Monday, 15 August 2016

Lasagna with tomato sauce and aubergines

Light, suitable for all (vegetarians included), and with a wow effect! 
My hubby was delighted by the novelty and so I used this recipe last week-end when I invited my friends for dinner.

Believe it or not, this summer recipe is made with leftovers of my fridge/freezer and I put all of them together to reach a great result.
I do not know if the word lasagna is suitable, as béchamel sauce and Bolognese sauce are completely missing. Anyway it gives the idea of layers of fresh made egg pasta, and that’s enough for me.

What I already had:
Some pasta, cut into squares which were drying as I forgot to put them in an air tight container after freezing. Some ricotta salata, already grated, and some aubergines, cooked in the microwave. I definitely wanted to do something with that food, as throwing food away is a sin in my family.

At the same time, I had very little in my cupboard which could match, a to tell the truth, making a traditional lasagna for just two people in Summer would take too long for me… Did I ever mention that I have no air conditioning in my kitchen? So I decided to add a simple garlic and tomato sauce, with a hint of oregano and basil. (when you buy tomato sauce choose the simpler one with just two ingredients: tomatoes and salt. If you do not find it, just process peeled tomato and its juice to obtain a sauce)

Well if you start from the very beginning it can take a while, but you can make your homemade pasta and freeze it for some other recipe, or make it in advance and freeze it...
The same can be said for the other ingredients: tomato sauce can be prepared in advance and then bottled and sterilised or frozen and aubergines frozen as well after cooking. Each of them can be used in other ways and this is the great way to use your time and eat seasonal vegetables when they are plentiful (and cheap!)
Here is how I made it, step by step.
Please consider that in this case my portion is for a 4 course meal. If it is your dinner, make more, for adults at least.

Ingredients for 4

2 eggs
200 grs flour

2 medium aubergines (I prefer the white ones)
3 table spoons red onion finely sliced and chopped
Coarse sea salt
2 pinches oregano
3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil

500 gr (about) tomato sauce (I use Mutti, which is rather thick and cooks very quickly…)
5 cloves garlic
5 leaves basil
2 pinches oregano
6 table spoons extra virgin olive oil (it depends how large your pan is. It should cover the bottom)

8 spoons grated salted ricotta (the original one. It is white and tastes of salted milk…)

Wash and cut the aubergines into thin slices, let’s say 0.5 cm/ ¼ inch. And then into small stripes (I use scissors).
Put them in a colander with an abundant pinch of coarse salt and let them rest with something heavy on them for at least 1 hour (the longer the better). They will loose their bitter water.

In the meanwhile prepare you pasta following the instructions here, let it rest for half an hour covered by a clean cloth, pin it with the roll and cut into squares 10 cm. / 4 inches. approx. They should be nearly the same size.
You will need three pieces for each portion. (at least).
Set aside and in case freeze the leftovers on a large tray covered with a clean cloth napkin (for an other day). When frozen, close them in an air-tight container.

While you wait to pin your pasta, warm up the oil in a large casserole and cook the garlic until golden brown. Raise the temperature of the oil a little bit and add the tomato sauce, (it will spray around!) a good pinch of oregano and the basil leaves and let cook (gentle bubbling) until it thickens (10-15 minutes), stirring now and then. 
Add salt and take out of fire.

Did your aubergines make the dark water? Drain them well and dry with some paper, cut unto small stripes (I do it with my clean shissors), put them in a microwaveable casserole (the larger the better) add the oregano, the finely chopped onion and the extra virgin olive oil, stirring them well so the aubergines are evenly oily.

Put the casserole in the microwave and cook until very soft. (about 10 minutes).

Ok, now your ingredients are all ready, but before putting them together, you will boil the pasta in abundant salted water and drain it on a tea towel.

Pre-heat your over 180° C / 350 °F.

Prepare your oven proof pan by putting some olive oil on the bottom and begin to layer the pasta, then a spoon of tomato sauce, some cheese and half a spoon of the aubergines.

 Repeat with 2 more layers of pasta, and put just some sauce on top. (make more than one portion if it is your only course).

Cook for about 10 minutes (the pasta on top will get crunchy) and serve immediately with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on top and some fresh oregano.

Tip: I usually pair it with a red wine, but a strong white could go as well.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Rustic Tomato sauce (Basecicapo)

"Basecicapo" is the funny name my grand mother gave to this sauce, which is functional to remember the ingredients: the name is composed by the first two letters of each ingredient. It would sound something like baceoncato in English, but it is so difficult to say!!

