Tag Archives: Pasta

TORTELLI DI ZUCCA (Large tortellini stuffed with pumpkin) Ristorante Cartoccia in Mantova

I met some very interesting people while I was in Italy. One such person is Sergio Manbrini and he has a restaurant called Cartoccia in Mantova (Mantua).

cartocciatortollinifullplate

Sergio founded and directed the first Legambiente of Mantua, a group dealing with issues aimed at investigating the relationship between health, nutrition, agriculture and the environment. He is now an author as well as an activist on environmental issues and a restauranteur.

His first book is Fango Nero and as you would expect it has a political message. Sergio began his working life in a factory and like the character in his book, he began to question the social, industrial and economic events that were happening in the 70’s and the consequential changes to the society and the environment he lived in. He decided to radically change his way of life and motivate others to do the same.

It is therefore of no surprise that the restaurant only uses organic, dio – dynamic, raw ingredients. All good!!

Of prime importance when I travel is to eat the local food and traditional dishes of that particular town and region (yes, to this degree – the variations and specialities of dishes exist in the short proximities). I could not go wrong when my partner and I ordered from his menu.

 

Tortelli di zucca conditi con burro e salvia.  being a purist, I selected the classic traditional version dressed with butter and sage. These are large tortellini stuffed with yellow pumpkin and  certainly a classic dish from this area (photo above). On the menu he also had the tortelli dressed with, sugo di pomodoro e salsiccia mantovana (dressed with a tomato sauce with pork sausage from Mantova).

Tagliatelle con castagne, ricotta e radicchio con speck (Tagliatelle made with chestnut flour and wheat,  dressed with ricotta and radicchio and speck).

Luccio in salsa con peperoni capperi, acciughe on polenta (Pike, a fresh water fish with peppers, capers, anchovies on polenta).

Verdura grigliata (we ate this as an appetiser – seasonal vegetables including Cavolo Nero).

Torta sbrisolona (a local specialty).

During lunch I had many interesting conversations about global and local issues.  We discussed the food we were eating and my interest in sustainable fish and in the environment and I was told how pike swam in the lakes of Mantua when the water was not polluted. Pike is now bred and fished nearby in very clean waters, as the lake is so polluted that no swimming is permitted. We discussed the pros and cons of aquaculture and the importance of maintaining our interest and commitment to such an important issue.

This is not Sergio’s recipe for Tortelli di Zucca. I used to have an aunt who was Piedmontese and lived in Genova, she was an excellent cook and she used to make them. In her recipes she always included Mostarda di frutta di Cremona, an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and a mustard flavoured syrup. In my home we ate Mostarda with Bollito misto (boiled meats) and This is all I have left of the jar of Mostarda in my fridge. Cremona is not far from Mantova or Genova and the tortelli being a classical dish from these parts of Italy, it would contain Mostarda di Frutta as well as amaretti. It is an interesting taste and quite sweet.

You may consider making them into ravioli. Tortelloni are big tortellini and there is no way that I can describe adequately how you can fold them in writing… Basically they are squares of pasta, small amount of filling, pasta square is folded in half, one point of triangle folded down, other two points joined together. I am sure that if you are interested there would be something on the internet about this.

I have described how to make ravioli in an earlier post. See: Ravioli di Ricotta :

The filling is sufficient for a pasta made with 250g of white hard wheat flour and 3-4 eggs. There are plenty of recipes on how to make home made fresh pasta and I will not bore you with that.

A non-watery type of pumpkin is best. If boiled, the pumpkin must be well drained.

INGREDIENTS

Fresh pasta in sheets.

Filling:

1.5kg pumpkin peeled and seeded and cooked (baked or boiled in little water)
1 tablespoon butter melted
50g Amaretti biscuits, crumbed
2 tablespoons of chopped fruit from Mostarda di Frutta (pear and apricot are good)
100g Parmigiano grated
 ½ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt, pepper to taste

Sauce:

Melt 1 cup of unsalted on gentle heat. When the butter begins to bubble add 7 leaves of fresh sage and continue the heat for 1 to 2 minutes. The butter will be a caramel colour.
Make the sauce last of all.

