La ribollita

La ribollita

La ribollita is undoubtedly the queen of all hearty soups. The word means ‘reboiled’ – and slow cooking is indeed the secret of this thick vegetable soup. Hailing from Tuscany, there are many different versions and recipes, but they all call for black leaf kale, or cavolo nero. You might substitute this vegetable with Savoy cabbage, but the real thing would provide you with the best authentic and deliciously rustic feel and taste. The other key ingredient is the white cannellini bean that is central to many Tuscan dishes. Prepare the soup with the best ingredients you have at hand, and the next day, serve a different version by adding new vegetables. Enjoy the soup in good company with toasted Italian bread.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

100 grams/ 3.5 oz (smoked) pancetta, cubed (optional)

2-4 dry chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2-3 carrots, sliced

1 celery stalk, sliced

3 medium size potatoes, diced

2 tins of peeled tomatoes

1 can of cannellini beans

1 head of black-leaf kale, i.e. cavolo nero, sliced

salt and pepper

fresh rosemary

fresh oregano

1.5 l/ 6 1/3 cups water

(stale) Italian bread

La ribollita

Instructions: 

If you are using dry beans, soak them in plenty of water overnight. Drain and rinse.

Heat olive oil in a large cooking vessel, like a cast iron or cast aluminium pot, and saute the onion, garlic, and pancetta until the onion softens and becomes golden and the pancetta is crispy. Add the chili, carrots, potatoes and celery, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato tins, the cabbage and the beans, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, and with the fresh herbs.

Add enough water, about 1.5 l/ 6 1/3 cups, to cover all the ingredients. Let the soup simmer for about 90 minutes over a very low heat. Remember to stir every now and then, and if needed, add water.

Let the soup stand for an hour. The longer it lingers, the better the taste gets. Reheat it again just before serving.

Toast (stale) Italian bread and put it at the bottom of the soup plate before ladling in the soup. Drizzle some olive oil over the soup and add a pinch of black pepper. You can also serve the soup with a slice of toasted bread.

Pasta al forno

Pasta al forno

Fresh, dried, canned and frozen – peas are readily available in many shapes and forms, but only about 5% of the peas grown are sold fresh. Frozen peas are able to retain their color, texture and flavor, but they don’t have an unlimited shelf life. It is recommended that they are consumed within 6-12 months of the packing date. Overall,  frozen peas are recommended over canned peas. Peas are rich in potassium, phosphorus, protein and group B vitamins, and good quality peas can be recognized by their smooth, elastic and bright color. Green peas also stand out as an environmentally friendly food, because according to agricultural research, pea crops can provide the soil with important benefits. Green peas are perfect for numerous recipes, as side dishes e.g. with pancetta, and as an ingredient in pastas and risottos. Here, the peas provide a colorful and healthy addition to this Sicilian dish.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

500 gr/1 lb lean minced beef

2-3 Italian sausages, casing removed

2.5 dl/ 1 cup red wine

500 gr/ 17 2/3 oz passata di pomodoro

200 gr/ 7 oz frozen peas

fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

150 gr/ 5 1/3 oz cheese, a combination of freshly grated Parmigiano and freshly grated smoked cheese

mezzi rigatoni pasta

Pasta al forno

Instructions: 

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion becomes golden. Add the minced meat and the sausages and continue frying. Pour the red wine in and let it evaporate. Add the passata di pomodoro, fresh parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Then reduce the heat, and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes. Add water if necessary. Add the frozen peas into the mixture and cook for another 20-30 minutes on a low heat. Once the sauce has thickened, take the pan off the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the mezzi rigatoni al dente in salted boiling water. After draining, mix the pasta with the sauce.

Add the freshly grated parmigiano cheese and the smoked cheese of your choice to the pasta mixture and mix thoroughly. Grease a deep oven tray with some olive oil. Bake in the oven, preheated to 180 C/ 355 F, for about 30-40 minutes. Let the pasta rest for a few minutes before serving. Sprinkle some parmigiano on top.

