Thursday, 27 March 2014

Ricotta dessert with flowers

Last week an old friend of mine who lives in the USA moved to a new house.
She asked me to send her a selection of my Spring recipes to celebrate with the new neighbors, which I did.
One of the recipes is the one you find hereunder.
Sheila was very excited about moving in a better home and she sent me few photos of the new house.
I decided that she needed an extra hint of color in that new house, so I surfed the internet and I found BloomNation, an on line flower delivery platform very easy to use, even for me in Italy. It was a great deal: in very short time I had the flowers delivered the day of the party and my friend was so happy!

Ricotta is made with the protein of the milk left after making cheese.
If you use traditional cow ricotta (such as the one you see hereunder) the quantity of fats is very low (about 8%) and the dessert will be very light. The original recipe requires sheep ricotta, but if you cannot find it cow's will be all right. Also, if you cannot find the artisan fresh ricotta, you can buy it in the containers. It will be a little more watery, drain it well in a strainer for half an hour before using it.
As usual I made portions because I freeze it (keeps well for a couple of months or so), but you can use a large bowl if you like. Freezing makes keeps better the shape of the dessert.

Ingredients for 6 small cups

500 grs / a little more than 1  lb ricotta cheese (sheep or cow)
3 spoons of sugar
approx 80 grs/ 2.8 ounces nougat cut into  pieces (above all the almonds inside)
50 grs / 1 3/4 ounces candied peel of citrus (I prefer citron)
50 gr./1 and 3/4 black chocolate chunks

6-10 edible flowers

1) Put ricotta in  a bowl with the sugar and the nougat. Stir well with a fork and cover it with a lid or cling film. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or until sugar and nougat melt.

2) In the meantime wash and dry (gently) the flowers and line the little bowls you are going to use with abundant cling film. 

You will use the exceeding film to close the bowl once full. If you have silicone moulds, you do no need to line them.
Put the flowers on the bottom of your containers upside-down.

3) Add the candied peel and the chocolate to the ricotta cream. Stir well.

4) With a spoon fill up the mould you have prepared, pressing a bit to compact the cream.

5) Close them with the cling film and freeze them for few hours (up to max  3 months).

6) Approx. 20 minutes before serving, gently pull the cling film to allow the dessert go out from the moulds, put on your dishes and serve when soft. They will keep their shape, so the time does not really matters. They must have the time to soften, though, which depends from 2 factors (temperature of the kitchen and size of the dessert!)

To be suitable for eating, the flowers must be organic, grown far away from the road, and of course you have to wash them well to remove any soil and dust residue.

I this case I used pansies and violets (the only edible flowers I had available) but rose petals and nasturtium will be great as well.
Bite size are also very nice: these are made with silicone moulds for chocolate and are as big as a Violet! A fantastic snack when you feel like eating something sweet! Let it melt just a minute or two. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Parmigiano ice cream

Do not misunderstand the name of this recipe, it is a savoury appetiser/finger food which will amaze your guests.
You can prepare well in advance and keep ready in the freezer (1 month max).
For a spectacular result, use silicone chocolate moulds, I have some of different shapes and use them all. When the ice cream is well frozen and the shape firm, I take them out the moulds and store in the freezer in an air tight container, divided by shape) (if you use moulds for ice cubes, it will be too difficult to remove them.)
Buy real Parmigiano Reggiano, or the taste will not be as good!

Ingredients (makes about 24 little ones)

100 grs. /3.50 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano - grated
200 ml /  7.2  ounces fresh cream
1 egg white 
a small pinch of salt

1/2 stick taken from the heart of 1 celery
6 slices of bread loaf
Drops of Crema di aceto Balsamico di Modena (cream of Balsamic vinegar from Modena)

How to:

1) Put the cream in a pan, pour in the Parmigiano stir well and on a very low heat allow the cheese to melt (about 3 minutes). Stir well, switch the heat off and let it cool down.

2) Whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt until soft and stiff (if you put the container upside down, the egg should not fall - that's still enough)

3)  Add the egg white in the cheese cream and mix slowly upside down.

4) With a spoon, pour the cream  in the moulds.

5) Put the moulds in the fridge and let freeze for at least 2 hours. 

Now you can either start the preparation for serving them or leave them in the freezer for few days.

When you decide to eat them:

1) Wash the inner and softer stick of a celery and cut it in very thin slices or julienne. Put the cut pieces into a bowl with cold water and ice.

2) Cut off the outside of the slices of the bread loaf and cut them in 4 parts.
Slightly toast the bread on both sides on a hot pan or under the grill, it should remain soft inside (just 1 minute).