It a a classic tomato sauce, which my grand mother used to make when the tomatoes were at their peak and aboundant.
Two ways to conserve them, freeze it in air tight containers or put in mason jars/bottles, seal well with new lids and boil the jar in a large pan.
This sauce is very good on whole weat pasta, maccheroni for example and will solve a mid-week dinner, when time is always very tight.
If you have a large pan, make a lot doubling this recipe, the time you need is nearly the same and you can make batches both to eat immediately and to store for a next time.

Suitable for vegetarians.

Ingredients for 6

4/6 large leaves Basil
1 stalk Celery with its leaves
1 Onion
1-2 carrots
8 medium ripe tomatoes
6-8 table spoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil (it depends on how large your pan is)

First of all wash and dry all your vegetables

Make a light cross on top of the tomatoes so to cut just the skin and drop them in a pan of boiling water for one minute or two and drain in a colander. Let them cool down.

Process the vegetables – except for the tomatoes and the basil leaves – in a mixer and pulse until it is evenly cut into very small pieces.

Warm up the oil in a large pan and add the chopped vegetables. Let them cook until very soft (the carrots will become yellow). Stir in now and then to cook it evenly. About 10 minutes.

Peel the tomatoes, cut them into pieces and discard as many seeds as possible.
Add the tomatoes, the basil leaves and a pinch of salt, stir well, cover with a lid and let it cook (medium heat) for about an hour stirring now and then.

The tomatoes should be very soft now, and some vegetation water should be on the bottom. Let it dry and your sauce is ready.

In the meanwhile cook your pasta in a large container full of hot salted water. Let it cook "al dente" (follow the instructions on the packaging) and drain in a colander. 

Now you can serve the sauce  as it is or process it again to make it creamier.
I think that both ways are great and the taste is not affected. Children prefer the second version.

This sauce keeps well in the fridge for about 2 days, but, as you see I choose to store it for winter.
Two simple ways:

Freeze: make batches in air tight containers and freeze (can last 6 months). Do not fill in completely to allow a slight espansion during freezing.

Sterilize : Put the sauce in a perfectly clean dry mason jar, do not fill in completely, seal well with a washed and dried new lid, and put the jar(s) in a large pan filled with water. The pan must be deep enough so that the water will aboundantly cover the lids. Bring the water to the hard boil, boil for at least 20 minutes and let the jars warm down in the water.
Dry them, label them with content and date of production.

Store in a dry cool place. Keeps well for 6 months.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Argillà 2-4 Sept. 2016

Every two years in Faenza, my town, there is an important ceramic exhibition, this year it will be from 2 to 4 Sept. (2016).

You do not need to be an artist or a ceramist to take part in the famous Argillà  exhibition which will be held in Faenza every two years on early September.

Small stands, a world potter's wheel competition, workshops, and even children's laboratories will be along the streets and the squares of the historic centre.

During the day, for those who are not working at the stands, I organise a guided tour of the town and the surroundings, and cooking lessons, so that the recipes you see on the blog are made even more simple and easy. After cooking of course we eat! A special candle light dinner on my terrace in the roof of the town centre. 

The tours are guided by a licensed guide - a dear friend of mine - who, with great passion, will show you around the town and will explain the history and the works of art hidden in this pleasant town.

This year I will teach you how to make home-made pasta, it will be fun!

Please, feel free to contact me for menu and prices.
It will be a great occasion to meet and we will enjoy our meal together!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Pizzaiola meat

While I was processing the photoes on photoshop I could smell all the flavour of this recipe! 

All the South of Italy inside it, choose a great "passata" tomato sauce (tomato and salt - that's it - or make your own simply processing canned peeled tomatoes  and a pinch of salt).
Yes, you are allowed to dip the bread in it!!

Ingredients for 4
8 slices of very thin meat
450ml / 1 pint tomato sauce
200 grs 1/2 lb Mozzarella
1 clove garlic
3 table spoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Dry oregano

Cut the mozzarella into thin slices.

Start from a very good quality meat, and take it out the fridge half an hour before cooking. This is a good advice for every meat, as the fiber relax and the meat will be softer when cooked.

Warm up the oil,put the peeled garlic in it and let it cook until golden. Remove the garlic and add the tomato sauce and a pinch of oregano. Stir well and let it cook until the sauce thickens a bit.

Add the meat to the sauce, cover the pan with a lid and let cook gentily for a minute or two. The meat will change its colour. Turn it upside down and add the mozzarella on top of the meat. 

Cover with the lid again for 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts.

Serve immediately with a pinch of oregano.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Pasta rolls with ricotta and thyme


I am scheduling my Easter menu, as my family will be with me for lunch on Easter day. 10 people in total, from 14 to 80, with very different tastes and habits.
As colours, flowers, eggs and bunnies are a must of Spring, I will try to reproduce the mood on my table and here is what I will prepare for lunch:

Roses of pasta with thyme
Vegetable terrine

You have most of the recipes already published in this blog, and just click on the link to see them in case you want to create a similar menu!

