Ravioli di Zucca, Cannella and Amaretti (Pumpkin, Cinnamon and Amaretti Ravioli)

DSC_2737A large platter of home-made filled pasta, such as ravioli, tortelli and cannelloni, is always on offer at the Italian Christmas table. Any pasta that is home-made requires that extra amount of labour in the kitchen, and Christmas is the perfect occasion to show your love for friends and family by treating them with the fruits of your work. Or, you can share the load and create a beeline of helpers to roll, fill and shape these delectable nuggets.  If the idea of making your own pasta still scares you, you can use store bough egg wanton wrappers. I won’t judge! You will need about 60 squares. Tortelli with roasted pumpkin and cinnamon, topped with crushed amaretti cookies have been on my family Christmas eve table for as long as I can remember. Yes, this is a laborious dish to prepare, so make sure you are armed with plenty of love, dedication and, most importantly, Christmas spirit!

Love,

Silvia

INGREDIENTS

For the dough (serves 4-6)

4 eggs

400 gr (3- 1/2 cups) of 00 flour

a pinch of salt

For the filling

500 gr (1 pound) of pumpkin (skin on), cut up into chunks

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

2 cloves of garlic, skin on

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

salt and pepper for seasoning

3-4 sage leaves

100 gr (1 cup) of breadcrumbs

50 gr (1/2 cup) of grated parmesan

For the sauce

120 gr (1/2 cup) of butter

8-10 sage leaves

a pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

8-10 crunchy amaretti cookies (from Italian delis)

(You can make the filling up to 1-2 days as head and keep it in the fridge)

DSC_2645

HOW TO 

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C, 390 F

2. Place the cut up pumpkin in an oven tray lined with baking paper, season with oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper, scatter the garlic and the sage leaves and bake for 45-50 minutes or until soft

3. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh, squeeze the garlic out of its skin and pulse in a food processor until smooth. Add the breadcrumbs, the parmesan, taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. At this point I always like to add a little extra cinnamon, but it it entirely up to you to do so or not.

4. Rest the filling in the fridge for up to 48 hours.

To make the dough:

1. Place eggs, flour and salt in a food processor fitted with blades and pulse for 10-12 times or until the mixture resemble wet sand.

2. Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, press it together with your hands and knead it for a few minutes or until smooth

3. Cover the dough with plastic film and rest for 30 minutes to relax the gluten

4. Cut the rested dough into quarters. Work with one piece at a time and keep the rest wrapped in plastic film to prevent it from drying out. Flatten the piece of dough with the palm of your hand, then pass it through the machine’s widest setting three or four times, folding the dough into three each time. Continue passing the dough, each time through a thinner setting, until you get to the second-last setting or the sheet is roughly 2.5 mm thick

5. Dust your working bench with semolina, lay the long sheets of pasta onto it then dot them half way through with one teaspoon of the filling. Make sure to leave about 3 cm between each dollop.

6. Brush around filling with water to moisten. Fold sheet over; press down to seal.

7. Press around each mound to get rid of air bubbles (or the tortelli may burst when you cook them)

8. Cut into 4×4 cm squares with a pastry wheel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

9. Lay the tortelli onto a platter dusted with semolina and try not to over lap them

DSC_2643

10. You can cook the Tortelli straight away or freeze them for up  to two weeks.

DSC_2650

To assemble the dish

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil

2. In the meantime, brown the butter with sage and a pinch of salt in a large heavy-based pan until the butter is a pale caramel color and the sage is crispy

3. Cook the Tortelli for 2-3 minutes or until ready and still nicely al dente

4. Using  a slotted spoon, lift them from the water and drop them onto the brown butter pan and sautee for 2-3 minutes or until all the torelli are nicely coated and slightly caramelized. Season them with freshly ground black pepper

5. Arrange the tortelli onto a large serving platter and top them with the fried sage and the crushed amaretti cookies. Serve hot!

DSC_2742

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook Twitter and Instagram

Silvia’s Cucina the cookbook is now available in stores and online!

