Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Spaghetti with grilled vegetables

During the last Argilla (a great ceramic fair in Faenza) I literally fell in love with these beautiful dishes. They are also very cunning for children and for my foreign friends, who find difficult to roll long pasta on the fork. (of course I am breaking my pasta!) No spoon is needed and no fuss, just elegance and good manners.

I thought that the very best way to use them for the first time was to prepare this colourful spaghetti recipe, very light and very tasty, with lots of healthy grilled vegetables. It takes quite a bit to grill the vegetable but you can do it in advance and cook the spaghetti at the very last minute.
You can use any type of grilling methods. I used the most basic grill, but just now I realise that I could do in half the time using my electric one!

Ingredients for 4

3 marrows
3 eggplants
4 red tomatoes
2 yellow sweet peppers
400 grs/ 0.88 lb spaghetti
4 cloves garlic
6 spoons extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
4-6 basil leaves

How to:

  1) Wash, clean and slice the marrows and eggplants: 1 eggplant and 1 marrow should be cut into round slices, while the other 2 of them should be cut into thin stripes.


2) Wash and slice the sweet peppers in long stripes


      3) Grill all the above mentioned vegetables: the marrows and the sweet peppers should remain crunchy; season all with salt and sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil in order not to let them dry too much.


4) For the sauce, in a large pan warm up 4-6 table spoons evoo and add the garlic cloves, let it cook until golden. In a food processor, process the basil leaves with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

     5) In the meanwhile wash the tomatoes, cut into pieces, salt them and put them in a colander to make them loose part of their water.


6) Pour the tomatoes in the pan with the garlic and let it cook for 5-7 minutes to taste. Adjust salt. Add the round slices of vegetables to the sauce and the processed basil leaves.

7) Decorate the side of your dishes with the stripes of grilled vegetables.

8) Cook your spaghetti in a large pan of salted running water (10 grs salt each/liter) and drain them well in a colander. Always remember to follow the cooking time on the packaging! 

9) Pour the pasta in the pan and let them saute for few seconds, stirring well until they absorb part of the sauce.

10)  I used a ring to better display the spaghetti, but obviously they will not keep the shape! Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

11)  Serve immediately with a glass of cold dry white wine.

Intrigued by these beautiful red dishes? Contact me! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Piadina Romagnola - Italian flat bread

Sweet memories come to my mind every time I decide to make it as it was he first recipe I learnt from my grandmother!
Nothing was weighted, she made it with experience and tradition…. My grandmother used to ask me to help her so I make the work; she prepared the flour, the lard, the baking soda and the salt, but I think that her secret ingredient was the milk of her cows, which made every preparation even more tasty! And cooking on a round terracotta tray (testo) was quite an experience.
And in those times wearing a white apron was compulsory!
When my grandmother had guests in the Sunday afternoons she did not offer tea and scones, but a nice, warm piadina stuffed with cheese, prosciutto o salame. Of course with a glass of good red wine, just opened in the cellar. Women chatted in the kitchen, men sat in the shadow under the big tree and we kids played with the dogs and cats, nothing more simple and nothing I miss more…
In my area, Romagna, from Imola to Rimini and in the neighbouring Marche, each town has its own traditional recipe, and the piadina becomes more and more thin moving from the land towards the sea.
This is a authentic Italian street food, a flat bread you must enjoy when it is still warm.
You can eat it as a bread, but  my favorite is with prosciutto, rocket salad and fresh cheese, like our squacquerone.
Squacquerone is a 2 day old cheese, impossible to find abroad I think. But any fresh, bitter cheese will go, stracchino as well... (my grand mother would not approve!).
If you want to change, try an Italian salame or hot grilled Italian sausage... Very rich!
Cut the piadina in halves or quarters, put the prosciutto or any cured meat inside, while it is still hot!

Ingredients for 4 flat breads

500 grs.1.1 lb Flour 0 plus a little bit to dust your surfaces
120 gr. /5.3 oz. Lard
200 ml - 1/2 pint Milk
9 grs./ 0.3 oz Salt
3 grs. 0.1 oz Baking soda

To garnish

12 slices of Parma ham (Prosciutto)
250 gr. /1/2 lb fresh cheese (if you are in Italy ask for squacquerone or casatella)
Rocket salad

Put the flour on a clean surface (better if made of wood) and make a well in the centre. Mix in all the other ingredients and pour the milk little by little to get a firm dough. If you feel more confident, make it in a bowl…

Work the dough very well and let it rest for at least 30 minutes covered with a tea-towel or a cloth.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and make 4 small balls. Press them down with your hand and start to roll the first dough. You should obtain a round about 20 cm (8-9 inches) wide.


