Category Archives: Italian

Recipe: Italian Meatballs

Italian Meatballs hot from the oven
Italian Meatballs hot from the oven

Ingredients;

1Kg lean beef minced
2 slices of lightly toasted bread
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds, ground
1 Chile pepper, finely diced
1 handful of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 handful of fredh basil, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 large onion, finely dliced
1 teaspoon of french mustard

Serves 8

Line

 

Lightly toast the 2 slices of bread and whizz them in a blender to make breadcrumbs.

Next finely dice the onion, and fry it gently with a teaspoon of french mustard until soft, then let them cool, while you finely chop the chile, Rosemary and Basil.

Next put your meat into a large bowl and add the chile, rosemary, basil, oregano, cumin, egg yolk, the (now cooled) onion and the breadcrumbs and mix it all together, just get your hands into it and scrunch it all together.

Wet your hands and take some of the mixture and roll it into a ball about the size of a golfball and set it onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and repeat until you have used all the mixture. Check out http://dcwcasing.com/ if you want to cook the meatballs in natural casings.

Next get a frying pan onto a medium heat, add a little olive oil and fry the meatballs gently, rolling them round the pan so they cook (and colour) all the way round.

At this point you can either bag and freeze the meatballs in portions for use later or you can follow one of these 2 options.

I’m in a hurry

Once your meatballs are cooked, turn the heat right down and pour some Italian tomato sauce over them in the pan. Allow this to heat up while cooking up some pasta. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and gently stir in the meatballs and sauce, then serve.

I’m not in a hurry

Heat your oven up to 200C, place your meatballs in an oven tray and cover with Tomato Sauce. Take a Mozzarella ball and either chop it into chunks or just rip it up and sprinkle this over the meatballs. Take a handful of fresh Basil leaves, rip them up and sprinkle them over the top, then grate a handful of parmesan over the lot.

Place this in the oven for about 20 minutes or until all the cheese melts and colours nicely. Then serve on a bed of fresh pasta and garnish with some fresh basil.

Recipe: Tagiatelle

Fresh (naked) Pasta
Fresh (naked) Pasta

Ingredients;

200g of Tipo 00 pasta flour or plain flour
2 medium fresh eggs
Olive oil

Serves 2

When I started writing out this recipe, it became clear that this is one of those things that is far better to learn by watching rather than to try and read a description of what’s involved. So, with that in mind please take ten minutes out (or take 5, twice :)) to watch the video ‘Making Pasta the Not Junk Food way’

When rolling out your pasta, I would strongly recommend a pasta machine, however my 10 year old niece reliably informs me that it can be done with a rolling pin, but it is hard work.

Line
Line

Fresh Pasta cooks a lot quicker than dried pasta depending on how thick the Pasta is, for Tagiatelle 3-4 minutes in simmering water (with a little salt, pepper, oregano and a lug of olive oil) is usually enough but this can vary depending on the ingredients so taste it to make sure it’s done. Once the Pasta has been drained I usually toss it in a little olive oil (or truffle oil) to make sure it doesn’t stick together.

Recipe: Italian Tomato Sauce

Italian Tomato Sauce
Italian Tomato Sauce

Ingredients;

1 anchovy fillet
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 large handful of basil, stalks and leaves separated and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
4 x 400g of tinned plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

Line

Chop the garlic as finely as possibly, remove the leaves from the basil and roughly tear them up, take the green part of the Basil stalks and chop them up reasonably fine. Open the tins of plum tomatoes.

Heat a large saucepan and pour in roughly 2 tablespoons of oil, once this has heated add the anchovy and garlic, you want to stir fry these gently till the garlic starts to colour slightly and the anchovy starts to break up.

Next add the plum tomatoes, oregano, about half the basil leaves, all the chopped basil stalks and stir gently being careful not to break the tomatoes if at all possible. Put a lid on the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and simmer for at least an hour stirring occasionally. I have let this sauce simmer gently for anything up to 3 hours depending on how much time I have on my hands, this makes the sauce a bit thicker and the flavours stronger.

