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Cover: Mamma Mia!

Recipes with tomato purée

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
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
A hearty and savoury soup with Borlotti beans and small soup pasta
  • 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
  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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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
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.
  • 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
  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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01Jun 12

Goats’ cheese pizza

Goat Cheese PizzaNow that you’ve got a stock of pizza dough at the ready, here’s one of my personal favourite toppings. I’m absolutely crazy about cheese, and goats’ cheese is one of my most loved varieties. In this recipe the sugary sweetness of caramelized onions complements the richly soft, tart tang of goats’ cheese perfectly.

Goats’ cheese goes well with any type of vegetable. Don’t believe me? After trying my goat cheese pizza, try this goats’ cheese and courgette cannelloni.

Basil can either be added, finely chopped, to the tomato sauce mix or, roughly torn, after cooking (or a bit of both!).


  • 2 portions of pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 100g red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
  • 50ml tomato purée
  • 100ml passata (sieved tomato sauce)
  • 50g goats’ cheese, crumbled
  • 100g mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper


1 – Firstly roll out two balls of pizza dough to the desired size and thickness, roughly quarter of an inch thick and about 10-12 inches in diameter is about what we go for.

2 – Turn the oven on to about 180ºC. Heat the oil over a low-medium heat in a heavy-based pan and add the onion and red pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until golden, adding the garlic a minute or two from the end of the time you allow for the onions and peppers. You want the onion to soften up and turn golden without overcooking the garlic. When ready, remove from the pan and set aside.

3 – Turn up the heat and combine the passata and tomato purée in the frying pan. Over a high-medium heat, allow the tomato paste to combine and reduce, soaking up some of the vegetable flavours as it does so. After 3-4 minutes, the mixture will have thickened and reduced by about a third. Remove the pan and set aside.

4 – Place the rolled pizza bases on sheets of baking paper or foil, and place on baking trays. Spoon the tomato sauce over the bases, spreading evenly to within about half an inch of the edge. Add the onion, red pepper and garlic mix evenly over the tomato sauce before sprinkling the mozzarella and crumbled goats’ cheese over everything. Season with salt and pepper, and if you like add a very small sprinkle of olive oil.

5 – Bake for 10 minutes, then serve immediately.

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About Gianluca Dievole

My Badge: Assistant


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.