Pasta al forno

Spaghetti crema pomodoro e funghi

Spaghetti crema pomodoro e funghi

Mushrooms are a healthy addition to any diet, because they are low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and contain high amounts of potassium. Any gardener interested in growing their own food can grow them indoors, where the temperature and light conditions can be easily managed. For best results, follow these 5 steps. 1) Choose what kind of mushroom you would like to grow. The easiest are oyster mushroom, champignon, and shiitake. Each mushroom type has its own nutritional needs, but the growing methods are similar. 2) Buy mushroom spawn which is used to facilitate growth. 3) Make sure the growing medium is warm, because the heat encourages the growth. 4) After about 3 weeks, you need to place the mushrooms in a dark and cool environment, like a basement or an unheated room. Keep the soil moist by spritzing it with water and covering it with a damp cloth. 5) Harvest. In about 3 weeks, you should see small mushrooms appearing. Clean the mushrooms properly before cooking.

Ingredients: 

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

2-4 cloves of garlic, minced

250 gr/ 1/2 pound mushrooms

a handful of sun-dried mushrooms

500 gr/ 17 2/3 oz passata di pomodoro

1 dl/ 0.4 cup cream

salt and black pepper to taste

fresh basil

freshly grated Parmigiano

Penne or some other pasta of your choice

Spaghetti crema pomodoro e funghi

Instructions: 

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until the onion becomes golden. Add the mushrooms and keep frying until they release their juices. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and mix well.  Pour the passata di pomodoro in the sauce and reduce the heat.  Let it simmer for ca. 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the cream, but don’t let the sauce boil any further. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain the pasta without rinsing it and mix with the sauce. Add the basil leaves and sprinkle with Parmigiano.

Filetto di salmone aromatico al forno

The word salmon derives from the Latin salmo, which in turn may have originated from salire, meaning “to leap”. Having returned to the river of their birth after years at sea, salmon determinedly swim upstream to their spawning grounds. They leap up a waterfall, get battered on rocks in the process, and then try again and again. Salmon farming is significant in Chile, Norway, Scotland, Canada and the Faroe Islands, and is the source for most salmon consumed in America and Europe. Salmon population levels are of concern in the Atlantic and in some parts of the Pacific. For coastal dwellers salmon has been a central part of their livelihood for centuries, and people used to catch salmon as they swam upriver to spawn. The salmon also plays an important part in poetry and mythology, and is surrounded by a rich web of myth and culture. It is often associated with wisdom and venerability, but in Native American artwork and literature, salmon are often used as a symbol of determination, renewal, and prosperity.

Filetto di salmone aromatico al forno

Ingredients:

800 gr salmon fillet

Marinade: 

olive oil

1 tsp black, white, pink and green pepper

salt to taste

1 bay leaf, crushed

2 sprigs dill

2 sprigs thyme

1 tsp fennel seeds

juice of 1/2 lemon

chopped parsley

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

2-4 dry chilies, crushed and seeds removed

Coating: 

75 gr/ 2 2/3 oz breadcrumbs

30 gr/ 1 oz crushed almonds

black pepper to taste

fresh flat leaf parsley

Instructions:

Marinade: Pour the oil into a baking dish. Add all the spices: lemon juice, black, white, pink and green pepper, salt, dill, thyme, bay leaf, fennel seeds, fresh parsley, minced garlic and the chili. Add the salmon fillets and cover with the marinade. Cover the baking dish with a plastic wrap and let the salmon marinate  in the fridge for 24 hours.

Coating: Prepare the coating by combining bread crumbs with crushed almonds and the spices. Remove the salmon from the fridge about 1 hour before baking it in the oven. Strain the oil from the marinade with a sieve, and mix it with the dry coating ingredients. Spread the moist coating evenly over the fillets.

Salmon: Preheat the oven to 200 C/390 F. Bake the salmon in a baking dish for ca. 30 minutes until the fish is fully cooked, and the coating has a golden color. Serve with boiled potatoes, and sprinkle some fresh dill on each plate.

Filetto di salmone aromatico al forno

Bistecca di pesce spada ai ferri con verdure

Pesce spada ai ferri con verdure

Ai ferri refers to a cooking technique in which the food items are prepared, usually by grilling on the pan, without any other ingredients like oil or additional spices. The oily and relatively firm swordfish is an excellent choice to be prepared this way. Swordfish have been fished widely since ancient times, among others in the sea between Sicily and Calabria, and in those regions it is a typical dish. Contrary to popular belief, the aptly named swordfish doesn’t use the ‘sword’ to spear, but instead it utilizes it to injure the prey animal to make for an easier catch. Undoubtedly among the fastest fish species, the swordfish mainly relies on its great speed and agility in the water to catch its prey. According to some sources, swordfish could even reach the speed of 60 mph or 97 km/h.

