Italian Specialties

Fresh Pasta Tagliatelle Carbonara

How to make Tagliatelle Carbonara Fresh Pasta from scratch

Next up after making my Nigerian chin-chin was Fresh Pasta. I made my fresh pasta with the same machine I used for the chin-chin recipe, which is just awesome. The tagliatelle was my immediate choice, honestly because I was craving tagliatelle carbonara. If you want the good ole spaghetti carbonara, you can find that here. I could pretend that I know the A-Z of pasta making, especially as I’m a chef by profession but I don’t. Being a chef is a continuous process of learning, experimenting and practising. I know the basics of pasta making but never have I made fresh pasta with semolina flour. Making pasta with semolina flour is quite common in regions of Italy and also outside Italy. However, my personal experience with semolina is that of “swallow”, popularly used in Nigeria, eaten with soups and sauces. One thing I can tell you is that Tagliatelle is commonly mistaken for Fettuccine. Fettuccine is only just a bit narrower than Tagliatelle but who measures their pasta when eating? Not me! So if you want to call it a fettuccine, I won’t judge you. For this recipe, I used a mix of regular wheat flour and semolina flour. My reasoning here was to reduce the risk of messing it up or having to knead the dough longer than I would like to. Well, only the former was a success, but it was hard work of kneading getting the dough together. That’s not very obvious when you watch the video recipe on youtube but that is the magic of production. The written recipe that follows, however, is my conclusion after several trials. How to make Fresh Pasta: What you’ll need: All-purpose flour Semolina flour Salt Eggs Olive oil A pasta machine and a rolling pin. The Fresh Pasta making process: Pour all-purpose flour, semolina flour and salt unto a clean surface. Gently mix together and create a hole in the middle, just like a well. Pour olive oil into the well, also break the eggs into the same well. Knead with your hands until it all comes together, for about 10 to 20 minutes. After kneading you should have a smooth dough (but just like the video it’s ok if the dough doesn’t come out smooth at your first attempt). Wrap the dough in cling film (plastic wrap) and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Remove the dough from the fridge then cut it into small pieces and mould it into balls. Set one of the balls aside and cover with plastic wrap at all times. Taking each ball at a time, sprinkle some flour onto your work surface, then use a rolling pin to roll out into a thick sheet (flat enough to fit into the pasta machine). Sprinkle with a bit more flour, then transfer the sheet unto the base roller of the pasta machine. Now, start rolling (laminating) with the pasta machine, starting from the thickest setting ‘0’. Then repeat and change the roller setting each time from “0 to 5” at each roll. “0” is a thick paste and “5” is a really thin pasta. Now transfer the rolled pasta sheet to the cutting attachment. The medium cutting attachment is what you should be using, not the tiny spaghetti-like one. Repeat the 3 previous steps for the entire dough (you can also store it in the refrigerator for future use). Roll each sheet out completely and you now have your tagliatelle. Repeat the 5 previous steps, place the tagliatelle on a tray and sprinkle with some semolina flour (so they don’t stick together).

Read More

Tuscan Ribollita in the oven

Ribollita is a great Tuscan soup to enjoy in the cold autumn/winter season. A chunky soup made with bread, vegetables and legumes to keep you warm. The original way of cooking ribollita is by simmering in a pot (click here for a wiki article on ribollita). It will fill any room with a hearty aroma. My cravings for this dish and lack of time led me to cook it in the oven. It was great on the first try, so I had to do it again and again. Now I must confess I don’t know if I will ever make a ribollita in a pot. Bread is a big part of the Italian lifestyle and every bit of it is used. Even the old stale bread comes into great use for dishes like this one. Ask any Italian nonna, they never throw away stale bread. In addition to renewing the old, make no mistake, Italians appreciate newness. Such as newly harvested seasonal fruits and vegetables. Some of my favourite autumn/winter vegetables are kale and savoy cabbage. Seasonal vegetables are vibrant and the best for hearty and tasty dishes. Another hearty Italian dish that might interest you is the Ragu Bolognese Sauce, just as lush! It’s always a delight walking into an Italian grocery store. An even greater delight is strolling down the roadside market. A display straight from the farmers and producers showcasing their best in-season vegetables and fruits. Especially from the small scale producers who always willingly give you cooking tips or have small products made from their plants like jams and marmalades. I will leave the tales of the Italian farmers and producers for another day. Let’s go straight to the recipe for a rich yet easy delicacy. Here’s the recipe:

