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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with parmesan cheese

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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11May 12

Pork Pappardelle with Thyme and Sage

Pork ParpadelleFood and family are two of the most important blessings in my life, and combining the two makes for a perfect meal. My family is enormous, and we love getting together to enjoy a few bottles of wine and delicious eats. We have been known to squeeze up to 20 people at the dinner table at once! What others may call chaos, I call cosy. When we are all together, there is always love, good cheer, and fantastic food!

Feeding so many people isn’t difficult; pasta is the perfect solution for numerous hungry relatives! It is delicious and plentiful.

Preparing pasta is relatively stress-free, quick and simple; this recipe for Pork Pappardelle with Thyme and Sage is simplicity itself and makes enough for 2 people so just multiply quantities accordingly for bigger groups. Pappardelle ribbons give the truly passionate pasta lover that bit more to bite on, and with the salty pork and the punchy fragrance of the herbs, this is a simple but rich and earthy dish.

For another simple pasta meal, try pasta with egg yolks and walnuts. It was definitely a hit with my big family!

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced chopped roughly
  • 4 or 5 leaves of sage
  • A sprig of thyme, roughly chopped
  • 150g sliced smoked pancetta, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 200g pappardelle
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese

Method:

1 – The first thing I do is put the lightly-salted water in a large pan for the pasta. While the water is heating up, you can make a start on the other ingredients. Heat most of the olive oil in a heavy-base frying pan, reserving a little for the pasta, and cook the pork until it starts to caramelise. Add the garlic. When the garlic has begun to colour, add the sage and thyme, cooking gently for a minute or two until the herbs soften and the flavours begin to combine. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm while the pasta cooks.

2 – When the pappardelle is suitably al dente, drain and toss with the remaining olive oil. Combine with the pork and herb mix, check for seasoning, and serve with grated parmesan. For a suitable wine, you could go red for the pork, or white for the pasta and herbs. We like Cuvée Mythique, a French red with a lovely picture of an owl on the label.

Serves: 2

Time: 30 minutes (about 10 minutes prep and 20 minutes cooking)

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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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11Apr 12

Risotto alla parmigiana

Risotto alla ParmigianaRisotto alla parmigiana translated to English is Parmesan risotto. This is one of the first dishes I learned to prepare before I got married, and has worked very well for me because my wife just loves it! After a hard day at work, risotto is perfect if you don’t want to cook for too long but always enjoy a tasty meal.

You may also remember my affection for my wife’s mushroom risotto, and you can find the recipe on this same blog. But risotto alla parmigiana is the original Italian classic – the Father of all risottos and is also the basic risotto recipe from which all others have been and are developed, such as this British asparagus and pea risotto.

Ingredients:

  • 35 g butter (1 knob of 20g and 1 knob of 15g)
  • 200g Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • ½ onion (finely chopped)
  • 50ml white wine
  • ½L of hot beef stock
  • 25g grated Parmesan cheese

Method:
1. Put 20g of the butter in a big pan and melt it.
2. Add the chopped onion at medium heat for about 2-4 minutes until soft.
3. Add a spoonful of stock and leave it for 1 minute.
4. Then add the rice and stir until the rice is completely mixed with the butter. Keep stirring for about a minute.
5. Add the wine and keep stirring to evaporate it.
6. Add the stock and turn the heat down to low. You should add the stock at the rate of 2 spoonfuls at a time, and when this is absorbed, add more. Continue doing this for about 10 minutes. Stir continuously.
7. Taste the rice every minute until you feel the rice is tender outside but a bit hard on the inside. Stir regularly so that the risotto doesn’t stick to the bottom part of the pan.
8. If you see that the stock has evaporated, add a bit more, but be careful not to add too much to avoid the risotto being watery.
9. When you feel the rice is tender on the outside but slightly hard in the middle, add the Parmesan cheese and stir for few seconds.
10. Then turn the cooker off, add all the remaining 15g of butter and stir until it is completely melted.
11. Don’t serve immediately – the risotto should rest for a couple of minutes.

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28Mar 12

Pesto Sauce

Fresh Pesto SauceAs well as sharing some of my favourite mouth-watering recipes, I’m trying to cover the rudiments of Italian cooking, one of which is pesto sauce. The rich green sauce from Genoa is so tasty, the Beastie Boys rap about it on their track ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’.

B + P + P = Pure Pleasure. This equation for taste bud pleasure begins with B for basil (and plenty of it) to which you add P, for pine nuts, and then more P, this time for pecorino (or Parmesan). The ubiquitous olive oil and garlic, and a little squeeze of lemon juice, and that’s it! You can use it for countless recipes, including this tagliatelle with pesto and pine nuts.

Ingredients:

  • 175ml olive oil
  • 2 large bunches of basil
  • 200g pine nuts
  • 150g of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • The juice of one lemon
  • 1 to 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped (Vary the amount according to your personal preferences: we like plenty, to keep the vampires off!)

Method:

1 – With a generous splash of olive oil, gently fry the pine nuts over a low-to-moderate heat, for about two minutes. Remove from the heat and throw in the chopped garlic, which will cook a little in the residual warmth, suffusing the oil with its beautiful yet powerful flavour.

2 – Coarsely chop all the basil, including the stalks, and either chuck it in a food processor or a good large pestle and mortar. I have to confess that whilst I often make my own pasta and tomato sauce the old-fashioned way, when it comes to pesto, I let technology speed things up. I also prefer the smoother consistency a machine gives. But you might prefer the rustic unevenness of the ‘by-hand’ method, which can also be messy and fun!

3 – Toss in all your other ingredients (including all the oil you fried your pine nuts and garlic in, plus the oil you set aside), and either blitz with the blender, or work that pestle and mortar! And presto, you’ve got pesto! You should find it absolutely delicious as is, but we sometimes add a tiny amount of salt and/or pepper.

Serves – approx 500g of pesto sauce

Time – 10-15 minutes if using a food processor, longer if using pestle and mortar

Note: Fresh pesto won’t keep long, partly ‘cause there are no preservatives in it, and partly because it tastes so good, you’ll eat it all immediately! But if you pop it in a sealable airtight jar, smooth it over and add a layer of olive oil on the top, it’ll keep a little longer.

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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.