9781921383373

Pasta with Oven Roasted Vegetables

DSC_1488

I often get ask the questions “why are there so many different pasta type? Isn’t pasta all the same?”. The answer is, unsurprisingly, that each pasta shape is cleverly designed to serve a specific purpose, and, no, it is not all the same. You try talk a roman into matching amatriciana sauce with farfalle? You  are likely to get cursed at! How can you not know that only bucatini and rigatoni will do? By the same token, ask a genovese to replace spaghetti or trofie with orecchiette, to be lavishly coated in emerald green pesto sauce and he will tell you he’d rather set his own hair on fire than commit such blasphemy. Indeed, we do take the matter of pasta seriously in Italy. Each shape is suited for a particular type of sauce. Shellfish love spaghetti and linguine, penne is heavenly with a simple fresh tomato sauce and fusilli, the famous spiral-shaped pasta, is a perfect vehicle for chunky and rustic sauces, such as this one: oven roasted vegetables, rendered sweet by the addition of a little vincotto and the irresistible piquancy of extra-virgin olive oil.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 celery sticks, chopped,

1 green pepper (capsicum) cut into small chunks

3/4 shallots cut into quarters

2 garlic cloves, skin off, bashed with the back of a knife

4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of  vincotto (replace with balsamic vinegar if hard to find)

salt to taste

1 lb of uncooked pasta (fusilli or rigatoni work well with this sauce)

basil leaves

percorino cheese (omit for a vegan, dairy-free option)

How to

1. Place all the vegetables in a large bowl, add the oil, vicotto (or vinegar) and a little salt. Toss to combine and place the vegetables onto an oven tray lined with baking paper.

DSC_1481

2. Bake in a preheated 180C  (350 F) oven for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly blistered. Set aside to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate if not using straight away. The vegetables will keep well in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Drop in your pasta and cook al dente, according to instructions.

4. Drain the pasta, but reserve 2-3 tablespoons of pasta cooking water.

5. Toss the pasta in the tray with the vegetables until well coated, add a little pasta cooking water if too dry.  Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

DSC_1483

6. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese and a few basil leaves. Serve hot, or at room temperature as a summer pasta salad.

DSC_1485

DSC_1493

Silvia’s Cucina is on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram

Authentic Basil Pesto Genovese

DSCN0353

The obvious perk of having a green-thumbed husband is that, wherever I turn in the garden, I am bound to stumble upon edible goodies. Even in the busiest time, when the work load and the chores of domestic life take over, I can always count of fresh, perfumed herbs. Whatever is in season, it is likely to be growing in our sunny backyard, ready for me to pick and transform into a nutritious meal. Turning emerald-green basil leaves into Italy’s most loved pasta condiment is an easy enough task, the ingredients are few and easy to gather, the method quite straight-forward; the only extra bit that will make the difference between a pesto and a really good pesto, is love and commitment to authenticity. Pesto is an ancient Ligurian dish and its name encapsulates the method used to produced it: in the Genoese dialect the word pestâ (Italian: pestare) means to poundto crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and pestle, however it is acceptable these days to use a food processor. What has remained unaltered in times is the addition of boiled potato cubes and green beans, which elevate this humble dish to a delectable, substantial meal. Traditionally it is served with straccetti, trofie or trenette pasta, typical from the Liguria region of Italy, however spaghetti marries equally well with pesto and it is by far my dad’s desert island meal.

Papa’, this is for you!

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 large bunches of basil, stalks trimmed

2 ice cubes (they will help preserve the vibrant green hue of the basil)

1 garlic clove, peeled (use more if you like it very pungent)

3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of pine nuts

1/4 cup of grated parmigiano

1/4 cup of freshly grated pecorino

sea salt to taste

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into small cubes

1 cup of green beans, trimmed and cut into three

320 gr  (11 oz) of dry spaghetti

HOW TO

1. If using a food processor: put the basil, garlic, nuts, cheese and ice cubes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blades and blitz until smooth.  Slowly add in the oil in a stream and process with the rest of the ingredients until dense and well emulsified. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

2. If using a pestle and mortar, add basil, garlic pine nuts, ice cubes and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Start working with the pestle, pressing and rotating it until all the ingredients are nicely ground. Add the cheese and mix well. Slowly pour in the oil and mix well until well emulsified. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Discard the ice cubes that have not melted into the pesto. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use (it will keep, well covered in oil, for over a week).

