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Italian recipes

Timballo di Maccheroni

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It’s been a month full of “distractions” and events that made me happy but also preoccupied, in some occasions. I neglected my blog and spent less time in the kitchen. Napoli is a city that teases you with lots of mouthwatering and very cheap street food options, why should one even bother cooking here? Feed me only my daily baked pasta (timballo di maccheroni).

News: I’ve got a job offer.

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It went ALMOST all according to the plans: some travelling first (remember my Asian trip?), job interviews and some family time in between. All in all, I handled my rather long period of unemployment pretty well. I did go through some moments of prostration, of course. After all, packing all your belongings in a few suitcases and leaving for good the city where all your friends are, isn’t supposed to make anybody feel uncomfortable? I had no home, no job and certainties for a few months.

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When I eventually receive a job offer from a big company, I think I’m happy because I can finally start settling down. The day I sign and send the job contract I receive an email from Japan. Maybe you know how much I like Japan and remember that a few months ago I applied and re-applied for a research position in Osaka. The project got funded only now. They want me on board. Now. Shall I call this timing? More like a clash of dreams for me.

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I’m in Malaga now and all the sorrow I felt the day I took that big decision, is well gone. Let me just say it was a very tough call, I felt stressed and at a loss as to what was best to do. Also, I hate saying “no” and I feel more comfortable when I am rejected :).

My choice? I decided not to live too far from my family in Italy and accept a more secure but still very challenging job opportunity. Even though Japan remains a distant dream I believe I made the right decision.

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p.s. Malaga is another great choice I made :). Have you ever visited Andalucia? It is such a beautiful place. Great food, sun, sea, art, smiles, happy people, music (someone is playing the Shostakovich waltz outside my door now) and I would like to live here one day…

Timballo di Maccheroni

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) tomato puree (passata)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 11 ounces rigatoni or penne (about 3/4's of 1 pound package)
  • 1 (12 ounces) ball provola (smoked mozzarella cheese)
  • 5 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 medium eggplants
  • Olive oil, for finishing
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for finishing

Instructions

  1. In saucepan over medium, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Add aubergines and stir fry until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano and salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook about 5 minutes.
  2. In saucepan heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Add tomato puree, oregano and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and let sauce simmer about 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 9-inch springform pan.
  4. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Add pasta and cook until al dente (6-8 minutes). Drain.
  5. In a large bowl combine pasta, sauce, smoked mozzarella, basil, aubergines and grated Parmesan cheese. Mix well and transfer the pasta mixture in the baking pan. Drizzle with more parmesan on top.
  6. Bake timballo, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes before serving (it will be loose in structure if you serve it hot!). If you cool it completely, the timballo will be firmer in structure. Remove timballo from baking pan. Transfer to serving dish. Cut and serve into big wedges.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/timballo-di-maccheroni/

Farro Pasta Salad with Stir Fried Veggies and Bocconcini

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When in Italy eat pasta. When in Napoli eat pizza. Any other Mediterranean dish is fine too but pizza, or better Neapolitan Pizza, is something special and – allow me to say – unique to this city. Astonishingly tasty, cheap and hard to replicate at home.

I’m not sure why. The secret of Neapolitan pizza is well kept. Here is my guess: the soil enriched by the volcanic ejecta (Yep, we have volcano overlooking us!) and the gentle sun that warms the fertile land even during the coldest months of the year, make the difference.

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OK, I’m going off on a tangent. Here pictured there’s an unorthodox pasta dish, not a pizza. Not that I’ve already got enough of the carbs overload the yummy Italian cuisine comes with. Nor that I have intention to give in the plan I made with my boyfriend to enjoy a pizza every second day. Let’s just say I’m old enough to realize a quick break from refined white flours is necessary.

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When I accidentally laid my eyes on this Farro* pasta I knew I had to grab the package, despite the price, significantly higher here in Italy than in the US. I knew I had to prepare this dish that I have just now baptized as “the unconventional high-fiber pasta”.

I did not know what to expect apart from a good amount of fiber (In doubt I added some little mozzarella balls aka bocconcini).

