Saturday, 31 May 2014

Pasta (paccheri) with ricotta, lemon zest and thyme

It takes just few minutes to make this Summer recipe and it is delicious both hot and warm.
Nothing to cook, you just have to boil pasta and enjoy the fragrant smells of lemon and thyme...

I grow my own thyme and the yellow variety you see in the on the picture tastes of lemon as well.

Ingredients for 4

350 grs. pasta (paccheri)
200/ 1/2 pound  grs. ricotta
100 grs/1/4 pound  Parmigiano Reggiano (grated)
Zest of a organic lemon (grated)
6 spoons extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
1 spoon leaves of fresh thyme plus more to decorate

How to:

1) Wash the organic lemon very well and grate most of the zest - (yellow part only.)
Put in a small bowl with the extra virgin olive oil and set aside for at least 20 minutes (which means the time the water boils and the pasta cooks)... and wash the thyme!

2) Mix ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano and the thyme leaves.

3) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water (30 grs salt/liter). Stir now and then.

4) Stir in the ricotta cream 4-5 spoons of the cooking water. 

5) Drain pasta in a colander and mix with the cream.

6) Dress with the oil and lemon zest and garnish with the thyme sprouts.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Spaghetti with mussels

Spaghetti are my preferred pasta!
And in this recipe you can smell the fantastic bouquet of the Italian food, so rich in flavour, and yet sometime so basic!
This recipe can be the base for many pasta and seafood recipes, you can also use half weight of mussels and half clams, and add different seafood or small calamari.
Follow the very easy instructions and you will enjoy a truly delightful dish, better if served at sunset on a patio on the beach! (nice glass of dry, cold wine also strongly suggested!)

Ingredients for 4

400 grs spaghetti (medium or thick size) 
4 large tomatoes cut into small pieces
4 garlic cloves
3 table spoons parsley, finely chopped
10 table spoons extra virgin olive oil (evoo)
1 kg/ 2.4 lbs Mussels (or 1.2 lb mussels / 1.2 lb clams)
1 red hot dried chilly pepper

How to:

1) Thoroughly wash the shells to clean up all sand and byssus. If you use two kinds of shells, keep them separate, and cook them into 2 different pans with a 2 table spoons of evoo and a clove of garlic (in each pan). Put the lid on and cook for about 10  minutes, until all the shells open. Turn the gas off and let it cool.

2) Remove the meat from inside most of the clams and mussels; discard the most of the shells and reserve the liquid. Pass it through a sieve to discart any impurity.

3) In the meanwhile, wash and cut the tomatoes into small pieces, put 4 tablespoons of evoo in a very large pan, big enough to contain both the sauce and the pasta and warm it up. Add the crushed red pepper and garlic and slowly saute. When the edges of the garlic becomes lightly browned, remove it and add the tomatoes. Let them cook for 10 minutes and then add the seafood and half of the liquid they produced. You should need no salt, but taste the sauce with some rustic bread and decide what is better for you. Keep it warm.

4) Simultaneously, in boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti for half the time shown on the packaging, drain them and put them in the sauce. (add more mussel water if necessary). Cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat for the remaining time, stirring now and then. Taste them to assess if they are ready (remember they must be “al dente” NOT too soft or sticky). 

5) When ready, add the chopped parsley, mix well and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Strawberries with zabaione

My aunt Flo taught me to make her special version of this Italian dessert and it is now a classic in my family in Spring, when strawberries are at their best.
Made with the freshest strawberries, whipped cream, zabaione and meringue this dessert is easy to prepare and a great treat for everybody. 
Zabaione is a sort of custard, simply made with fresh yolks, sugar and Marsala wine (or other sweet wine).
Every single ingredient makes a fantastic match with all the others, but all together they are just impossible to resist!

Ingredients for 4:

4 egg yolks
120 grs./4.23 ounces sugar plus 3 table spoon for the strawberries and 1 for the whipped cream
4 table spoons Marsala (or other sweet wine)
About 250 grs/ cream or whipped cream
gr 600 /1.5 pounds fresh strawberries, washed
6-8 meringues

How to:

1)      Wash the strawberries and cut them into pieces. Cover with 3 table spoons of sugar and set them aside.

2) Separate the yolks and pour them in a bowl with the remaining sugar. Whisk well until they become a soft and the mixture forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted. Add the Marsala or sweet wine and gently mix again.