I am quite sure you do not have a “testo" - nor have I – the best way to cook this bread is to bring a heavy large pan to high temperature over the high heat and put the piadina on it. The pan must be very hot so that the bread does not stick to bottom.
Make small holes with a fork to break the bubbles. 

Turn the flat bread upside down after about 2 minutes or when you see light brown spost like these.
Cook for 2 more minutes or longer if necessary.

Garnish with Cheese, rocket salad and prosciutto and eat immediately.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Savory pumpkin pie

October. The first pumpkins arrive on the market, and they are really welcome!
They have the same wonderful colours of the Autumn leaves and bring col or to the dishes as well.
So many ways to cook pumpkins, this is just one of them.
This recipe is from the Northern part of Italy and was made with the simple ingredients the peasants had in theirs farms during the long, foggy winters...

Ingredients for 6 

1,2 kg (800 gr) pumpkin
60 g grated Grana padano o Parmigiano Reggiano (original...)
60 g bread crumbs
    and some more for the mould
2 table spoons flour
1 egg
1 onion
50 gr butter
   and some to grease the mould (if you are not using silicone)
2 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

6/10 Walnut kernels (if you like as a decoration)

How to

1)  Wash and cut the pumpkin, take off the seeds and cut the skin. Make thick slices or pieces

2) Cook the pumpkin in the oven (40 minutes 180°) or in the microwave until soft.

3) In the meanwhile, clean and cut the onion into slices.

4) Warm up the butter and the olive oil and over the medium heat cook the onions until they become soft.

5) In a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs, the cheese, the flour, a pinch of salt, some pepper.

6) When the pumpkin is ready, squeeze it through a sieve in to bowl. (You can process it in your mixed if you do not have this tool). Stir the pumpkin in and add the egg. Add a small pinch of nut meg.

7) Warm up you oven 150° C /310°F

8) Drain the oil and butter from the onions, which you are not using in this recipe, and pout them in the bowl. Stir in well. taste the dough and adjust salt.

9) Grease a 18 cm. (approx 7 inches) mould with butter and cover the butter with breadcrums (not necessary if you are using a silicone mould)

10) Put the dough in the moulds and bake for 35/40 minutes.

11) Serve warm.


Tip: Of course you can make it into little portions. It does not grow, so you can fill up your moulds up to the top.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Veal rolls

I promise... no more than 5 minutes to prepare this dish, and if you use very thinly sliced veal or beef (which we call carpaccio, and is usually served row) just a couple of minutes to cook!
But what a smell!! 
The pink mortadella gives colour and a special aroma to the meat, just add very little salt, and the dark green, velvet sage leaves  add their special hint.
Everybody will enjoy it.
Serve with a simple lettuce salad, just cut the clean leaves into stripes, add some slices of fennel, few drops of balsamic vinegar, salt and a twist of extra virgin olive oil, and that's it!

Ingredients for 4

12 slices (very thinly cut) veal or beef
12 slices Mortadella di Bologna (do not spare.. buy the original one!)
12  fresh sage leaves 
Extra virgin olive oil

Suggested side dish: lettuce and fennel salad - you choose your proportions.

How to:

1) Take away the outside skin of mortadella and the pepper and wash the sage leaves; dry them.

2) Put the sage leaves on each slices of meat.

Fold  the mortadella slices into two and put it on each meat slice.
Yes,  you can cut away exceeding mortadella and eat it!

3) Roll the meat slice, mortadella and sage inside, and secure the roll with a toothpick. 

4) Try not to make them too thick, otherwise you will have to cook them for a longer time and this would make the meat to become a little bit more hard.

5) Wash your salad and the fennel, and cut them into slices and thin stripes. Dress with salt, few drops of balsamic vinegar and little olive oil.

6) Warm up a non stick pan (or a heavy pan) with 1 table spoon of extra virgin olive oil and cook for two minutes on each side.
Add a little bit of salt.

7) Serve with the salad and enjoy!