Tag Archives: italian

Cannelloni with ricotta and minced meat

The husband and I are huge fans of Italian food, So I am always happy to try out something new and exciting. Normally I use a very basic cannelloni recipe à la bolognaise. It’s a wonderful recipe and I just know I ll keep using it till I am old an grey. But sometimes I want to try new recipes and new flavours. I found the base for this recipe while looking for some stock cubes on a website. The website suggested to use the cubes in a Ricotta cannelloni and I was won over. The idea of a ricotta cannelloni without spinach sounded like something different. So I added a little bit of this and a little bit of that and I ended up with those lovely creamy cannelloni.

 INGREDIENTS
8 tubes of cannelloni
½ red onions finely chopped
125 grams ricotta cheese
1 jar of tomato sauce (I used home made sauce about 250 ml)
50 grams of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
½ red pepper chopped in small cubes
½ green pepper chopped in small cubes
200 grams minced meat
30 grams of pine nuts
2 teaspoons of Italian herb mix
2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a large sauté pan over medium heat warm the olive oil. Add the minced meat and crumble it with a fork while it turns lightly brown and is cooked through. Now add the onion and the peppers and stir fry this for a about 10 minutes.
Now add the ricotta to the pan and mix it all together.
Season with a little bit of salt, pepper and the Italian herb mix.

Now add 25 grams of parmigiano reggiano cheese and the pine nuts to the mixture.
I had to pre-boil the cannelloni before using. Be sure to check the instructions on your package before using.
 Now fill the tubes with the meat-ricotta mixture. I did this using a small wooden spoon. Look out that the tubes don’t tear up completely.

 Place the filled tubes in a oven dish and poor over the tomato sauce. Make sure that the cannelloni is covered completely with sauce; else it will go hard an dry while baking in the oven. Now sprinkle with the remaining parmigiano reggiano cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in an oven of 200 degrees. Uncover and bake further until the cannelloni is golden brown an bubbling, this takes approx. another 15 minutes.

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Festonati with creamy ricotta lemon sauce

Pasta… if there is one thing I love in the world its pasta. I adore a plate of pasta with authentic bolognaise sauce and at night I dream about creamy sauce drizzled with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. If you ever wake me up for anything at night let it be a plate full of delicious pasta.

Unfortunately my dearly beloved husband is just not that into pasta. He barely eats a full plate of it and he complains when I put it on the table more then twice a month. It’s a problem in our marriage… maybe we need counselling…

On the other hand the pasta-hater himself makes the best tomato sauce ever and he does it with love and devotion and all that for little old me.

Sometimes he even brings home special types of pasta, just to surprise me. For valentine I got little red heart pasta one year, the other year I got pasta that looked like… well the crown jewels of a men. With Christmas he bought me little santa shaped pasta and a couple of weeks ago he brought home a bag of festonati pasta.

This pasta is one of the newer pasta shapes and is similar to penne or rigatoni. I must say I like it better then a regular penne. The shape is quit special, they are pretty big and they hold on to the creamy sauce I plunged them in.

One warning though, the festonati are quit big but don’t be deceived, they are all dente much quicker then regular penne! So don’t overcook them!

INGREDIENTS

300 grams of festonati
30 grams of butter
100 grams of ricotta cheese
50 grams of grated parmesan cheese
Juice of one lemon
The zest of one lemon
20 whole basil leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

Cook the pasta al dente. When you drain the pasta don’t forget to set aside 1 cup of the hot water you boiled the pasta in.

Now melt the butter on medium heat. Squeeze in the juice of the lemon and whisk it together with the melted butter. Turn down the heat. I know this sounds a little weird, but just believe me it will work! Now add the ricotta cheese and let it slowly melt while whisking in the parmesan cheese, the zest of the lemon and the basil leaves. The heat of your pan will make sure that the cheese melts into a creamy sauce. Using two cheeses might make the sauce a little to thick. So check the consistency and add some of the warm water you kept in a cup.

Now add the drained pasta and mingle it all together. You can top it of with some freshly grated cheese and some extra basil leaves if you like.