At this point you can start to break up the tomatoes with a spoon or alternatively use a hand blender to blend it into a nice thick sauce.

Next add the remaining basil and taste the sauce. Then season with salt and pepper to taste, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and stir them in well.

I’ve found from experience that the better the plum tomatoes the thicker the sauce, however if you find that your sauce is not as thick as you like it, simply simmer it for longer the next time you try.

Recipe: Pizza Base

A naked uncooked Pizza base

Ingredients;

1kg of strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon of sea salt
2 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
625ml of tepid water (tepid = 2 parts cold to one part boiling)
1 handful of cornmeal

Makes 6-8 Pizza bases

Line

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl or onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle of it.

Mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork (or your hands) start to stir the liquid in the well while bringing in the flour until the dough starts to come together. Then work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Now place the dough on a flour-dusted surface and knead it around for a 2-3 minutes to push the air out. As you are doing this, work the dough into a giant sausage shape. Divide the dough into six or eight pieces (eight if you like a thin and crispy base) and put them to one side.

Take one of the portions and make it into a ball, then stretch that into a roundish shape about 3-4 inches across and place on a floured surface and grab your rolling pin. Rolling away from you and turning the pizza regularly, roll the pizza base out until it is thin (about an eighth of an inch or less) then flour the pizza base and place on a baking tray lined with cling film – if you don’t have a suitably-sized baking tray, you can substitute with a chopping board or any flat surface that will fit in your freezer.

Fold the cling-film back over the top of the pizza base ready for the next one to be placed on top and repeat until all the portions have been rolled out.

At this point, you can dress one of the pizza bases (simply using passata and cheese) on a baking tray or preferably a pizza stone, either way you will need to sprinkle some cornmeal on before placing the pizza on it to prevent it from sticking.

Then place in a hot oven (approx 220 degrees C) for about 8-10 minutes and enjoy.

You can wrap the cling-filmed pile of bases in tinfoil and put them flat in your freezer to be used later.  The bases, once dressed, will cook from frozen in 8-10 mins as well – perfect for a quick dinner when coming home late from work.

Recipe: Basil and Tomato Soup

Great on a cold winters day

Ingredients;

1 anchovy
1 clove of garlic – very finely sliced
1 small onion – finely diced
1 large carrot chopped roughly
2 sticks of c
elery chopped roughly
500g of ripe tomatoes – cores removed and chopped roughly
3 large handfuls of fresh basil – leaves ripped up roughly, stalks kept and chopped finely
400g tin of plum tomatoes
1L chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Line

In a large saucepan, gently fry the anchovy and garlic until the anchovy breaks up and starts to vanish. Do not let the garlic burn, but a little bit of browning is okay.

Add the carrot, onion and celery and fry gently till soft – about 10-15 mins.

Add the fresh tomatoes and let them stew for about 5 mins while stirring slowly.

Next add the tinned tomatoes and stir.

Add the chicken stock – enough to cover the mix and bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 mins, stirring at 5 minute intervals.

Take this opportunity to tidy up, trust me it’s easier than having a messy kitchen to clean and tidy later!

Finally, add the basil leaves and chopped stalks and continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

At this point, allow it to cool for a few minutes and season well with salt and pepper.

Now, it can get messy if you’re not careful, grab a ladle and push it down into the soup gently so you fill it with liquid, but try not to get any of the solids in it, using this method remove (and keep) as much of the liquid as possible, this will allow you to control the ‘thickness’ of your soup in the next step.

Next pour the remaining ‘soup’ into a blender, avoid an enormous mess akin to a Freddy Krueger slashfest by NOT over filling the blender and also placing your hand on top of the blender when starting it. Blend it until it’s smooth and creamy looking and pour into a saucepan, keep doing this until all the soup has been blended and you should have a bowl of really, really thick soup. Now start stirring this and adding back in the liquid that you removed until you get the ‘thickness’ you want and you’re done. If you add all the liquid back and your soup is still too thick use some more stock to thin it a little more.

Simply heat the soup and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil or cream, a small sprig of basil and serve with some chunky ultra fresh bread or Crostini with pesto.