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.
So, for me, homemade ricotta it has to be. Well… almost! Continue reading
Time to change gear: autumn is here and I want to explore more of the wonderful northern Italian repertoire, which I think lends itself better to this time of the year.
This vegetable terrine hails from Piemonte, or, to be precise, from this tremendous book about Piedmeontese cooking: if you read Italian, do get it. This is not your typical recipe driven cookery book but one where the emphasis is on food as culture.
it is a layered affair of cooked chopped vegetables, with each vegetable layer enriched with eggs and béchamel sauce: an excellent example of that Italian bourgeois , Sunday lunch cooking, now almost disappeared. Continue reading
On a scorching Italian summer day, few refreshments are more welcome than a small glass of cold and luscious home made latte di mandorla, almond milk. If you have some of this Mediterranean nectar in your fridge, you are then only few steps away from one of the glories of pasticceria siciliana (Sicilian patisserie), biancomangiare, a snow white, tremulous pudding made with sweet almond milk and cornstarch, delicately perfumed with cinnamon and lemon peel, served with lemon leaves and with a few scattered jasmine flowers. It may not look much but it tastes heavenly. Continue reading
Miascia (mee-AH-sha) is a bread cake typically found in the lovely villages dotting Lake Como. It is an impromptu cake, made with cheap ingredients: stale bread, milk, some fruit, fresh or dried, polenta flour, sugar, a little chopped rosemary to give an elusive perfume. Nothing fancy and yet the final result is truly delicious. The bread is soaked in milk and then fruit is added, with very little flour to bind. This creates a lovely custardy texture that contrasts well with the crunchy topping. Continue reading