3) Garnish the bread with the celery julienne.

4) Put one small ice-cream on each piece of bread and sprinkle with few drops of Balsamic vinegar cream.

5) This "ice cream" keeps the shape so once ready to serve you can store it in the fridge, but must be eaten within 1/2 hour.

Different shapes can have different garnishing.
Also, you can freeze it all together in a bowl, and scoop in small balls as a real ice cream; in this case let it soften a bit in the fridge and serve immediately (it is  not my preferred version as small pre-shaped portions are always easier to handle).

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Gnocchi with Parmigiano sauce

Gnocchi can be made with different ingredients, here is a very simple one, which everybody will like.
Also, I chose the simple and tasty Parmigiano sauce, but you can use other cheeses such as gorgonzola, Taleggio (, or as we do in my region, the rich bolognese sauce, made with pork sausage instead of minced beef. Note that the images refer to half portion as I made them for 2 people, while I give you the ingredients for 4

Ingredients for 4

1 kg/ 2.2 pounds potatoes
150 gr /5.29 ounces flour w180
120 gr./4.23 ounces potato flour
1 egg

For the sauce

300 grs cream 35% fat
40 gr yolk
120 gr grated Parmigiano Reggiano (

Cream of balsamic vinegar  of Modena (if you like it)

1)     Wash the potatoes very well because you will boil them with the skin. Salt the water and boil the potatoes.


2)     Mix well the 2 flours on your counter.

3)     When the potatoes are ready (a knife can easily go through them), peel the potatoes while they are hot, but without burning you fingers!

4)     Press them when they are still warm and mix immediately with the flours and the egg.

     5)     Do not work the dough for long, but just the time to have all the ingredients together. Try to do it  while the potatoes are still warm, it takes just a minute.

6)     Sprinkle  your counter with some extra potato flour, take a piece of dough and make long cylinders of the same thickness. Continue until you have dough.

    7)     Then cut them. 1 inch, 2,5 cm. is the traditional length, but you can take the shorter as well.

     8)     Put aside on a tray with tea towel on it.

9)     Prepare the sauce: Put the cream in a casserole and gently bring it to the boil. Take it out of fire and add the Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir well.


   10) Add the yolk and mix well again. Pour the sauce in a pan and keep it warm. Do NOT boil again.

   11) Cook the gnocchi in a large pan of salted boiling water. Pour them quickly because they cook in a couple of minutes, stirring gently now and then without breaking them.

    12) When all of them float, drain them with a spotted spoon and put them in the pan with the warmed sauce. Stir gently.

13) Serve immediately

Serve with drops of traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena (aceto balsamico tradizionale) or balsamic vinegar cream.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Beef tenderloin with spinach and gorgonzola

Gorgonzola is a straw-white, soft cheese with greenish streaks deriving from a process called "erborinatura" in Italian, that is the creation of moulds.

This cheese is creamy and soft, with a peculiar, typical taste. Soft gorgonzola cheese is slightly spicy; spicy gorgonzola, whose curd is more blue-veined, is thicker and more crumbly. The name comes from a small town in Lombardy in the north of Italy where they are producing since year 1000. (for more information please see the page of the consortium .( )

In this recipe, I use soft Gorgonzola to create a creamy sauce for the tenderloin. It take just few minutes to get ready and it forms a fantastic dressing, and the nuts give a final crunchy texture.
Open an nice bottle of red wine (Barbaresco, Chianti, Sangiovese superiore), it will be the right choice.

Ingredients for 4

4 slices of beef tenderloin about 1,5 cm / ¾  inch thick (or more if you like it and feel hungry)
450 gr./ 1 pound fresh spinach leaves
100 grs /3,08 ounces soft gorgonzola
6 spoons milk or cream
50 grams /1,5 ounces nuts
Salt and pepper

How to

    1)    Wash the spinach leaves and boil them in salted water until soft. It takes a minute or two. Drain well without breaking the leaves and set aside, keeping the vegetable warm.

2)    Cut gorgonzola in small pieces and put it in a small casserole with the milk. Over a low medium heat let the cheese melt. It should not boil.

  3)    Cut the nuts roughly and toast them 1-2 minutes in a non stick pan. They burn quickly: you cannot leave them unattended!

4)    Just before serving, in a large pan melt the butter, and put the slices in the butter. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on your taste and season the with salt and pepper.

5)    In the meanwhile, put the spinach leaves in the dishes.

6)    Compose the dish putting the hot meat on the spinach leaves, topping with a spoon of the creamy cheese and a sprinkle of toasted nuts.

7)    Serve immediately.