Pasta al Tonno – Variation


It is very traditional to have a fish-only themed menu on Christmas Eve in most parts of Italy, including Rome.  Also traditional are foods fried in batter such as artichokes, cauliflower, broccolo, apples, cod fish etc.  Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti in a clam sauce) are always a big hit.  And so is pasta with tuna – not fresh tuna but tuna packed in olive oil.

I stopped buying tuna a few years ago, after reading about the parlous state of this particular fishing industry.  I don’t want to sound all holier than thou over this decision and I am sure I am not the only one.  However, I also keep an optimistic attitude and look into reports on improvements (in Italy’s Mediterranean waters at least) and it would appear that the numbers of tuna have grown to the point that I can now resume eating it without feeling guilty (and being careful, of course, to choose the right brand).

The photos on today’s post were taken at the end of last summer, the tuna being a present from friends who had just returned from a holiday in Puglia.


This tuna was A-star stuff, packed in proper olive oil and not some other substandard seed oil and presented in a glass jar.

IMG_9619 Some tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic … and my new kitchen ‘toy’ – a tomato peeler.IMG_9620 You don’t have to peel the tomatoes but I was in raptures of reverent tomato peeling activity and enjoying myself the way little children do when trying out a new toy …IMG_9621 IMG_9622 A couple of anchovy fillets … and some lemon zest (for freshness).IMG_9623 Chop and de-seed the peeled tomatoes … IMG_9624 Cook the garlic (careful that it doesn’t burn, it must cook until it is golden).IMG_9625 Sprinkle salt all over the chopped tomatoes while the garlic is cooking …

IMG_9626Get your pasta out (spaghetti would have been nice but I didn’t have any that day) …
IMG_9627 Add the tomatoes to the frying pan …IMG_9628 After a few minutes, add the anchovy fillets …IMG_9629

Taste … and add a pinch of sugar if necessary.
IMG_9631 It won’t take more than 10 minutes to have this sauce ready.  At that point, add some torn basil leaves and the lemon zest.  Switch off the heat.IMG_9632 Sssssh … don’t tell anyone but I didn’t do such a good job of de-seeding the tomatoes.  Never mind.  I am still alive.IMG_9633 Grate some pecorino cheese.  I think anyone who has been reading my blog for a while is fully aware of my reluctance to engage in cheese grating which is why I do my level best to fob this job to any other family member or friend who happens to be in the vicinity.  It is important to have someone else grate your cheese for you, yes … but it is also important to make sure that the proper sized cheese grater is used.  See the photo above? The holes in the grater are too big … the grated cheese is not ‘fine’ enough for a pasta.  The finer the cheese grated, the easier it will be for the cheese to ‘melt’ completely into the sauce.  I know it sounds silly but it makes all the difference.IMG_9634 While the pasta is cooking … drain the tuna.IMG_9635 When the pasta is just about cooked, transfer it it to the pan with the tomato sauce.  Turn the heat on again and allow the pasta to finish its cooking time directly in the sauce.  If the sauce looks like it’s going to dry out, add some of the cooking water.IMG_9636 Add the tuna last …IMG_9637Combine all the ingredients and switch off heat.
IMG_9638 IMG_9639 The green bits are, I think, a mixture of mint and marjoram.  Parsely would be great too.???????????????????????????????
IMG_9641Add the grated cheese last.

It is not ‘normal’ in Italian cuisine to mix cheese and fish together.  This recipe is one of the exceptions.  As is pasta with mussels and pecorino.

The last time I had made this pasta was in 2011 ! wow!

Posted in Basic Techniques, Fish and seafood, Herbs and plants, italian home food, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interpreting an Ottolenghi Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

