Ricotta is for me strongly associated with Easter and Spring cooking in general: it plays a crucial roles in beloved seasonal dishes, from Ligurian Torta Pasqualina (when the original, more appropriate Ligurian cheese prescinseua cannot be found outside Liguria – that is always!), to Neapolitan ricotta and wheat tart, called pastiera, spinach or nettle ravioli and the endless sweet or savoury cakes and pies that can be found all over Italy at this time of the year, pizza rustica, fiadone abruzzese, pizza di ricotta.
Artisanal ricotta is one of the ingredients I miss most from Italy. I have never tasted here in the UK a ricotta, either made here or imported, that is as good as the one I can have almost anywhere in Italy. It makes sense: fresh ricotta (that has not undergone any pasteurization) is a fragile beauty and it does not travel well. As a consequence what we get here is generally the long-life stuff; local cheesemakers simply do not have the knowledge or the inclination to learn.
A simple and tasty recipe from Puglia, the heel of Italy: wheat berries boiled till al dente and then simmered in a cherry tomato sauce, with garlic, chilly pepper and parsley. Straightforward and delicious. I prefer using semi-polished berries here, the ones that have had the outer, inedible husk removed but with some of the bran still attached. I also tried cooking with whole grain berries in the past I have always found them boring and far too chewy. If you soak the berries the night before, the cooking time will be very short indeed. Continue reading →
I am a sucker for sottolii and sottaceto, i.e. all things (generally vegetarian ) preserved in vinegar or oil : with a hunk of bread & some cheese I could easily lunch on them every day.
These sour sweet peppers are amongst my favourites: quick and easy, not too sharp, excellent to eat and beautiful to look at. Continue reading →
Frittelle is the generic name for “fritters”, however for most Italians frittelle (pronounced frihttehlleh) is synonymous with Carnival. Frittelle are deep fried pastries, generally made with an enriched bread dough or a choux dough, often containing sultanas, citrus zest and pine nuts. When well made, they are light and hollow inside, not at all doughy. They can be either plain or filled with creme patisserie, which is perhaps gilding the lily. In Venice there is a cult for Carnival fritters, no surprisingly perhaps, considering how deeply felt Carnival is up there – it is an important part of the city’s history and cultural identity. Personally, I prefer the other, plainer Carnival pastries, chiacchiere, but I would never say no to a warm frittella (which is the singular for the plural frittellE) Continue reading →
It is Carnevale right now and most Italians would not pass the opportunity to munch on the delectable seasonal deep fried pastries called chiacchiere (pronounced kiah-kihe-reh). They are crisp, not overly sweet, feather light and shatter as soon as you pop one in your mouth. They are insubstantial and irresistible, at any time of the day. Continue reading →