DSCN0335

3. Bring a large pot of slated water to the boil. Drop in your pasta along with the potato cubes. 4 minutes into cooking, add the beans. Cook your pasta and vegetables until nicely al dente. Drain, but be sure to reserve 3  or 4 tablespoon of pasta cooking liquor (aqua di cottura). Place the pasta, potato and beans onto a serving dish, pour over the pesto and mix well. If too dry, add a little of the reserved cooking water.

Serve piping hot!

DSCN0342
DSCN0330

Silvia’s Cucina is on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram

Mezzi Rigatoni with Smoked Salmon and cherry tomatoes (or, what happens when your husband returns from a fishing trip with 70 tins of smoked salmon…)

DSCN9555

Yes, I actually do happen to have 70 (70!) tins of privately caught, hot smoked Canadian salmon: bear with me this year, I can anticipate this is the first of very many  -let’s say…70!- posts on what to do with smoked salmon… This is what happens when my lovely husband Richard goes on a fishing trip to Canada with his older brothers, catches a salmon the size of a small whale and decides to have it smoked, canned and sent back to Australia. Lucky for me, it tastes divine. The flesh is succulent and pink and its subtle smoky flavour easily turns it into a delectable ingredient that can shine on its own, accompanied by a peppery rocket, cress and lemon salad, or can be used in innumerable dishes, from scrambled eggs, to potato salad or a main meal of mezzi rigatoni (or any short pasta you prefer) with stewed red onion, zucchini and cherry tomatoes. If you don’t happen to be married to an eccentric man who will forage his main ingredient in the Alaskan waters, don’t despair: most supermarkets and delis stock beautiful fillets of smoked Atlantic salmon or ocean trout and all it’s left for you to do it open up the package and flake away!

DSCN9553

INGREDIENTS

1 red onion, sliced

2 small zucchini, cut into rounds

2 garlic cloves, skin on, bashed with the back of a knife

EVOO

2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup of dry white wine

2×170 g (around 5 oz) tin of smoked salmon in brine or 1×320 gr (around 10 oz) of smoked salmon fillet

salt to taste

fresh oregano leaves for serving

320 gr (10 oz) of mezzi rigatoni or any short pasta you like

HOW TO

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

2. In the meantime, stir fry the vegetables in 2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. De-glaze the pan with white wine and allow to bubble away for 1-2 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated.

3. Add the flaked, smoked salmon and the cherry tomatoes to the pan, toss and stir gently , then turn the heat off.

4. When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop in your pasta and cook for 6-7 minutes or until it’s just before a perfect Al Dente.

5. Turn the heat back on under the salmon and vegetable pan, add the strained pasta along with 3-4 tablespoons of pasta cooking water and cook together with the sauce for 1-2 minutes or until well coated. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly, keeping in mind that the smoked salmon is indeed quite sapid.

6. Serve hot with a drizzle of EVOO and fresh oregano leaves.

DSCN9557

Silvia’s Cucina is on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Related articles

Easy Home-Made Tomato Passata


Have you ever been tempted to make your own tomato pasta sauce, but got put off by the daunting thought that this is a complicated job, best left to the expert, wrinkled  hands of a good-old  Italian Nonna? Think again! Home-made passata is within everybody’s reach. All you need is a food miller, some empty glass jars and, naturally, the ripest, juiciest tomatoes you can fetch. For those of you frolicking in the heat of high summer, this is a reasonably easy feat. We, antipodean dwellers must be patient and wait a few more months before we can get our hands on the ruby-red jewels!

As a child growing up in Italy, I was exposed from a very early age to the delicate sweetness of my Mamma and Nonna’s passata. Every August, we children were assigned the task of washing tons of plump tomatoes, so ripe they almost burst in our tiny and clumsy hands. Mamma and Nonna would then put them all in a cauldron accompanied by other essentials herbs to stew gently, the sweet fumes impregnating the kitchen wall, our clothes, our hair. They would then mill them vigorously to obtain a thick and peel-free, crimson nectar, read to be bottled. The prospect of winter seemed to be more endurable, all of a sudden!

