Pesto alla siciliana

Pesto alla siciliana

Have you perhaps grown tired of the typical green basil pesto? In that case this recipe, Sicilian pesto, is ideal for you. Ingredients that are typical for this region are used: fresh and ripe red tomatoes, ricotta, pine nuts and of course basil. When put together, these ingredients create a paste that is at the same time light, fresh and nourishing. There is a myriad of regional recipes, and some of them call for almonds or dry tomatoes, or even pistachios, but the common denominator remains ricotta. This recipe is especially good on a hot summer’s day, but it can be had all year round. Prepare long and dry pasta, like spaghetti, casareccia or penne, with it for the best results. The leftovers can be had the next day as a spread over bread.

Ingredients: 

ca. 20 leaves fresh basil

250 gr/ 9 oz tomatoes

25 gr/ 1 oz pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, minced

50 gr/ 1 2/3 freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano 

75 gr/ 2 2/3 ricotta

salt and pepper to taste

75 ml/ 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

dry pasta of your choice

Instructions: 

Rinse and dry the basil leaves. Wash the tomatoes and cut them in two. Remove the inner part including the seeds and all excess liquid with a spoon. Put the tomatoes in a blender and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Add the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, ricotta and the grated parmigiano and continue the process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the oil and check the taste and consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta by cooking it in salted boiling water until al dente. Combine with the pesto and serve immediately.

Pesto alla siciliana

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Insalata di pasta ai tonno

Delicious, portable, healthy – pasta salads are perfect dishes for versatility, because they are easily portable and can be served in a myriad of ways. The ingredients used vary widely by region, season, and/or preference of the cook. Pasta salads can be very simple, or as elaborate as several short pastas tossed together with a variety of fresh, preserved or cooked ingredients. These can include vegetables, legumes, cheeses, nuts, herbs, spices, meats, poultry, or seafood. Even though pasta salad is often regarded as a spring or summertime meal, it can be easily served year-round. Here, penne pasta is combined with fresh tasty tomatoes, tuna, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs. By avoiding fattening and calorie rich dressings, you can enjoy the true taste of the ingredients with a touch of raw olive oil.

Insalata di pasta con tonno

Ingredients: 

100 grams/ 3.5 oz penne rigate or penne pasta

100 grams/ 3.5  oz green beans

280 grams/ 10 oz tomatoes

fresh basil leaves

2 tins of Rio Mare tuna

2 hard-boiled eggs

8 anchovies fillets

a handful of capers

back olives (optional)

olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside to cool down.

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise.

Cook the trimmed green beans in salted boiling water for ca. 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

On a large platter, arrange the tomatoes side by side. Mix the cooked pasta together with the drained tuna and shredded basil leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Put the pasta mix in the middle of the platter, and add the green beans and anchovies fillets. Set the halved eggs right in the middle of the salad. Drizzle some olive oil and season with black pepper. Garnish with capers and basil leaves. Serve as a lunch or dinner.

Insalata di pasta ai tonno

Mezze maniche con ceci e pancetta

Mezze maniche con ceci e pancetta

Chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzos, have played a notable part in the Italian kitchen for hundreds of years. They are of Oriental origin and due to the fact that they require high temperatures during summer months, they are mainly grown in Southern Italy. When you use them in cooking, it is best to buy them canned. The commercial canning process doesn’t harm the flavor or diminish the nutritional value. You can also buy dry chickpeas and soak them yourself. In this case, make sure the chickpeas haven’t passed their use-by date, because the old ones won’t soften no matter how long they soak. Most chickpea recipes are actually winter recipes that require long cooking times. These dishes were ideal in the olden times when a pot simmering on a wood-fired stove kept the entire kitchen warm. If you are a true fan, also try Ligurian polenta-like panissa; or minestrone di ceci which is a creamy, hearty chickpea soup from the Abruzzo; or stewed chickpeas like in ceci in umido. Don’t forget about ceci alla pisana a.k.a. chick peas with greens and anchovies from Pisa, or cavezune which is ravioli from the Gargano peninsula made with a chocolaty chickpea filling.

Ingredients:

1 onion, sliced

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

2-4 dry chilies, deseeded and finely chopped

olive oil

200 gr/ 7 oz smoked pancetta, in cubes (optional)

500 gr/ 17 oz passata di pomodoro

350 gr/ 12 1/3 oz chickpeas

1 l/ 4 1/3 cups vegetable stock

salt and pepper to taste

fresh flat leaf parsley

mezze maniche pasta

Mezze maniche con ceci e pancetta

Instructions:

Puree the onion, garlic and chili in a blender until smooth. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry this smooth mix for a couple of minutes. Add the pancetta and continue for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Add the passata di pomodoro and cook for another 5 minutes on a medium heat. Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and cook still for further 5 minutes.

Like when cooking risotto, add some vegetable broth at a time letting the sauce simmer down and thicken for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente in a pot filled with boiling salted water. Drain the pasta and mix it with the ready sauce. Garnish each plate with some fresh flat leaf parsley. Serve immediately.