PROCESS

Make pasta.
Mash the (cold or warm), cooked pumpkin and add all of the other ingredients. The filling should have the consistency of a paste (not runny). If it does not, you may need to add some fresh breadcrumbs from good quality bread (no crusts).
Fill and shape into ravioli.
Cook ravioli in salted boiling water for 4-5 minutes, they will float to the top.
Dress with sage butter, add some freshly ground pepper, Parmesan
(optional), and serve.

 

I enjoyed my lunch very much and I wish Sergio well…. he persists when it is so easy to give up.

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RAVIOLI DI RICOTTA e MULINO DI CEREALI A PIETRA (Ricotta ravioli and stone ground flour in Chiaramonte)

This is Franco the miller who mills cereali a pietra – in other words he produces stone-ground flour from high quality wheat.  He and his partner have an old water mill and they are experimenting with reviving old strains of wheat – so far so good! And there are farmers who are growing the old grains and buyers who are supporting it. Many of them are restaurateurs who are making pasta and bread in their restaurants.

 

The area of Sicily where this is happening is Chiaramonte Gulfi– I am so impressed and interested in what is happening in this south-eastern part of Sicily (see post about Massimiliano the Butcher).

 

The grain smelt wonderful and watching the stones grinding and the sifting process was an amazing experience. The flour needs to be kept in cool conditions or used quickly as it does not have any additives or bleaches, the germ of the wheat is maintained in the milling – flour that is good for us in other words.

 

Franco does not waste the by-products.  The bran is sold as animal fodder and he has customers and supporters who are interested in using the finer bran in baking. We sampled some bran biscuits produced by one of his followers.

 

There was another reason why I was interested in this mill and that is that my grandparents in Ragusa used to have an old water mill down by the river at the bottom of Ragusa Ibla. It no longer functioned as a mill and they used it as their get-away from the city, especially in the summer months, and grew their herbs and vegetables there. Being a regular visitor to Ragusa as a child I loved the mill (we travelled from Trieste and visited my grandparents each summer for two months each year).

I bought some of Franco’s flour home to my aunt, Zia Niluzza, who lives in Ragusa and still makes pasta by hand on special occasions. My visit this time was the special occasion and she produced her exceptionally good, traditional ricotta ravioli that are a specialty of this area of Sicily.

 

The ravioli di ricotta from Ragusa are usually served with a strong sugo (meat and a tomato-based sauce), which here is made with pork meat and pork sausages and tomato pasta. In Ragusa they add a little sugar (1 teaspoon per cup of ricotta; other local variations include a little orange peel or finely cut marjoram.

 

My aunt also made her special gnochetti. Rather than eating one kind of pasta at a time, we piled both ravioli and pasta into the one plate and helped ourselves to more sugo – but I noticed that she now uses less pork and I did not detect any pork rind in it. This is also a common additive in this part of Sicily. We are all health conscious these days.

 

For the ravioli you will need fresh pasta sheets and strong sugo made with meat tomatoes and tomato paste.

For the filling:

Drain the ricotta
Place it in a colander lined with cheesecloth and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Mix the ricotta with a little salt and some sugar (1 cup of ricotta- 1 teaspoon of sugar).

Make the ravioli:
The most authentic and quickest way to cut the ravioli is by hand. There is no
prescribed size – they can be either round or square (about 7cm/3in across)
or half-moon shaped (a 9cm/4in circle folded over).
To make individual ravioli, cut pasta into circles or squares. Place heaped
teaspoons of stuffing in the centre of each, continuing until all the stuffing
is used. For half-moon shapes fold the pasta over the filling. For others, lay
another circle or square on top, then moisten the edges with a little water and
press together carefully to seal properly (press hard on the edges and spread
the pasta to a single thickness, so they cook evenly).
Set the finished ravioli on a lightly floured cloth. They can rest in a cool
place for up two hours.

To make more than one raviolo at a time:
Cut the pasta into long rectangular strips about 9cm wide. Place heaped
teaspoons of stuffing about 5 cm apart (beginning about 2cm/.in from the
margin of the sheet). Cover with another strip of pasta of the same size.
Cut each raviolo free with a knife or serrated pasta wheel. Repeat the
process, until all the pasta and the stuffing is used up.

