really binds the flavours together.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  •  Several cloves of garlic (according to taste), peeled and very thinly sliced
  •  1/2 lemon
  •  1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
  •  1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  •  200g linguine pasta
  •  500g clams* (buy these alive from your fishmonger)
  •  Salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil.

* Fresh clams need preparing: wash them in cold running water, throwing away any with broken shells, or if they’ve died (if they don’t close up when you tap them). Remove their ‘beards’ and thoroughly clean the shells. Soak in a bowl of cold water for half an hour before washing them under the tap again. Refrigerate in a covered bowl, but ideally use them straight away. When they go into the pan, they should all be closed, any that aren’t, discard.

Method:

1 – In a large deep frying pan, heat the oil at a low setting before adding the garlic and chilli. They need to thoroughly infuse the oil, which will take 5-10 minutes. Be sure the heat is very low as you don’t want to burn them, or they’ll taste bitter. If need be, remove from the heat and set aside covered, where the heat from the oil will do the job.

2 – While the oil’s infusing, get your pasta going in another pan. Timing is important with this deceptively simple dish. Don’t start step three too soon!

3 – Once your pasta’s half or two-thirds of the way to being cooked perfectly ‘al dente’, put your clams into the frying pan with the garlic and chilli-infused oil, increase the heat and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they open. This should only be a matter of minutes; you don’t want them (or your pasta) overdone, so don’t rush into this step too early or leave it too late!

4 – Drain the pasta water, reserving a ladle-full (two or three tablespoonfuls), and then mix everything together in the large frying pan. Squeeze some juice from the lemon over it all, season with a little salt and pepper, serve and enjoy!

Serves: 2

Total time: 45 minutes (20 minutes preparation; 25 minutes cooking)

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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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14Jun 12

Roast Courgette Ruote

Roast Courgette RuoteThis dish matches wheel-shaped pasta (ruote simply means wheel) with round slices of roast courgette, and pesto if you’ve got any in the fridge.

Despite its earthy simplicity, this dish is somehow light and refreshing, and makes an ideal pairing with cold beer, a good dry white wine, or even prosecco. Eaten outdoors on a balmy night, with a cool refreshing beverage – by water is idyllic – this is a simple, subtly-flavoured food that leaves you quite satisfied.

For more courgette goodness, try these courgette and tomato pizzettas.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large courgette, cut into thin (2-3mm) slices
  • 200g of ruote pasta, or any other fun alternative such as fiori or croxetti
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium-sized onion, fairly coarsely chopped (small stamp-sized pieces)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto (optional)

Method:

1 – Heat your grill to 200ºC, and place the chopped courgette on a baking/roasting tray, on a sheet of foil if need be, but certainly with a couple of spoonfuls of olive oil sprinkled over them. Get them under the heat, as close as safely and reasonably possible, without setting them alight! Keep an attentive eye on them, and turn over when necessary. Lay the courgette slices out so they overlap slightly, as this will mean some of the soft flesh roasts whilst other parts stay tender.

2 – Whilst the courgettes are roasting, get the pasta cooking. The time this recipe takes depends on two things: how long your courgettes take to roast, and how long your pasta needs. Assuming your courgettes char quickly and you time your pasta right, you should be able to get this done in 30 minutes.

3 – With your courgettes roasting and the pasta cooking, in a heavy-based frying pan, heat two tablespoons of oil, fry the onion till golden, adding the garlic after a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat when the onions are well caramelised and the garlic has started to turn golden, and set aside.

4 – Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Mix in the onion and garlic and, if the courgettes aren’t ready yet, keep warm. But hopefully your courgettes are now nicely roasted. Mix them into the pasta, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and serve. You might like to have a little bowl of pesto handy, and plop a dollop on top of your pasta.

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06Jun 12

Pumpkin Fusilli

Pumpkin FusilliYou might remember that I mentioned having a glut of sprouts on our allotment. Well, my wife Teresa loves pumpkins, and we grew quite a few last year. One of the recipes we enjoyed in the Autumn was this delicious pumpkin fusilli.

One of the reasons we love this recipe so much is the memories that it brings whenever we take a bite. We had a very enjoyable and memorable plateful of this on our honeymoon in Varenna, (Italy) by lake Como. Many people wondered why we chose to stay in Italy instead of traveling to a different country, as most newly-weds choose to do. However, we both love Italy so much, and often, we don’t take time to explore our own country. And I’m glad we did, because I had a lovely honeymoon and discovered one of our new favourite dishes!

