During summer my mum and I enjoyed cooking and my daughter joined us from time to time. In July and August we had friends and family coming and going from Italy so our kitchen was very busy. Here are some dishes we prepared and particularly liked.
Pasta with artichokes
For four people you need: 4 artichokes, the juice of a lemon, 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, two cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and grated parmigiano; optional: 2 tbsp of double cream; 500 g of fusilli or penne.
Clean the artichokes getting rid of the hard and thickest leaves as well as the core. Cut them in slices and soak them in the juice of the lemon adding some water. Warm the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic cloves peeled and crushed and the drained artichokes, add salt and pepper. Add water if needed and let them simmer covered with a lid for about 15-20 minutes. When they are soft and ready, grind them in a blender till you obtain a creamy mixture. As an option you can add two tbsp of double cream at this stage. Cook the pasta in water with salt, when it is ready drain it and add the artichoke cream and some oil if needed. Serve with parmigiano.
Pasta with asparagus
For four people you need: 500 g of asparagus, half an onion, four tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 30 g of butter, two tbsp of grated parmigiano; 500 g of fusilli or penne.
Cut off the white hardest part of the asparagus. Boil the asparagus and the onion in water with salt for about 10-15 minutes. Grind 2/3 of the asparagus and the onion in a blender adding oil, butter, parmigiano and two tbsp of the water you used for cooking. Keep 1/3 of the asparagus tips aside. Cook the pasta in water with salt, when it is ready drain it and add the asparagus cream, the asparagus tips and some oil if needed. Serve with parmigiano.
Sgonfiotti alla romana (pancakes in the Roman way)
For four people you need: five eggs, 50 g of butter, 200 ml of water, 50 g of ham, 30 g of grated parmigiano, six tbsp of plain flour, salt, half a tsp of ground nutmeg, some oil to fry.
Boil the water and the butter in a pan with some salt. Add the flour in one go stirring till it becomes smooth. Let it cool then add the eggs, the ham cut in little cubes , the nutmeg and parmigiano. Mix and let it rest for half an hour. Fry spoonfuls of the mixture in hot oil, they should be puffy and golden when ready.
You need: four big tomatoes, two peeled garlic cloves, 50 g of fresh parsley, 50 g of fresh basil, 100 g of blanched almonds, two celery sticks, 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and grated parmigiano; 500 g of spaghetti or linguini.
Soak the tomatoes in hot water and leave them for ten minutes. Peel the tomatoes and cut them in cubes getting rid of the seeds. Grind the almonds in a blender then add all the other ingredients. Cook the spaghetti in water with salt, when it is ready drain it and add the Sicilian pesto and some oil if needed. Serve with parmigiano.
Tomatoes stuffed with rice
You need: four big ripe tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, 4-6 tbsp of Arborio or Carnaroli rice, 2-3 potatoes, salt and pepper.
Cut the top of the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp. Cut the tomato pulp in small pieces in a bowl. Add salt, pepper and parsley to the mixture, add the rice as well, about a tbsp and a half per tomato. Sprinkle some salt and pour some olive oil in the scooped tomatoes and fill them with the mixture. Cover the stuffed tomatoes with the tomato lid you cut before and place them in an oiled pan. Peel the potatoes and cut them in cubes, add salt and spread them in the pan beside the stuffed tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes and potatoes for 45 minutes covered with a lid. Let them rest for half an hour before serving.
For the dough you need: 500 g of self-raising flour, one tbsp of melted butter, two eggs, one tsp of salt, 200 ml of lukewarm water.
For the filling you have two options:
1) 500 g of ricotta, one egg, 250 g of spinach or bieda, nutmeg and salt.
2) 500 g of ricotta, two eggs, 2 tbsp of grated parmigiano, 100 g of grated ham, pepper.
Prepare the dough mixing all the ingredients and let it rest for half an hour in a cool place. For filling no. 1, cook the spinach in 30 ml of water with a bit of salt, drain it and cut it roughly. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. For filling no. 2, grind the ham in a blender, and mix it with the ricotta and all the other ingredients. Prepare the pie rolling out half of the dough, line a greased rectangular tin with the dough sheet and spread the filling in it. Roll out the rest of the dough and cover the pie. Bake for half an hour at
Rice with nettles
For five people you need: 200 g of nettles leaves, one litre of vegetable stock, one leek, half a glass of white wine, 30 g of butter, 350 g of rice, four tbsp of olive oil, three tbsp of grated parmigiano, salt and pepper.
Harvest the nettles (only leaves), wash them several times and cook them in some water and salt. Finally grind them in a blender. Pour the olive oil in a pan and cook the leek (only the white part) finely cut for 5 minutes, add the rice and the white wine. Stir for a few minutes then add the nettles and the stock little by little. When the rice is ready add the butter and parmigiano. Let it rest for five minutes before serving.
Melanzane ‘mbuttunate (stuffed aubergines)
This is an old recipe that goes back to my grandmother, who was from Meta di Sorrento, that you will never find on the internet. The aubergines are stuffed with biscuits and dark chocolate so that the taste is a mix of sweet and savoury. My father adored it.
You need: 2-3 aubergines, three tbsp of sugar, one tbsp of vinegar, five ground rich tea biscuits, 50 g of grated dark chocolate.
Cut the aubergines in half lengthwise and cook them for 10-15 minutes in some water with a tbsp of vinegar and three tbsp of sugar. Once soft, scoop them out and put the pulp in a bowl. Add the ground biscuits to the mixture and the graded dark chocolate. Fill the aubergines with the mixture and bake for 20-30 minutes at 180° C.
Aubergines in the Sardinian way
You need: 2-3 aubergines, extra virgin olive oil, ripe tomatoes, oregano, fresh parsley, salt and pepper.
Cut the aubergines to obtain round slices ¼ of an inch thick. Set them in an oiled oven tray. Sprinkle olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley and oregano to flavour them. Add ripe or dried tomatoes cut in small pieces without the seeds. Let it marinate for half an hour then bake for 20-30 minutes at 180° C.