Surprise, Surprise, pasta made of nothing else than farro flour and water tastes exactly like whole wheat pasta. If there are differences in taste and texture between the two pastas, I was not able to notice them.

*Italian farro is Emmer wheat, a very “old” grain that was a staple of the daily diet in ancient Rome.

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My brief healthy break from pizza is already over. Farewell my lovely farro pasta, hello terrible carbs.

p.s. Do you also know a dish whose taste is peculiar to a city and different everywhere else? 

Farro Pasta Salad with Stir Fried Veggies and Bocconcini

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces uncooked short pasta (I used Farro pasta, whole wheat works great too).
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons small fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
  • 3 ounces bocconcini, halved

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet stir-fry the zucchini and peppers in the olive oil (except two tablespoons) for about 10 minutes. Add salt and stir.
  2. Combine mozzarella bocconcini and tomatoes in large bowl. Slowly add the remaining oil and toss well.
  3. When cooked, drain the pasta and add it to the vegetable mixture. Set aside a few minutes to cool down and absorbs the flavours then top with bocconcini, tomatoes and oregano.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/farro-pasta-salad-stir-fried-veggies-bocconcini/

Pasta with Lentils and Sausage Ragu (Vegetarian)

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When my mum prepares “Pasta e lenticchie”, it is all about broken spaghetti (or pasta mista) and black lentils. As usual I broke the rules combining two popular dishes, ragu and pasta e lenticchie, in one scrumptious main. I love Italian cuisine but sometimes I feel it’s too rigid and way too traditional. Who told you that legumes can’t be mixed with meat (vegetarian meat, in my case)? Don’t you agree that every cuisine can be reinvented and innovated?

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Maybe before introducing you to my successful attempt to “innovate” pasta e lenticchie I should tell you something about the original recipe. You’d have all the rights to think “what the hell is Daniela talking about!?!?”, otherwise.

Pasta e lenticchie means pasta with lentils, a dish from Campania (a region in Southern Italy) that is usually prepared during winter. This legume-based dish makes up for a tasty and nutritious main that can be enriched (in my humble opinion) with many ingredients, among which are chopped peppers and vegetarian meat.

In London a wide selection of affordable and up for grabs “meat-free meats” allowed me to experiment with different products and brands. Obviously, not all tasted wonderfully (but all better than the Italian Seitan burger – aka shoe sole – I ate yesterday). As soy sausages are one of my wished-for meat free products, I added them chopped to this yummy pasta sauce that includes juicy red Romano peppers, tomato and red lentils. Super delicious and protein rich!

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In case you are not following my “adventures” on Instagram, here is a little note about me. I finally settled down in a cute apartment overlooking the bay of Napoli! Well, “settled down” may be a bit of an overstatement since it is going to be just a month long stay. After Christmas time spent in my mum’s house I was lucky enough to relax in Denmark for two weeks or so (there I enjoyed lots of fantastic pastries). Afterwards, I came back to Italy where I am now (in between Denmark and Italy I spent 1 day in Northern Ireland). After months of travelling and “luggage-dragging”, I feel this stay in Napoli is a progress. At this point, I would have already showed you the city if I didn’t forget the battery charger of my camera (together with all my socks, meh). I am confident I would be able to take some snaps and show you Napoli soon!

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Pasta with Lentils and Sausage Ragu (Vegetarian)

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 vegetarian sausages
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti or small tubular pasta, or pasta mista
  • 2 rounded tablespoons finely cut parsley

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes.
  2. In another pan add garlic, olive oil, and cook until garlic becomes translucent. Then add tomatoes, chopped sausages, salt and the sliced pepper. Reduce the heat, cover, and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring a few time. Drain the cooked lentils and add them to the tomato sauce. Cook until lentils are fully tender (5 minutes for red lentils, more if you use a different type).
  3. In another pan, cook pasta in boiling water with 1 tbsp salt. If using spaghetti, you can either use them whole (as I did) or break them into 2- to 4-inch pieces. If using a small tubular pasta, cook the pasta at least halfway in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta when "al dente" (2-3 minutes before the package directions), add it to the lentil sauce, and finish cooking for a couple of minutes stirring continuously.
  4. Let stand about 2 minutes before serving. Serve hot, drizzling the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil on top.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/pasta-lentils-sausage-ragu-vegetarian/

Sicilian flavors with Caponata (Eggplant and Roasted Pepper stew)

caponata-0299 Hello beauties!

