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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with pasta

12Sep 12

Beef Canneloni

Beef Canneloni

 

There are a million ways you can make canneloni. The combination of fillings and sauces are up to your imagination! My mum used to cook up a beef canneloni with a tomato filling, and so I followed suit. Of course I experiment with other possibilities, but I consider this the classic recipe.

Some people use the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking pan, placing the canneloni on top of the passata and then smothering it with cheese. Others place the canneloni in first and then pour the tomato on top. My personal preference is combining the two and using both as filling, while drizzling over a delicious buttery cheese sauce. And if you really like cheese, you could sprinkle some extra on top afterwards!

Canneloni is a bit like lasagne: there are a million options for combinations, and the ingredients are made separately and then combined in the oven. Try this fantastic vegetable lasagne, and you’ll see what I mean.

Beef Canneloni
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
My mum's recipe for classic beef canneloni
Ingredients
  • 6 large canneloni tubes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 230g ground beef
  • 400ml passata
  • 25g butter
  • 12g flour
  • 170ml milk
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 40g Parmesan cheese
  • 50g cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
Instructions
  1. Cook canneloni according to packet instructions.
  2. Next, pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the ground beef and fry for about 5 minutes.
  4. Next, pour in the passata, a pinch of salt, a couple twists of black pepper and the basil. Let it all simmer together between 15 and 20 minutes.
  5. While the meat is simmering, you can prepare the topping and preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan. When completely melted, whisk in the flour for a minute or two. When completely dissolved, you can add the milk. This step should be done slowly and carefully so as to avoid lumps.
  7. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer for five minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
  8. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and cherry tomatoes, stirring them all together.
  9. Take the meat and tomato mixture, stuffing it inside the canneloni.
  10. Gently place the canneloni side-by-side in a large baking dish, pouring the cheese sauce on top.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes and serve piping hot. But be careful not to burn your mouth!

 

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25Jul 12

Bacon and Borlotti Soup

Bacon and Borlotti Soup

 

I’ve called this bacon and borlotti partly for the benefit of English readers, and partly because I like the alliteration. You could of course use bacon instead of the pancetta I suggest, but of course thin rashers of bacon aren’t rustic, authentic or, let’s face it, macho! (For a vegetarian recipe using similar kidney beans, try this cheesy chilli sin carne.)

This recipe calls for “small soup pasta”. We have terms like ‘pasta in brodo’, which translates as pasta in broth, or ‘pastina’, the latter meaning literally, little pasta. Such pasta comes in many forms including, amongst the smaller types suitable for this recipe, annellini, grattini or stellini, the last of which are, as the name suggests, little stars! Nowadays many stores sell bags of small pasta in mixed sizes and shapes specifically for soup, so you can you have fun seeing what you can find.

Once the pasta is ready, take the soup off the heat and let stand to cool off a little before serving. Nobody wants to scald their mouth; we like to taste our food after going to the effort of cooking it!

Have a nice crusty loaf of unsliced bread and some butter handy, so you break off nice chunks and dip them in the soup. The Parmesan shaving, parsley sprigs and olive oil are all optional extras, and you may not feel you need them.

Bacon & Borlotti Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
A hearty and savoury soup with Borlotti beans and small soup pasta
Ingredients
  • 100 ml water
  • 15g dried porcini
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 200g canned borlotti beans, drained and washed
  • 100g small soup pasta
  • 75g pancetta, cubed
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan shavings, parsley sprigs and extra virgin olive oil, to garnish
Instructions
  1. - Dried mushrooms need reviving, 'ravvivare' as we say: boil the 100ml of water, pour into a heat-proof bowl or container, and plop your porcini in, making sure they're all taking a proper hot bath! Soak for 15 minutes, drain (reserving the flavoured fluid), gently squeezing out any excess moisture.
  2. - Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, over a low heat, adding the cubed pancetta, carrot, onion and celery. Cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up to medium and add rosemary, garlic and porcini, allowing to cook through for a minute or two.
  3. - Add the borlotti beans and red wine, turn up the heat and boil off the wine. Stir in the tomato purée, followed by the chicken stock and the liquid from soaking the mushrooms. Bring back to the boil, before reducing the heat and simmering the soup gently for about ten minutes.
  4. - Bring the soup back to the boil again and add your pasta, keep stirring the whole mixture, cooking it till the pasta is al dente. Small pasta is best for this recipe, as it keeps the soup kind of rustic and manageable, and also, importantly, will cook quickly.
  5. – Let cool just a bit before serving.