Ingredients (makes 3×450 gr jar)

2 kg (4 pounds) of ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 stick of celery

2 spring onions, cut into chunks

1 chillie (chilli pepper),  leave out if you don’t like the heat

2-3 handfuls of fresh basil

a few sprigs of fresh oregano

salt to taste

1. Put the prepared vegetables in a large saucepan over medium heat, bring to a gentle simmer, turn the heat to low and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and the scent of Italy has invaded your home. Taste for salt and adjust to your liking,

2. Allow to cool in the spot for 10 minutes, then, working in batches, pass the vegetables through a food miller. You can choose to also pass the nectar through a sieve to get rid of seeds, but I personally like it rustic and a bit chunky.

3. Now all is left for you to do it is to put the passata back in the saucepan to heat up for a few minutes, ready to be poured hot into freshly sterilized glass jars and lids.

If you are not familiar with the process, this is how I do it:

- Always use new lids. Old lids will fail to seal the jar safely.

- To sterilize jars and lids, simply put them in the dish water and run a hot temperature cycle. Allow to dry in the machine, then fill the hot jars with hot liquid until 3/4 full. Seal with the lid securely. Turn the jars upside down to facilitate the creation of the vacuum, and allow to cool at room temperature.

- You can also sterilize them in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes. LIft them out with tongs, allow them to dry, upside down, on a clean tea towel, then proceed as above.

Keep the jars in a dark cupboard and consume within 6 months.

Summer in a bottle!

Cannelloni with Ricotta and Spinach

Home-made pasta is the ultimate Sunday Lunch treat in Italy.

Forget about a roast beast with all the trimmings, we need our share of starchy goodness, home-made, of course.

From scratch, goes without saying!

Naturally you can use store-bough dried cannelloni, but the flavor and texture won’t be as luxurious.

And, after all, this is Sunday lunch we are talking about, it’s your declaration of love to your family and those lucky friends invited to your table.

It’s well worth a bit of effort.

Just make them do the dishes…

Ingredients and  method, serves 4

16 dried cannelloni shells or 1 quantity of fresh egg pasta dough

For the pasta dough

3 eggs

300 gr (2 -3/4 cups) of all-purpose flour

semolina for dusting

Put eggs and flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blades. Pulse 8/10 times or until the mixture resembles wet sand.

Take it out the bowl, press it together with your hands and knead it for 1 or 2 minutes to release the gluten and make it come together in a smooth ball. Add 1 tablespoon of water if the dough feels too dry.

Cover in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Using a pasta machine or a rolling-pin -and your biceps- roll the pasta as thinly as you can.

Cut the pasta sheet into 16 4×10 cm (1.5×4 inches) rectangles, dust them with semolina flour and set aside

For the filling

4 cups of spinach

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

300 gr (1- 1/2 cups) of whole milk ricotta

2 eggs

3/4 cups of pecorino cheese (or parmigiano)

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Sautee’ the spinach with garlic and oil, cover with a lid and cook until just wilted. Set aside to cool.

Mix the ricotta with eggs, pecorino cheese, nutmeg, lemon zest, parsley  and seasoning.

Add the cooled spinach and mix to combine.

Rest in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.

For the sauce

500 gr (2 cups) of tinned tomatoes

200 ml (3/4 cup) of hot water

1 brown onion, chopped

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

salt to taste

fresh oregano leaves

For the topping

1 cup Parmigiano or pecorino and  1 cup shredded mozzarella

Sautee’ the onion in oil until soft and translucent, add the tomatoes and the water and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down, and cook gently for 15 minutes. Season with salt  and fresh oregano leaves.

Assembling the dish

Line an oven tray with baking paper. Smear a few tablespoons of tomato sauce to create a moist bed for the cannelloni to lay on.

Fill each cannelloni or pasta rectangle with 2-3 tablespoons of filling. Roll the pasta sheet to enclose it and place it, seam side down onto the tray. Repeat with remaining ingredients until you have 1 layer of cannelloni. If you have left-over pasta and filling, proceed to fill up another tray.

Cover the layer of cannelloni with the tomato sauce so that each pasta roll is nicely drowned in it. Add some water if you think you don’t have enough sauce.

Dust the top with pecorino or parmigiano,  shredded mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and bake at 200 C (390 F) for 30 minutes or until nicely browned on top.

Rest at room temperature for 20 minutes covered in foil, then serve.

