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Pappardelle with duck confit sauce

16 Nov

20131116_113955 (1024x576)I made some duck confit about a week ago and was debating with hubby about how to best eat it: the French way with lentils and veg or go Italian with a lovely pasta sauce. I ended up going the Italian way this time. I had a very strong image of what I wanted to achieve, but could not find a single recipe that included the taste I was going for. So I ended up inventing this recipe – and seriously – probably the best pasta sauce I’ve ever produced! So here it is:


  • 2 confit duck legs – meat taken off bone
  • Soffritto
  • Chopped garlic
  • Chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • A splash of balsamic vinegar
  • Chicken stock
  • Juniper berries
  • Chervil
  • Quartered cherry tomatoes (to go in just before serving to add some freshness)

Just bring all of this to boil and let it reduce to intensify the flavours (except the fresh cherry tomatoes). Serve with fresh pappardelle or tagliatelle and sprinkle some parmesan over it.



Mushroom “Orzotto”

24 Sep

OrzottoThis is a version of a River Cottage recipe, which is dead easy and yummy! It’s using the Greek rice shaped pasta, orzo, instead of rice. Great veggie option to rustle up if you’ve just been told your newly-acquired friend who is due over for lunch in an hour is a devout vegetarian. Obviously don’t use chicken stock or parmesan. Recipe works (almost) as well without it.



  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil
  • A knob of butter
  • 500g mushrooms (see above), cleaned, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 150g orzo pasta
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • About 75ml dry white wine
  • About 50ml crème fraîche
  • I chicken or vegetable stock cube (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve
  • Grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top



Put a large pan of well-salted water on to boil, so that you’re ready to
cook the pasta while the sauce is coming together.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and half the butter in a large frying pan
over a medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms and cook briskly,
stirring often, until all the liquid released has evaporated and the
mushrooms are starting to caramelise. Transfer to a dish and repeat
with the rest of the oil, butter and mushrooms. (Cooking in two batches
like this avoids overcrowding the pan and ensures the mushrooms do
not stew.)

When the second batch of mushrooms are nearly cooked, add the
pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook until al dente.

Return the first lot of mushrooms to the frying pan. Add the garlic,
thyme and balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
Add the wine and cook until there is almost no liquid left. Add the
cream or crème fraîche, reduce the heat a little and stir until it is just
about simmering. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta as soon as it is cooked, add to the mushroom mixture
and toss well. Serve scattered with lots of chopped parsley.

Spicy Tuscan Bean Soup

28 Feb


This spicy soup is terrific for cold, wintery evenings. The heat from the hot paprika is very soothing.

Although it’s a vegetarian dish (unless you use chicken stock), the smokey paprika makes you think there is chorizo in it – enough to convert the carnivore for sure :-).

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 15g butter
  • 1 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
  • 1 tsp HOT smoked paprika
  • 1 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g tins of beans, drained and rinsed (whatever you happen to have in the cupboard – I like mixing different types)


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and butter, then add the onions and celery. Sauté gently for 5 minutes until softening, then add the carrots, garlic, herbs and paprika. Cook, stirring, for 10 minutes more until the carrots begin to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes and stock, bring to a simmer, then add the beans. Simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Spoon into 4 bowls, then serve with a dollop of pesto and crusty bread.

Beetroot Risotto

28 Feb
beetrootThis colourful dish is not only stunning to look at, but fantastic to eat too! I use red wine instead of white to preserve the gorgeous purple colour. This particular recipe is for oven baking, but you can make the risotto the normal way on the stove as well (follow the packet instructions on quantities of liquid vs rice).
Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 500g fresh beetroot
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • knob of butter
  • 1 onion , finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove , finely chopped
  • 250g risotto rice (I like Vialone Nano, but Arborio works fine too)
  • 150ml red wine
  • 700ml hot chicken stock (vegetable stock if cooking for veggies)
  • handful grated Parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)


  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Peel and trim the beetroots (use kitchen gloves if you don’t want your hands to get stained) and cut into large wedges. Place on a large sheet of foil on a baking sheet. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, season, then cook for 1 hr until the beets are soft.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil with the butter in an ovenproof pan with a lid. Tip in the onion and garlic, then cook for 3-5 mins until translucent. Stir in the rice until well coated with the butter and oil. Pour over the white wine, then let the mixture bubble away for 5 mins.
  3. Stir well, then pour over the stock. Stir again, cover and place in the oven. Cook for 15 mins until the rice is soft. Remove the beetroots from the oven. Whizz ¼ of them to make a purée, then chop the remainder into small pieces. Stir most of the Parmesan, the beetroot purée and chopped beetroot through the risotto.
  4. Serve with fresh peas or beans (the purple and green look amazing together on the plate!)
  5. Sprinkle grated parmesan

Option: Beetroot and goats cheese is an amazing combination. Try adding some crumbled goats cheese on top before serving. Yum!

