“A tavola non si invecchia”. - Italian proverb (At the table with good friends and family you do not become old).

Sharing authentic Italian recipes entrusted upon me through the privilege of being invited into many Italian homes and kitchen’s abroad. I travel, cook, eat, share, learn and photograph my experiences, a truly soul enriching journey. There are now over 100 recipes on this blog to search from. I am a Melbourne born girl who now resides in Pietrasanta, Italy. Sharing my love for food and all things Italian with you. I am not a professionally trained chef, just a person that really loves cooking and has made my passion my reality! Through talent and drive I now work as a private chef in some of the most prestigious private villa`s here in Versilia, Italy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Torta di mele (apple tart)




The weather is cold, rainy, grey and miserable here in Italy, but this tart gave warmth to all that ate it.  I was in such a high spirited mood when I made this, and I think that the good vibe came through in the final result of this cake. The pastry was perfectly soft yet crispy, the filling moist and a little spiced, the height of impressive standards.  There was a sighhhh when I presented this cake to the table, it really looked beautiful.  Italian deserts are generally not made overly sweet and this cake is the perfect example of that. Also the smell of cinnamon reminds me of Christmas and puts me in a merry mood.  Enjoy this cake with a coffee or a liquor.

What you need:
For the pastry
1 3/4 cups (260g) plain flour
1/2 cup (75g) self raising flour
185g unsalted butter, chilled
1/3 cup (75g) sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
Sugar to sprinkle

For the filling
15 large apples
Juice and zest of one lemon
45g unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 sultanas (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh cinnamon
How to make:
1: Sift the flours together in a large bowl, add a pinch of salt.  Cube the butter and rub into the flour mixture lightly with your finger tips.  Lift the mixture high above the bowl to incorporate air into the pastry. The mixture should resemble fine breadcrumbs.
2: Lightly beat one egg with one tablespoon of chilled water, add over the flour mixture.  Bring the mixture together using a blunt knife, then start forming the mixture together using your hands to form a ball.  
3: Divide the mixture into two pieces, one slightly lager than the other.  Cover in cling wrap and place in the fridge for thirty minutes.
4: Peel and roughly chop the apples.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the remaining ingredients for the filling.  Cook all together for about ten minutes.
5: Line a round spring form baking tin with baking paper.  
6: Roll the larger piece of pastry on a floured surface, large enough to line the baking tin with a little overhang.  Once rolled to the correct size, roll the pastry around a rolling pin and place in the baking tin. Over lap the pastry around the sides.
7: Place the apple filling inside the tart gently
8: Use egg wash (one egg and a little milk) and paint around the rim of the pastry
8:  Roll the smaller pastry ball to place on top of the tart, press firmly, trim and use your fingers to pinch the pastry together
9: Cut a few small holes in the top of the tart, paint with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar (make designs with left over pastry and place on top (not necessary)
10: Place in an oven at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes, until golden brown
Buon apetito!






Ravioli nudi (naked ravioli)

                            

The soft texture of these delightful little parcels deliver such a delicate flavour. I made these with a friend and they were so much fun to make together as we laughed and made mess whilst assembling.  Ravioli nudi is essentially "ravioli senza pasta" (without pasta).  Not adding pasta to this dish makes for a much lighter course, perfect as a first course.  We opted to serve this with a simple tomato sauce as we have seen in local restaurants in Tuscany, however traditionally they can also be served with a simple butter and sage sauce. I first discovered these moist delights in Florence as was instantly hooked. Ricotta is one of my weaknesses and spinach is so good for you (that`s how I can justify it)! Top with some freshly grated aged parmesan cheese and you have a winner of a plate!
What you need:
Two kilos of fresh spinach
500 fresh cow’s ricotta
Two eggs
150g fresh grated Parmesan cheese
One teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Half cup of flour

For a quick tomatoes sauce:
Two cans of Italian tomatoes
One onion
¼ cup Italian extra virgin olive oil
Two garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
How to make:
1: Clean and wash the spinach, then cook for about ten minutes in a saucepan with just a small amount of water and salt.
2: When the spinach has cooled squeeze out all of the excess water and chop finely, set aside
3: In a large bowl combine the ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, two tablespoons of flour, nutmeg and salt and pepper.  The mixture will be sticky but make sure it is possible to form balls, if not add more flour.  Taste mixture and add more nutmeg, salt and pepper if needed
4: Form the mixture into small balls roughly 2-3cm in diameter, then coat the balls in flour and set aside until you have completed all of the ravioli
5:  Boil ravioli in boiling salted water until they are cooked.  They are ready when they rise to the surface of the water, roughly ten minutes
6: Serve with your favourite sauce immediately. 
7: Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese
How to make the sauce:
1: Cut the onion and garlic finely, and then cook in olive oil on a low heat until soft and translucent.  Add a little salt to the pan to prevent the onion and garlic from over cooking.
2: Add the canned tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about twenty minutes
3: Use a blender to puree the mixture to desired consistency

