Recipes

Exquisite italian recipes

Lunch with Aldo

Lunch with Aldo 1

As lunch is so frequently a source of conversation in our house (as in, “what shall we have for lunch” – Aldo and “I’ve no idea” – me) I’ve decided to do a post on Wednesdays dedicated to Aldo’s endless creativity in this field. Of course I take some credit for this. After all, it is thanks to my lack of both ideas and interest in lunch that he has been able to polish his cooking skills.


Pisellini e funghi (peas and mushrooms)
half an onion
small tin of small peas with thin skins (this is what they are called here!)
one Italian sausage
4 champignon mushrooms peeled and sliced (my comments along the lines of “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom” have been ignored…)
one carton of cooking cream (125gr)

Finely chop the onion and soften with a spoon of olive oil and a spoon of wine. When it is golden add the sausage, mashing it well to divide it up. (Italian sausages are cured and can be eaten as a spread on bread).
When the sausage is cooked add the drained peas. Mash about half the peas with a fork and simmer for ten minutes. Add the mushrooms and cover, simmering for another ten minutes. Three minutes before the pasta cooking time is up add the cream, stir and take off the heat. Mix with pasta, sprinkle on some parmesan and serve.

Pasta with radicchio and red pepper

Pasta with radicchio and red pepper

It’s tough being married to Aldo. He comes home for lunch every day (in the Marchigiano way) and then insists on cooking. The first year he did this I put on 6kg. I had to take steps…now he signs a little as he weighs out the pasta and there is still a certain amount of debate during the serving process. I have been known to bring the scales to the table to prove that once again he had served me 50% more than he served himself, but things are fairly under control. Until, that is, he makes a pasta sauce like this and I have to have a second helping, leaving him wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place.


Quantities for four people:
a small Treviso radicchio (the long sort, chopped finely, but not too finely)
one red pepper cubed
one small onion chopped finely
one clove garlic

Chop the onion very finely and simmer in oil. When it goes golden add wine and garlic and leave simmering gently. Do not let it burn! (this is the stage when I rush out to hang out the washing or check my emails in the next room and it all goes horribly wrong).

Add the finely red pepper and simmer for a few minutes. Make up a cupful of vegetable stock and add a little at a time.
Add the radicchio and more stock and simmer for about five minutes. While it cooks put the water on, turn off the sauce, and cook the pasta (multi-tasking within the kitchen in front of the stove is what it is all about, according to Aldo, so don’t go off to clean the bathroom or chat to the postlady as I do). Mix and serve.

Tagliatelle with speck and rucola

Tagliatelle with speck and rucola

The air in town is heavy with the scent of lime blossom but along the country roads I can smell rocket growing in the fields, which made me think of this recipe for tagliatelle with rocket and speck. Aldo tells me that speck is completely different from bacon, I used to think they were the same thing, so I can only hope that you can find something called speck wherever you are!
Quantities for four people:

250gr speck cut into tiny tiny squares
200gr fresh rucola(rocket) washed and dried (very important this) then finely chopped
half a fresh onion cut into fine slices
3Tbs olive oil
half a glass of white wine

Soften the onion in the wine and oil, then add the speck. Put the tagliatelle on to cook, stirring the speck and onion occasionally, then drain the tagliatelle and retain a spoonful of the cooking water, add the speck and onion mix together with the rocket. Serve with shavings of parmesan.

Penne al profumo di primavera

Penne al profumo di primavera

This means literally scent of spring. The finely chopped vegetables cooked for about twenty minutes form the basis of the sauce. Just before serving the fresh mozarella, basil and chopped tiny tomatoes are mixed in, making this a fragrant and tasty meal, perfect for spring. Use between 100 and 250grams of dried short pasta per person.

Half a fresh onion (or a couple of spring onions) finely chopped
Half a red pepper finely chopped
Half a small aubergine, in thin slices, with the middle with the seeds taken out
One courgette in fine cubes
A piece of carrot, grated
Two asparagus spears, chopped into half centimeter pieces
One fresh mozzarella, cut into cubes
Six small fragrant tomatoes, chopped finely
Basil leaves torn into pieces

Soften the onion in a little oil and some white wine, then add the pepper, aubergine, courgette and carrot and simmer for fifteen minutes. Add the asparagus and take off the heat after about four minutes. In the meantime cook the pasta, then mix into the sauce and add the chopped tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, with parmesan to taste.

Sedanini alla Boscagliola

Sedanini alla Boscagliola

This is one of my favourites, but as I write that I realise that I could honestly say that about just about every pasta recipe of Aldo’s. Let’s say it is my favourite for today, because we had it for lunch, and I had to be restrained from licking out the pot.

For this you need Italian sausage, the only type we get here, and I don’t know how easy they are to find elsewhere. An Italian sausage can be eaten raw, in fact it is delicious squashed onto bread, as the meat is already cured. Sedanini are short ridged tubes, smaller than the more commonly found penne, but any sort of short pasta, indeed any sort of long pasta, any pasta at all would be good with this sauce, it is so tasty. We use 100grams for normal adults and up to 250grams for growing teenage boys.