Read More

Classic Italian Ragu Bolognese Sauce

There are several versions of the Ragu sauce. There are some classic Italian versions and some more westernised ones. My preference leans towards one of the Italian classics. Ragu Bolognese is of the region of Bologna as the name implies. This version of the sauce uses fresh vegetables, such as the sweetness of carrots instead of using sugar. I’m personally not a fan of using sugar in cooking most savoury dishes, hence why this version is my favourite. In addition to using carrots, I’ve also used red bell peppers for a richer flavour and colour. While for the use of tomatoes most recipes usually call for just the classic pureed tomato “Passata”. I opted to use a combination of freshly chopped tomatoes and the store-bought Passata from one of my favourite brands. Passata is ripened tomatoes that have been pureed and strained. Specifically, tomatoes have been passed through a grinding mill and strainer. Hence the name “Passata”. The Essentials of a flavourful ragu: There are several essentials to get a really rich and flavourful Ragu bolognese sauce without actually doing much. The obvious is the use of extra virgin olive oil, a good pureed tomato base and red wine. The not so obvious is the use of both pork and beef, the combination of both at a rough 3:1 ratio makes a great ragu sauce. Also, it is important to cook the sauce in a steel pan rather than the regular non-stick pan. This helps to draw out the flavour from the meats when browning as it sticks to the bottom of the pot. Finally and most importantly, there is nothing like a quick ragu sauce. Easy but not quick, the longer the sauce cooks, gives time for the flavours to blend richly and for the alcohol in the wine to burn out. If you like this recipe, you might also like the recipe for Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara Romana. If you are also interested in learning about Nigerian food, I suggest you read “The Nigerian Jollof 101 – Extras & Essentials“.

Read More
Cappuccino Shortbread Biscuits with milk and cinnamon

Buttery & perfectly flaky Cappuccino Shortbread Biscuits

Whether you know them as biscuits or cookies, shortbread is loved by all. Mostly for its creamy buttery flavour and light flaky texture. As kids, we grew up looking forward to when mum brought home the store-bought butter biscuits. Some of my favourites were the sugar-coated Danish shortbread that came in the blue tins. My other favourites were the chunky rectangular biscuits that came in the red and black checkered pack. I so much loved the pure butter shortbread by the walkers brand. These days, as I enjoy baking quite often, I have developed a few recipes for shortbread. When baking or cooking, I have this habit of relieving and merging childhood memories into one. I grew up watching most adults in my family drinking Nescafe coffee to kick-start their day. So I’m not surprised that I too am now a coffee fanatic. Which has led me to merge my shortbread cravings with my need for a kick of caffeine. Resulting in the creation of these delicious cappuccino shortbread biscuits. Before moving on I’d like to acknowledge that I refer to these as biscuits. But I respect that they are also known as cookies in other parts of the world (i.e. America). Nonetheless, I’m not a history major, nor do I know why we have different names, so I’ll just proceed to the recipe. This is a fail-proof recipe that will produce 22 to 23 biscuits/cookies. Perfect to show off your baking skills and invite your gals or pals for some tea and biscuits. They are also great to dunk in a cup of milk. Especially for those that are coffee fanatics like myself. These biscuits/cookies are buttery and delicious, perfectly flaky and melt in your mouth. How to make the cookies: In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar and egg yolk, using a wooden spoon or a mixer if you have one. In another bowl, mix the cappuccino powder with the flour. Add the flour mixture to the creamy butter mixture and mix together with your fingers into a rough crumble mixture. Scoop the mixture with your hands unto a clean work surface and lightly knead until it all comes together into a dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, and line a baking tray with baking paper. Take the dough out of the plastic wrap unto a clean work surface sprinkled with a bit of flour. Cut the dough into 4 parts. One after the other, roll each piece flat, not too thin and not too thick.  Bake the biscuits/cookies in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove the tray of biscuits/cookies from the oven and allow to rest until cool before you serve. Enjoy with a glass of milk or a hot cup of tea. If you like this recipe, you might also like Italian Mascarpone Cream Cheese Cookies