I’m still travelling in Thailand. This second part of my trip is dedicated to some of the most beautiful islands on earth. Have you ever watched the movie The Beach, starring Leo Di Caprio? If so, you might imagine what kind of breathless landscape I am supposed to enjoy tomorrow when I’ll finally get to Koh Phi Phi Leh (The Beach of the movie).

Fingers crossed I’ll make it this time. I had already booked my day tour to this paradise a couple of days ago when I got “attacked” by a painful and weakening food poisoning.

caponata I was then forced to lay in bed with temperature and cramps instead of snorkeling off the coast of Koh Phi Phi. Meh. The place where I got sick, Railay beach, is not exactly known for genuine food. A discrete amount of restaurants for tourists can be found along the beach offering food that local people would never ever eat. Same old story: never blindly trust restaurants located in too popular areas. Now I know at my expenses that drinking fruit shakes can be risky in this country.

caponata-sicily-0306 Anyhow, after a couple of days of only bottled water, bread and bananas I can say I am almost fully recovered. My appetite is back and I feel like blogging again. Believe me, over the last few days I could not even watch these pics of Sicilian Caponata without feeling sick and nauseated. Right now a plate of aubergine stew made with fresh cherry tomatoes and topped it off with crunchy almonds would make me a super happy travelling girl!

caponata-0291 It’s a rainy day here in Koh Lanta. I’m a few steps away from a fantastic beach but I can only engage in “standard” indoor activities (such as blogging :)). Kind of frustrating. It is pouring cats and dogs since morning.  Maybe it is time to wear the rain jacket and explore the surroundings outside. So green, so tropical, so wet. Wish me luck!

Sicilian flavors with Caponata (Eggplant and roasted Pepper stew)

Ingredients

  • 3 Aubergines, cut into chunks
  • 2 Pepper
  • 150 gr green olives
  • 100 cherry tomatoes
  • 50 gr tomato concentrate
  • 1 tablespoons oregano
  • 50 capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, lightly toasted (optional)
  • olive oil (I used 1/3 glass)
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the eggplant into chunks, sprinkle with salt and let them soak for 10 minutes to remove the bitterness. Drain. Fry in hot oil and leave to drain thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.Cut the peppers in half. Remove the seeds and the membranes. Roast them for 30 mins until soft and slightly blackened then emove from oven and cover with cling film until cool. Peel away the skins and cut in stripes.
  3. Cut the onion and garlic into thin slices and saute everything for a couple of minutes in a separate pan with olive oil. Add the olives, peeled peppers, capers, cherry tomatoes, sugar and cook for 1 minutes. Add the tomato concentrate and salt. Drizzle over the vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.
  4. Finally add the previously fried eggplant and the oregano, let cook for few minutes, then sprinkle with almonds. Serve cold (I think this dish tastes better when cooled down!).
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/sicilian-flavors-caponata-eggplant-roasted-pepper-stew/

Homemade Soft Potato Gnocchi

potato-gnocchi-0187 While I’m in Thailand (I still can’t believe it’s true) I can share with you some recipes I tested and liked in London before packing all my belongings and moving on to a brand new and exciting chapter in my life. Gnocchi. Needless to day, something I cannot eat in this part of the world.

potato-gnocchi-0191 I just came back from a long walk in the old town of Chiang Mai and despite the presence of a few Italian restaurants here and there, useful just to accommodate the western palate of not so go-ahead tourists, gnocchi remain an unexplored dish here in North Thailand. As far as I know. However, this city offers such a huge variety of food options that I wouldn’t be surprised to find something similar and as good as these gnocchi I prepared slightly changing the proportion flour/potato to get a softer consistency.