Take your time: consider at least 2,5 hours to make them, plus the time to bake it.
This pasta can be prepared in advance and frozen for a month or two, after sealing it well, so I have already made it.
Just remember to remove it from the freezer the day before, and let it de-frost in the fridge.
Sorry not to be able to show it already baked, this picture will be available on Easter day only, after 1 pm. central Europe time!!!!

Here is the pasta recipe I made for the 10 of us, as with so many dishes you cannot eat a full portion of everything.
It makes about 30 rolls which means a good portion of 5 rolls each person for 6 people.

2 large eggs
200 grs  00 flour

1,1 litre milk
100 grs. Butter
100 grs flour
Salt and pepper

450 grs/1 lb. fresh ricotta (drained if necessary)
150 grs. 1/3 lb.  grated Parmigiano Reggiano o Grana padano
2 table spoons (possibly) fresh thyme leaves (washed, dried and stems removed)
Butter to grease your baking pan

Grease your baking pan with some butter.

Prepare your pasta dough, as explained here, and let it rest in a bowl for ½ hour covered with a napkin.

In the meanwhile prepare the bechamel sauce as explained here

Mix the cheeses with the thyme, taste the mix and add salt if needed. Refrigerate until needed.

Cut the dough into batches and pull out the dough with the pin or the machine until very thin.Cut it into long stripes approx. 4x20 cm.(1.5 x8 inches) . It is important they are more or less the same size. When boiling they grow a lot.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the stripes for a couple of minutes.
Lay them flat and drain them on a clean tea towel.

Spread a thin layer of the cold cheese mix on each cooked stripe and roll it.

Put them in the greased baking pan, standing, so that you can see the layers.

Cover with the béchamel sauce and bake them at 180° for about half an hour or until the béchamel in the centre of the pan boils slightly.

Serve hot and enjoy!
Happy Easter!

Shrimp, fennel and orange salad

I ate this salad the first time in a famous restaurant many years ago; this is a fresh salad or, as I prefer to serve it, a very colourful appetiser I usually serve with the drinks while waiting for dinner or for a happy hour. In this case cut the ingredients a little bit smaller and serve in spoons or small bowls.
More than quantities, here I suggest proportions!


2 oranges peeled, all zest and pips removed
2 tbl spoons of orange juice
2 fennel bulbs, finely sliced (reserve the feathery fronds)
300 grs. of cold boiled shrimps
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 spoons orange juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.   Wash well the oranges. Cut off the skin (orange and white part) with very sharp knife and cut out the segments from between the membranes, discarding the pips and any pith still attached. Cut the oranges into pieces and place them a bowl.

2.   Wash and dry the fennel. Discard the hardest parts and slice the vegetable very finely and make small pieces. Add to the bowl with the boiled shrimps - whole or cut into pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in the olive oil and orange juice, leave to marinate for 1 or 2 minutes and before serving.


TIPYou can prepare it in advance, just seasoning with the oil. Add salt and orange juice to taste before serving. Decorate with the green feathery leaves from the fennel.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Carnival donuts

Carnival, the most amusing time of the year!
When I was a young girl I used to dress up, my mother and brother were big supporters and we all worked hard. So one year I was a pretty Japaneese, the other year Scarlett O'Hara, or a cave woman.. It was difficult to dance at parties, but this was part of the fun! Anything goes at carnival time.
Now I can at least cook some very sweet and fried food, not too loose the tradition. From "fat Thursday to fat Tuesday (mardi gras)", let induge in these nice feast!
I made only half portion of this recipe, because for our family it was enough. 


500 grs flour
3 medium potatoes
30 gr brewer's yeast
4 spoons sugat, plus more to dust the donuts
grated zest of an orange
2 eggs
1/3 glass of warm milk.
1/2 a bottle vegetable oil 

Wash and boil your potatoes until soft.
Prepare 4 trays with a tea towel on each of them.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl, put them on a board, peel the potates while they are still warm and pass them through a masher with the flour.

Add the eggs, the dissolved yeast, and mix it all until you  obtain  a smooth dough. Add a pinch of salt and work it a little bit.

Dust your board with flour and roll the dough until about 5 mm. thick.

Cut your preferred shape, donuts, 
flowers, rings. put them on a tray.

Let them leaven for at least an hour in a warm place, far for the air streams, inside your cold oven, light on, for example.

Bring the oil to the boil  and prepare the trays with some blotting paper.

Fry just few donuts each time, they take about 10 seconds each to cook, 5 seconds each side, and you have to turn them up side down.

Drain from the oil and lay them on the blotting paper.
Then roll them on both sides on a dish with some sugar.