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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with onions

03Jul 12

Borlotti Bean and Tuna Antipasto

Borlotti Bean and Tuna Antipasto
Do you ever make time to cook up a three course meal at home just to share some special time with your other half? It’s hard for all of us to make time for that, I know, but it’s something that Teresa and I like to prioritise. Because we find cooking relaxing and fun, some weekends find us together in the kitchen – glass of wine in hand, and conversation flowing, chopping knives doing their work in between sips of the red, or the white stuff. We can catch up on our week together this way.

On these days it’s a regular pleasure for us to put together a borlotti bean and tuna antipasto as a warm up to a plate of clam linguine (if we’re having a seafood night) followed by some home-made tiramisu. On these special nights, we lay a beautiful table, light a few candles, and get the music flowing. Ah, the simple pleasures of life.

Borlotti Bean and Tuna Antipasto
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Borlotti beans, tuna and red onion dressed with Parmesan and lemon
Ingredients
  • 1 can of borlotti beans
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • The juice of a lemon and a little zest if you fancy it – I usually do
  • ¼ red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
  • About 100g drained tuna fish from a can – choose a really good one
  • 1-2 tbsp garlic or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to season
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan shavings
  • 1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, squeeze the lemon and sprinkle the zest over the chopped onion and let the flavours mix and absorb.
  2. Drain and rinse the beans, then turn them into a separate mixing bowl.
  3. Open and drain the tuna, arranging it in flakes over the beans.
  4. Cover the beans and tuna with the lemon and onion mix, grind over some salt and pepper and drizzle over with the balsamic vinegar.
  5. Toss the salad to coat the tuna and beans with the dressing, before spooning it out in the salad bowl.
  6. Lightly drop over the Parmesan shavings and sprinkle over the fresh parsley.
  7. Serve with love.

 

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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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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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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.