Jamie’s Tender & Crisp Chicken Legs with Sweet Tomatoes

30 Jan

Jamie's Basil ChickenOne of my favourite recipes of all time – courtesy of Jamie Oliver ( This recipe takes literally minutes to put together but then requires slow, gentle cooking.

However, in return for your patience, what happens in the pan from just a couple of ingredients is an absolute joy and never fails, so it’s a good one to serve if you have guests.



  • 4 chicken legs, jointed
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 big bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
  • 2 big handfuls red and yellow cherry tomatoes and ripe plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes halved, plum tomatoes quartered
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, broken into cloves
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 410 g tinned cannellini beans, drained, optional
  • 2 handfuls new potatoes, scrubbed, optional


Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Season your chicken pieces all over and put them into a snug-fitting pan in one layer. Throw in all the basil leaves and stalks, then chuck in your tomatoes. Scatter the garlic cloves into the pan with the chopped chilli and drizzle over some olive oil. Mix around a bit, pushing the tomatoes underneath. Place in the oven for 1½ hours, turning the tomatoes halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat falls off the bone.

If you fancy, you can add some drained cannellini beans (I ALWAYS add – but then I’d add pulses to everything given half a chance) or some sliced new potatoes to the pan (I’ve found that they may need a tad parboiling before putting in depending on what kind of potatoes you use or how finely you slice them – won’t cook in time otherwise) and cook them with the chicken. Or you can serve the chicken with some simple mashed potato. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins before serving. You could even make it part of a pasta dish – remove the chicken meat from the bone and shred it, then toss into a bowl of linguini or spaghetti and serve at once.

Pesto Genovese

20 Jan

PestoNot many people dislike pesto, but I have a friend who does. This recipe, though, she loves.


  • 50g basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 125ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 25g grated parmesan

Put the basil leaves into a mortar and bash them witht he pestle until they become a pulp. Add the garlic and nuts and bash repeatedly. Using a metal spoon, stir in the olive oil, followed by the cheese. Add salt if necessary, but bear in mind that Parmesan is salty.

To store pesto, pour into a sterile jar and top with a bit of olive oil to seal. It will last up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

Note! Never heat pesto, simply stir into a hot drained pasta.



20 Jan

SoffrittoThis is the essential base for Italian stews and soups, some sauces and ragu. The recipe varies by region, but most versions contain celery, onion and carrot. This is the recipe I was taught at Caldesi cookery school in Bray, Berkshire.




  • 150g carrot
  • 150g celery
  • 150g onion
  • 150ml olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary and/or thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Finely chop the ingredients. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and seasoning. Fry for 1 minute before adding the rest of the ingredients.. Keep frying, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Use straight away or freeze.


Basic Pasta Dough Recipe

20 Jan

PastaI never thought there would be much difference in good quality store bought pasta and homemade one. Couldn’t really see the fuss. I have sooo changed my mind since I first attempted making my own pasta! It’s unbelievably different.

There are some instances when I wouldn’t bother bringing out my pasta maker – like for making lasagne. Fresh lasagne noodles from any supermarket is just fine. And then there are times where you can’t even compare the store bought variety – such as ravioli or any other filled pasta. I was also surprised how easy it is to make your own pasta!

Anyway, here’s the real basic pasta recipe that I always use and it always works.

Ingredients (enough long pasta for 6 people as a starter, 4 as a main):

  • 300g ’00’ flour
  • 3 medium eggs

Pour the flour onto a flat surface or into a bowl and make a well in the centre of the mound. Crack the eggs into the centre of the well. Using a table knife, gradually mix the egg and the flour. When the dough is thick paste, use fingertips to incorporate the rest. And now, knead. This is the only bit that is a bit hard work. You need to work the dough for 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. No grainy elements should remain.

Rest the dough in the fridge (wrap in cling film) for 20 minutes or more.