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

Rigatoni with Ocean Trout, Broad beans and Mint

Whoever said that pasta is fattening ought to look at this and think again…

This dish could not be healthier if it tried… concentrated onto one plate you have the goodness of vibrant green broad beans, the Omega 3 provided by a flaky, succulent ocean trout fillet, the zing of lemon zest, the fragrance of freshly chopped mint and chives, all married with al dente cooked rigatoni, tossed with EVOO.

I dare any health freak with a fear of carbohydrates, to say that this is not good for you….

It s also spectacularly easy to make, this alone is a good thing.

INGREDIENTS FOR TWO PEOPLE

1 150 gr (1/3 pound) fillet of boneless and skinless ocean trout

180 gr (6.5 oz) of short pasta

The zest of 1 lemon

a handful of chopped up mint and chives

freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons of EVOO

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

In the meantime, cook your fish.

You can either steam it of pan fry it. Either way, keep it a little under as, when you toss it with the cooked pasta, the residual heat will cook it further.

When you water is boiling, drop a cup of podded broad beans and blanch for 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water to arrest the cooking process.

Drop your pasta in the same *boiling water and cook until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, shell (take the skin off) your cooked broad beans, and mix them in a large bowl with the flaked up trout, the herbs, the oil and salt to taste.

Drain the pasta and reserve 1/4 of a cup of cooking liquor.

Toss the pasta with the other ingredients and mix well. If it’s looking to dry, add a tablespoon or two of pasta water. Sprinkle with lemon zest and freshly ground pepper.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature as a nice pasta salad.

* Boiling your pasta in the same pot you have cooked your vegetables is a cooking technique often employed in Italy. The pasta will retain the goodness and the flavor of your greens and you don’t have to wash two pots. It’s a win-win!

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook

Sugo d’agnello (Slow-cooked Lamb and Tomato Sauce)

My maternal Nonna wasn’t the most sophisticated cook. She would always make the same two or three dishes, but, to this day, my siblings, my cousins and I are  yet to taste anything as comforting and delicious as her sugo di pomodoro, polenta con salsiccia and sugo d’agnello. It was always fascinating to observe her in the kitchen, effortlessly turning everyday, humble ingredients into delightful feasts. She never once measured anything, her only tools were her hands and her eyes. And her exquisite taste buds! For your sake, I have attempted  to provide measurements, but feel free to adjust to your liking, the way Nonna always did.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 garlic cloves

2 small onion or French shallots, peeled and left whole

1/4  pepper (capiscum)

1 celery stick

1/2 cup of good red wine

1 table spoon of tomato paste (concentrate)

2 tins of good quality can tomatoes or home-made passata

1 rosemary or thyme sprig

a few origano leaves

500 gr (16 oz) of fresh tagliatelle or tagliolini

How to

1. Heat up the oil in a sauce pan; with the back of your knife, bash the garlic cloves in their skin and add them to the hot oil along with a few large chunks of yellow or red pepper (capsicum), the peeled French shallots (or onion), the celery stalk and rosemary sprigs.

2. When the vegetables have taken a bit a colour, brown a few large pieces of shoulder or shank of lamb. De-glaze the pan with a glass of red wine and cook on a high flame until the alcohol has eveporated.

3. Add the tinned tomatoes (home-made would be my Nonna’s preference, but feel free to use good quality tinned ones, like Mutti or Cirio). Turn the heat right down and cook slowly and covered with a mesh lid for 3 to 4 hours. After that time you can discard the garlic, the peppers and the celery stalks. Turn the heat up and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and white pepper, to your liking.

Serve generously with home-made tagliolini (pictured below) or any pasta you prefer.

Buon Appetito!

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter

Rigatoni all’ Amatriciana (Pasta Amatriciana)

