Mediterranean Pasta Salad

The perfect dish for those summer BBQ’s or outside lunches or pic nics! The secret for a perfect pasta salad is cook the pasta few minutes less than the cooking time. Pasta keeps cooking after it has been drained so if you wish a nice and crunchy pasta you need to drain it before it is fully cooked. Another advise I feel to give is to use best quality ingredients. This is an extremely simple recipe for pasta so it is important you use the best of the best: fresh and ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh prawns and good quality black olives. Last but not least use a good brand of pasta: they are not all the same!

 

What you need :

  • 320 g pasta
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 200 g prawns
  • 50 g dried black olives
  • 1 small shallot
  • basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil

How to make it:

Cook the pasta as instructed in the package and remember to drain it 3 minutes before the cooking time. Place the pasta in bowl, season with some extra virgin olive oil and leave it aside. While the pasta is cooling down prepare the sauce.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan, slice the shallots and cook them  until brown. Add the prawns and cook for 2 minutes or until tender. Remove the pan from the heat and let the prawns cool down.

Chop the tomatoes, remove the seeds and the liquid and put them in antoher bowl. Season them with some sea salt and extra virigin olive oil: I like to toss the tomatoes with my hands in this case.

At this stage toss all the ingredients together: the pasta, the tomatoes and the prawns in a serving bowl. Add the black olives and the fresh basil,

Cover with some film and refrigerate the pasta for 1 hour: remove from the fridge 15 mins before serving.

Some tips:

  • if you over cook the pasta you can stop the cooking process by rinsing the pasta with fresh water (under the tap while draining it);
  • feel free to add some chillies at the end to give it a more spicy taste;
  • I do not recommend to add parmesan cheese (or any kind of cheese here) as it will cover the taste of the prawns.

 

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Blueberries and red wine risotto

As promised, a recipe for your St Valentine’s day. I hope you like it: lots of love eveyone.

What you need:

  • 120 g risotto (Vialone style)
  • 2 glasses of red wine (I used Refosco dal Peduncolo rosso)
  • 100 g blueberries
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 dl vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 g fresh cream
  • parseley

How to make it:

In a medium pan over medium heat, brown the chopped red onion in the oil until tender. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes, then add the wine and when all absorbed decrease the heating. Start adding the broth and the blueberries and keep stirring so the rice does not stick.
Keep adding the broth, a cup at a time, until the rice is tender: it should have an “al dente” look . At the very last minute add the fresh cream and the parseley so the risotto gets quite smooth and all the ingredients are melted together. Serve hot and if you like you can add some fresh parseley leaves. Enjoy!

 

Homemade tortellini

Tortellini are a traditional pasta from Emilia Romagna, more specific from Emilia. I really recommend a visit to Emilia Romagna, it is a beautiful region with nice people, nice cities and landscapes. In my opinion it is also one the best regions in Italy for pasta. Making your own pasta might seem a bit daunting but I reassure you that the result is very satisfying.

Ingredients for the pasta:

  • 200g 00 flour;
  • 2 large free range eggs;

How to make it:

Tip the flour in a surface and make a well in the center, break the eggs into the the well and start mixing the flour and the eggs with a fork. Keep beating the eggs and blend the flour into them. You should obtain a crumbly mix and from now on you have to work with your hands.

When the eggs have thickened together with the flour work the mixture to a dough: work it with your hands to a smooth and yellow dough. If possible don’t push the dough against the work surface but try to pull it along the surface. When the dough is ready wrap it with film and set aside for 10 minutes.

You need now to roll out the dough. I suggest to use a pasta machine. I didn’t have it so I had to roll it by hand: that was a good workout for my arms! Run the dough through a pasta roller (or by hand) until you obtain a nice and smooth sheet of pasta.

Cut the sheet into squares, the measure here really depends on the filling. Roughly it would be 3 inches by 3 inches. Place some filling in the middle of each square, if unsure you can use a teaspoon. Dip your finger in some water and run it along the two edges of the square, then fold the square into a triangle, pressing the top together and then working your way along the sides. You need to form a kerchief shape by drawing the bottom two corners of the triangle together. Press to seal and sift with flour so they don’t stick to the working surface.

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How to cook tortellini:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon or two of salt. Add the tortellini to the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 mins or until they come to the surface of the water.

You can now serve your tortellini: depending on the filling, you can decide the sauce. Below few examples:

FILLING: Ricotta and Spinach SAUCE: butter and grated parmesan

FILLING: pumpkin SAUCE: black pepper and grated smoked ricotta

FILLING: prosciutto SAUCE: mushrooms and parsley ragù.

 

 

 

 

Gnocchi alla zucca (pumpkin gnocchi)

As this is Jack O’Lantern week I  decided to post some recipes with pumpkin as main ingredient. Pumpkin is a very good friend for those who need to keep a special eye on their diet. It’s great for cholesterol and bladder stones. It was also used to treat diabetes 2 because it helps to reduce blood sugars. And last but not least it’s delicious. The first recipe is gnocchi and I really hope you enjoy it.