Ingredients:

  • 400g fusilli pasta
  • 1 medium-sized pumpkin, or 350 ml pumpkin purée
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 350ml vegetable broth
  • 60ml natural yoghurt
  • 60g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Cut the pumpkin into eight equal pieces. Sprinkle a little olive oil on each chunk, and roast in the oven. Remove and allow to cool, before scooping the soft flesh out.
  2. In a bowl, combine the pumpkin flesh with the Parmesan, nutmeg and other spices.
  3. In a frying pan, sautée the onion and garlic until soft. Then add the pumpkin mixture, vegetable broth, butter and brown sugar. Stir well and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Bring a pan of lightly-salted water to the boil, and toss in the fusilli pasta. The pasta should be ready in a matter of minutes.
  5. In the pumpkin sauce, add the yoghurt to lighten up the dark orange colour.
  6. Mix in the pasta so that it is completed coated with the sauce.
  7. Serve immediately with salt, pepper and grated Parmesan on top.

I recommend serving this pasta with a side salad like this crunchy sprout salad with pumpkin seeds and balsamic vinegar.

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04Jun 12

Proper tomato sauce for your pizza

Proper tomato sauce for your pizzaIn my goat cheese pizza recipe, I used a very simple tomato sauce that’s easily cooked during the preparation of the pizza itself. For something a bit richer, it’s worthwhile to make your own tomato sauce. This sauce is very simple and can be stored, so in one go you can prepare enough sauce for plenty of pizza-making sessions.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, chopped roughly (or half an onion, if you’ve no shallots)
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic (we actually use more sometimes)
  • 3 x 400 g tins of peeled plum tomatoes
  • A hand full of roughly chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based non-stick pan. Over a low-medium heat, add the garlic and shallots, letting the shallots turn translucent and the garlic colour slightly. While this is happening, empty the tomatoes into a large jug or bowl and – taking care not to cut yourself – go into a chopping frenzy (sometimes I actually do this with the tomatoes still in the can, but be sure to completely remove the can lid and not injure yourself!).

2 – After the garlic and shallots have softened up a bit, add the chopped tomatoes, basil, and freshly ground black pepper. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture through a sieve into a suitable sized bowl. With the back of a wooden spoon, really press the mixture through, not forgetting to scrape off the red goo from the reverse side of the sieve.

3 – Having removed the coarser elements of the mixture – the onion, garlic and basil – but retaining their rich flavours, scrape all the contents of the bowl back in to original pan and return to the heat. Bring it back to the boil before reducing to a simmer and watching for 5-10 minutes. The sauce should reduce by about a third as the flavours intensify.

Store in a sealable airtight jar, this will keep for a good little while, especially if you add a layer of olive oil over the mixture. It’s lasted several weeks in our fridge on one or two occasions, although it’s usually devoured well before there’s any danger of it going bad. If you’re feeling decadent, you can even add some rich red wine, which makes this sauce an excellent tomato base for a quick ragu.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try Kumato tomatoes for a distinct flavour.

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01Jun 12

Goats’ cheese pizza

Goat Cheese PizzaNow that you’ve got a stock of pizza dough at the ready, here’s one of my personal favourite toppings. I’m absolutely crazy about cheese, and goats’ cheese is one of my most loved varieties. In this recipe the sugary sweetness of caramelized onions complements the richly soft, tart tang of goats’ cheese perfectly.

Goats’ cheese goes well with any type of vegetable. Don’t believe me? After trying my goat cheese pizza, try this goats’ cheese and courgette cannelloni.

Basil can either be added, finely chopped, to the tomato sauce mix or, roughly torn, after cooking (or a bit of both!).

Ingredients:

  • 2 portions of pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 100g red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
  • 50ml tomato purée
  • 100ml passata (sieved tomato sauce)
  • 50g goats’ cheese, crumbled
  • 100g mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – Firstly roll out two balls of pizza dough to the desired size and thickness, roughly quarter of an inch thick and about 10-12 inches in diameter is about what we go for.

2 – Turn the oven on to about 180ºC. Heat the oil over a low-medium heat in a heavy-based pan and add the onion and red pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until golden, adding the garlic a minute or two from the end of the time you allow for the onions and peppers. You want the onion to soften up and turn golden without overcooking the garlic. When ready, remove from the pan and set aside.