 

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22Jul 12

Chilli Crab Spaghetti

Chilli Crab SpaghettiCrab is obviously just one of the many delicious and varied ‘frutti di mare’, or ‘fruits of the sea’ commonly found in Italian food. And, given that almost all of Italy’s regions have stretches of coast, it’s no wonder our rich seafood is omnipresent in our cuisine.

And, of course, feel free to switch out spaghetti for any other similar pasta like tagliatelli or fettucine. Any of those options would work.

A similar-tasting meat is crayfish meat, which are only found in fresh water. If you want to try out a recipe using crayfish, try this crayfish rice with mango recipe.

Like some other of my recipes in the blog, you can start off with the pasta, as the whole meal is done very quickly, whilst the pasta cooks.

A light, leafy green salad, using something like iceberg lettuce or Romaine (also known as Cos) lettuce, makes a good accompaniment to this dish, as would a dry white wine. A floral French Bordeaux wine would be one option, whilst the more flinty taste of Chablis, from Burgundy, would be another. Despite the differences, either type of wine pairs up nicely with crab, I think.

Chilli Crab Spaghetti
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
This is also yet another example of simple and quick pasta that is light and delicious
Ingredients
  • 50ml olive oil (extra virgin is best)
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced into thin strips (set aside some fronds for use as garnish)
  • 1 clove of garlic, sliced paper-thin
  • 1 red chilli (fresh), deseeded and finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • A handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 50ml dry vermouth
  • The juice of ½ a lemon
  • 150g fresh crab meat
  • 200g spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook according to the packet instructions, in a large pan of lightly salted water, till the pasta is al dente.
  2. Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan over a low heat. Add the garlic, chilli and fennel, and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the crab meat, and cook for a minute or so before adding the vermouth. Turn up the heat, bringing the liquor to the boil. Reduce for a couple of minutes, until most of the liquor has evaporated.
  3. Remove from the heat, add the remaining oil, the juice of half a lemon, and season. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  4. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the chilli/crab mixture and stir it all together. Serve to warm plates, garnished with the cherry tomatoes and fennel fronds or parsley.

 

 

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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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19Jun 12

Baked Dolcelatte and Broccoli Gnocchi

Baked Dolcelatte and Broccoli GnocchiThese days the gnocchi you can find in the big stores tends to be potato-based. In a future post I might try my hand at making it at home (it’s not something I’ve tried yet!). The combination of iron-rich broccoli, a healthy vegetable if ever there was one, contrasting with the indulgence of dolcelatte, baked to rich, creamy perfection, makes this a winner every time. (Also try this broccoli feta rice recipe.)

This is a great food for the autumn and winter: piping hot, rich and comforting. Cosy up on the couch with your ‘significant other’, and watch a good film. Last time we had this, we watched ‘The Big Sleep’, with Bogie and Bacall, a classic!

Ingredients:

  • 250g gnocchi
  •  150g broccoli (half a large ‘head’ of broccoli, or most of a smaller one)
  •  100g dolcelatte (or other soft blue-veined cheese, e.g. gorgonzola)
  •  100ml single cream
  •  50g grated Parmesan
  •  Salt and pepper

Method:

1 – Heat your oven to 200ºC. Meanwhile bring a large pan of very lightly salted water to the boil (salt reduces the boiling temperature). Cook the broccoli for about three minutes*, till it becomes tender (Since it’s going to be baked as well, don’t overcook it. And watery mushy broccoli isn’t very appetizing!).

2 – Cook the gnocchi in the water you used for the broccoli, as instructed by the packet.

3 – Combine the dolcelatte, cream and half the grated Parmesan, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper, and pour into a casserole (or other ovenproof) dish. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top.

4 – Bake for between 10-20 minutes, until the top is golden, and the sauce bubbles.

* If you want to save a few minutes and feel a bit clever at the same time, you can steam the broccoli over the boiling water. This should take about four minutes. After the broccoli has steamed for two minutes, lift off the steamer, pop the gnocchi into the water, and replace. The gnocchi should cook in two minutes (you know it’s ready when it floats), and meanwhile the broccoli will have cooked atop it.

 Serves: 2

 Total time: 40 minutes (10 minutes preparation; 30 minutes cooking)

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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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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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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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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.