Pesto Rosso

When a friend told me this week he had eaten something “pre -prepared” he looked at me with scared eyes.
“Yes, so?” I answered and he looked even a little bit more afraid. “But you love to cook and you do it so well. You must be anti pre-prepared stuff?”
I almost rolled on the floor while holding my laugh. Anti pre-prepared? Hallo, who do you think I am? God? Yes, I love to spend my time in supermarkets looking for good quality food. I get happy from using fresh product and yes I love to cook. But that doesn’t mean that I never use something out of a package or carton! I work full time, I have a husband who gets home pretty late and works weekends. I don’t have a housekeeper or a person who does my ironing. So sometimes it has to quick and easy for me.
To test my theory that I am not anti pre-prepared I examined my pantry and my fridge. With the following results:
– Gazpacho from Alvalle. There is nothing, but absolutely nothing that can beat this gazpacho. Even my Spanish friend buys it, cause she cant make it better herself. Over the years I have tried to make fresh or taste other brands, but nothing beats Alvalle!
– Mix for falafel
– Mix for couscous
– A jar of marinated zucchini
– Pastasauce from Bertolli
– A lasagne

Just to say I am not anti pre-prepared.
This week in the supermarket I even places a jar of red pesto in my bags. I had been planning some dishes with red pesto and ready made pesto is quick and easy. Waiting at the counter I studied the ingredients and noticed chiliflakes and cashews. I don’t know about you but I don’t think those two represent the authentic Italian taste I was looking for. So I left the line, place the jar back in his rack and started searching for fresh ingredients for red pesto. And to be quiet honest.. the fresh pesto only took 5 minutes to prepare….

INGREDIENTS

200 grams of half dried tomatoes on olive oil (dredged from the olive oil)
15 grams of fresh basil
2 gloves of marinated garlic (If you cant find these, just use regular garlic)
4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
40 grams of pine nuts
75 grams of grated parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons of olive oil

Add the sundried tomatoes, the basil, the garlic, the vinegar, the pine nuts and the cheese together in a bowl. Mix with your standing mixer until you get a smooth paste.
After the mixing spoon in the olive oil so it gets creamy.

Pesto can be kept in the fridge for a month. Just make sure that there is always a tiny bit of olive oil on top of it. This seals it from the air and protects it from any germs.

Italian snitzel with creamy sauce

The sun keeps shining so I keep cooking Mediterranean style! I just cant help myself, when the sun shines I get in vacation mode. Even when I have to get up at 6 in the morning to go to my office, I still have the ‘whoot vacation” feeling in me. After 8 hours of hard work I search refugee in my garden, where I am surrounded by olive trees, lavender and delicious smelling herbs. Instant happiness! And yes, at night I try to keep the feeling. When I cant go to the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean has to come to me!
Yesterday the Mediterranean came to me disguised as a kip snitzel with creamy sauce and fresh basil pasta! A nice glass of fruity white wine and we felt on vacation in one instant!

INGREDIENTS FOR THE KIP SNITZEL

1 chicken filet
200 grams flour
2 eggs
300 grams of bread crumbs
150 grams of parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE

olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 can of peeled tomato cubes
1 tablespoon of rose wine (or any other wine you find in your kitchen and you feel like drinking!)
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
fresh chopped basil according to taste
fresh chopped oregano according to taste
1 tablespoon of mascarpone
1,5 teaspoon pesto rosso (Recipe will follow later)
salt and pepper

FOR THE CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE

Heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the onions and the garlic. Let them simmer till the caramelize a little bit.
Now add the tomato cubes, the balsamic vinegar, the wine and the sugar and let this simmer for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes add the freshly chopped herbs and season with pepper and salt. Now let it again simmer for about 10 minutes.

Take the sauce of the heat and stir in the mascarpone and the pesto rosso.

FOR THE CHICKEN SNITZEL

Place 3 bowls in one line next to each other. In the first bowl you place the flour. In the second bowl you place the eggs, loosely whisked. And in the last bowl you mix the bread crumbs with the cheese and the dried herbs.

Now take the chicken filet and slice it into thin slices. I used a filet knife for this. Out of one filet I got 6 snitzels. Place the slices under some foil and bang them with a meat hammer. (If you, like me, don’t own a meat hammer you can just bash it with a bottle of wine!)
Heat some olive oil in a pan and let it warm trough. Now dredge the chicken in the flour. Make sure the chicken is totally covered in flour. Shake of any excess flour. Then dip the chicken in the beaten eggs before covering the slices with the breading.
Place the snitzels in the searing hot oil and bake them until golden and crisp. This should not take long, since the chicken is very thin. Mine only took 2 minutes to cook.

