madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


10 Comments

Italian whole-grain salad

this wholesome salad is easy, nutritious and adaptable to all sort of whole-grains

Dear Tomato I want to thank you for existing.

For being a fresh, juicy, sweet, fleshy fruit.

Ask any Italian “what do you eat during this exhaustingly hot summer”? Tomatoes – they will say – it’s a national obsession.

This salad is a way to make a wholesome meal or substantial side dish out of a classic tomato salad. Healthy food does taste good if you know how to treat it. The salad also looks beautiful as it’s presented in layers rather than mushing up everything together.

You can tweak the composition to your taste but there’s a few rules to keep the Italian character of the recipe:

  1. Keep it rustic, use whole grains. I generally use farro which is abundant in Umbria and has a lovely nutty taste but you could use barley, wheat berries, bulgur or wild rice. What you see in the picture is my gluten-free version made with the splendid black rice from Northern Italy.
  2. Keep it light. Use only one type of cheese in modest amounts. I use shavings of Pecorino or Parmesan or fresh mozzarella. Feta? No, it’s not Italian. Blue cheese? No, it’s heavy.
  3. Keep it seasonal. I use cherry tomatoes in the early summer and then switch to whatever marvelous variety is at its best when I need it. I use crispy thin salad leaves like rucola (arugula, rocket), lamb’s lettuce or a combination of mixed salad greens. I don’t make this salad with glasshouse tomato. There is no point if they have no flavor.
  4. Last but most importantly, please no pre-made dressings, only top quality extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. A little goes a long way.

Recipe

  • 200 gr ( 7 oz) farro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 250 gr (1/2 lb) ripe tomatoes, sliced or quartered if small
  • 2 cups light salad leaves
  • 3 tablespoon cheese shavings
  • extra virgin olive il, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper
  • optional: a handful basil leaves and 1-2 spring onions diced very small

Cook farro or other grain in plenty boiling water according to package instructions. Drain, rinse under tap water and transfer into a bowl. Add one crushed garlic clove and stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cover, set aside and let it cool and infuse with the garlicky oil for several hours. You can also refrigerate it until the next day.

When ready to serve, slice tomatoes, add basil leaves and onions if using. Dress with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Slice or shave the cheese.

Wash and spin dry the salad leaves, dress with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt, then make a bed of leaves on a serving plate with some space in the centre where you will make a mound with the cooked grains. This way you will have a pretty border of salad leaves around the grains.

Top the farro with the tomatoes and dressing juices. Sprinkle with the cheese shavings and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-5


7 Comments

pasta therapy: maltagliati

colorful dreams of the past

I have a wonderful 1950 copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book. The first couple of pages show  pictures of the company’s test kitchens. One is a red and white “polka dot” kitchen. It’s a dreamy place populated by  an adorable, immaculately dressed and coiffed housewife. She is enjoying an ironing session against the cheerful backdrop of a yellow wall.

The kitchen’s photo caption says :

“….Gayest, most colorful of all, with stainless steel counters and a laundry unit for experimental work with appliances”.

How dreams have changed, don’t you think?

We are crushed under a mountain of boring chores. We have so little time to do things with our own hands, to do things for ourselves, to just take the time it takes.

Sometimes I rebel to the crush and I make some pasta. When I make pasta I take my time. It’s mine, totally.

I find it truly therapeutic. It’s creative, it’s intensely relaxing and it makes other people happy. It’s much, much better than ironing ;)

Maltagliati  is a pasta shape which was originally made from scraps left over after making other pasta by hand. It’s particularly popular  in Emilia Romagna where it’s served with beans. In my attempt to be a health-lover housewife I have made these maltagliati with 50% whole-wheat flour. Be sinful if you wish and use 100% white flour, it’s good for you anyway.

Recipe

  • 100 gr. / 3.5 oz Italian 00 or pastry flour
  • 100 gr /3.5 oz whole-wheat or farro flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Make the pasta dough in 3 minutes using my food processor recipe. Cover with a tea towel and let it rest at least 10 min. Whole-grain flours are more difficult to work with than white flours. They tend dry out and crumble and that’s why I add olive oil. If you are not an expert pasta-maker try first with white unbleached flour and use whole-grain next time.

Roll the pasta into 25- 30 cm (10-12 inch) long sheets using a pasta machine. Please study carefully the method explained in the  pasta dough recipe.

Place the pasta sheets on a large wooden board or on cotton tea towels until dry but not brittle, 10-20 min. Using a pastry wheel cut the sheets into irregular 2.5 x 5 cm (1 x 2 inch) lozenges.

The whole-grain version pairs well with some robust sauce like norcina, porcini or tuna. The white flour version is wonderful in a lemon sauce. You can also use it in my fabulous bean soup instead of taglierini. If using for soup, cook the pasta in water first and then serve with the soup. It will cook in one minute.

Serves 2 with sauce and 4 with soup.

home made wholewheat maltagliati

 

 


10 Comments

“priest chokers” made with farro flour

here they are, peasant beauties, the stranged named strozzapreti

STROZZAPRETI.  Priest stranglers? Isn’t this a crazy name? Sounds like a recipe of the Swedish Chef .

The origin of the name is unclear but it is surely evocative of our farmers’ long suffering under centuries of papal domination. Having to part with hard earned food as a tax, they wished the greedy clerics to choke on it.