DSCN0175

This post is long over-due…I made Amatriciana for my family about a month ago and the photos had been sitting on my computer since then. It was only after I watched an episode of Australian Masterchef, during which one of the contestants had to replicate Cesare Casella’s Amatriciana, that I felt urged to stand up for the authenticity of this traditional Italian pasta dish. Even the lovely and talented Lidia Bastianich, who served as a guest judge on the show, could not refrain her..ehm..surpirse, when she tasted an array of extraneous ingredients in the sauce. It was undoubtably tasty, but Amatriciana it was not. This is one of those dishes that causes animated and feisty conversations at an Italian dinner table. Does it have onion? Is it made with pancetta or guanciale? Is the tomato supposed to be there? It doesn’t really concern me who’s wrong or right, what tastes better or worse. All I care about, in my quest for the authenticity of this dish, now part of Lazio Prodotto Agroalimentare Tradizionaleis to preserve its culinary heritage. Amatriciana is told to be the direct offspring of Pasta alla Gricia, which used to be made with guanciale (pork cheek) and pecorino only and to this day it is still a popular dish, in its simplicity, in Central Italy. Sometime in the 18th century, some innovative cook from Amatrice, must have decided tomatoes would be a valuable addition to the Gricia recipe, turning this peasant meal into one of Italy’s most loved exports. Even the choice of pasta is dictated by tradition. Originally it was Spaghetti, but these days Bucatini and Rigatoni are well tolerated. A friend of mine from Amatrice, Massimo , will tell you that any other pasta such as penne or tagliatelle is not simply to avoid, it is to be forbidden!

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

200 gr (1/3 cup) of chopped guanciale (cured pork cheek)

extra virgin olive oil

chopped dry chillie

a tablespoon of white wine vinegar

1/4 cup of dry white wine

450 gr (1 lb) of pasta

500 gr (2 cups) of peeled tomatoes (tinned tomatoes) or passata

Salt and pepper to taste

Freshly grated Pecorino cheese to serve

HOW TO

1. Fry the guanciale or pancetta in EVOO . Keep the flame low to allow the fat to render and the pork to develop a sweet flavour. When it’s starting to get a nice sun-burnt colour, add a sprinkle of chopped dry chillie and glaze the pan withwhite wine vinegar and  dry white wine. The acidity will balance the richness of the caramelized cured pork.

2. In the meantime, drop 450 gr (1 lb) of pasta into salted boiling water.

3. Return to your sauce. When the alcohol has evaporated, add the tinned tomatoes (or passata) and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes over low heat. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

4. When the pasta is al dente, drop it into your sauce, with a couple of tablespoons of acqua di cottura (pasta cooking water). This will help to bind the sauce and achieve a creamy consistency. Turn the heat off and mix through a very generous amount of pecorino and freshly ground black pepper, if liked . Let it rest for a few minutes before serving, to allow the pepperiness of the cheese to impregnate the pasta.

DSCN0178

Open a bottle of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, and you are already in Italy.

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest

Pasta Bake

This pasta dish tastes as good as it looks.

A generous amount of al dente pasta, layered with melting mozzarella, oven-baked sweet tomatoes, oregano, Parmigiano and crispy breadcrumbs.

What’s not to love about it?

It’s a family favourite and you will find most of you at the table will be fighting over the crunchy pasta bits of top!
It is the ideal meal to prepare if you have left-over pasta or left-over sugo, or both.

The other day I cooked a pork stew and I intentionally cut off the bones of the ribs to add to a garlic and tomato slow-cooked sauce to have the following day.

We Italians don’t waste anything when it comes to cooking!

All I had to do yesterday was boil up some pasta until just before al dente, as it will keep cooking in the oven, mix the sauce through, throw in a good amount of bocconcini (any melting cheese you have in the fridge will do), Parmigiano, dried oregano, black pepper.

Ingredients for 4 people

500 ml (2 cups) of tin tomatoes

250 ml (1 cup) water

2 garlic cloves, bashed

3 pork rib bones

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

400 gr (3/4 packet) of Fusilli or Rigatoni

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 cup of mozzarella cheese

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup of parmesan, grated

1/4 cup of dried origano

salt and pepper to taste

How to

Sautee’ the garlic in oil, add the bones, the tomatoes and the water and bring to the boil. Turn th wheat down, add 2 teaspoons of salt a 1 bay leaf and slow cook for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Drop in you pasta and cooked until 3/4 done.

Pour the pasta onto an oven dish generously smeared with sugo (tomato sauce) and dusted with bread crumbs. Cover with tomato sauce.

Top it with halved tomatoes, more Parmigiano, mozzarella, dried oregano and more coarsely chopped bread crumbs.

I covered it in foil and baked it for 20 minutes at 200 Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), then uncovered for a further 15 minutes to create a crunchy crust.

My teenager niece and nephew polished off their plates so well I needn’t have put them in the dish washer…

Silvia’s Cucina is on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest