Very comfortable and satisfying food and it's a meal on its own. Traditionally, minestrone was simmered for long hours; however, you can cut down the cooking time, like this simple version. I made this completely vegetarians. However, pancetta or bacon can be added if you like.
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 potato, chopped
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves, chopped
- 1/2 small Savoy cabbage
- 3/4 cup short-grain rice traditionally (long grain rice is fine too, for me)
- 1/2 cup of broken spaghetti or small shell pasta
- salt and black pepper
- olive oil
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large saucepan, add 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, add onions, potato, carrots, garlic, herbs to cook over high heat, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
2. Pour about 3 liters of boiling water, cover and simmer over low heat for about 25 minutes. Chop the cabbage in 1cm strips and add to the saucepan. Cook for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add the rice and pasta, bring it to boil and lower the heat to simmer for another 15 minutes. Check the seasoning again and it is ready.
4. Sprinkle some chopped parsley. And serve with Parmesan passed separately.
Literally meaning 'Ugly but good', this is one of the classic Italian cookies. Even though they don't look very inviting, but they are sure delicious, if you like almond. A perfect after-dinner treat to be accompanied by coffee.
Makes about 18
- 1 cup almonds, toasted
- half cup plus 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 2 egg whites
- dash of cinnamon
1. Finely chop the almonds with 1 tablespoon of sugar in a food processor. Beat the egg whites until soft peak forms. Beat in the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peak forms.
2. Gently fold in the almonds and cinnamon into the beaten egg whites. Cook this mixture over very low heat, stirring continuously , until it comes away from the sides of the saucepan. Set aside for a few minutes.
3. Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on a baking paper. Allow room for expanding of the cookies. Bake in a preheated oven at about 150 degrees Celsius for 35 minutes. Serve cold.
Also try using toasted hazelnuts instead of almonds. Or adding 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to the mixture.
I was thinking of cooking some mushrooms as a side dish for dinner tonight. I like simple sauteed mushroom with butter or olive oil, but I wanted a bit more flavour so I added some chopped garlic and sliced chillies.
Incidentally, "garlic, oil, and chillies" is just exactly what "Aglio olio e peperoncino" is in Italian and it is a very traditional sauce for dried pasta - what a coincidence.
The whole mushrooms cooked this way are just lovely and absolutely satisfying in each bite. It takes a bit longer to cook whole mushrooms instead of sliced or quartered but it is worth the time. (Forgot to take pictures because simply couldn't wait to eat them).
- 2 cups of white mushrooms, leave as whole
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped (not too fine or it will burn easily)
- 2 chillies, seeds removed and thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
Combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, and chillies and whole mushrooms in a small skillet and saute over lowest possible heat until the mushrooms are cooked. Season well with salt and pepper. Toss every 1 minute. Add more oil if it gets dry. It should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the mushroom. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will give a bitter flavour.
My memory with sardines is the canned sardines in tomato sauce that I ate as a child. They are not bad but some people think it is a bit fishy. However, the fresh sardines are really much better, and being an oily fish, they are high in healthy omega-3s too.
Gremolata is a traditional accompaniment to the Italian braised veal shank dish Osso buco. It goes quite well with sardines here: tangy, refreshing and very tasty.
1. For gremolata: Mix together zest from the lemons, finely chopped parsley, chopped garlic, bread crumbs (optional). Add a little bit of olive oil just until the mixture clumps together.
2. Marinade the sardines with equal parts of olive oil and lemon juice. And add a generous amount of chopped garlic and parsley. Marinate fish for at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the broiler. Lay the sardines out in a single layer in a baking dish. Sprinkle them evenly with the gremolata. Place them under the broiler and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through.
Quail has so much flavour in itself it's even nice to just simply season it with salt and pepper and deep-fry it. This recipe from 'Simply Tuscan', however, is a hearty main course that will warm you on even the coldest day.
- 4 quails, breastbones removed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 slices pancetta
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 16 whole shallots, peeled and blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius. Season the quail inside and out with salt and pepper and stuff a bay leaf inside each one. Wrap each quail with a slice of pancetta, securing it with a toothpick.
2. In a wide, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Brown the quail for 3-4 minutes on each side until the skin is crispy. Sprinkle the wine over the quail. When the wine has almost evaporated, add the chicken stock and the shallots. Cover the skillet with a foil or an ovenproof lid and place it in the preheated oven.
3. After 5 minutes, uncover, and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven. Remove the quails and set them aside in a warm place. Skim the fat from the pan, then reduce the remaining juices by half with low heat and until the shallots are brown and burnished, 15 minutes, stirring up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
4. Pour the sauce over the birds. Serve it bread or polenta.
This Tuscan cream puff is from the book "Simply Tuscan" by Pino Luongo. Interestingly it is in the section 'Dinner for children and their friends'. I guess everyone is still somewhat a child sometimes even though these rich, crunchy outside, sticky inside and tangy puffs will sure attract adults too.
Makes about 10 cream puffs
- 2 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup caster sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 and 3/4 cups milk
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened, plus extra for greasing pan
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- vegetable oil for trying
- 1 tablespoons icing sugar
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolk and sugar until pale and creamy. Add half cup of flour and the milk, butter and lemon zest and mix well. Pour the mixture in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and warm it over low heat until it becomes as thick as mashed potatoes. Spread the mixture out onto a buttered baking sheet with a spatula and let it cool until set. Cut the mixture into about 10 small rectangular blocks with a sharp knife greased with oil or simply roll into small tubes with your oiled hand.
2. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs. Dip the rectangular blocks/tubes first in the remaining flour, then in the eggs, then into the bread crumbs. Fill a frying pan with enough oil for deep frying. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it's very hot (a drop of water will sizzle and splatter), slide the rectangular blocks/tubes in and fry them for about 4 minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and let the drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with icing sugar and serve.
If you like sourdough and crusty bread, you've got to try baking your own Ciabatta bread. Literally meaning "slipper" because of its shape - elongated, broad and flattish, it is very flavourful and has a very tasty and crisp crust.
I got this very simple recipe from this site. The dough is rather wet compared to normal bread so I would suggest machine-kneading unless you want a pretty intensive arm-and-shoulder work out, like I did.
Preparation and cooking only require about 20 minutes each. However, you do need to wait for 24 hours for the starter (or called sponge) for the flavour to develop. But it is definitely worth the patience because the bread tastes wonderful!
Tip: During the first 10 minutes, spray about 1 cup of water on the hot oven floor, do it twice. It will help making a nice crust on the bread.
Italians make some great, rustic bread, unlike the more sophisticated and delicate French bread. And therefore it's easier and it takes less time to make Italian bread.
Basic white breads are best eaten the day they are made. However they freeze very well. Those made with olive oil or butter will keep a bit longer. That's why I am making this olive oil bread because I can't possibly finish a whole loaf in 1 or 2 days.
This is a recipe from "The big book of Italian cooking". It makes about 1 kg of bread. And this particular olive oil bread doesn't require kneading as instructed in the book. However I still kneaded it, just to make sure that the gluten develops. The result: Good, tasty rustic bread.
- 1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- about 300ml lukewarm water
- 5 cup unbleached white flour
- 2-4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Prepare the yeast as for the pizza. Combine the flour in a large bowl with the yeast mixture, salt, and remaining water. And add the oil to the mixture. Instead of kneading, mix the soft, sticky dough in the bowl with a wooden spoon. When the rising time has elapsed (about 1 1/2 hours), mix the dough again for a few minutes. Use a spatula to transfer it to an oiled large baking pan. Cover with a cloth and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated oven at 230 degree Celcius for about 35 minutes.