3 – Turn up the heat and combine the passata and tomato purée in the frying pan. Over a high-medium heat, allow the tomato paste to combine and reduce, soaking up some of the vegetable flavours as it does so. After 3-4 minutes, the mixture will have thickened and reduced by about a third. Remove the pan and set aside.

4 – Place the rolled pizza bases on sheets of baking paper or foil, and place on baking trays. Spoon the tomato sauce over the bases, spreading evenly to within about half an inch of the edge. Add the onion, red pepper and garlic mix evenly over the tomato sauce before sprinkling the mozzarella and crumbled goats’ cheese over everything. Season with salt and pepper, and if you like add a very small sprinkle of olive oil.

5 – Bake for 10 minutes, then serve immediately.

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29May 12

Pasta and tomato sauce

Pasta and tomato sauceThis past weekend was fun, but extremely busy! Friday I had to stay late at work; Saturday I scrambled to buy a gift, attend my nephew’s birthday party, and take my wife out on our weekly date night; Sunday I had what seemed like a billion odd jobs around the house. Before I knew it, Sunday night had arrived, and just as I thought I could relax, my neighbour called and asked for help changing a flat tyre! I was tired and hungry, but I had to eat in a hurry before rushing to his aid. I didn’t have much food in the house, so I cooked up the ever-so-simple yet classic pasta and tomato sauce.

This one is for all you busy guys and gals. We all have those days when we’re just rushed off our feet, but we still crave something satisfying. One of the many fantastic things about Italian food is how quick and easy it can be. And sometimes simple is also best. This classic combination of pasta and tomato sauce might be basic, but it certainly satisfies when time is short.

For a more deluxe combination, while still keeping it simple, try adding a bit of chicken or seafood for more protein. I recommend this clam linguine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves (crush them with the flat of your knife blade if you’re really in a hurry)
  • 250ml passata (sieved tomato sauce)
  • 150-200g of whatever pasta you have within an arm’s reach
  • A chunky knob of butter
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – In a large pan bring some lightly-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente.

2 – Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, and sauté the garlic over a low heat for half a minute. Stir in the passata and increase the heat. Bring the sauce to the boil, season with salt and pepper, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

4 – By now the pasta is done, so drain it before combining the sauce and the pasta. Add the butter and mix together. Serve with added Parmesan and seasoning to suit your palate.

Time is tight, so just pop open a handy bag of ready-mixed green leafy salad, and crack open a nice cold beer. Job done!

Serves: 2

Time: 20 minutes: 5 minutes preparation, 15 minutes cooking.

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17May 12

Prawn and Courgette Tagliatelli

Prawn with Courgette Tagliatelli

Here’s another simple and delicious pasta meal that takes almost no time to prepare, this time featuring the humble prawn as the star ingredient. You could use any prawns really, but king prawns are ideal, as they’re bigger, chunkier, and have the flavour to stand up against the chilli and garlic. For the pasta you could substitute spaghetti, vermicelli, linguine, tagliolini, or any other long, thin pasta or noodle. (Also try this tagliatelle with salmon pasta dish.)

As for an accompanying salad, we like watercress on its own, perhaps drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s peppery, and fresh, exactly like the pasta dish.

An ideal wine would be a clean, crisp dry white, like a Pinot Grigio. And maybe some soft, crusty white bread would come in handy, to soak up the juices and clean down your plate?

If you decide to grate the courgette, I recommend using the bigger teeth on the grater, because otherwise it will just be a bland pulp and not very appetising.

Prawn and Courgette Tagliatelli
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Here’s another simple and delicious pasta meal that takes almost no time to prepare, this time featuring the humble prawn as the star ingredient.
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 40g butter, cubed
  • 120g prawns (king prawns are best: big and chunky is good!)
  • 200g courgettes, either chopped or grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • The finely grated rind of a small lemon (unwaxed)
  • I red chilli (fresh), deseeded and finely chopped
  • 200g dried tagliatelli
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta as normal, in some lightly salted boiling water, till al dente.
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large heavy based frying pan on a medium to high heat, adding the prawns, garlic, chilli and lemon rind when it’s hot. Season lightly and cook for a couple of minutes, till the prawns lose their translucent quality and turn a nice opaque pink.
  3. Add the butter and courgettes, season and stir, cooking for about a minute, or two at the most. By now your pasta should be done, so drain off the cooking liquid.
  4. Toss the pasta into the frying pan, and stir it all up, combining all the beautiful ingredients. Sniff and savour the briny smell of the sea and the pungent aromas of chilli and garlic!

 

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About Gianluca Dievole

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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.