potato-gnocchi-0195 Am I missing Italian food? Not yet but I’m afraid I may soon start craving for a not so spicy simple and fresh tomato sauce.  However, being determined to try the local cuisine and its street food rather than opting for touristic restaurants, to soothe my nostalgia of familiar flavors I will probably just look at my pics of  these lovely little potato dumplings.

p.s. speaking of pics, have you checked out my Facebook page or Instagram profile yet? There you’ll find images of some of the favorite dishes I’m eating here in Thailand. Eating vegetarian food is not as easy as I thought it would be. It is possible but it takes a little extra research (and someone able to understand English!). If you know places and dishes I should try please let me know. สวัสดี ค่ะ!

Homemade Soft Potato Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 kg Potatoes
  • 300 grams white flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Wash thoroughly the potatoes and put them with the peel in a large pot, full of salted water. Let them cook for about 40 minutes. Drain them and wait some minutes until theyare cooler and then peel. Mash the potatoes with (I used a fork) and add salt and nutmeg. Whisk the egg in a plate and add it to the potatoes.
  2. Mix the mixture for some minutes, until it will not be sticky anymore. Make a ball with the mixture and roll out into logs, about 1 inch (2-3 cm) thick. Cut them into pieces.
  3. Put the gnocchi on a sheet of kitchen paper and let them rest for 15 minutes. In a pot bring water to boil and cook the gnocchi until they float to the surface (2-3 minutes). Serve with a tomato sauce, or a sauce made with butter, sage and grated cheddar cheese.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/potato-gnocchi/

Creamy Vegetarian Tuscan Bean Minestrone

minestrone-0270 Let me start by telling you that this week you can find “me” at Vegan Miam. I was very happy about guest posting for Rika: she is the author of my favorite vegan food + travel blog. I only wish I was able to announce this earlier (I’ve been offline for a short holiday).

First thing I ate when I came back to London from Bosnia is this wonderful bowl of mixed beans and grains I got from Gordana.  Bosnia, have I told you about? On Monday I landed in Zagreb, Croatia, to head straight to Sanski Most, a town in north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina, located on the Sana River. Just so we’re clear, I’m speaking about the country that was hit by the worst floods in more than a century in May. The flood had very serious consequences you might have heard about.

The country is really beautiful and rural and I believe it deserves its own post. Keep checking this blog in the next few days to know more about my experience there (and to find out how I made honey without dealing with bees :)).

minestrone-0296 About this minestrone. It’s not really a soup, since it is pretty dense and thick. Do you ever feel like having a rustic dish where vegetables and grains make up a tasty main? I do, sometimes. Especially after I overindulge in cakes and delicious desserts.

Here’s how you can prepare an exquisite Tuscan minestrone. A rich recipe typical of the Tuscan cuisine, where fresh veggies such as carrots and tomatoes “live” together with legumes and cereals to deliver an outstandingly healthy dish.

minestrone-0284 Don’t eat this minestrone if you are NOT looking for a nutrient-rich dish and if you are NOT into a healthy, genuine and balanced diet. Or if you cannot keep your hands off french fries and grilled cheese sandwiches (in which case, don’t worry, you are still welcomed here. Hamburgers and French fries could be as addictive as heroin, scientists have claimed).

If you can, at least occasionally, focus on the fiber and nutritious content of your meals, you should definitely try this minestrone that is able to make you feel full for long. Its proteins of plant origin, unlike those from animals, help us reduce the intake of cholesterol and saturated fat.

Need I say more?

Something about its “vegan creaminess”, perhaps. Skipping the cheese on top to make this dish vegan will not alter the taste or the consistency. Creaminess is achieved by slow-cooking it with a finely chopped potato: the potato will dissolve releasing its starches in the liquid. Also, adding half a cup of soy milk in the last ten minutes of cooking will help make it smoother. This is genuine slow food (it takes more than an hour!) that comes with a wholesome and unsophisticated taste. Buon appetito!