My lovely friend in Boston recently made me a present of Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s ‘Jerusalem’ and a what a welcome gift that was; if I hadn’t bent over backwards to buy the book in the first place (it was first published in the United Kingdom in 2012), it was because I knew at some level that it was the sort of book that could ‘wait’.  I had leafed through it admiringly in a book store in London but the draconian Ryanair baggage limitations for my flight back to Rome put a stop to my buying it (that Ryanair has such a lot to answer for ).  I minded, of course I minded, but I could see even then that the recipes are the kind that will endure in time, and not the fleeting flight of modish fancy … and thus I could wait in eager and, thoroughly unusually for me, patient anticipation. My friend and I set about cooking a couple of the recipes together when visiting another lovely friend in Vancouver last month … and I cheerfully thought to myself that my patience had been richly rewarded.  Cooking together with like-minded people (i.e. those who cook with love) ranks very close to the top of my favourite things to do in life.  One of the recipes we prepared was the cauliflower and hazelnut salad that is the subject of my post today. It doesn’t follow the recipe precisely and that’s because I didn’t have either maple syrup or allspice at home (I used fig jam instead).   I started out making the recipe energetically enough, all one-two-one-two hip-hop military footstep drill  but, alas, without either of my friends to shoulder me on, I was almost cursing by the end of it.  What? What? Why? How? Huh? How is that? Now, WHY didn’t they say that at the beginning! Oufff.  Puzzlement and pouting spouting from my person and irritation rising.  I don’t doubt that Tamimi and Ottolenghi’s ears were reddening by the minute as I mentally remonstrated with them and remembered just WHY I started this food blog in the first place.  It was because – aside from featuring recipes that my children could use while they were students in London – I just do NOT understand written recipes unless there are plenty of photos to accompany the instructions.  Maybe it is some kind of gastronomic dyslexia, who knows?  Maybe I am just not a ‘manual’ sort of person and that’s why I loved ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycling Maintenance’, and found it so soothing. Right, enough of that and on with my interpretation of the recipe which, believe me and pace the original authors, makes much more sense in terms of do-ability. 1 This is a close-up of the end result … very inviting, very juicy, just like a salad should be.2 Start by removing strands from the celery sticks and then slicing them at a slant.  I was following instructions here … next time I’ll just slice them straight.3 A beautiful pomegranate, its red arils ready to be removed from their casing.  This takes a bit of time, so be warned.  Here is a link on how to open a pomegranate: 4 Then weigh about 20g of flat leaf parsley.  I expect that coriander leaves (cilantro) would be equally delicious too. Set aside.5Here is the Sherry vinegar and, lacking maple syrup, I used some caramelised fig jam to make a dressing.  6 Here is the dressing: evoo, white wine vinegar and fig jam.  Set aside. Okay, now it’s time to cook. 7 Here are the cauliflower florets.  Evoo has been drizzled over them, and salt sprinkled too.8 Put them into the oven for about 30 minutes.910Here are 55g of hazelnuts. 11 The recipe said they needed to be toasted in the oven, on a lower heat setting compared with the cauliflower, for 17 minutes.  I got around that by putting them in for only 10 minutes, together with the cauliflower (i.e. ten minutes before the cauliflower’s end cooking time).12 Out of the oven. Time to assemble the salad. ASSEMBLING OF THE SALAD 13 Place the cauliflower on a large plate or salad bowl.  Allow to cool.14 When the hazelnuts have cooled down sufficiently …15 Chop them up.  I have this little kitchen toy to do it for me.  If you don’t have one, just wrap the hazelnuts into a nice clean T-towel and smash them up a bit with the bottom of a heavy glass or with a rolling pin.16 Sprinkle the hazlenut granola over the cauliflower.17 Excuse this atrocious photo … it was a reminder to me that I was to sprinkle some cinnamon over the cauliflower.  The phone rang just then and by the time I got back, I’d forgotten to take another ‘proper’ photo.  (Don’t you just hate it when the phone rings as you are in the middle of something ‘fiddly’ in the kitchen?).18 Now add the celery. 20 Then add the pomegranate arils.  The quantity was twice the amount called for in the original recipe but I had gone to so much trouble to de-aril the pomegranate in the first place that I wasn’t about to not use them all.  Also add the parsley – as much or as little as you prefer.  Final touch: season with good sea salt.21 Finish the dish off with the dressing and voilà — you have yourselves a beeee-eautiful, rich, vastly enjoyable Winter salad that is truly a delight for the eyes as well as the palate.22 Here is the one measely photo that Tamimi and Ottolenghi deigned to include in their recipe book, shame on them (tee hee).23 And here is their deceptively ‘easy’ recipe – ha !  Caveat emptor … this salad is not difficult as such but does involve a lot of clear thinking and a bit of planning ahead.  Not a last minute dish. And ever so worthwhile ! 24

Posted in Recipes from outside Italy, salad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Artichokes and Pecorino Cheese


Artichokes can be enjoyed in Rome practically all year round these days … because when they aren’t available locally, many restaurants will import them from Brittany in France. I, being a little conservative on matters of seasonality, prefer to wait and enjoy them when they actually are in season. They start timidly towards the end of October and the best ones for this time of year hail from either Puglia or Sardinia. They are not as large as the famed Roman artichoke and thus benefit from being cooked in ways that are more appropriate to their smaller size.

