Thursday, 24 September 2015

Spaghetti with clams

Few nights ago, when the weather was still warm at night,   we were at a party on the beach, in a beautiful casual environment, great  friendly atmosphere, candle lights…
Our hosts served us some casual food, among with these spaghetti.
Too easy, full of flavor, and so maritime not to share!
Try the little fished inside after cooking, We also serve them as an appetiser, still in their shells, just drain them from the cooking liquid, add a handful of parsley and some more extra virgin olive oil.

Just few things to remember about clams: 
1) the clams must be alive, which means tightly closed, 
2) they should have a nice sea smell 
3) discard any smelly/broken shell, 
4) wash and scrub the closed shells under cold running water because they have lots of sand inside.

This is how I make them:

Ingredients for 4

400 grs./ 14 oz spaghetti
1,3-1,4 kg / 3 lb Clams (I realise in Italy are smaller)
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup parsley
3/4 spoons extra virgin olive oil

Wash the clams: put them in a large bowl full of cold water and wash them changing water now and then until the water is completely clean. Drain them in a colander.

On a medium fire, put a large pan with some extra-virgin olive oil in it, add the peeled garlic cloves, and when the oil is hot, add the clams and cover with a lid. The shells should cook for about 6-8 minutes. Shake the pan occasionally.
To make sure open the lid:  the shells all must be open. If not cover again and let them cook for some more minutes.
Switch off the fire and let cool down.

In the meanwhile wash and chop the parsley.

When the clams are cold, start discarding the shells keeping the small fishes in a other big pan. Leave at least 1/3 of the shells with the fish inside: they will be nice in your dishes. Put the remaining full shells in the same pan. KEEP the liquid!

Now you have an inch of liquid in the bottom of your pan. Pass it through a wire mesh sieve, discard the garlic, and add the liquid to the fishes. Please test the liquid: it should be very salty. If it is not, salt the water for your pasta normally.

Boil the pasta in slightly salted water. (sorry less salt than usual is required let’s say 6-7 gr/liter). Three minutes before it is ready (please read the instructions on your pack) drain it and pour it in the large pan with the fishes. Keep at least a ladder of the cooking water. Stir well and let them cook over a high fire, stir gently until they reach the perfect cooking. If the pasta absorbs all the liquid, add small quantities of the cooking water, little by little.
Take off fire, add the parsley and serve immediately.

A glass of cold white wine strongly recommended, traminer for example!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Shrimp and ricotta appetiser

The other day I was looking for inspiration; someone, I suppose my husband, suggested me to make this appetiser. 
I clearly remembered this recipe was the first one I wrote down for a dear friend of mine, who asked me to share some of my easy recipes, but  actually I had to double check the quantities on her book as I did not remember the proportions. With much surprise I see now that I wrote lots of recipes about which I had totally forgotten, and I will be nice to make a selection and translate them for you now and then, so we all can make it again and again!  
I suggest to freeze them, and you will have a fantastic made ahead appetiser ready for your elegant dinners  or for a quick snack!

Ingredients for 4

300 grs/0.77 lb ricotta (use the real white one, made of the remaining of the cheese making)
300 grs (+12 to decorate)  shrimps (cleaned - not shell, no vein) (fresh or frozen) in total about a pound.
Half a cup chopped parsley/or mixed fresh herb - I used wild fennel this time.
5-6 Peppercorns
Salt and pepper

1)    Prepare the water for the shrimps: add the parsley stems, some peppercorns and some salt. Gently boil the shrimps in that hot water for few minutes, drain them, discard the vegetables and let them cool down. 

    2)    Set 12 of them aside, you will use them to decorate your dish.
   Process the most of them in the food processor or, better cut them until they become just like a powder.
   3)    Mix ricotta with a pinch of salt, some freshly ground pepper and add the chopped parsley and the chopped shrimps and stir well.

  4)    Cover your small moulds with some cling film and divide the mix into four parts. No film is needed if you use silicone moulds. Freeze them, even only for one or two hours, it will be easier to take them out from the moulds.

   5)    If you make them in advance, take them off the moulds and remove the film, set in the dishes and refrigerate.
   Before serving decorate with fresh parsley and the whole shrimps and fresh ground pepper.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Penne alla norma - Pasta with eggplants

More pasta today, and as the garden is invaded by the eggplants, I want to get out all the flavor while they are in season!