Cooking:
Cook ravioli as you would any pasta. Lower them into the water a few at a
time and scoop each out when it floats to the surface.
Dress them carefully with the sauce so as not to break.

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PASTA CON SPADA E MENTA (Pasta with swordfish and mint)

Coinciding with the Long Weekend in October on Saturday Beachport had one of their regular Market Days, which are held at various times through the year.

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Beachport is a small seaside town in the South East of South Australia close to Robe and Millicent. Anyone familiar with South Australian wine would know about the Limestone Coast and the Coonawarra wine regions. Both are close by. Neighbouring wine regions include Wrattonbully and Mount Benson.

On the foreshore at Beachport there is a large, impressive landmark. It is an historic property called Bompas, formerly Beachport’s original hotel. Bompas has been through many changes, but since April 2012 Sarah and Jeremy are bringing life back into this independent, boutique hotel that serves as a cafe, restaurant and bar with unique accommodation and function facilities.

The reason I am writing about Bompas is that on the October Long Weekend the menu at Bompas featured Pasta with swordfish and mint, one of the recipes in Sicilian Seafood Cooking.The weekend was also the launch of their Asian menu which proved to be very popular.

Sarah and Jeremy now have Trish, an enthusiastic, local and young chef who is very happy to be there and they are equally pleased with her.

In the traditional Sicilian recipe swordfish is the preferred fish, a dense textured fish. I prefer to use sustainable fish and use, mackerel, burramundi, flathead, rockling, yellowtail kingfish or Mahi Mahi. Shell fish also enhances the sweetness of the dish and Sarah, Jeremy and Trish used scallops. They are also looking forward to using local fish on their menu (the fishing season has just started).

Trish did an excellent job of preparing the dish, but what it taught me as the writer is that it may have been useful to include extra hints in the recipe to clarify the process of cooking. Chefs may know how to do it, but what about the person who is not familiar with Italian cooking?

There is so much more advice that the writer of recipes may need to give. For example:

The recipe contains zucchini. What I wish to say is that Italians do overcook vegetables by our standards and in this case it is fairly important that the zucchini are sliced thinly and sautéed till soft – the recipe does not say this. The cooking releases the sweet juices of the zucchini and these are also added to the pasta and contribute to the flavour the dish.

There is also a fair amount of mint, this is added in the cooking process and at the end.

An other thing is that the wine needs to be evaporated so as to caramelize the juices released by the fish when this is sautéed.

And finally, all of the ingredients need to be hot when they are mixed together; this enables the fresh cheese to soften.

For 4-6 people

INGREDIENTS
pasta, 500g, ribbed, tubular like rigatoni or similar
fish, 400g, cut into pieces (4cm)
extra virgin
olive oil, ¾ cup
white wine, ½ cup
garlic, 3 cloves, chopped
mint, fresh, 15-20 leaves
salt and pepper to taste
formaggio fresco or fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, 300g,
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

PROCESSES
Cut the cheese into small cubes and set aside.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil; add the fish or shellfish and sauté it till it      is lightly coloured.
Add the garlic, wine, about a third of the mint and seasoning to the fish. Cover and cook gently till the fish is ready.
Combine fish, cheese and extra mint leaves (large leaves can be cut into smaller pieces).
Add the sauce to cooked and drained pasta, mix and and serve.

VARIATION
Add slices of 2-3 lightly fried zucchini (cooked separately in some extra virgin olive oil and added at the end). Add any juices left over from the zucchini.
To complement the green colour of the dish I sometimes sprinkle pistachio nuts on top.

I contribute a recipe for Seafoodnews a monthly publication.This is the same recipe and photo of the dish I submitted for the October issue.

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PASTA con SALSICCE (Pasta with pork Italian sausages and broccoli)

Salsicce di maiale (those Italian pork sausages, made with good quality ground pork) help make great pasta sauces. Some butchers also add fennel seeds and /or chillies to Italian pork sauces, these are also good to use

pastabroccoli

When eating in Italy you will find (have found) that sauces do not ‘drown’ the taste of the pasta (Italians like to taste the pasta) and it is always al dente,, cooked so that it is still firm when bitten.