Buon apetito




Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Torta con cioccolata e arancia (chocalate ad orange cake)

            
I have been debating with myself wheter I should add this recipe on my blog, as it is not Italian as such.  The final argument that tipped me over was the pure pleasure received by every person that ate a slice of this cake.  I felt that it had to be shared with you, especially in the lead up to Christmas and the opportunity you might have to make a loved one a cake.  I baked this cake for a special friend and went through so many recipes to try a cake that I thought exampled a sense of occasion.  Also as I walk through the winter markets here in Italy and down the streets there are oranges everywhere as they are now in season. The vibrant colour of the oranges is a total contrast to the dark streets and overcast skies.  This cake is rich, moist and dense, and the combination of the dark chocolate against the sweet zesty orange is a sophisticated sensation.
               
What you need:
380g dark chocolate
235g butter
100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
Five eggs
105g sugar
100g self raising flour
One tablespoon vanilla extract
Zest of two oranges

For the icing:
250g unsalted butter at room temperature
Three cups of icing sugar
One tablespoon of milk
             
How to make:
1: Place a metal bowl over a bowl of boiling water.  Add the chocolate to the bowl and melt, than add the orange juice, butter and zest.  Take of heat and set aside
2: Whisk the eggs together with the sugar until light and fluffy and almost double in size.  Add the vanilla
3:  Lightly stir in the chocolate mixer to the egg mixture, keeping it light
4: Sift in the flour and combine
5: Pour the batter into a round spring form baking dish (line with cooking paper).  Place in a pre-heated at 160 degrees oven for about 40-50 minutes
6: Remove and cool on a cooling tray
To make the icing:
1: Whisk the butter until light and fluffy then add 1/2 cup of sugar at a time until completely combined.  Add a little milk to create a spreadable consistency (keep covered in the fridge until ready to use

Spread on a well cooled cake.  I spread the icing on a slightly warm cake and wrote "Italia" on top but of course the icing melted and the cake turned into a big mess.  None the less, the cake was still delicious
                              
Buon apetito


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tortellini in Brodo (broth with tortellini)

Ok, admittedly I did not make the tortellini in this recipe. However I do not feel guilty as I purchased these little delicacies from one of the oldest pasta houses in Bologna, the origin of "tortellini in brodo".  Italians enjoy eating this around Christmas time, normally for Christmas dinner or boxing day. To eat something somewhat lighter than the previous heavy meals consumed during the festive season.  One of the only rules for making this celebratory soup is that you must make it using home made stock (refer to chicken stock recipe).  Traditionally in Italy the tastiest way to make the stock is by using "capon" (a male chicken).  The traditonal filling and the ones that I purchased in Bologna are filled with pork, mortadella and parmigiano.  As it is now winter in Italy, sitting around the table enjoying a hot bowl of "tortellini in brodo" warms your soul, even when it is cold outside!
How to make (to serve six people):
Bring two litres of stock to the boil, then add about 250 grams of tortellini.  Boil the tortellini in the broth for the amount of time according to the instructions (about ten minutes). Serve in warm bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Some of my Italian friends from the South of Italy also add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and chilli flakes!


Buon Apetito
#pasta #tortellini #brodo #broth #soup #stock 

Brodo di pollo (chicken broth)

There is nothing that compares to making your own homemade stocks(whether it be meat, chicken or vegetable).  The flavour is unlike the powdered supermarket variety and so much more rewarding in making and flavour (not to mention healthier).  It is also a more economical way as you can reserve and use the bones from leftover chicken and meat carcases.  If you do not need to use the stock immediately just freeze.  Use the stock to add flavour to soups, roasts and risotto etc.  One of the most common uses for broth in Italy is "tortellini in brodo", one of my favourite comfort foods. I always find it amazing that the stock always starts clear, then results in a rich yellow hue. Today I felt a little luxurious and made my stock from a fresh organic chicken, resulting in a remarkable flavour.
What you need (use whatever herbs are available):
carcass of one chicken (add everything, bones, fat, skin etc)
two carrots quartered
two celery sticks cut
two onions quartered
two sprigs of fresh rosemary
two garlic cloves
a few sprigs of thyme
handful of fresh sage
handful of black peppercorns
pinch of sea salt
How to make:
Simply add all of the ingredients together with about two litres of water, bring to the boil than simmer for about one hour.  Skim any fat that sits at the top of the broth, then strain the broth through a fine sieve.
bowl of tortellini in brodo

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pollo al Vin Santo (Chicken cooked in Vin Santo)

This dish is really not the most appealing but the delicate flavour and smell is quite a sensation.  It is such a simple recipe to make, perfect for a weekday dinner.  The chicken is so tender and absorbs the juices from the wine and Vin Santo- a Tuscan sweet wine.  Serve with a side of green vegetables and roast potatoes. 


