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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with pine nuts

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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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.