I always buy cheese in one piece and like to grate my own – an inferior tasting cheese can spoil a pasta. In the photo the grating cheese I have used is ricotta salata (salted, hard ricotta used for grating and popular in Sicily).

I am a bit of a purist.

For 4 people

INGREDIENTS
4 Italian pork sausages, remove casings and cut into bite size pieces
400g dried rigatoni, penne, or fusilli pasta (those shapes that have twirls or cavities so that the sauce can be trapped inside)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
300g broccoli, cut into florets
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
chilli pepper flakes or fresh chillies to taste, I used ½  teaspoon full
½  teaspoon of fennel seeds
½ cup of white wine
anchovies to taste – I used 5 chopped finely
grating cheese to serve

PROCESSES
Add the olive oil to a large frypan and over medium sauté the cut sausages until they begin to colour. Remove from the pan and set aside. The sausage meat will remain in compact shapes unless you break it up with a spoon as it cooks – the choice is yours.
Add broccoli, garlic and chilli to the same pan and sauté the contents for about 5 minutes. If you prefer your broccoli more cooked, add a splash of water or wine, cover and cook till the broccoli is cooked to your liking.
Increase heat, add the sausage meat, wine and anchovies and reduce the liquid – this should take about 5 minutes.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water.
Drain and mix with the sauce. (Return the pasta to the saucepan that it has been cooked in and add the sauce). Mix well and serve with grated pecorino cheese (more authentic for Southern Italian food) or parmesan ( in Northern Italian cooking).

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PASTA E FAGIOLI (Thick bean soup with pasta)

These colourful beans are fresh borlotti; their pods look even more amazing. They are not in season in Victoria, they are coming from Queensland, but I bought some last week at Stall 61-63 in The Queen Victoria Market – this is where I buy all of my Italian vegetables. In Italy, when the fresh beans are available they are considered to be a treat.

Probably every region of Italy has a version of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) or minestra (soup) di fagioli. It is called pasta e fasoi in Trieste, pasta e facioli in Calabria, pasta ca fasola in Sicily and mnestra di fasö in Piedmont; the list goes on.

There may be a slight difference between the two dishes in the amount of liquid used, but they are both thick soups, and in fact so thick that they are also referred to as wet pasta dishes.

This version of the recipe is pretty universal all over Italy, but probably the greatest variation is that in various parts of Italy the cook places sufficient liquid in the soup to cook the pasta in it, whereas in other regions the pasta is cooked separately, drained and dressed with the cooked beans. Rice instead of pasta is more commonly used in the north of Italy.

Not every greengrocer sells fresh borlotti nor are they always in season but dry borlotti  (soaked overnight)are also widely used for this dish. Do not add salt to the water when cooking dry pulses – it makes them tough.

Fresh borlotti beans do not need to be soaked, but lose their colour when cooked. Soak beans in cold water overnight – they will swell so it is important to put them in plenty of water.

1 kilo of fresh beans will shelled left me with 450g; this is sufficient quantity for a plate of soup for 2-3 people.
Wet pasta dishes with pulses are commonly cooked plain and presented with a drizzle of oil.
INGREDIENTS
borlotti beans, shelled, 450g
carrots, 2 finely sliced
celery stalks, 2 in bite-sized slices
fresh bay leaves, 2
short pasta, 300 – 400g ( depending on how wet you like the soup)
onion, 1 finely chbut preferably keep them whole – this will depend on how fresh the dried beans are, but fresh borlotti will take much less cooking time. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta.
Either add more water to the pan and cook the pasta in the soup or cook the pasta separately – I like to add stock or water with a good stock cube, salt and freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
PROCESSES
Drain the beans if they have been soaking.
Place sufficient water to cover the pulses and add the carrot, the tomato, celery and bay leaves (this will be the broth).
Bring the soup to the boil. Add the parsley. Cook the pulses until soft (20– 40 mins), but preferably keep them whole – this will depend on how fresh the dried beans are, but fresh borlotti will take much less cooking time. Add salt to taste.
Cook the pasta.
Either add more water to the pan and cook the pasta in the soup or cook the pasta separately – I like to add stock or water with a good stock cube at this stage and cook the pasta in the soup.If you are cooking the pasta separately combine the cooked pasta and use the soup to dress the pasta.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper or chili flakes (as is more common in the south of Italy) and serve.
SOFFRITTO
I sometimes like to garnish this soup with a soffritto:
Heat about ¾ cup of olive oil in a wide pan, add a clove of finely chopped garlic and the parsley (use the parsley in the soffritto instead of cooking it in the soup).
Sauté on high heat – it should sizzle and the parsley turn bright green – then pour over the soup.

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FUSILLI ALLA SICILIANA (Pasta alla Siciliana – whatever that means)

My daughter found this clipping. It was printed in the Herald Sun (Melbourne) on Friday 5th August 2011. The accompanying text is:

Samantha’s sister spotted this interesting pasta on a menu in a London Restaurant.

I hope No.10 is actually ‘aubergines’ and not what it says ( grilled aboriginies).

I wonder how many noticed the unfortunate faux pas. So often readers bring (during the reading process) what they expect to find in the text – by that I mean that as readers, we do not necessarily read every word carefully and because the word ‘aborigines’ looks a little like ‘aubergines’ (eggplants), many would read it as such.

Call a particular dish alla Siciliana and immediately it may sound special to someone who may not know any better. I would not order it on principle – anything called alla Siciliana smells fake.

A recipe cooked alla siciliana could contain almost any ingredient from anywhere in the south of Italy, for example tomatoes, olives, wild fennel, anchovies, pine nuts, raisins. This restaurant has chosen a rich tomato sauce, mozzarella, grilled aubergines, a dash of garlic and parmesan cheese. I am not sure about the combination but here is a recipe for Fusilli alla Siciliana that is more to my taste.

It is a summer dish; tomatoes, peppers eggplants, basil – I do know that all of this produce seem to be available at the Queen Victoria Market even if it is out of season in Melbourne.

Fusilli: This strip of pasta is fashioned like a spiral and shaped like a big screw or a spring.  The same shapes may be labelled spirali if made by a different manufacturer. To be more Sicilian you could use cavatelli or caserecci.

INGREDIENTS
eggplant, 1-2,
peppers,1-2,
pitted black olives, ½ cup
anchovies fillets , 4-5, chopped finely
pasta, 400 g (100g per person)
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
garlic cloves, 3 chopped finely
chilli flakes, pinch or fresh chilli
salted capers, ½ cup – pre soaked
red tomatoes, 1 kg  or good quality tinned
fresh basil leaves, 5-10
chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon salt to taste
olives1(1)
PREPARATION:
Peel the eggplant and cut into cubes, soak in some salt water till ready to use. Put a weight on the cubes to keep them submerged. Drain and towel dry before cooking.
Roast/char peppers and remove the skins. Separate them into strips.
Make a tomato salsa: soften the garlic in some oil, add the tomatoes, a little salt and cook till reduced.
Heat more oil in a separate frypan and sauté the eggplants. Add anchovies, chilli, capers and parsley. Mix the ingredients together and cook for about 10 minutes. Add peppers and basil and heat through.
Use the sauce to dress the pasta and present it with grated pecorino cheese or ricotta salata.
See earlier post:

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THE SICILIAN ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA (TSAA) and Penne with pesto alla siciliana

asatrinacria

I receive quite a number of emails from readers and in September last year I received one from Rita Price who was happy to have found my blog about Sicilian food. A few emails later, Rita told me that she was a member of a newly formed group in Melbourne who wish to promote all things Sicilian.

I am now a member of this group and have asked Rita to write about the Association, which regularly sends to its members an informative newsletter; I am including one of the recipes from the first newsletter (November 2010). Recipe as told by Emma La Rosa from a recipe by Flora Corsello-Marino.

The Sicilian Association of Australia

On 24 October 2010, a group of mainly second-generation Australians with a common vision met in Melbourne to formally establish the Sicilian Association of Australia (TSAA). Their aim was to primarily promote and preserve the culture of Sicily in Australia.

Through its regular Newsletter, functions, courses and events TSAA is focussed on disseminating the unique culture of Sicily – its art, architecture, history, literature, tourism, cuisine, commerce, etc.

TSAA has also established links with the numerous Sicilian Clubs in Australia and with cultural and educational institutions that promote Sicily to the world.
Currently, TSAA has over 200 members of all ages and walks of life and invites people with a passion for Sicily to become members and therefore experience a Sicilian cultural journey through its many events, courses, trips and Newsletter. And of course you don’t have to be of Sicilian descent to join.
For more information on TSAA’s current events (Wine Appreciation Group, Sicilian Vespers Dinner, Book Club, Gala Dinner and Special Cultural Event) please contact: information@tsaa.net.au or refer to the Facebook page: The Sicilian Association of Australia

Rita Price, Secretary of TSAA

Penne with pesto alla siciliana
Serves 4
500g penne
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
100g grated parmesan cheese
50g pine nuts
500g peeled tomatoes
150g ricotta
Pepper and salt
Cut tomatoes in half, squeeze pulp and discard excess juice. Blend remaining pulp in food processor.
Add basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese, ricotta and oil. Blend until smooth.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cook penne until al dente.
                                                                Drain and return to pot.  Add pesto and mix well.  Serve immediately with a sprig of basil.
 Trinacria
Origins of the Trinacria

Homer referred to Sicily as Thrinakie (or Thrinakrie), which means Isle with a triangle’s shape. The name then changed to Trinakria, a reference to the three promontories on the island: Capo Peloro (Messina) in the north-east, Capo Boéo or Lilibéo (Marsala) and Capo Passero (an island 75 kilometres from Siracusa) or Capo Spartivento in the south-east. The name later became Trinacria, which the poet Dante Alighieri used to refer to Sicily in his Divine Comedy. It is also the name of the three-legged figure (and TSAA logo), which is now the symbol of Sicily.

Marisa Raniolo Wilkins

Trinacria bob photoshop

 

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SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE (Spaghetti with cockles)

Vongole is the Italian word for cockles and pipis. When I lived in South Australia there were large succulent cockles that come from Goolwa, Middleton and the Coorong. In Victoria we call them pipis and they are found around the southern Victorian coastline.

Before you get excited about harvesting cockles from beaches you need to be aware that there are strong regulations for the harvest of these succulent little morsels because their numbers have been reduced significantly. It is positive to see that restrictions have been placed on the mechanical harvesting and numbers of licenses issued for the commercial fishing of cockles and there are now open and closed seasons to allow some of the stock to recuperate.

The above applies in South Australia and in Victoria and may be the case in other Australian states and in other parts of the world and it does not apply only to commercial fishers.

From Fisheries Victoria:
Although it is recognised in both states that fishers and families from a diverse range of backgrounds enjoy collecting pipis, either for food or bait, The reduced catch limit will help to ensure that access is shared among recreational collectors.

(The reduced daily catch limit of 2 litres with shells and half a litre without shells).
 

From Australian Marine Conservation Society (think twice classification):Cockles and Pipis
Notes: Harvested by hand from mud and sand flats; impact of intense localised harvesting unknown; uncertain stock status for all species; significant population fluctuations due to environmental factors; Pipi catches and catch rates in NSW have declined significantly in recent years.  

I bought 1 kilo and fed 4 people. As much as I like this dish, (and so did my guests), this is all I will eat this season- it will help me to appreciate them even more next season.

I use a large frypan to ensure more even cooking.

INGREDIENTS
spaghetti, 500g
vongole, 1kg
extra virgin olive oil, ½ cup
garlic, 3-4 cloves crushed
chili flakes or 1 fresh, red, deseeded and chopped finely
parsley, 1 cup, cut finely
dry white wine
PROCESSES
Rinse the vongole, rubbing to remove sand, and discard any open ones that don’t close after being gently squeezed or tapped (see above).
Cook the pasta.
Heat the olive oil then fry the garlic and chili lightly.
Add the vongole and parsley and shake pot for 1-2 minutes.
Add wine, cover and gently cook for a few minutes until the cockles are open — discard any that are not open and those that are empty.
Remove some cockle meat from the shells for ease of eating (I do not always do this).
Drain the pasta and combine with the vongole. Gently mix the spaghetti through the sauce.
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SPAGHETTI WITH CRAYFISH OR CRAB (Spaghetti con Aragosta o Granco)

Fishing boats at Mondello (close to Palermo)

In the festive season most cooks feel like cooking something different and seafood is often cooked for friends when they come for a meal.

Lobsters are very popular around Christmas time. Many think that they are buying crayfish for Christmas (because that is how they are labelled), but they are actually buying lobsters – lobsters are sea creatures and crayfish live in freshwater. 

IMG_1740

I often buy spiders (the legs) – they can be quite meaty and very suitable for this pasta dish that requires cooked lobster. Although this recipe is especially suited lobster, other crustaceans can be used, including crabs. When I lived in South Australia I was spoiled with Blue Swimmer crabs. You can buy them in Victoria, but they are not local. If you prefer local crabs, Sand crabs are caught around Portsea, Rye or Sorrento.

I ate this pasta (see photo) in a beachfront restaurant in Mondello, a seaside town near Palermo, Sicily. It is made with their local crab. In my recipe I have added parsley and basil – I find it difficult to cook without herbs.

INGREDIENTS
spaghetti 500g
cooked crayfish meat or crab meat, 600-800 g
extra virgin olive oil, ¾ cup
red tomatoes, 500g, peeled and chopped
garlic, 5 cloves, chopped finely
parsley, 1 cup cut very finely
basil, 7-10 leaves (I like to use several small sprigs with the leaves attached)
salt and freshly ground pepper or chili flakes to taste
PROCESSES
Make a tomato salsa with ¼ cup oil, 2 cloves of garlic, the tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.
Mix the ingredients together and allow the sauce to reduce – uncovered – to a cream like consistency. Take off the heat.
Cook the crabs lightly (enough to kill them).
Remove as much crab or crayfish meat as you can, but leave some of the entire legs for decoration.
Cook the pasta and while the pasta is cooking:
Heat the rest of the extra virgin olive oil, add the other cloves of garlic and sauté the crab or crayfish meat for a few minutes. Add the parsley and mix it through the hot mixture.
Add this to the hot salsa (you may need to reheat this) and toss it through.
Combine the hot, drained pasta with the sauce and mix well.
Add basil and present to the table.

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PASTA CON CARCIOFI (Pasta with artichoke sauce)

Shoppers seem to be more familiar and discerning when selecting what used to be referred to as a ‘challenging vegetable’, and this could be contributing to the good quality of artichokes on sale.

As we are heading into spring (in Australia), artichokes are becoming more plentiful. Lately I have seen and purchased some very good artichokes at the Queen Victoria Market. I do like whole, stuffed, braised artichokes, however sliced artichokes can be sautéed and used to make a frittata, risotto or a pasta sauce.

 

The following is a standard pasta sauce made in most parts of Italy. Most regions use a few tomatoes (tinned at this time of year). I actually prefer the sauce without them and use extra wine for the extra moisture which may be required to soften the artichokes. Butter is added at the end to sweeten and bring together the flavours, but is generally not used in some regions of Italy (mainly in the south).

INGREDIENTS

fettuccine all’uovo, 500 g (egg pasta)
tomatoes, 300g peeled and sliced (canned are OK at this time of year)
butter, 3 tablespoons
extra virgin olive oil, ½- ¾ cup
artichokes, 3-4, young and fresh
garlic, to taste
salt and coarsely-ground black pepper, to taste
white wine, 1 cup
fresh parsley, ½ cup
grated parmesan cheese, to taste

PROCESSES

Prepare artichokes: strip off outer leaves until you have leaves that are lighter in colour and less fibrous.
Cut the artichokes into quarters and then into slices. Trim the stalk of their fibrous outer cover and slice. Keep the artichokes in acidulated water (lemon juice) to prevent from discolouring.
Heat the olive oil in a large shallow pan, add the well drained artichokes and sauté for approximately 3-4 minutes.
Add white wine and evaporate for a few minutes.
Add tomatoes, garlic, seasoning and parsley; taste the artichokes and decide if they need more cooking, cover and simmer till cooked (if the artichokes are tender it may only be 5-10 minutes). Add extra wine or stock if necessary.
Dress the pasta with the sauce. Add butter at this stage.
Place parmesan cheese on the table (or use pecorino if you wish it to be a southern Italian) .
For other artichokes recipes and how to clean them, hit this link.