What you need:
One kilo of free range chicken diced (use all parts for more flavour)
Two large onions sliced
Five gloves of garlic
Ten tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One cup of dry wine
1/4 cup Vin Santo (Tuscan sweet wine)
One tablespoon fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
How to make:
1:  Season the chicken with salt and pepper
2:  Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan, then add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides on a low heat.  Once slightly browned transfer to a bowl, cover and set aside
3:  Turn to a low heat, add the onions and garlic and saute until tender and slightly golden.  Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates
4: Transfer the chicken and all the juices to the pan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes
5: Remove the lid and add the vin santo and cook until almost evaporated
6:  Add the fresh parsley and serve immediately

Panino al tonna (tuna sandwich)

This is not a recipe by any means, just one of the most delicious sandwiches that I enjoy often in Italy.  I think that no matter where you travel in Italy you can find a "Panifico" (sandwich bar) on every street corner, and you can certainly find a good quality sandwich at most train stations, bars and coffee shops.  Any-way, I have become "semi famous" in the house that I live in for the way I make a "tonno panino".  My only secret is the brand of tuna that I buy (Rio Mare)and using either homemade bread or buying fresh bread.  You really can not buy the low fat variety of tuna for this as you need the oil to soak into the bread for flavour (tuna in Italian olive oil). Some places make this sandwich solely using tuna and tomatoes, some add a little lettuce and sometimes mayonnaise. Do as the Italian's, and wrap a napkin around the bread to eat and keep your hands crumb free.
What you need (to make one sandwich):
One slice of fresh foccacia (refer to foccacia recipe)
One fresh tomato
A little lettuce
Italian extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Salt and pepper

How to make:
Slightly grill the bread, add tuna first (including the oil from the can), add tomatoes, drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper, than add lettuce!
Buon apetito


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Buona Domenica (Good Sunday)

Buona Domenica!  After many months of travelling, cooking and secretly writing down my recipes I have finally found the courage to share with you my blog!  Although in my opinion there is still so much more that I want to share with you, the people closest to me encouraged me to "bite the bullet" and "go live".  So, this morning as I was lying in bed I thought "today is going to be the day".  For today is Sunday and as we say in Italy "Buona Domenica" (good Sunday).  A day that I love most. I also found it fitting that today was a day that I was cooking for eight people.  It was quite humorous to me that today I also refereed to my own blog for a recipe.  Today I made lunch (pranzo) using recipes that I have listed on my blog, including homemade bread with olivata, homemade pasta with Sicilian sauce, and a chocolate and pear cake.  

A perfect lunch, a perfect Sunday, a perfect day to launch my blog!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cantucci (almond biscuits)

One thing the Tuscan's can agree on is that Cantucci and Vin Santo are from this region.  Trying to find exactly where from, that is another story.  I have been to many towns including Sienna, Montalcino and Florence all claiming that it is from their region.  Any-way, regardless of where exactly it is from this is the perfect way to end a rich Italian meal.  The not too sweet biscuits are served with a glass of semi sweet Vin Santo wine as a desert.  The way to enjoy this is to dip the biscuits in the Vin Santo.
What you need:
Three cups of plain flour
One cup of sugar
125g unsalted butter
Three large organic eggs
3/4 cups blanched almonds
One tablespoon orange zest
How to make:
1: Sift the flour into a medium bowl
2: Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl until blended.  Add the eggs one at a time until light and fluffy
3: Mix in the orange zest and almonds.  Then add the flour
4:  Divide the dough into three sections and shape each into long, slightly oval shaped tubes
5: Place each long tube on baking tray lined with baking paper and floured slightly
6: Place in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 15 minuets.  Cut the cookie dough into 1/2 inch thick slices and at a slight angles.  Place back in the oven for a further 5 minutes
7: Serve at room temperature with Vin Santo

Buon Apetito

Olivata (Olive paste)