Ingredients:

swordfish steaks, ca. 1 inch thick

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

1 zucchine, sliced

1 eggplant, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

3 tomatoes, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

Instructions: 

Fry the swordfish steaks in a pan without any oil for a few minutes. Fry them on both sides, and season with salt and pepper.

Set the sliced vegetables into an oven tray that has been greased lightly with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven, preheated to 200 C/390 F, for about 20 minutes. Enjoy in good company, and serve each plate with a lemon slice.

Pesce spada ai ferri con verdure

 

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

The word basil means ‘king’ in the Greek language, and this seems to be a very apt name for the herb that is considered by many the focal point of the Italian cuisine. There are several basil types – sweet basil is used in the Italian kitchen, but Thai, lemon and holy basil are common in Asia. You might be surprised to find out that basil originated in India, and was brought to Italy via the spice route during ancient times. Once picked, basil doesn’t really store well, so it is best to buy just a small amount you will use within a day or two. Dried basil loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains, tastes more like hay. When cooking with basil, add it in during the last few minutes to keep its flavor. It can be chopped and sprinkled over baked dishes, but basil is at its best when it is used in dishes containing tomato.

Ingredients:

2 tins (à 400 gr/14 oz) canned tomatoes

2-4 garlic cloves

pinch of sugar

pinch of salt

2-4 dry chilis

olive oil

gnocchi

2 packs of mozzarella

100 gr/3.5 oz parmigiano

fresh basil leaves

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Instructions:

Put the tomatoes with their own juices into a pan together with garlic, sugar, salt and chili. Cook over a very low heat for about 30 minutes without stirring. With the help of a wooden spoon, mash the tomatoes and cook further for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool. Stir in the olive oil.

Prepare your own gnocchi, or boil readily made gnocchi in a pot filled with salted boiling water for about 3 minutes until the gnocchi come to the surface.

Mix the boiled gnocchi with half the tomato sauce and half the parmigiano. Put this mixture into a deep oven tray and add a layer of thinly sliced mozzarella on top. Add a layer of fresh basil leaves covering the mozzarella slices completely. Pour the remainder of the tomato sauce on the mixture making sure that the basil leaves are covered. Add the remainder of the parmigiano on top. Bake in the oven, preheated to 200C/390F, for about 10-20 minutes. Garnish each plate with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Pesce spada e menta

Pesce spada e menta

Mint is a grossly misunderstood spice. We are used to having it in toothpaste, chewing gum, mouthwash, or even in chocolate candies, but actually it is a bright and sweetly refreshing spice with a subtle presence. As a culinary herb, it goes well together with basil and parsley, and oftentimes Italians use it in combination with both. Like in this recipe, mint’s coolness can be used to cut the intensity of a rich sauce and to sweetly compliment the acidity of the tomatoes. In Italy mint grows everywhere, wild and untamed, but it is also heavily planted to prevent erosion. Next to flowers and vines it is used decoratively, too. If you are inspired to use mint in cooking, you can try for example panzanella (tomato and bread salad). Alternatively you can enjoy some mint after dinner by tossing it together with frutti di bosco (forest fruit).

Ingredients: 

2 eggplants, cut into cubes

olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

300 gr cherry tomatoes, halved

400 gr swordfish, cut into 1 inch cubes

salt and pepper to taste

casareccia or other pasta corta of your choice

a handful of mint leaves

Pesce spada e menta

Instructions:

Cut the eggplants into cubes and sprinkle some coarse sea salt on them. Set them aside for 1 hour. To remove the sea salt, shake the cubes gently. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and fry the eggplant cubes thoroughly over a medium heat for ca. 10-15 minutes. Set them aside and let them dry on a paper towel.

In a separate pan, saute the minced garlic and add the halved cherry tomatoes into the mix. Cook for a few minutes and then add the already fried eggplant, and the swordfish cubes. Continue frying for another 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain the pasta and mix it right away with the sauce and serve immediately. Garnish each plate with fresh mint leaves. Any leftovers can be enjoyed cold the next day.