madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking


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roasted rosemary mushroom parcels

 

I made these parcels with a sheet of transparent oven paper

oyster mushrooms wrapped in parcels made with a sheet of transparent oven paper

After having been involved with teaching and thinking about food for over than 10 years,  I am completely convinced  that the art of Italian cooking is to extract flavor from food rather than adding flavor through elaboration. This is the ultimate discovery of modern Italian cuisine. Not the foams, not the rare ingredients, not the fancy presentations. That’s culinary school stuff and to me it rarely has something to do with real food.

With time I have realized that to take something very simple like a vegetable, or a piece of meat or fish or a package of flour and bring out its original flavor is difficult. It can only be done with excellent ingredients and to obtain that you need to constantly research and evaluate the quality of what you are using. Obtaining good ingredients for everything you cook is a form of inner discipline and not always obvious or easy.

But why is it so worth it? We humans love food not only as a form of sustenance but also because of its chemical complexity which stimulates the brain and induces pleasure. The more you have something fresh, grown in a natural way and not treated with chemicals or long refrigeration the more fragrant and complex the original taste of the food will be. As a consequence you hardly need to do anything to it except a minimal manipulation to bring out and enjoy its native flavor.

This recipe is an example of what I mentioned above. It will be heavenly if you have wild mushrooms. And even with the cultivated ones, it will only work with fresh mushrooms and herbs and really good olive oil.  There is not much else in it after all.

Recipe

  • 350 gr (12 oz) fresh whole mushrooms, cleaned.
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 small garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoon dry white wine
  • 4 slices pancetta or guanciale (optional)

Preheat oven at 180°C (360°F).

For this recipe you need to have fairly large pieces to retain the meaty texture of the mushroom. Thin slices will basically boil in their own moisture and as a result will be gummy or stringy.  Whole oyster mushrooms and small chanterelle will need no slicing. If you use large portobello or porcini it’s better to slice them in half or quarter by the length.

Cut four 20×20 cm (8×8 inch)  pieces of parchment paper or prepare 4 small oven bags. Arrange 1/4 of the mushrooms on the paper together with a sprig of rosemary and one garlic clove. Add a slice of pancetta if using. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper, drizzle  with one teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon white wine, then  seal the paper parcel or oven bag and transfer in an oven tin.

Bake for 20 min and serve warm directly in the parcels. You can also serve them at room temperature in which case remove the parcels and transfer into a dish. Drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil just before serving.

Serves 4.

PS. I am not at all opposed to cooking the parcels on the BBQ. In this case I’d use foil, not plastic or paper.

baked oyster mushrooms

beautifully baked and fragrant, if you can ever call a mushroom “beautiful”

 

From Wikipedia:

“En papillote (French for “in parchment”), or al cartoccio in Italian, is a method of cooking  in which the food is put into a folded pouch or parcel and then baked. The parcel is typically made from folded parchement paper but other material, such as a paper bag or aluminum foil may be used. The parcel holds in moisture to steam the food. The pocket is created by overlapping circles of aluminum foil and parchment paper and then folding them tightly around the food to create a seal. A papillote should be opened at the table to allow people to smell the aroma when it opens.”


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porcini mushrooms sauce with lots of red wine

 

the ultimate store cupboard recipe, egg pasta curls with porcini and red wine sauce

 

SUGO AI PORCINI E VINO ROSSO   There are days one simply has no time. Somewhat it gets late even to shop for food. And after so much hell, the saddest thing is to get a scrambled egg or an instant soup for dinner.

Here is my revenge to a hurried day.

Dig that package of porcini mushroom out of your larder. I am sure you have some pasta and some cheese. Open a bottle of decent red wine. Now throw the mushrooms in warm water to soak and relax on the sofa. Drink a glass of wine. Only after you have finished the glass, get back to the kitchen, the mushrooms will be soft by then.

Start preparing the sauce,  making sure that every time you pour some wine in the sauce you go back to the sofa and relax.  Put the pasta pan on the heat. More sofa. Start cooking the pasta. More wine.

You only really need to stand by the stove when you need to drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce.  A worthy, last effort of the day.

Recipe

  • 40 gr / 2 tablespoon dried porcini mushrooms
  • 15 gr. / 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon EVO oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2  cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoon  unsweetened whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 200 gr / 7  ounces dried pasta, preferably egg noodles

Soak the porcini in warm water about 20 min. Once they are soft chop them in smaller pieces using the tips of cooking scissors. No need to drain them, you can do this in the bowl where they are soaking.

