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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with shallots

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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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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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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05Mar 12

Soft cheese and celery pasta

Soft Cheese and Celery PastaWith a comforting richness, this soft cheese and celery pasta is really refreshing on a warm day, eaten in the shade with some chilled water or fruit juice on hand.

Although some may not consider cheese a “light” dish, I think it is quite healthy and a delicious source of calcium.

Simplicity itself, this is a good recipe when you’re short of time.

If you want to give the dish more kick, add a clove or two of garlic when you fry the shallots and celery. This dish is also nice with tinned tuna and mayonnaise instead of the soft cheese and yoghurt, although obviously the method will differ if you change the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 75g soft cheese, such as Brie or Camembert
  • 75g plain yoghurt
  • 1 celery stick trimmed and finely sliced
  • 150-200g penne or similar tubular pasta
  • Small handful of finely chopped parsley
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 a lime

Method:

1 – In a large pan, bring some lightly-salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until it’s al dente. If you’ve got the right pans, you can steam the chopped celery over the pasta for the first three or four minutes of its cooking time.

2 – While that lot is bubbling away, combine the soft cheese and yoghurt in a bowl, adding the grated nutmeg and some salt and pepper, set aside.

3 – As the pasta nears completion, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, and sauté the celery, shallots and most of the chopped parsley, over a medium-low heat for about five minutes, until softened. By this time the pasta should be ready: drain the pasta and combine it with the vegetables.

4 – Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese and yoghurt mixture, combining well. Return to a low heat and gently warm through for three to five minutes. Serve with a leafy Caesar salad, squeezing some lime juice and sprinkling the remaining parsley over the pasta, if desired.

Serves: 2

Time: 30 minutes: 10 minutes preparation, 20 minutes cooking.

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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.