Italian Specialties

Squid and Fregola - A warm spring(ish) salad

Squid and Fregola – A warm spring(ish) salad

In continuation of my pasta series, I decided to take a throwback to the first dish I made and presented during my culinary school days. The Squid and Fregola salad was the first dish on my three-course menu. It was my first experience with the tiny Sardinian pasta, made from rolled toasted semolina. Cooked in boiling salted water and tossed with oven-baked squid. Together with tomatoes, basil and olive oil resulted in the perfect spring(ish) salad. Squids can seem intimidating to most people, especially with all those tentacles and their slippery skin. However, it’s actually quite easy to prepare. How to clean and prepare the Squid

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French toast with strawberries and chocolate using Italian Easter Cake

How to use Colomba di Pasqua (Italian Easter Cake) to make French toast with strawberries and chocolate

Similar to many parts of the world, Easter holds a unique tradition in the Italian culture. Just like many holidays food plays a key part in the various cultures and festivities. Here in Italy, there are two traditional centrepiece food items that are used to celebrate the Easter holiday. Firstly, the Italian Easter bread (Pane di Pasqua) is baked in the shape of a wreath with colourful eggs placed on it. Then there is the Italian Easter bread (‘Colomba di Pasqua or ‘Colomba Pasquale) which is a culinary symbol in the shape of a dove. The latter is my favourite, hence this recipe for French toast made with Colomba di Pasqua. The Colomba This dove-shaped treat is a soft doughy cake that is rich with a bread-like chewy texture. My initial encounter with the Colomba had me wondering “is it a cake or is it bread”. Upon further studies, it draws techniques from both cake making and bread making. However, the conclusion is that it is indeed a cake. It looks like a cake, smells like a cake and although the texture can be a bit deceiving, it also tastes like a cake but is not too sweet. Additionally, the Italians say it is a cake so that’s what I’m sticking with. French toast made with Colomba di Pasqua As with many holidays, we humans tend to take the Easter holiday as an excuse to overindulge. This sometimes leads to us having in excess several food items or one in particular. You guessed it! For the Easter holiday, there are always leftover Colomba. We usually start buying these festive treats days and weeks as we approach the holiday. I bought my Colomba a week before Easter, the cake can last for several days but if you are anything like me you’ll get bored. Hence why I whipped up this delicious French toast made with Colomba di Pasqua. I kept it simple, with no added sugar and topped it with fresh strawberries and melted chocolate. If you like this recipe, you might also like Easy Valentines Day Dessert Spread – Sweet grazing boards.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana – an Italian classic

When in Rome, if there is any dish you should try, it should be the bucatini all’amatriciana. This classic Italian dish is popular in the central Italian region of Lazio. All it takes are about 6 simple ingredients. Resulting in a vibrant and flavourful meal. Ingredients: Pasta – Typically spaghetti or bucatini, but any other pasta can be used especially long-stranded pasta. Guanciale – It is like a rule of thumb with many Italian pasta dishes to use guanciale over pancetta or regular bacon Peeled tomatoes – Peeled fresh tomatoes or a tin of already peeled tomatoes work just fine. Pecorino Romano – This is a Roman recipe after all and this sheep derived Roman cheese is the go-to. Chilli – Usually the whole chilli would be cooked in the sauce, after which it would be removed from the sauce before adding the pasta. However I really love spice and don’t like waste, so I chopped the chilis and left them in for this recipe. Tweak according to your preference. Wine – Not just for cooking the Bucatini all’amatriciana but to also serve with it. The Romans pride themselves on making the best Amatriciana sauce. If I can say so myself, I’d say this recipe holds up to the Roman standard. It’s vibrant, creamy, flavourful and does more than just check all the boxes. It’s like a delicious union on a plate! Even if the Romans should not approve, I bet your tastebuds would. Like I’ve said, the sauce can be used with any other pasta. I choose the Bucatini all’amatriciana because it is the classic method. Also, the bucatini pasta is from Lazio that is on my list of ‘10 different kinds of pasta from various regions in Italy‘.