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Creamy Tuscan Beans Minestrone

Yield: Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1 cup Soy milk
  • 1 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 15-ounce tomato sauce
  • 220 gr Tuscan Bean mix (containing Cannellini Beans, Borlotti Beans, Lentils, Peas and Pearl Barley (14%))
  • Salt, basil and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. The previous evening, soak the beans in plenty of cold water.
  2. Change the water and bring slowly to the boil. Cook in plenty of water for approximately 40 minutes, until the beans are tender, then remove the excess water.
  3. In another pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato, potato, carrot, and stir frequently until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes (adding some water when needed).
  4. Transfer this mix to the pan containing the bean mix and stir in more water (if needed) and tomato sauce (I used passata). Cover, add peas and bring to a low boil until the legumes are done, about 30 minutes. Gradually add soy milk when the minestrone start to thicken and dry out.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in individual bowls and top with the Parmesan cheese and basil.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/creamy-tuscan-bean-minestrone/

Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

bolognese-vegetarian-1404 It is easy and versatile to use and it comes with a tasty meat-like texture. It’s a quality source of plant protein (no cholesterol). It’s a nutritionally healthy protein source – low in saturated fat and high in protein and it uses 90% less greenhouse gases than lean beef mince. Any idea of what I’m talking about?

bolognese-vegetarian-1412 I’m talking about what it is now making my hunt for proteins 10,000 times easier: Quorn, an alternative to meat made with Mycoprotein. If the word myco-something is directing your mind straight to the image of a seaweed, I understand. At first, I thought of an unicellular phytoplankton myself. We are dealing with a fungi, instead. And if you’ll keep reading this post you’ll notice that I am enthusiast about the product: this is my genuine opinion – Quorn is not flowing money into my account.

Guidelines suggest that adults should eat between 45 g and 55 g of protein a day. That’s the equivalent of two pints of milk or seven to eight eggs. In my vegetarian life, there are days when these targets seem too far away and hard to reach (can I seriously consider eight eggs a day or a mountain of kale?!).

Quorn is a nutritious member of the fungi family that is grown by fermentation similar to the process used in the production of bread, yogurt and beer. When a few weeks ago I found myself staring at the Quorn boxes for the first time in my local store in London, the expression “meat analogue”, for healthy vegetarian source of protein, was cool enough to get my attention.

bolognese-vegetarian-1351 I had tried Quorn at the university canteen several times before that day but I did not know I could actually buy the product (in my mind I was tasting the signature recipe of Mr. Quorn, a chef). The presence of sausages, burgers and chicken pieces under the name of Quorn in the shiny refrigerator of Waitrose, banished all doubts. Mr. Quorn never existed.

A few weeks after my first attempt with Quorn – when my boyfriend tried the burger and asked one too many times “Are we sure you are not feeding me meat?” (meh, trust…) –  I was invited to a cooking class to learn how to make fresh pasta and use two products I had not tried before. Quorn Mince and Quorn Meat Free Chicken Pieces. This vegetarian spaghetti Bolognese was born.

I did not even know how much I missed Bolognese Sauce. The chefs of the Underground Cookery School prepared me a dish that was able to bring back to life those taste buds, fallen into a long hibernation by now and once committed to tasting Italian flavours.

bolognese-vegetarian-2 This recipe is adapted from the Underground Cookery School. I’ve only added to it the two key ingredients of the Italian “soffritto”: carrots and celery. And used whole wheat spaghetti instead of fresh pasta, as indicated in the recipe box below.

How does it taste like? If I told you it tastes exactly like the “real” Bolognese, I would be lying. It is lighter, with the greasy taste originating from the long cooking of beef fat totally eliminated. A positive factor, if you ask me. We all know that reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet can help us maintain normal blood cholesterol levels as part of a healthy lifestyle. What we probably don’t know yet is that 75 g serving of this mince contains only 79 calories, 10.9 g protein and 1.5g of fat. Tasty enough not to make you miss meat.

My taste buds are back, full of life and thankful.

p.s. Do not miss the next post about “my cooking class”, where I’ll tell you how I lost 10 Kg in a week show ehm.. I’ll show you all my clumsiness in stirring a curry sauce (still not as awkward as Pippa Middleton in the Waitrose Magazine, though). I will finally appear in this blog in a photo that is not the profile image and share an unmissable recipe given to me by the Underground Cookery school. Get ready for a Strawberry Meringue Roulade.