The strozzapreti are short, eggless noodles, not dissimilar to the Umbrian stringozzi. They are simply made with flour and water and rolled by hand to obtain irregular pasta curls. This is a nicely rustic, wheat-free version I made today with farro flour. You could also use spelt, whole wheat or regular wheat flour or a mixture of any of the above.

Recipe

  • 300 gr (3 ) farro flour plus additional for kneading
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt

To make the strozzapreti dough use the same food processor method which I have explained for egg pasta. The dough must be firm but pliable so you might need to adjust the amount of water depending on the type of flour you are using.  Roll the dough with a pasta machine until it’s thin, but not transparent, one setting before the last one. While the pasta is still soft, cut the dough into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch)  ribbons, then…

...take a pasta ribbon on the palm of your hand....

....roll the pasta ribbons to make it curl....

....like this.

With a sharp knife cut the ribbons into 5 cm (2 inch) long pieces and set them on a floured worktop or cotton towel to dry.

Cook in salted boiling water for one minute, they overcook fast! Toss with sauce and a little pasta water as as explained here. Serve immediately.

The strozzapreti need a robust sauce like ragù , a Norcina or a porcini mushroom sauce. In Romagna they serve them with seafood. YUM.

Serves 2-3 as a main.


9 Comments

cool inkeepers cook

my own emerald-green hill in a spring day, that's my house up there

FARROTTO.

I am a lucky woman. I am blessed by lots of lovely friends in all corners of the world. Many have all sort of interesting professions and hobbies.

Some of my coolest friends, Diana, Corinna, Giulia, Gloria, Rebecca, are innkeepers, just like me. We are the new career girls, we have first gone  into complicated studies at  prestigious universities and/or a career in entomology, physics, law, literature, languages, etc….

Then, as an obvious and logical consequence of the above efforts, we have become innkeepers.

So here we are, each one at the top of one or another emerald-green hill trying to convince the world to switch off the iphone for a moment and come to visit.  This is not an easy task, so we don’t have a lot of time to meet but when we do we have grand fun.

The recipe below is from Rebecca who lives on a green hill very near mine. In the winter, when all is quiet, we get a haircut and play the proper ladies of the house. See for yourselves how truly gracious we are:

Farrotto is a healthy version of risotto but it’s made with farro.  It’s a delicious dish good for all seasons and perfect for the last chilly evenings of spring.

Farro, or spelt in English, is an heirloom Italian grain very similar to barley. One can basically replace arborio rice with pearled farro in any risotto recipe, adding a bit to the cooking time, and end up with the same creaminess but with a more complex flavor and firmer grain.
Recipe

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 onion (or 2 shallots), chopped
  • about 4 cups mix of exotic and/or wood mushrooms (portobello, porcini, crimini, oyster, shitake)
  • about 1/2 cup white wine
  • about 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1.5 cup farro perlato (pearled)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or aged pecorino
  • italian parsley to garnish

In medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Meanwhile clean and chop the mushrooms and onion or shallot. In large saucepan, heat about half of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes. Using  a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl and set aside. Add remaining oil and onion or shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the farro to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add the wine and cook, stirring until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute until it evaporates off.   Add 1 cup hot stock to pan and stir in mushrooms. Cook, stirring and adding more hot stock as it is absorbed, until the farro is tender but still firm, about 40 minutes.

Mix in the Parmesan or pecorino and adjust salt if necessary.
Serve with additional freshly grated cheese on each serving.

Variations:  use red wine with strong flavored mushrooms, add asparagus or roasted squash/pumpkin, add freshly ground pepper, top with a dollop of garlicky red pepper and tomato sauce or add smoked pancetta to the initial sauté.


18 Comments

farro and lentil soup

ZUPPA DI LENTICCHIE E FARRO. Castelluccio di Norcia, in the South-East of Umbria is a tiny village located on a lonely outcrop at the centre of one of the most spectacular areas of Central Italy, the Piano Grande . The fields of this magnificent plain produce farro wheat, and the most delicious, tiny, tender  lentils.

lentil fields in the Piano grande di Castelluccio

lentil fields in the Piano grande di Castelluccio

Farro is an ancestral wheat with a characteristic nutty flavor. The term “farro” is a collective name of 3 species of grains, i.e.  emmer, einkorn and spelt. It is considered a healthy food for its high protein and fiber  content.  Ginger was used in Italian cuisine centuries ago, but virtually disappeared after the Renaissance. For a more traditional Mediterranean flavor, ginger  can be  substituted with a  sprig of rosemary or a handful of sage leaves, not both together!

Recipe

  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup/250 gr.  small brown whole lentils
  • 1 cup/250 gr.  farro
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cups/ 1 lt. water or vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 large garlic clove, halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 slice toasted Italian crusty bread/person
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan/person

Some brands of farro might need to be soaked overnight in cold water. Most farro sold nowadays is pearled so does not need soaking.

In a 4-quart heavy saucepan make a “soffritto” by softening the  onion in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden.  Add ginger and stir for 1 min. Add lentils and spelt, hot water or stock  and simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup is thickened and lentils are soft but still retaining their shape, about 30 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper only when cooked.

At this stage the cooled soup can be frozen. When ready to serve defrost, add some water -  it will be quite solid – and bring to a low boil.

Toast bread slices, rub generously with fresh garlic and then cut them into small cubes. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, scatter over each bowl the chopped parsley,  bread cubes , a  teaspoon of good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Serve immediately.

a light, healthy soup, almost a meal in itself

a light, healthy, nutritious soup, almost a meal in itself

soup1

Submitted to a Tasty Recipes and Cooking Station event

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,312 other followers