The French say tapenade, the Italian's call it Olivata.  Call it what you will, either which way it is so easy to make and so yummy to eat.  This is typically served during 'apertivo' time in Tuscany and is the perfect snack with a nice glass of Chianti wine.  It is also common to order a plate of "crostini misti" (mixed crusty bread) and for Olivata to be one of the toppings.  Once bottled top with some good quality Italian extra virgin olive oil and keep in a dark space to preserve the life of the olivata.  
What you need:
One kilo of oil-cured olives
1/2 cup of Italian extra virgin olive oil
Two gloves of garlic
One sprig of rosemary
Salt to taste
How to make:
1: Simply place the olives, rosemary, garlic and salt in a mixer and gradually add the olive oil
2: Blend until you get the desired consistency
3: Place in sterilized glass jars and top each jar with olive oil
4: Serve with warm crusty bread

Buon Apetito

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pasta fresca con salsa Siciliana (fresh pasta with Sicilian sauce)


This sauce is SO EASY to make and the flavours are so wonderfully tasty.  This is the perfect example of "less is more"!  You really only need to add a few good quality ingredients.  If time does not permit you can use store bought pasta, but to really make this dish special I suggest making your own.  The magic of kneading, rolling, cooking than eating pasta you have made is really special- and your friends will appreciate the extra effort.  Making pasta is a good way to involve your friends, family, kid's and grandparents- it is so much fun!  Anchovies are caught in abundance in the Mediterranean sea but espesically around the South coast of Sicily.  However anchovies are enjoyed by Italians in most regions.  Another Sicilian way of using this sauce is to serve over a grilled piece of swordfish!!

To make the pasta:
4 cups of 00 tipo flour
4 organic eggs
Pinch of salt

Step 1:  Sift flour and salt in a large bowl.  Make a large well and crack eggs into it.  Gently beat the eggs with a fork.
Step 2:  Combine the flour with the eggs by bringing the flour down from the sides of the bowl.  Once all combined bring together into a ball.
Step 3:  Turn the ball onto a clean and well floured surface and knead the dough.  This should take about 5 minutes.  The dough will be ready when it turns slightly shiny.
Step 4:  Wrap the dough in cling wrap and store in the fridge for 1/2 hour.
Step 5:  Cut the dough into 8 pieces and start pressing through a pasta machine.  I started on number 3, then number 1 (all pasta machines are different).  Remember the pasta will become thicker once added to water.
Step 6: I prefer to hand cut my pasta as opposed to putting through the pasta machine for "spaghetti" or "fettuccine" etc.  Just fold each sheet of rolled pasta, and cut with a sharp knife.
Step 7: Add to boiling well salted water for about 5-10 minutes (again depending on how thick your pasta is)



To make the sauce:
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Italian anchovy fillets
1/2 cup Italian capers
1/2 onion
1/2 tspn fresh chilli chopped finely 
2 crushed garlic
1 small tomatoe
1/2 cup parley

Simply heat the olive oil (you may need more or less than 1 cup).  Than add the anchovies, capers, onion, garlic and chilli into the pan.  Stir on a very low heat for 5 minutes until the onion is cooked through.  I like to let the sauce sit for 1/2 hour to let the flavours infuse the oil, than reheat prior to serving.  Add the tomatoe just before serving to heat through.  Simply stir through the pasta and top with fresh parsley.

Buon Apetito!



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crostini con salsiccia (Crusty bread with sausage meat)


This is one of my favourite snacks that is so simple to make and is soooooooooo tasty!  I first had this delicious snack accompanied with a glass of red wine for "apertivo" in Florence.  Although not so forgiving on the waist line this snack is pure indulgence.  Make sure you buy good quality Italian sausages and not the supermarket variety.  I saw this served in Florence topped with melted provolone cheese however it is most common in Tuscany to be mixed with my favourite cream cheese "stracchino".  Drizzle with a little truffle oil for a heavenly delight.
What you need:
Two good quality homemade Italian sausages
200g stracchino cheese (a creamy, sharp flavoured cheese)
10 slices of crusty bread sliced thinly
Truffle oil for drizzling
How to make:
1: Remove the skin from the sausages and combine in a bowl with the cream cheese.  
2: Cut the bread slices to be about a centimetre thick and place in the oven for about ten minutes until crisp
3:  Spread the sausage and cheese mixture on top of each slice and place back in the oven for about five minutes
4: Drizzle with a little truffle oil and serve hot
A place in Florence to try this:
Le Volpie e Luva
Piazza de' Rossi 1
50125  Firenze
+39 055 239 8132
http://www.levolpieluva.com/Le_volpi/Home.html

Buon Apetito