Small or large, the only real trouble with artichokes … is … having to trim them. All those leaves !


What you see in the photo are five smallish artichokes that came from Puglia … cut into quarters and deprived of any ‘fuzzy’ bits.  A peeled artichoke will blacken very quickly and needs to be temporarily immersed in plenty of water with a squeeze of lemon in it.


What you see in the foreground are all the outer leaves and inner trimmings of the artichokes that are going to be discarded (either in the recylcing or in a compost heap) … in terms of volume, what gets thrown away of the artichoke is far more than what gets kept!

3W hile you are busy trimming the artichokes, put some watr on to boil and when it does, add 1 spoonful of salt.  When all your artichokes are ready, simmer them for 10 minutes or until fork tender.


And then drain them and set aside to cool a little.


What you see here is grated pecorino romano cheese (80g) and Italian-style breadcrumbs (100g).  Mix the two together and set aside.


And this is a most useful little kitchen toy … not a novelty but I have to say that it really comes into its own when you are doing a lot of cooking requiring olive oil drizzling, or for recipes like today’s.


Bring out the artist in you … and ‘paint’ some olive oil all over the bottom of an oven proof dish.  I thought this drizzle was most Mondrian-like, no?


Tuck the artichokes into the dush … and those ling thin strands? they’re parsley stems.  I added them for no good reason other than I felt like it.


Drizzle olive oil all over the artichokes … and season with salt.  Yes, despite the inherent saltiness of pecorino romano, the recipe still calls for the addition of some salt.  You could add pepper too, if you like.


Here is a close-up … I just love the look of artichokes … there is something so happy about them.


And now it’s time to shower the artichokes with the breadcrumb-pecorino mixture … be generous.


Yet more painting’ with olive oil … this time I drizzled it à la Jackson Pollock.  Ahem …


And now pop the oven pan into a pre-heated oven for roughly 20 minutes. The temperature of the oven was 200°C.


Out they come ! Looking deliciously toasted already …


And here is what was left over the next day … served on a gorgeous ‘Giardini di Sole’ Bellafrutta plate (


Aside from the bother of cleaning and trimming the artichokes, this is a recipe that delivers an awful lot of taste and wow-factor for relatively little effort.

Posted in Artichokes - Carciofi, italian home food, Loving the Leftovers | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pecorino Frittata … And We Won’t Mention Tripe! – Uova in Trippa

With the holiday season already started and long lists of things-to-do and things-to-buy piling up whether we want them or not (Christmas and New Year can by trying times for many people), having to think of what to make for dinner can seem like another hard mountain to climb.  Here is a dish than can solve your menu problem and help you keep your hair on and your dietary conscience squeaky clean.

The recipe includes eggs, onions, tomato sauce and pecorino romano cheese (parmesan will do too) and all it needs is a nice salad to accompany it.  Abracadabra … and dinner can be served in less than half an hour !

IMG_9943 Chop or slice a large onion and cook it in olive oil over a medium flame (do not let the onion burn).  IMG_9944 Open a can of best quality plum tomatoes (these beauties were a gift to me by Gareth Jones last September) … or use passata if you prefer.IMG_9945 IMG_9946 Add the tomatoes to the onion, sprinkle a little salt and … after tasting … add 1 teaspoonful of sugar if think the sauce is a trifle too acidic.  Simmer the sauce for at least 10 minutes for best results.IMG_9949 Here are 10 eggs in a bowl.  There were four of us for dinner.  Beat the eggs and add a pinch of salt.IMG_9950Fry the eggs using evoo in a non-stick pan … first on one side, and then turn over and cook it on the other side.  Be careful not to overcook. IMG_9951 Slide the frittata onto a large plate or wooden board.  Slice the frittata into long strips.  You now need to pour the tomato sauce over the frittata slices.  If it the tomato sauce has gone cold, then make sure you reheat it.IMG_9952 Pour the tomato sauce over the strips of frittata.  Add the grated pecorino romano cheese.  And sprinkle some green leaves of your choice (parsley or thyme or mint or oregano).IMG_9953 Doesn’t it look gorgeous?IMG_9954This dish is called ‘uova in trippa’ in Roma … meaning ‘eggs in tripe’.  That’s just a joke … the strips of frittata look like the strips of tripe that are traditionally served in Rome with a sauce just like this one.