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Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

Serving Size: Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 100g ‘00’ Pasta Flour 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 Medium Egg
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 80 gr. of Carrots, finely cut
  • 60 gr. (1,0 oz) of Celery, cut
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 Glass of Red Wine
  • Black pepper
  • 200g Quorn Bolognese
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Instructions

  1. First make the bolognese:
  2. In a pan with olive oil, fry off the onion, garlic carrots and celery for about 3 minutess. Add the red wine and reduce to a tablespoon in volume. Add the tinned tomatoes, blitz with a stick blender, add the Quorn mince and cook on a gentle heat for at least half an hour.
  3. Place the pasta flour into a small bowl. Make a well into the middle and place an egg into the middle of the well. Put a pinch of salt into the mixture. Using a fork stir the egg and gradually bring in the flour a little at a time until you get something like a messy dough. Use your hands now to press the dough together and need on a clean surface for a couple of minutes until you have a smooth and firm dough. Add a little water if too dry, or extra flour if too wet.
  4. Using a pasta machine make sure the thickness setting is on highest and should be No.10 on most machines. Roll your dough through this setting and then fold the dough in half. Pass it through again and then fold it in half again and follow this procedure 10 times until you have a very smooth dough. Now roll the dough through each setting twice until you get down to No 2 or 1.Your pasta should be very thin now.
  5. You can now cut your pasta into the shape of your choice. If you have a Tagliatelle cutter feed the thin sheet of pasta through it and lay the pasta on a tray lined with baking paper. Blanch in Salted water for 1-11/2 minutes or until cooked and slightly firm to the bite. Toss with tomato Sauce.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/vegetarian-spaghetti-bolognese/

Quorn Mince vs Lean Beef Mince

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Summer with a Caprese Salad

italy-caprese-1224 This is not a recipe but many things more than that. First of all, it’s a bit of me when I’m hungry and there is sun outside and even though this sun is shining over London and not over Napoli it still feels like summertime.

It’s another blinking summer here, one day you could go to the beach (if there was one) and the day after you wear a warm jumper under the rain. This mozzarella, tomatoes and basil leaves salad is a celebration of the glorious “ON” in this intermittent summer with too many OFFs so far.

italy-caprese-1229 This is also my Italy and many memories associated with it. The dish represents the marriage between taste and simplicity; it is also what the Italian heat of July calls for: light food you don’t need to cook.

July in Italy. Remember, it’s the time of the year when you spend long afternoons indoor because outside it is scorching hot. You would get insane otherwise; a curfew applies, it’s what we call “controra”, a siesta that is, the moment of the day when you are allowed to sleep while mosquitoes are allowed to work on you (obviously they’re on duty when you’re on holidays).

My mum would come back from work tired and starving, she wouldn’t cook anything requiring stove and fire that could make her sweat even more. In some lucky days, she would bring “mozzarella di bufala”, the only cheese that deserves love and devotion usually accorded a deity. And there’s peace all around, in my feelings and in my mind.

italy-caprese-1237 When we try to fight against the heat with fans and air conditioners we are defeated already. We use curtains to stop the rays of light that are burning the grass outside. We don’t hear a sound coming from the streets because no one dares to challenge the curfew. There’s no remedy to the heat. Life has to slow down. We let time pass by, we sleep and eat fresh foods. There’s lots of siesta for us that comes with lots of dreams. Oh Italy.

italy-caprese-1250 Don’t ask me a recipe this time. I’d like to give you just two useful instructions.

Instruction number 1: buy the best ingredients you can. Fresh, high quality ingredients: mozzarella, tomato, basil and olive oil.

Instruction number 2: slow down and taste slowly. Like if you were getting ready for a shamelessly long siesta.

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Baked Gooey Soba Frittata and a Bite of World Cup

soba-frittata-0028 The World Cup Adventure is already over for Italy. What about your football team?