Half a small onion chopped very fine
1 sausage
4 fresh mushrooms peeled and sliced finely (no cheating here, I never peeled a mushroom before I came to Italy but now…)
10grams of dried porchini, soaked for half an hour beforehand in tepid water (throw water away before using) 125gram cream (this is another Italian thing – as opposed to the limitless varieties of cream available in the UK we have only one kind, cooking cream)
half a glass of white wine and of course olive oil, parsley for afterwards and parmigiano

Soften the onion in one spoonful of olive oil and the wine, until the wine has bubbled off. Then mash the sausage into the onion, cooking slowly. When the sausage meat is turning light brown add the sliced mushroom and the dried mushrooms and cook for approximately twenty minutes, whilst the pasta is cooking. Add the cream just before you drain the pasta, then sprinkle the parsley onto the dish before serving. Grated parmesan to taste.

Orecchiette con cima di rapa

Orecchiette con cima di rapa

Cima di rapa sounds more romantic in Italian, it means turnip tops. They must be tender and young for this dish, these on the windowsill were picked in the morning from our vegetable garden. You could use broccoli, or even brussel sprouts, but perhaps the best alternative would be sprouting broccoli. The tiny flowers and the ends of the most tender leaves are cut off and the rest thrown away. Orecchiette means little ears, which I find confusing and often ask Aldo if we can have earrings with turnips for lunch.

Recipe for four

Approx ,5kg of turnip tops or broccoli
One clove of garlic sliced finely
1 anchovy fillet per person
2 chillies
2 spoons of olive oil per person
handful of tiny tomatoes, sliced
orecchiette pasta (we usually allow 100grams for normal people and up to 250grams for growing teenagers)

Boil turnip tops in salted water for about ten minutes. In another pan soften garlic in olive oil then add anchovies and chilli peppers. Leave on lowest flame whilst you cook the pasta in the water with the turnip tops. Five minutes before the pasta is ready add the sliced tomatoes to the garlic and oil. When you have drained the pasta and turnip tops stir in the sauce and serve with grated pecorino cheese.

Tortellini in brodo

Tortellini in brodo

This is Sam’s favourite lunch, which he would eat every day of the week if only I would agree to it. As he is 1,96m tall I don’t suggest that normal people eat the quantities that he does, a person with a healthy appetite can cope with 150grams of tortellini. These ones are prepared by hand and are fresh, but the ones in the supermarket in vacuum packs are good too. They come filled with meat or cheese, people in this house prefer meat.

Recipe for four

Half a capon (or a boiling chicken, approx 1,5kg)
One medium sized onion with four cloves stuck in it
One carrot
One stick of celery
Salt to taste

Put the capon into a deep saucepan with 2,5 to 3 litres of water – the capon must be covered. Bring to the boil and skim off extra fat from the surface of the water. Add the vegetables and simmer for two hours. Occasionally skim extra fat. Add tortellini, cook for approximately 4 minutes (check cooking time on packet) serve in brodo with grated parmesan on top. The meat is good eaten with the tortellini, or separately with bread and mayonnaise.

Lemon Risotto

Lemon Risotto

This is a recipe that Sam found and loves to prepare. He takes over the kitchen, and between shouting endless queries to me “where’s the vegetable stock” and “Can’t find the lemon zester” casually informs Jasper that once he has finished the war torn cooking zone will be his to repair. Irritating though it is, the end product rewards us all.

two shallots
two sticks celery
60gr butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
350gr arborio rice
1,25 – 2 litres vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
zest of whole lemon
5 fresh sage leaves
leaves from small sprig of fresh rosemary
4 Tbsp cream
4 Tbsp grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a gentle simmer, and in another pot soften the finely chopped shallot and celery in 30gr of the butter and the oil. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated and partly translucent. Add a ladleful of the stock and stir over a low flame until it is absorbed, then continue adding a ladle at a time for about five minutes. Then add the rest of the stock and cover over the lowest flame possible, leaving it whilst you zest the lemon and chop the herbs, and add to the rice, stirring again. Put the lid back on and mix the lemon juice with the parmesan, cream, salt and pepper. Check to see if the rice is al dente, once it is mix in the creamy lemony mixture and the remaining butter, leave it for two minutes or so, then serve.

Hot chocolate and chilli peppers

Hot chocolate and chilli peppers

Until that watery sunshine gets a little stronger and we all emerge from sitting squashed in front of the wood burning fire chocolate is on our minds. The Italian type, made with cocoa, rich and satisfying, a meal in itself. With or without chilli peppers.

Quantities for one cup

pour milk into cup
one heaped dessertspoon of cocoa
one flat dessertspoon of sugar
one third dessertspoon of flour
optional chilli pepper
Mix the dry ingredients in a pan until they are well amalgamated, breaking down the lumps of cocoa.

Add a little of the milk and mix into a thick smooth paste. This will take a while.