What you need:

  • 350g potatoes
  • 350 g pumpkin
  • 180 g unbleeched flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Parmesan or ricotta affumicata
  • black pepper

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 180ºC and in the meanwhile cut the pumpkin into pieces and dispose them on a baking tray. Bake the pumpkin for 25 minutes or until tender. Bring the unpeeled potatoes to the boil and cook them until tender. When all the ingredients are ready let them cool down before you start preparing the gnocchi dough.

With a knife peel the potatoes and mash them together with the pumpkin. You should obtain a lovely and colored purée.

  Add the egg, the salt and the flour , beating with a spoon until smooth. Dust a work surface with flour and knead the dough with your hands.

Dough 2

At this stage you need to divided into 6 pieces and roll each using the palm of your hands to obtain a long rope of about 1 cm thick. Please note that the perfect size of a gnocchi doesn’t exist; I don’t like gnocchi to be too big so I stick to the 1cm rule but you can make it thicker.

Cut each rope into small pieces and if you like you can press each gnocco (this is the Italian singular name!) on the tines of a floured fork.

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Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in small batches. This is a VITAL part if you want a good result. If you cook the gnocchi all at the same time  they will stick together. When they rise to the surface lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain them well. You need to serve them immediately.

My favourite sauce for gnocchi is very easy. Heat some butter (or margarine, if you like) on a pan and when it’s melted add the gnocchi. Finish with some Parmesan or ricotta affumicata and some black pepper. BUON APPETITO!

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Spaghetti alla carbonara

I’ve been asked to post the recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara. Well, I am very proud that people are following my blog. So, my dear friend, here you have your recipe, I hope you really enjoy it. Before starting  I have to clarify few things: the typical ingredients for the original spaghetti alla carbonare are guanciale and pecorino cheese. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat but I could not find it in Dublin.  Instead I have used unsmoked bacon, it’s a very good option. Also, if you do not have pecorino cheese you can always use grated parmesan cheese. Last tip before we start: do not put any kind of cream in the pasta. I know some people add white cream or besciamella…DON’T! If you want to cook the real carbonara the below are the ingredients you need, nothing else.

What you need:

  • 200 g spaghetti;
  • 150 g guanciale or unsmoked bacon;
  • 2 eggs;
  • 80 g pecorino;
  • extra virgin olive oil;
  • black pepper;

How to make it:

Bring to the boil some water , add 2 tbs of salt and cook the spaghetti. While the pasta is cooking, dice up the guanciale (or the bacon) and add it to a non sticky pan on a warm heat. Cook the guanciale for few minutes. When the fat is melting remove the pan from the fire and in a large bowl beat the 2 eggs.  Add the pecorino to the eggs and keep aside.

Drain the spaghetti, put them to the bowl with the eggs, add the guanciale and toss. IMPORTANT: make sure you don’t put the eggs mixture on the heating otherwise you will have spaghetti with omelette.

Finish  your dish with some more cheese, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper and serve immediately.

 

 

Sole fillet with potatoes

Here we are with the first fish recipe, finally. It’s very healthy and tasty and if you are looking for something quick to impress your friends..well here it is. Unfortuantely I could not upload the pics, I don’t know why but I could not open the files. Anyway as soon as I mange to upload them I will post them. Enjoy!

What you need:

  • 300 g fillet of sole
  • 5 medium potatoes
  • parsely
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped parseley

How to make it:
Pre heat the oven at 200C°. Peel the potatoes and finely slice them. Put some olive oil on a baking tray and dispose the potato slices all over the surface. Cook in the oven for 10/15 minutes (just note that cooking time depends on the size of your slices).

When your potatoes are tender take them out from the oven and dispose your fillet on the tray. Add some salt, pepper , the parsley and the onion and cook for additional 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked.

In my recipe I have also added some cherry tomatoes, finely sliced, to give some additional colour to my dish. You can choose to add some rocket or every other vegetable you may like.

Basic lasagna recipe

It has been a while since my last post. Ah, such a busy life..:) Anyway, I really hope you will enjoy today’s recipe: LASAGNA! Probably the most famous dish of the Italian tradition.

Lasagna is a very tasty and easy recipe BUT there are few important things to keep in mind. First thing, the quality of the pasta. This is vital for your dish.  Many blogs and books advise you to boil the lasagna sheets before assembling the dish, well, do not do it! If you buy a good quality brand of pasta you don’t need to pre cook them as they will cook in the oven with the other ingredients. In my dish I used De Cecco sheets, they are the best. Especially if you make lasagna for the first time, make sure you buy good quality pasta. I don’t recommend you to buy cheap brands – the result is awful.

