Pasta e cavolo (Pasta and cauliflower Neapolitan style)

The calendar says it is spring. We moved the clocks forward, magnolias and camellias are in bloom, the days are longer and brighter and, with some luck, the sun is less reluctant to pay us a visit – well, up to a point of course, we are in the UK after all.

Visiting my local market a few days ago though, I was reminded that from a culinary point of view, we are not out of winter yet; we are still in the infamous “hungry gap”: plenty of winter vegetables (celeriac, cabbages, leeks, carrots, cauliflowers) but no new, spring crop in sight. For asparagus and globe artichokes, beans and peas, patience is needed – a few more weeks to wait.

No point in whinging: time to find new ways to use those brassicas and root vegetables. This Neapolitan pasta with cauliflower comes in handy: cauliflowers, with their pale green, tender leaves hugging their floral heads, are still plentiful and of good quality.

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Patate alla pizzaiola – Potatoes pizzaiola 

In classic Italian cookery, when something is cooked  “alla pizzaiola” (pizza-style),  it means it has tomatoes and origano (sometimes garlic too),  as in the most basic topping for pizza.

Patate alla pizzaiola belongs to that army of homely dishes that are the backbone, almost the unsung heroes,  of Italian cookery:  simple affairs, often vegetarian, quickly assembled, generally rather economical and immensely satisfying.

This is not “a recipe”, just, I would say, “a way with” potatoes – once you understand the idea, you can really play with it. Continue reading

Torta Pasqualina (Easter chard and fresh cheese pie from Liguria)

To say that we Italians are food traditionalists is an understatement. Time and time again we go back to dishes that we have known since we were kids and we still enjoy them immensely. Come Easter and torta pasqualina will appear on very many tables. “Torta pasqualina” translates as Eastertide cake but it is actually a savory pie: layers of a golden, shatteringly flaky olive oil pastry, encasing a substantial filling of chards (biete, in Italian), fresh soft cheese, Parmigiano or pecorino , eggs and marjoram. It is a centuries old dish and one of the highlights of the Italian vegetarian canon – the quintessential spring dish. Continue reading

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