Talking about traditional dishes is easy and difficult at the same. They are easy because everybody knows them, but also difficult because every family has its own recipe, and there is always discussions on which is the best, if grand-mother’s or auntie’s. And you know that Italians like to chat about food!
I look forward to your comments, I am sure that some Sicilian friends of mine will give their advice.

I suggest to use a simple “passata” made of tomatoes and salt, no other herbs inside, but you can also use fresh or canned peeled tomatoes.
An other recommendation… I know you can find “ricotta salata” at deli shops. Get a nice piece, you can use the remaining for a salad! It has a very nice smell of fresh milk. Try to recognise this smell.


320 gr./ 0.70 lb penne or half penne (smaller...)
3 long eggplants, cut into round slices
700 grs/1.5 lb basic tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic (adjust to taste)
Vegetable oil to fry
100 grs. 3.5 oz Ricotta salata (grated)
About 10 basil leaves, plus some sprouts to garnish

  1)    Wash and cut the stems of the egg-plants, cut into round slices (1/4 inch) and put some salt on them.

  2)    Let them drain well for at least an 
hour, better two or three, they should loose the bitter taste. 
  Put something on them to push them down.

  3)    Dry with a tea towel and fry them in abundant vegetable oil until cooked / golden. They must remain soft.

  4)    Drain well on paper and keep warm.

5) In an other pan, gently golden the garlic, turn the gas  on a high heat, add the tomatoes and the basil leaves. Cook over  medium heat until the tomato sauce thickens, then add the fried egg-plants and cook for an extra 3-5 minutes. The sauce is ready.

  6) Cook your pasta in abundant salted water (10 grs/ liter)  - al dente – as shown on the packaging, drain it well in a colander and put it in the pan with the sauce immediately.

  7)    Stir well and add the fresh Ricotta salata. I prefer to taste this wonderful cheese, so I always grate it through a large grater. Stir in gently to melt the cheese.

8) A little more cheese on each portion will give a final touch! If you like you can decorate with basil leaves, but I forgot....



Saturday, 5 September 2015

Peach jam

Peaches and nectarines are still at their best in Italy in these days, and their smell is all over my kitchen.
The ripe very fast, and I take advantage of the low prices to make this traditional jam.
The taste of amaretto, same name for the liquor and the cookies, perfectly matches and enriches the sweet taste of the peaches. I usually peel them, but you can leave the pectin-rich skin and cook until it dissolves. The skin will give an extra hint of color.

Serve this jam on bread and butter, but also on your ice cream or yoghourt, it is so heavenly sunny, and sweet!

As I always recommend when canning, take particular care of the containers and of the utensils, which MUST BE all STERILE.
Wash your jars well in your dishwasher or by soapy water, and dry them in your oven 100° C/ 210° F for at least 15 minutes.
If glass containers can be re-cycled, lids must be new, to avoid contamination with the previous contents. The new lids can be washed and dried in the same way you do for the jars.

Ingredients for approx 5 jars (314 ml/11 oz) 

1 kg /2.2 lb Nectarines/peaches
200 Gr./ 7.1 oz. amaretti (cookies) broken into small pieces ( I recommend Matilde Vicenzi’s- their taste is the best)
Juice of half a lemon
4 table spoons Amaretto (liquor like Amaretto di Saronno)
800 grs./ 1.75 lb sugar -  the weight of the cleaned peaches

Wash and peel the fruit.

Cut them into chunks and remove the stone.

Put the nectarines in a suitable, deep pan, add the lemon juicea nd let cook over a medium heat for about half an hour, stirring frequently. The fruit will melt, help this process by pushing the fruit with a fork.

Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves, get it to the boil again and in the meanwhile, break the amaretti. 

Add the cookies and stir well.

   Let it boil until the jam reaches the right texture, try it frequently on a cold dish, it must not be runny! 

The drop should keep the shape.
Add the amaretto (liquor) and stir it in.

   Let it all boil for 2-3 minutes, then put the jam in the jars, seal with the lid immediately and put them up-side down, so the hot jam sterilizes the lids
  When completely cold, put a label with content and expiry date on the jars and store in a cool, dark place. 

The jam will keep well for about 1 year.

Refrigerate after opening.

Tip: Design your own style labels, creating something personal. Jams and preserves can also be a nice present for anybody at Christmas, and if you make a nice basket they will be even more appreciated!
I think that mine are very modern, my daughter designed them for me, and the yellow paper on which I print them  makes a very nice contrast with the brownish/dark content.
Anyway, if you look for some suggestions, you can have a look at:

But feel free to suggest your favourite, your suggestions are interesting for all of us!