Read More
Simple Italian Spaghetti Carbonara

Simple Italian Spaghetti Carbonara

Who doesn’t love a good spaghetti Carbonara, I know I do! I have always had a keen interest in Italian cuisine. My first encounter with Carbonara was during my stay in London. Most of the Carbonara I ate at the so-called “Italian restaurants” were very creamy. This is mainly because they are literally drenched in cream. Although I appreciate a well made creamy pasta dish, I knew immediately there was something not truly Italian about Carbonara made with cream. On further research, one was that my culinary chef professor was Italian. Another is that I now live in Italy, two years on-going. Hence, I have first-hand experience on how to make real Italian carbonara. Not to say you shouldn’t make Carbonara the way you like it. It’s always nice to respect and appreciate the classic method. Ever since I tried Carbonara the Italian way, I feel like life itself (life of a foodie, that is) has more meaning. Before I proceed with this recipe, I would like to state a disclaimer. Note: This is my rendition of the classic Italian Carbonara with my own tweaks. Based on what I liked and disliked about previous Carbonara dishes I’ve tasted. I cannot say that this is exactly how Italians make carbonara. Moreover, I can proudly say I have some great (die-hard) Italians that gave this recipe a thumbs-up. Also, I am fully aware many Italians do not use garlic in cooking carbonara. Neither is olive oil is a necessity, but the final result of my recipe is pretty spot on! If I do say so myself. Here are some other Italian inspired recipes you might like: Authentic Spaghetti alla Carbonara Romana Fresh Pasta Tagliatelle Carbonara Scotch Eggs made with Italian Sausages

Read More
Gluten-free Polenta Pancakes with Mixed Berries

Gluten-free Polenta Pancakes with Berries

Polenta is very common here in Italy, it is basically cornmeal. Although cornmeal would translate to “Farina de Mais” which literally means corn flour, which is very different. Cornmeal or Polenta is gritty while corn flour is fine and smooth. So if you have cornmeal or polenta, then I suggest you whip up these delicious stacks of pancakes covered with lemony mixed berries. Truth be told, it was not my intention to make pancakes with polenta; I ran out of all-purpose flour and this was my nearest substitute. It just happens to be gluten-free and almost guilt-free. Granting polenta is typically eaten as a porridge in Italy, I can assure you it also makes for some yummy pancakes and the cooked up syrupy mixed berries is literally the icing on these cakes. How to make the Polenta pancakes with mixed berries: Put the polenta flour, sugar, egg, milk, baking soda & powder, vanilla and cinnamon in a blender and blitz. Let the blended mixture sit for 30 seconds to a minute, to let the Polenta soak up the liquid.  Place a pan on medium heat, lightly grease with vegetable oil or butter (you can do so with tissue paper by dabbing the oil on the tissue and rub on the pan or take a block of butter and rub it on the pan). Stir and Scoop two tablespoons of the blended batter into the pan to make one small pancake.  Once you notice some air bubbles on the top and the edges are getting brown, flip over to the other side. Remove from pan when both sides are brown and place on a plate. Repeat the frying process (from greasing the pan) for the  remaining batter. This should give you a stack of 5 to 6 polenta pancakes. Place the frozen berries in a saucepan, squeeze in half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of honey. Simmer on low to medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until it’s all cooked together. Pour the cooked berries unto the stack of polenta pancakes and serve.

Read More