For the sauce, use a shallow pan with high sides (e.g. a wok). Over low heat, sautee the pressed garlic with the butter and olive oil until just fragrant.

Add the mushrooms together with their soaking liquid and let them simmer. After the first 5 min. start adding the wine, 2 tablespoons at the time and continue simmering. Cook until all liquid is reduced to about 1/3 of the total volume and the mushrooms are tender. Add the cream and set aside. If you have no cream whisk-in a teaspoon or two of additional butter.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain and transfer the pasta in the pan that holds the sauce.Turn the heat to high and quickly stir so that the sauce is partly absorbed by the pasta. Add the Parmesan cheese and 1-2 tablespoon of the pasta water. Stir some more until the additional liquid is absorbed and serve immediately.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired.

Serves 2


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sartù alla napoletana

the sartu rice timbale

the sartu, a spectacular rice timbale

The  Neapolitan SARTU’ is a sophisticated  timbale of rice filled with cheese, vegetables and meat.  The name Sartù originates from a silver table centerpiece or surtout, used by the Naples’ nobility to serve the most important dish of a formal dinner.

Rice, imported into Italy by the Spaniards in the XIV century, had been snobbed by the pasta-eater Neapolitans as tasteless and only good for curing stomach illness.

They took until the end of 1700 to be convinced otherwise. By then rice was all the rage in France, the Bourbons ruled Naples and French cooks ruled the kitchens of aristocratic  families. They made it complicated – as French style commands – as well as acceptable to the locals using popular ingredients such as tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Beyond its gallic construction however, Sartù is an encyclopedia of Italian cooking, if you make that you can practically make everything else.

The traditional recipe involves the use of lard, aged pecorino cheese and a thick meat ragout with chicken livers. I prefer a light tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. It’s rich enough like this and feeds a small army. Remember,  it’s so delicious that if you make it once for your family, they will ask it over and over again.

If you really like to “strengthen” the sauce, cook the sausages in it, rather than grilling them.

Recipe

For the rice “shell”:

  • 1 recipe tomato sauce with basil
  • 450 gr. (1 pound) vialone nano, arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg

For the filling:

  • 1 recipe polpettine (mini meatballs):
  • 1 recipe  piselli al prosciutto (peas with ham)
  • 1 recipe funghi trifolati (sauteed mushrooms)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup Béchamel sauce
  • 200  gr. (7 ounces) fresh mozzarella,  diced
  • 100 gr. (3 ounces) fresh pork sausage, fried (or grilled) and sliced

Prepare shell and filling:

Make a basic tomato sauce. Cook rice in plenty boiling hot water or stock for half of its cooking time, strain. Add egg, Parmesan cheese, tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper. If possible prepare the rice and sauce mixture one day in advance, it’s much easier to handle if it is cold.

Prepare meatballs, peas with ham, sauteed mushroom and Béchamel  sauce.

Assemble Sartu’
Preheat oven at 200°C (40o°F).
Butter generously a round 30 cm (11 inch)  ovenproof dish and dust it with breadcrumbs. Line the dish with a 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick layer of rice. You need to make sure that the rice layer is compact enough on the sides so that it will hold the filling.

Layer all other ingredients in the rice “shell” starting with the mini-meatballs and sausages and ending with the white sauce. Cover with the rest of the rice. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs, a couple of tablespoon Parmesan and dot with a butter. Bake for 20-30 min until slightly golden. Allow to rest for at least 10 min before serving.

Serves 8


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funghi trifolati

white mushrooms trifolati

white mushrooms "trifolati"

SAUTEED MUSHROOMS. Trifolare is a classic Italian method of  cooking thinly sliced vegetables with garlic, olive oil, and parsley. Mushrooms trifolati make a quick and light side dish that goes with almost everything.

Recipe

450 gr. (1 pound)  mushrooms, cleaned and finely sliced
1  garlic clove, minced
1  bunch flat leaf parsley finely chopped
salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoon EVO  oil in large skillet. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender. It is essential to cook the mushrooms on relatively high heat so they do not realease water and become tough. Watery mushrooms like crimini will cook in a few minutes, porcini or other wild mushrooms will take longer.

Stir in garlic and  sauté for an additional minute, until fragrant, do not burn it! Remove from heat and add the chopped parsley. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve at room temperature.

Mushroom, zucchini or artichokes trifolati can be used as a topping for crostini.  Prepare as above, cool and whiz it into a chunky spread using a food processor. Use on crusty bread, toasted until golden. Before serving, shine it with the tiniest bit of olive oil and garnish with a few parsley leaves

Serves 4 as a side dish

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