 3) Set the bowl over a large saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water or the sides of the pan, so I put a dye on the bottom.

Using a spoon or a whisk, beat the egg-yolk mixture until for 5 to 6 minutes approx. Don't cook the zabaione for too long, or it will curdle.
Remove from the heat and let it cool.

4)      Pour the cream in a bowl and add the sugar. Mix with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Put it in the fridge.

5) Put the strawberries in a mixer, except for few that you will use as a decoration and make a puree out of them.

6) When the zabaione is cold, prepare your cups or glasses, break the meringues with your hand in irregular pieces and let them fall on the bottom of your containers. 

7) Spoon over the strawberries puree,  than the whipped cream and then the zabaione, and start from the meringue again if you have more space...
End with the pieces of strawberries.

Serve immediately.

If you want to make it 3-4 hours in advance, remember that you will have to assemble the ingredients just before eating for better flavour and texture.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Tomato confit

The name sounds French, but I think that there are few other foods that taste so Mediterranean.
They will be great on your bruschetta and a fantastic appetiser or as a side dish to grilled meat!!!

Not quite a recipe as you can add your preferred herbs, just some suggestions on how to prepare them.


Ripe Tomatoes (the quality you like best, I use cherry tomatoes because they cook faster, but you can use any kind of tomatoes)

Extra virgin olive oil
Your preferred herbs dry or fresh. I like dried thyme and marjoram, but also dry basil is great. 

How to:

1) Wash the tomatoes and remove the stem. Cut them in a half. Put them in a colander so they can loose part of their water. Also, you can remove the seeds, if you want.

2) Warm your convection oven at 130°C / 200 °F.

3) Line a baking tin with non stick paper and put the halved tomatoes on it, the cut part up.

4) Season your tomatoes with salt, sugar, the herbs and extra virgin oil.

5) Put the baking tin in the oven and let the tomatoes  dry for about 2 hours. You can open the door many times, it will help to let the steam get out the oven, and check any time you like, they must be soft but dry.

6) Take out from the oven, let them cool down  and remove from the baking tin with a spoon. Try to take also that delicious, aromatic oil on the bottom and put it with the tomatoes in a bowl.

Eat warm or cold.

TIP:They also keep well in the fridge, simple put them in an air tight container and cover with more fresh extra virgin olive oil. When the tomatoes are finished, the oil will be great to season your pasta or meat. Try them with mozzarella as well... Absolutely delicious!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Chicken terrine with Prosciutto and eggs

As you already know, when I have guests, my family in this occasion, I always prepare something to cook in advance in order to remain with rest of the group as soon as possible.
This was our Easter main course .
The colourful stripes are very nice and the meat remains tasty and soft. Everybody will like it!!

Ingredients for 4

3 hg/2/3 pd. chicken breast - sliced
3 eggs, slightly beaten
9 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano - grated
100 grs/3.53 oz. Mortadella
220 grs/ 1/2 lb. Prosciutto di Parma (raw Parma ham) - sliced

How to:

1) Beat your chicken breast with a meat ponder (put the meat between 2 non stick paper or cling film in order not to break it) to obtain an even thickness of the slices. Season with fresh ground pepper (ONLY).

2) Mix the Parmigiano into the beaten eggs. You should obtain a thick cream.

3) Warm your oven at 160°C/350 F°

4) Line your plum cake mold (mine is cm. 9x22 /3.54x8.66 in.) (silicone, aluminium or glass) with a sheet of non stick paper (if you wet it under the water and then wring it well, it will keep the shape of your container).

5) Dispose the first layer, mortadella, on the bottom and sides of your mold and let it come out. You Will need the extras to close it.

6) The second layer will be the chicken breast, cut the meat to adapt it to the shape of your mold. Then place the Prosciutto then the egg with the cheese, chicken breast and so on. End up with chicken or prosciutto and close your terrine with the mortadella, leaving a small part uncovered. Close the paper on top as well, also leaving some space uncovered.

7) Put in the oven for about 50-60 minutes, check with a stick: the eggs should be cooked and the liquid coming out should be transparent. Also it will grow a little in the centre.

8) Take out from the oven and let it cool until warm before removing from the mold.

9) Cut into slices 1cm./1/2 inch thick and serve with a green vegetable (boiled french beans/asparagus) or salad.