Serve this with your favourite pasta. I choose to use basil pasta, which has a lovely taste!

Single girl pasta

Once a month my husband needs to go to a congres or a training in some far corner of Belgium. Sometimes I let myself be tempted by junk food. I heat up a lasagne or I pop some chinese into the microwave, but most of the time it is my only chance to eat pasta.
The husband dislikes pasta and whines for hours when I dare to put it on the table. So in my lonely moment I tried myself to a plate of hot steaming pasta. Most of the time I make this meals from what I can scatter together in my cupboars. Like yesterday I found 6 scampi in my freezer. A splash of cream that was left from a previous diner and another can of delicious italian cherry tomatoes.
boil up some pasta and dinner is ready. It might not be very healthy and certenly not good for your weight. It is not culinary either and it will not be your most impressive cooking, but it is delicious, comforting food that you eat on the sofa wearing pyamas and watching a real girlmovie.

INGREDIENTS1 clove of garlic, diced
1/2 onion, diced
6 scampi
1 spring onion
1 can of cherry tomatoes
200 ml heavy cream
1 tablespoon of ketchup
1 teaspoon of sambal oelek
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of cayennepepper
boiled pasta
Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan en simmer the onion and the garlic in it for a couple of minutes.
Poor in the can of cherry tomaties and add the scampis. (It is not neceserry to bake them first. They will heat up in the sauce without turning into chewing gum.)
Let this bake for a couple of minutes. You want all the sauce of the tomatoes to evaporate so that you are left with only those wonderful, glooming red little tomatos.
Now add the cream, the sambal, the ketchup, the basil and the cayenne pepper. Stir this together and let it simmer for just a couple of minutes.

Now taste. Do you want it sweeter? Add some ketchup. Do you want it a little more spicy? Knock yourself out with the sambal! Just dont forget to finish it of with salt and pepper.

Now poor in your steaming pasta and diner is done!
A small amount of parmasan cheese on top of it makes this pasta for one ready to eat! So where is that chickflik?

Minestrone

Ah Italy, my heart still makes a little jump when I think about the time I spend in the kitchen of my Italian mama.
About 3 weeks ago I told a good friend about my exchange program that made me live in the wonderful town of Padua for a while. I told him all about the relaxed atmosphere that was so normal there. We only had to attend school for 3 hours a day. So the rest of my days I spend with my best friend in museums, in parks, eating to much kinderchocolat, tasting all the different flavours of ice cream at the parlours and testing every cafe in town for the best cappuccino. The nights I spend with my Italian mama in the kitchen learning all about the multiple uses of fennel. When I close my eyes I can still taste the wonderful sandwiches she made me with tuna, mozzarella and fennel. By nine o’clock my Italian dad would bring out his Harley and drive me once again to the ice-cream parlour where we indulged ourselves in Ferrero rocher Ice cream.
Is it the sun? Or the lovely warmth of the first spring days on my arms? Or just the fact I talked about it with a friend? But my heart aces for those wonderful days of my youth. I might not have realised how wonderful it was at the time. Carefree… our biggest worry was getting the name of that beautiful butcher boy that sold wonderful spicy sausages in the marketplace. I remember us visiting Verona and the balcony of Juliet. It is said that when you hold her breast and you make a wish it definitely will come true. It did for me. I wished that my husband would finally notice that I excised and ask me out. As you all know he did. 🙂 But I also remember me surrounded by my wonderful group of friends having pasta and wine on a little terrace in the sun. To calm my acing hart down I made this wonderful Minestrone soup. A little bit of Italy right at home!