Pappardelle al ragù di coniglio

Pappardelle al ragù di coniglio

Rabbit meat is not yet a household name all over the world, but in Italy it is quite common to eat rabbit, especially in the winter. Like other types of game, rabbit meat is also sold at supermarkets, often frozen. Rabbit meat is white, lean, tender, tasty and a good source of high quality protein. Leaner than beef, pork, or chicken, it can be used in most ways chicken meat is used. The best rabbits for eating are between three months and a year old. Herbs like rosemary, sage, bay leaf, thyme, fennel, and basil are the best accompaniments for the meat. You can prepare the meat in many ways – cacciatora style, in the oven, with different vegetables, braised, and fried. Here, the rabbit simmers in a fresh tomato sauce and is served with pappardelle pasta. White wine and rosemary give it the final touch.

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 onion, sliced

3-5 garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, sliced

1 stick of celery, sliced

2-4 dry chilies, deseeded and finely chopped

fresh rosemary

3-4 rabbit legs, cut into pieces

1.5 dl/ 2/3 cup dry white wine

2 cans peeled tomatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Pappardelle, fresh or dry

freshly grated parmigiano

Pappardelle al ragù di coniglio

Instructions:

Heat olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and garlic and saute them until the onion becomes golden. Add the sliced carrots and celery, and continue frying for a few minutes. Add the dry chilies and the fresh rosemary together with the rabbit pieces. Add also the white wine, and once the wine has evaporated, remove the pan from the heat.

Take the rabbit pieces from the pan and remove the bones. After that, return the pan back to the heat with the boneless rabbit pieces. Add the peeled tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, and let the sauce simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes. Add water, if needed.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce. Serve immediately with freshly grated parmigiano.

Pasta carbonara primavera

Pasta carbonara primavera

Guanciale is Italian cured pork cheek or jowl. The name is derived from guancia, which is Italian for cheek. To make guanciale, you rub pork cheeks with salt, sugar, and spices (typically ground black pepper and thyme or fennel and sometimes garlic) and cure it for three weeks. Because it’s largely fat, guanciale has a more seductive pork flavor and delicate texture than other pork products, such as pancetta, which is a common substitute. Guanciale is traditionally used in dishes like pasta carbonara and all’amatriciana. It is a delicacy of central Italy, particularly Umbria and Lazio, and not necessarily readily available in other regions. Here, green and crunchy peas have been added to the typical carbonara flavor. Although the addition of vegetables is not in common in Italy, they are often used elsewhere.

Ingredients:

100 gr guanciale, diced

penne pasta

2 egg yolks, beaten

freshly grated Parmigiano

freshly grated Pecorino Romano

salt and pepper

Instructions:

In a pan without any oil, fry the sliced guanciale on a low heat. Once the pieces have browned, add the peas and cook for further 5-8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a separate bowl, mix the egg yolks with a lot of black pepper, then add the mix of parmigiano and pecorino cheese. The consistency of the mixture should be paste like.

Meanwhile, cook the penne al dente in a pot of salted boiling water.

While the pasta is boiling, take one or two spoonfuls of the cooking water and add them to the egg yolk mix. Whisk until the mixture becomes creamy.

Add the cooked pasta into the guanciale and peas mixture, then turn the flame off and add the creamy egg yolks. Mix well and serve.  Sprinkle some parmigiano and pecorino on each plate.

Pasta carbonara primavera

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

Insalata di pasta

Insalata di pasta

Balsamic vinegar – or aceto balsamico – comes from the Latin word balsamum, meaning restorative or curative.  Genuine balsamic vinegar is an artisan product from Modena in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region. It is made from a reduction of cooked grape juice which is allowed to ferment and then, for a minimum of 12 years, matured in barrels. The result is dark, rich and syrupy condiment that is used very sparingly. For the real deal, always look for the marking ‘tradizionale’ or DOC, and these products tend to be very expensive. You can also buy the more affordable, industrially made ‘aceto balsamico di Modena’, which isn’t aged for so long. Very cheap balsamic vinegars have been colored and flavored with caramel, and don’t have the authentic intensity of flavor. Together with oil, balsamic vinegar is an excellent dressing, but you can also drizzle some over roasted chicken and duck, or tuna steaks.

Ingredients: 

penne rigate pasta

3-5 tomatoes, sliced

1/2 cucumber, sliced

200 gr/7 oz mozzarella, in cubes

a bunch of fresh basil leaves

1 can of tuna fish (in water)

6-8 anchovies

Dressing: 

5 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely shredded

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: 

Cook the penne rigate, or some other pasta of your choice, al dente in a pot filled with salted boiling water. Drain, and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, slice all the vegetables and the mozzarella. Mix the already cooled down pasta with the vegetables, mozzarella, fresh basil, the drained tuna and the anchovies. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing and drizzle some over each plate.

Insalata di pasta