Gradually add the rest of the milk stirring vigorously, put it on the stove and heat gradually, stirring. When it is almost boiling and thick enough take off heat.
The chilli peppers are optional. Sam has perfected the use of these – he adds two per person at the heating stage, stirring and slightly crushing them. When the chocolate is ready he takes them out. Sometimes he doesn’t, which results in people running full tilt for the kitchen sink and water. They add a piquant bite to the chocolate.
Quantities: these are personal, if you like your hot chocolate very thick and mousse like then this recipe is good, if you prefer it thinner reduce the quantity of flour. Some people prefer more sugar, a little less cocoa. It may take a while and a few cups to find the right balance.

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

This photograph isn’t a very appropriate illustration to accompany the recipe of one of the creamiest and most delicious of Italian puddings, but unfortunately the tiramisu prepared for me by my stepdaughter Chiara was eaten for breakfast this morning by Sam (so sorry Mum, I just kept having another bit…) so I decided to put people in the summer mood to accompany the recipe.
I learnt this more than twenty years ago in Tuscany on a painting holiday, the quantities were for ten people. But ten controlled people who like small quantities of pudding, and as you can see in our family it is well worth doing quantities for ten to keep four or six going. Tiramisu means “Pick me up” so there are obvious medicinal reasons to eat a lot of it.
six eggs
0,5kg mascarpone cheese
6 dessertspoons sugar
ladies finger biscuits (or langues de chat)
couple of cups of espresso (add whiskey to taste if you like)

Beat the yolks with the sugar, beat the whites separately. Fold the mascarpone into the yolks, then fold all together. Pour the coffee mix onto a plate and place each biscuits there for a moment before layering them with the mascarpone mix – the idea being to turn the biscuit over, wet side up, so that the coffee mix soaks down into it. Aim to have three layers of biscuits alternating with the mascarpone mix. Cover with sieved cocoa and refrigerate for a couple of hours before eating. Keep away from teenagers.

Devil’s food cake

Devil’s food cake

I think the best chocolate in Italy can be found in Lidl but shopping there is an oddly existential experience. I wander the aisles alongside other immigrants, mostly people from Eastern Europe whose faces indicate lives considerably more complex than mine. I follow them to the till wishing I could identify their languages and find out their stories, only to end up queueing behind them with five bars of chocolate and a heightened awareness of my superficiality.

In a pan melt

110gr plain chocolate
125ml marscapone and
175gr muscovado sugar

In a large bowl beat

115gr unsalted butter then add
200gr caster sugar and beat some more.

Then beat in 2 large eggs. The original recipe says to separate them which I have done, but doesn’t indicate whether or not one then uses the egg whites. I do. Beaten into a fluffy cloud. But this isn’t necessary.

Sift together

300gr plain flour,
3 Tbsp cocoa poowder and
1 tsp bicarb (or baking powder for lazy people like me).
Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture a tablespoon at a time
Stir in the melted chocolate mixture
If you’ve separated your eggs fold in the beaten whites at this point

Spoon into one large cake tin or two small ones. Bake at 180° for 25 mins for small cake tins, 30 mins for larger. The inner texture of the cake should be squidgy, like classic American brownies.

Topping

200gr plain chocolate melted into another
200gr marscapone for the topping. The recipes suggests dividing the chocolate equally into dark and milk but I have never seen the point of that. It also calls for sour cream instead of mascarpone but we cannot get it here in Italy.
This is our current family favourite for birthdays and although I made an indecent quantity of it last week not even a crumb survived to be photographed so all I can show you is a photograph of the original cookbook by Linda Collister, solidly entitled “CHOCOLATE”: a title with no need of need of further explanation.

Chocolate banana bread

Chocolate banana bread

I hesitate to give you this recipe. Introducing it to teenagers can be dangerous, Sam has to know that there is a loaf in the house or he starts to hyperventilate, fearful that starvation and famine lie just around the corner. He eats two slices for breakfast, another after lunch, and a final slice after supper, all lightly toasted on the grill and with thin slivers of butter. If you let people eat it straight out of the oven there is no stopping them.

Ingredients

115gr butter
140gr sugar
2 beaten eggs
3 mashed ripe bananas
250gr self raising flour
100gr dark chocolate
pinch of salt and teaspoon of all spice

Beat the butter, add the sugar, then add the beaten eggs. When it is well mixed add the mashed banana, the flour and salt, then the chocolate and all spice. Spoon into a loaf tin and bake at 180° for approximately 40 minutes – ovens vary, it can take longer.

Salad dressing

Salad dressing

Aldo is always coming up with yet another fantasy based on the produce around at the moment, or recipes he’s heard people talking about on the radio (it was sweet and sour onion omelette this weekend) but this simple dressing is my own.

Ingredients
a couple of cloves of garlic crushed in the mortar and pestle (you can use the side of a knife on a board if you prefer)
coarse salt bashed into the pungent mash
add one teaspoon of dry mustard (or coarse French mustard)
one teaspoon of honey

Stir vigorously together into a paste, keep mixing while you add a good slug of balsamic vinegar. Pour into a screw top jar, and add olive oil – I aim for one fifth balsamic vinegar to four fifths oil. Shake well, and pour over the salad. In winter the jar stands with oils on the counter, in the summer it goes in the fridge. And no, cats really don’t do salad. Twilight cannot resist a photo opportunity.