You can add black pepper or, if you are anything like me, hot chilli flakes to the tomato sauce.  Be sure to have bread to mop up the sauce.  Cleanse your palate with a fresh salad afterwards.  Abracadabra … a healthy, colourful, filling and fulfilling dinner: what more could you wish for ?

Posted in Basic Techniques, Herbs and plants, italian home food, Secondi (main course | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Minestrone with Chestnuts – Minestrone con Castagne

The romantic in me sometimes gets the upper hand and induces me into culinary jaunts that are best left to an expert.  I saw some lovely chestnuts at the greengrocer’s about one month ago and just had to have them.  What should I do with them? was a question that was answered by Maria – put them in a minestrone.  That sounded splendid.  And so off I went.

IMG_9948 I boiled the chestnuts until they softened …IMG_9955 IMG_9956 I then ventured to remove each edible part of the chestnut from its hull or casket or shell or whatever that damned ‘thing’ that encases them is called.  I came to rue my choice of minestrone ingredient … it requires the sort of patience that doesn’t always come to me unless I am on holiday.  The rest of the minestrone-making was pretty standard.IMG_9957 I sloshed plenty of olive oil into the casserole pan and then cooked some chopped onion.  After a few minutes I added the vegetables … a medley of seasonal veggies.IMG_9958 I added some tomato paste too and plenty of water.IMG_9959 And the last ingredient was the hard part of a wedge of parmesan.  It is so hard that no one can eat it and it usually gets thrown away.  However, if you keep them in the freezer, you can use them to add to soups or casseroles.  They soften up and add a very nice taste to the mix.  I let the minestrone simmer for about half an hour.IMG_9960 While it was simmering, I crumbled the cooked chestnuts.IMG_9961 Then, 10 minutes before serving the minestrone, I added some chickpeas.  I tasted ithe minestrone to check whether it requied any more salt or pepper.IMG_9962 A piece of toasted bread in the soup plate.  I rubbed some garlic on the toasted bread.IMG_9963 I poured the minestrone into my plate and over the toasted breaòd, and scattered the crumbled chestnuts on the very top.IMG_9964

And yes … it was a very nice minestrone indeed.  And yes, I did sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan cheese over it too.

Will I add chestnuts again?  Oh sure … if someone else will go to the bother of cooking and shelling them,  no problem!

Posted in Basic Techniques, italian home food, Soup, Soups | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gorgonzola and Mascarpone Tureen


Dear Blog-Followers … you might be interested in reading about a groovy recipe combining gorgonzola and mascarpone.  I wrote this recipe for the Giardini di Sole’s blog yesterday.   I was in Boston until last week and together with business partner Libby Morris, we cooked up a great menu for an event at the showroom there on November 18th.

Take a look at the recipe:

And if you’d like to take a peep at the other food we prepared:

It might give you some ideas … all these foods had to be prepared at home and taken to the Showroom.  It was a lot of work but truly worthwhile and our guests went home happy which of course made us happy.

I know I am biased … but don’t you think our ceramics are gorgeous !

IMG_0479 IMG_0480 IMG_0482 IMG_0483 IMG_0484 IMG_0487 IMG_0491 IMG_0492

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Caciu all’argentera: Sicilian ‘rabbit’


I am reblogging this because it is such a good recipe for any leftover cheese …

Originally posted on My Home Food That's Amore:

Sunday evening, the day after you’ve hosted a Saturday night dinner which has, yes, been a lot of fun but which, also, bequeathed a lot of clearing and tidying up in its wake.  Amazingly, there are hardly any leftovers … and you think that you are not very hungry anyway, not after last night, so it doesn’t matter much, you don’t worry.   All you want to do is relax and have a quiet evening and maybe skip supper altogether.  And what happens instead?  At around 8:30 p.m. your tummy starts rumbling and intimating that it is expecting to be fed, and let’s not pretend otherwise!  What’s worse, you’re in no mood to rustle up a little bit of this and that … you just want to eat something quickly and be done with it.

Answer?  The Sicilian equivalent of Welsh Rabbit or to cheese on toast.

It should properly…

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