OK, let’s not pretend I am a “true” football supporter. It’s just all about my origins, I come from a country where football is printed in everybody’s genes, easy to enjoy and cathartic for modern men just like a beer on Friday after work or the reassuring idea that someone will sooner or later iron that pile of wrinkly shirts for you.

Now, the reason why I share with you the incredible news of Italy crashing out of the World Cup, is not so much ’cause “my team” was beaten by other teams not so great on paper or because I’m tremendously sad about not having excuses to leave the office early, but rather because of the “carnivorous way” the Italian experience ended.

soba-frittata-0043 Have you read the news? The very much esteemed Uruguayan footballer Suarez took advantage of the proximity of his mouth to the shoulder of the Italian defender Chiellini to bite him. I have no reason to believe that he wanted  to turn into Dracula, I conclude that Suarez must have been very hungry.

In my humble opinion, he would have been delighted by this baked omelet that I made out of Soba noodles, cheese, mushrooms and eggs. A dish I adapted from the traditional Neapolitan recipe of “frittata di maccheroni”.  But I can’t be 100% sure since investigations to ascertain the cause of the accident leads to Suarez strongly craving for some meat at the moment of the bite. Nobody told him that Chiellini’s shoulder is notoriously unappetizing. With plenty of grass on the field, vegetarianism would have been a better choice for him.  🙂

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Soba Frittata

Ingredients

  • 185 gr soba
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 slices of mozzarella cheese (cheddar or any other cheese that melts is fine)
  • 5-6 button mushrooms
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Cook Soba noodles into boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. Once noodles are cooked, transfer them in a colander and rinse well under cold running water to get rid of the starch.
  2. Cut the mushrooms in thin slices. In a large bowl beat eggs with grated cheese, salt and pepper. Add noodles and mushrooms to the egg and cheese mixture and mix well.
  3. Coat a small-medium baking pan with oil and transfer the noodles+eggs mixture into it.
  4. Bake at (190°C, 375°F, gas mark 5) for about 10 minutes.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/soba-frittata/

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas) with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Parmesan

pasta-ceci-0057 Here is another typical dish of the Italian traditional cuisine that’s a bit underestimated outside of Italy. Yet chickpeas nutritious and digestible, a good source of essential fatty acids, containing a high percentage of carbohydrates. 100 grams of cooked chickpeas provides only 120 calories, a lot of vitamins, proteins and minerals, especially iron and calcium.

pasta-ceci-0064 I originally thought of adding the word “skinny” to the title of this recipe. I know for a fact that the word “skinny” is tempting us all! I wouldn’t be cheating since this “pasta and chickpeas” is definitely lighter than any lasagne dish or pizza. As you can see from the pics, it is not drowning in melting cheese (I let mac and cheese win the prize of foodporn par excellence).

pasta-ceci-0001 However, this is not even what we would call skinny in Italy: it is just what we normally eat, what my mum still cooks at least a couple of times a month. Something easy to make that includes all the ingredients we love the most: pasta, tomatoes, Parmesan and a perfect measure of fragrant olive oil. Can you see why I like this dish so much?

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Pasta e Ceci (Chickpea with Pasta) with Sun dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 4-5 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 litre of cooking water
  • 100g of cut spaghetti (or small pasta shapes)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli (optional)
  • 4-5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 25 ml of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan
  • Salt and chopped parsley to season

Instructions

  1. Pour the olive oil into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently.
  2. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry over a gentle heat till soft and golden.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes (sun dired tomatoes included) and stir fry for a couple of minutes before adding the cooked chickpeas, water and the seasonings. Simmer for approx 10 mins, then remove about half of the soup and blend (I used a blender). Keep aside.
  4. Add the raw pasta to the pot then simmer gently, stirring regularly to make sure the pasta doesn't start sticking to the base of the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add a little more water if necessary.
  5. Once the pasta is almost done, return the pureed soup to the pan, cook for one minute more (if you want to evaporate all the liquids and get it denser) then let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
  6. Serve with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, Parmesan and chopped parsley.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/pasta-e-ceci-chickpea-pasta/