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Baked Feta Pasta with Gnocchetti and Aurbergines

Baked Feta Pasta with Gnocchetti and Aubergines

Food videos are a huge craze on TikTok and a recent popular one was the baked feta pasta. This Tiktok trend blew its way all across other social media platforms and today there are several variations. As a part of my pasta series as mentioned in my list of 10 different kinds of pasta from various regions in Italy. I decided to tackle this food trend using gnoccheti and the addition of aubergines (eggplants). What the Baked Feta Pasta made off: Tomatoes: Usually cherry tomatoes for optimal flavour, a bit of sweetness and how gorgeous they look when cooked in the oven. (the burst effect is unbeatable) Feta Cheese: As unusual as cooking feta sounds, who knew baked feta is something that we all needed. For best results use it whole in its block form, this helps for a creamier rather than runny consistency. Pasta: Absolutely any type of pasta works for this recipe. Seasonings: The most commonly used seasonings are garlic, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. I decided to add paprika powder for extra flavour. You can personalise this recipe however you like. How to make baked feta pasta: Toss chopped aubergines, cherry tomatoes in a baking dish. Add the feta cheese to the middle and season with olive oil, paprika, garlic and salt. Baked in a pre-heated oven until the feta is melted and the tomatoes are wrinkly with the juices bursting out. Add cooked pasta and some fresh basil. then toss it all together and enjoy!

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Spaghetti alla carbonara Romana

Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara Romana

Carbonara has taken different forms worldwide, but if you ask the Italians or the Romans specifically, they’ll say you only need 5 ingredients to make an authentic spaghetti carbonara. Which are: Guanciale – Not bacon or pancetta. They are all from different cuts of pork. Guanciale from the cheeks and pancetta from the belly. While bacon is a rough mix, so when you use bacon, you don’t really know what exact cut of pork it is. Eggs – Specifically the yolk, for its rich creamy consistency. It’s also less easy to scramble and gives a nice sheen Black pepper Pecorino cheese – Parmesan cheese is also an acceptable substitute or a mixture of both. Spaghetti – The two most used pasta for carbonara are spaghetti, rigatoni or bucatini. However, the original recipe calls for spaghetti. Any other pasta is also adequate. How to make authentic spaghetti carbonara: Place the egg yolk in a small bowl, add the black pepper, half the pecorino cheese and 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk into a creamy consistency and set aside to use later. Place a large pot of water with salt over high heat. Bring to a boil and toss in the spaghetti to cook for 8 minutes. In the meantime, a couple of minutes before the pasta is cooked; place a pan over medium heat, toss in the guanciale and cook for 2 minutes until they’re golden brown. Once the pasta is cooked, turn the heat off from the pan of guanciale, then take the pasta from the boiling water and transfer it into the pan. Pour the creamy egg yolk mixture into the pan and mix until it is all incorporated. Also, add a tablespoon of pasta water. toss together and serve immediately. Following my previous article of 10 different pasta from various regions in Italy, I will be sharing recipes with each of the pasta I mentioned in my list. The first is my recipe for this authentic spaghetti carbonara. You might also like to check out my recipe for carbonara using freshly made tagliatelle or a more unorthodox recipe for spaghetti carbonara that uses pancetta and parmesan with an addition of olive oil.

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Jollof risotto with Ossobuco and Plantains

Jollof Risotto with Ossobuco and Plantain

There are crossroads where two worlds come together. If you’re a food enthusiast, expert or “foodie”, then you probably know this as fusion in our world. Fusion cuisine is the delicious crossroads of two or more delicacies ranging from different cultures. Jollof Risotto is a path that takes one of the most loved Nigerian (West-African) dishes into the lane of Risotto, a classic Italian favourite. I believe in the power of simple meals and the magic they make. Risotto to its fans is the ultimate magic. While Jollof with its recent increase in culinary mileage creates a powerful hold on anyone that tries it. Furthermore, upon this Jollof Risotto fusion expedition. Instead of simply crossing the paths of two main dishes, I invited both of their undisputed sides. Plantain is the unofficial side dish to Jollof rice and Braised veal a.k.a ‘Ossobuco’ which is the renowned pairing for the classic Milanese risotto. Might I also mention that risotto originates from the northern Italian region of Lombardy, of which the capital city is Milan? This dish is a cultural journey for your palate, fusing two classics from Nigeria with two classics from Italy. Although my first experience with risotto in Milan wasn’t the best. Due to unmet high expectations at a dodgy restaurant as I explained. Risotto is now one of my favourite Italian foods to eat and cook. Another great risotto recipe that is a perfect blend of Italian and Nigerian cuisine is my Banga “Palm fruit” Risotto: a Southern Nigerian fusion

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