INGREDIENTS:1 red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 piece of ginger, diced
2 stacks of celery, diced
3 carrots, sliced in rounds
100 grams peas
2 potatoes, diced
1 can of canolli beans, drained and washed
1 can of cherry tomatoes (If you cant find these wonderful canned tomatoes, you can use regular tomatoes)
1 litre of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
200 ml red wine
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon of Italian herb mix
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 stack of rosemary
1 stack of thyme
2 fresh bay leaves (If you don’t have them in your garden like me, the dried version will do.)
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
30 grams of grated parmesan cheese
1 cup of pasta
olive oil
pepper and salt
Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion, celery, ginger and garlic. Let it simmer until the onion becomes slightly translucent.
Now add the carrots and the potatoes and simmer these for a while.
Sprinkle in the fennel seeds, the Italian herb mix, the dried basil, the cumin powder, the rosemary, the thyme, the bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Poor over the red wine and bring this to the boil.
When the wine has evaporated a bit add the can of cherry tomatoes, the stock and the parmesan cheese.
Stir it all in and bring it back to the boil on a high heat.
Now add the beans, the peas and the tomato puree and let it all simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes you add the pasta and you let it boil for another 10 minutes.

I served the fragrant and delicious soup with a simple slice of ciabatta with some fresh garlic butter.

Daring bakers: Tiramisu

My first challenge as a daring baker and it was titled “heaven on a plate: tiramisu”.
Tiramisu… one of my favourite desserts of all times! The best tiramisu I ever had was in a little restaurant in Rome called ” the cricket in the oven”.
It was so light and exquisite, I never had any better… And no, this recipe did not cross boundaries and brought me to that perfect tiramisu. I am not even sure the tiramisu that night was so delicious. Sometimes you make memories better then they were.
That night in that little restaurant was perfect in every way. My husband (who was then my boyfriend) and I celebrated our first real trip away from home together, we drank a little to much wine and we talked for hours. After diner we walked the streets of Rome hand in hand and we threw a coin into the trevi fountain. Ah sweet, sweet memories.
And that is what this daring baker challenge brought to me too. Sweet memories of a dessert so ancient and so authentic. Sweet memories of how easy it is to make mascarpone yourself. And sweet memories of seeing eyes glow when biting that lovely savoiardi biscuit for the first time.
I always make classic tiramisu… you know with marsala wine and cacao powder on top. But when I saw all those beautiful and original creations my colleague bakers make, I started to think about something a little different. I decided to go for two small shaped tiramisu versions and serve them together. One I made with chocolate and amaretto, the other I made with orange juice and orange blossom water. A little unexpected (cause who can resist chocolate? I know I can’t) the orange one was a huge success.
I want to thank the wonderful ladies Aparna and Deeba for this great challenge, which once again pushed my boundaries and made me rethink my old ways!

INGREDIENTS MASCARPONE

500 ml whipping pasteurized cream (I used 32% cream.)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

INGREDIENTS SAVOIARDI BISCUITS

3 eggs. Separated
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
95 grams cake flour
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar

INGREDIENTS ZABAGLIONE

2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons of sugar
60 ml marsala wine (I used amaretto)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

 

INGREDIENTS VANILLA PASTRY CREAM

55 grams sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
175 ml whole milk

INGREDIENTS WHIPPED CREAM

235 ml chilled heavy cream ( I use 25% cream)
55 grams sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

INGREDIENTS FOR THE TIRAMISU

1/2 cup of amaretto
1/2 cup of orange blossom water
½ cup orange juice
50 grams dark chocolate

75 grams mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Making the mascarpone (+/- 2 days in advance)

To make the fesh mascarpone you use the au bain marie technique.
Just heat a little bit of water into a sauce pan and bring it just to the boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low, so the water is barely simmering. Now pour the cream into a heat resistant bowl and place the boil into the saucepan.
Now heat the cream, stirring very often to 80 degrees Celsius. I don’t have a cooking thermometer (I know, shame on my!) So I just waited until small bubbles kept trying to push the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Then add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, while stirring very gently, until the cream starts to curdle. The cream will start to get thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise or a thick vanilla pudding!
Now remove the bowl from the sauce pan and let it cool for about 20 minutes:.
In the meanwhile line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl.
After the mixture is cooled, pour the mixture into the lined sieve. Now step away from the cheese! No only joking, it is just very important that you not squeeze the cheese or press it. Time will work its magic on it. So just place the cheese into the refrigerator and leave it there for about 24 hours.
You will get a thick, creamy cheese with a luscious white look. The cheese is now ready to use, but can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Making the savoiardi biscuits (+/- 1 day in advance)

Start with preheating your oven to 175 degrees Celsius and prepare an oven tray with some baking paper that is lightly buttered. Now you are set to go and make the cookies!

Beat the egg whites until you get those stiff peak forms that remind you of snow topped mountains. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the eggs become stiff, glossy and smooth!
In a small bowl beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them carefully into the meringue, using a wooden spoon.  Sift the flour over this mixture and fold very gently until just mixed. It is very important that this happens gently, cause when you overdo it the egg whites will loose their firm and your cookies will end up flat and hard.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into wide strips leaving a little space in between them. (I went a little wrong here. I have some kind of oval cookies. But not to worry… they work just perfect in the end.)
Sprinkle have the confectioners sugar over the cookies and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or start looking wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the cookies their very characteristic crispness.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheers and bake for another 5 minutes or so until they puff up, turn golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the cookies from the baking sheet with a spatula while still hot and let them cool on a rack.
When you store them in an airtight container, you can keep them up to 3 weeks.

Making the zabaglione

Heat water in a double boiler. I did not have a double boiler so I used the au bain marie method like described in making the mascarpone.
In a large mixing bowl mix together the egg yolks, the sugar and the marsala (or amaretto), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl over the pan. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. (If you want it to be a real zabaglione you need to stir it into an 8 form. That’s the only true way! But I found that this is not really a zabaglione. This is more like a custard. One of these days I will post a real zabaglione with some local beer I made a while back.) Let the mixture cool at room temperature and transfer the zabaglione into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or even better over night!

Making the pastry cream

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. To this you add the egg yolks and half of the milk. Whisk until you get a smooth liquid.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk slowly, a little bit at a time, while stirring constantly. After about 10 minutes the mixture will be thick and free of any lumps an begin to bubble.  Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with some plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight until thoroughly chilled.

Making the whipped cream

Combine the cream, the sugar and the vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

Finally making the tiramisu

CHOCOLATE TIRAMISU

In a large bowl beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will help you later on to fold. Add the prepared and the chilled zabaglione and the pastry cream, blending until just combined. Now Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Melt the chocolate au bain marie and let the melted chocolate cool down a little bit.
I used little forms for my tiramisu so I did not need 12 biscuits per layer. For the chocolate one I did not even need layers. But I think its easier to give you the recipe for a square tiramisu and you can pull of your own presentation.
So work quickly from here. Dip 12 of the cookies into the amaretto for about 1 second. The cookies should be moist and in no way soggy. When you soak them to long, the will break and go all soggy.
Immediately transfer the cookies to the platter and place them side by side in a single row. Break cookies into pieces if necessary to ensure you have a firm base for your dish.
Now mix the melted chocolate into your mascarpone – zabaglione – cream mixture. Gently mix.
Spoon one third of the cream mixture on top of the cookies, then use a rubber spatula or a spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the ledges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 cookies and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture, cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

TO SERVE IT MY WAY: I used round metal shapes to serve my tiramisu. Dip the cookies into the amaretto and line them up around the base of the metal ring.
Then spoon in the cream mixture in the middle of the ring. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Be careful when you remove the metal ring. I did not cover the top of my tiramisu with cacao powder, cause it is chocolaty enough. But a nice though to it, is to sprinkle it with some grounded white chocolate!


ORANGE TIRAMISU

In a large bowl beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will help you later on to fold. Add the prepared and the chilled zabaglione and the pastry cream, blending until just combined. Now Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

I used little forms for my tiramisu so I did not need 12 biscuits per layer. But I think its easier to give you the recipe for a square tiramisu and you can pull of your own presentation.
So work quickly from here. Place the cookies into your serving bowl and sprinkle them with the orange blossom water. No need to dip them, sprinkling will get them just as moist!
Break cookies into pieces if necessary to ensure you have a firm base for your dish.
Now mix the orange juice into your mascarpone – zabaglione – cream mixture. Be careful with the orange juice. I started adding little bits, so the flavour would be just right. Mix a little bit in, taste and add some more if necessary. Gently mix.
Spoon one third of the cream mixture on top of the cookies, then use a rubber spatula or a spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the ledges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 cookies and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture, cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

TO SERVE IT MY WAY: I used  square metal shapes to serve my tiramisu. It exactly the same as the big square form, only work on a little scale!