La pasta matta (crazy dough for savoury tarts and pies)

Italians have a soft spot for torte salate (savoury tarts/pies), particularly now a primavera, at spring time. Torte salate are not extravagant with cream and eggs in the way French quiches are, they tend to be simpler, lighter, casual dishes that lend themselves to endless improvisations and impromptu suppers: some cooked vegetables, a little ricotta and/or a couple of eggs, a generous fistful of parmigiano or pecorino to jazz things up, all enclosed in a thin, crisp, lean pastry, called pasta matta, which literally means “crazy dough”, probably on account of the very little fat that is used to make.

Pasta matta is the poor relative of richer brisè and puff pastry, but I find it more useful in every-day cooking and often better in fact Continue reading

Strucolo de spinaze in tavaiol ovvero strudel di spinaci e patate come lo fanno a Trieste (Potato and spinach strudel from Trieste, boiled and baked)

A  savory strudel from Trieste,  almost an Italian hot savory pudding.
A potato gnocchi-dough roll filled with spinach and ricotta,  boiled, sliced, showered with Parmigiano and baked. Comfort  food. It looks impressive but it is not that difficult to make. It is a dish firmly rooted in the Italian home cooking repertoire and something one is unlikely to find in restaurants.
Traditionally, it would be served with sugo d’arrosto (i.e. the juices left after roasting a piece of meat), with ragù and, my favorite, with butter and Parmigiano; I have also served it with a tomato sauce and some melting cheese – rather untraditional but delicious.   Continue reading

Liptaeur, spuma di formaggio e paprika da Trieste ( a cheese and paprika mousse from Trieste)

Liptaeur
Liptaeur is a cheese spuma (spuma means mousse in Italian cookery terms) that comes from Trieste but can also be found in other areas once belonging to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (as Trieste did until the end of the First World War). A cheese mousse sounds a little “1970s cooking” but in fact liptaeur is much older and very traditional Continue reading

Ricotta al caffè (coffee ricotta cream and tips on home-made “ricotta”)

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One of the foods I miss most from Italy is fresh ricotta – the real deal of course, not the  industrial type which I can get also here, a tasteless and pappy substitute. Fresh ricotta is another thing altogether: sweet, milky and light, creamy and yet not insubstantial: with a sprinkle of sugar or with a drizzle of olive oil, it is culinary nirvana. Here in the UK, even in London, fresh ricotta is still very hard to come by: I tried the Neal’s Yard’s one (made in England) and I was not impressed, but I also saw beautiful looking Italian fresh ricotta at Gastronomica, in Borough Market (I was told it is flown in every few days).

Because it’s so hard to find good ricotta in the UK, many years ago I started making “home made ricotta” – though it is actually nothing more than fresh cheese: milk coagulated with some acid (lemon juice, vinegar, rennet, citric acid the most common) . Continue reading