Torta salata con zucca, funghi e gorgonzola – savoury pie with pumpkin, mushrooms and gorgonzola cheese

Italian torte salate, savoury pies, are popular, every day dishes for home cooking. They are endlessly versatile, inexpensive to make and, above all, taste great. A crust of short or puff pastry, some cooked vegetables, a little ham or other Italian cured meat (mortadella, speck) for extra flavour if you choose, eggs or béchamel sauce or ricotta to bind: this is all you need for a lovely meal. Continue reading

Timballo di patate alla finanziera – Potato, chicken liver and sausage timbale, a 1928 middle-class dish

Delicious, easy, filling and impressive – this is what a well-to-do 1920s Italian middle-class family would have thought of this dish, I presume. It is a timbale, not dissimilar from a British savoury pudding: the “crust” is made with mashed potatoes, seasoned with butter and Parmigiano; the filling is finanziera, a traditional, now rare, ragout of veal offal and chicken giblets, often enriched with ceps or even truffles. Continue reading

Brasato lombardo – braised beef Lombardy style

This is the sort of slow braised beef dish I grew up with – the occasional Sunday lunch fare, eaten with mounds of buttery polenta.
I prefer to cook a brasato in the oven, at low temperature, at least one day before I want to eat it. Pre-salting the meat is crucial, ideally 24 hours before cooking it.
In the Italian fashion, I use a solid piece of meat that I ask my butcher to tie with string into a solid shape, rather than cubes – this way there is less risk of overcooking the meat and the size allows for a prolonged period in the oven. The alchemy of time and gentle heating delivers rich, deep flavours. Continue reading