Second thing: the traditional recipe for lasagna includes 4 main ingredients: pasta, ragù (meat sauce), besciamella and parmesan cheese. All the rest is optional. Of course you can add mozzarella cheese,  vegetables, ham, chicken..whatever you want but they are not part of the original recipe.

Last but not least: try to make your own hand made besciamella sauce, don’t buy it. It is not difficult, you just need some practice. But I guarantee you that the result will be amazing.

What you need:

How to make it:

Pre heat the oven at 200C°. Pour a thin coating of besciamella sauce into a non-stick tray. Make sure all the tray is covered with a bit of sauce, alternatively you can coat it with butter or olive oil.

Arrange the pasta sheets in order to cover the bottom of the baking dish, then add the ragù and the besciamella sauce. Cover the sauce with another layer of pasta, then again with the meat and the besciamella. At the end you should have 3 layers of pasta.

Cover the top with the ragù and the besciamella sauce left and spread all over the parmesan cheese. This will make sure your lasagna gets a bit crusty on the top.

 Cook your dish for 35 minutes at 180C° and serve very warm. It’s perfect with a glass of  red wine!

 

TIP: if you like you can add some parmesan in between the layers of the lasagna, but remember to keep most of it for the top.

Euro cup 2012

Even if Italy lost against Spain in the final, we still did a great job!Thanks to the Azzuri for all emotions in this tournament! And remember it’s always time for a good Italian pizza!

Risotto with asparagus, mint and yoghurt

Well, let’s now celebrate this lovely day with a fresh receipe (finally spring looks to be in Dublin). I actually invented this receipe and at the beginning I was a bit scared of the result! With my big surprise (and also my boyfriend’s one) the risotto was fantastic. I hope you will enjoy it too!

What you need:

  • 1 cup of rice for each person
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • half chopped onion
  • 100 grams green asparagus
  • 125 ml natural yoghurt
  • 2 or 3 mint leaves
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1tsp salt

How to make it:

Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a pan fry and when it’s hot add the onion and the chopped asparagus (rember to remove the woody ends of the asparagus before cooking them). Cook the vegetables for few minutes and then add the rice. Before the risotto starts sticking, add 2 cups of water and cook it for 7/8 minutes or until the water is all evaporated – remember to stirr constantly and gently!

When all the water has evaporated  you will need to add the yoghurt and cook the risotto with it. This will make your recipe more creamy and will provide it a really nice, fresh taste. Just note that while cooking the yoghurt will become very liquid (as in the picture); don’t worry, this is normal but don’t forget to stir it: ALWAYS!

Keep stirring the rice until all the liquid has gone: this will take around 10 minutes and after this time the dish should be ready (if you are not sure you can always taste your rice and see if you need to cook it more or not!). When no more yogurt is left and your “mantecatura” has been performed the last step is to add the mint leaves, the salt and if you like a pinch of parseley. Serve the risotto immediately and if you like add some Parmesan cheese on the top . In the picture below you can see the dish finished. I know it’s not a great picture but believe me, you will love it!

 

It’s pizza time!!!!!

Back to the Kitchen!!!Sorry folks but this Xmas Holidays got me really busy!Anyway….I’m back with one of the best things ever: PIZZA!I love it and I am sure you too!

What you need for the dough:

  • 400 g of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons  dry yeast
  • 2 tbs of extravirgin olive oil
  • 40 g of sugar
  • 1 tbs of salt
  • 250 ml of warm water

What you need for the sauce:

  •  tomato sauce
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp of extra virgini oil
  • mozzarella
  • anchovies, ham, mushrooms, olives and other ingredients you may like in the pizza

Sift the flour with the yeast  in a large bowl and add the salt and the sugar. Mix well, make a holel in the centre, add the olive oil and the warm water.  Work all the ingredients quickly until you’ll  have a smooth and slightly sticky ball. Cover your ball with a cloth and leave your pizza dough for few hours until it has doubled in size.

Dust your hands with some flour to avoid the dough from sticking. Start working the dough and stretch it using the back of your hands. You can help yourself by using a rolling pin to roll the dough out. There are few “rules” about how to do it but in my opinion you don’t really need to follow them. We don’t want  a perfect pizza, just our pizza. So work the dough as you like and as you can: it’s gonna be ok. If not you can always try again :o)

Once the base is ready coat your baking tray with oil and sift with some flour (alternatively you can use a baking stone) and place the dough on it.

 

Pre heat the ove to 200° and in the meanwhile prepare the top by mixing the tomato sauce with the salt, the oregano and the extravirgin olive oil. Cover your pizza with the sauce and add some mozzarella slices. Cook for about 20 minutes and then remove your pizza. You can now add the topping you like (basil, cherry tomato, ham, anchovies, vegetables..) and cook for additional 10 mins. Complete with some oregano and your pizza is ready.