Ravioli di Zucca – Pasta With Pumpkin Filling (and More) …

As I looked around today, there was a lot of orange about … it is Halloween after all, even here in Italy where the occasion was never celebrated by children in weird costume and get-ups until relatively recently (20 years ago, something like that?).  And yes it has become a consumerist bonanza here as elsewhere but how can one resist the whole idea of “trick or treat” ?

It’s a bit like Christmas presents … as long as Father Christmas/Santa is about, then presents are not a ‘reward’ for which one must say “thank you” and be fake-grateful for.  Santa Claus is ‘magic’ and he and and his elves like to give children presents ‘just because’ … Don’t get me wrong, I love good manners and I think that keeping a grateful outlook on life is good for one’s health (seriously, there has been a lot of research in this field).  But ‘having to be grateful’ for a present that is a reward for good behaviou is very very different from receiving a super present for no reason whatsoever !  Think about it.

I used to absolutely loooove Yuletide and all that that entailed, when our kids were little and still believed in Father Christmas.  My husband and I went to great lengths to dissimulate participation in the parcels that arrived after dinner on Christmas Eve as we all sat and mooched around the table after a special dinner.   At length, the door bell would ring (finally!); one of the dinner party who had to leave the room unnoticed, and never my husband or I, would do this as stealthily as possible after having arranged all the boxes and parcels on the stairs to our front door … and our kids would rush to open the door in eager not to mention frantic anticipation and take in the bounty.  Oh the excitement !  As they grew older, their spoil-sport contemporaries did all they could to disavow them of the magic; didn’t they know, they would proclaim and insist, that Father Christmas did not exist?, that it was the parents who bought all the presents? No way, our kids would answer … “Our parents couldn’t possibly afford all these presents”.  Sweet.  More about our family’s Christmas stories another time.

And so … there was I last Sunday, at home, on my own, after having worked non-stop from 10:20 a.m. to about 3 p.m . with a group of tourists.  I had showed them around town, recounting some of its history (quite a lot of history to Frascati, you’d be surprised), and then we went to the winery (Minardi Winery) where we walked around the vineyard; and then I sat them down to a nice lunch.  We wine and dine ’em, and tell stories, that’s what we do chez Minardi.  And nearly everyone who comes along is in a good frame of mind, either on holday and visiting Italy, or living in Rome and wanting to escape for the day to somewhere more bucolic, to Rome’s nearby countryside.  So the atomosphere is always a jolly one.  But it is still ‘work’ for me, and requires that I keep a sharp look-out on things, making sure that everyone is okay and well fed and that glasses are replenished.  Am I grateful for this job? Of course I am.  Do I like it? Of course I do.  Is it also tiring? … Next question.  You have to give it your all to make it work, and that’s all I’m saying.

Last Sunday, I don’t know what got into me once I got home …  I became all wistful.  Christmas came to mind. The fact that our son lives in Milan came to mind.  That my husband had been away down in Puglia for nearly a week.  Came to mind. That both my sisters live in England (i.e. far away) came to mind.  That our daughter was very busy and I hadn’t seen her in a good while.  Came to mind.  I was sliding down the slippery slope of self pity, wallowing in feelings that never lead to anywhere positive.

What to do, what to do?  My recourse? Cooking.

I decided to make home made pasta.  Not just that.  A pasta recipe that no one in my family likes, because no one in my family likes pumpkin.  Everything from scratch. I patted myself on my back metaphorically speaking when I got around to eating it. There IS compensation in food and eating.  Usually, my joy in cooking derives from cooking for others.  Last Sunday … it was about me.  It was for me.

If you, unlike the rest of my family, like pumpkin/squash and fresh pasta … do please take a look at this recipe.  There are lots of ‘steps’ … but none of them difficult or overly fussy. I don’t ‘do’ fussy.

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INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PASTA: 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk plus 200g of flour.  I used 100g of Italy’s famed 00 wheat flour, and 100g of durum wheat, also known as semolina flour.  Extra flour to dust on the work surface/countertop.

FOR THE FILLING: Some pumpkin that needs to be cooked. You could steam it too I suppose but I baked it in the oven.

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Wait for it to cool.  It’s not a bad idea to cook it the day before.  Which is exactly what I did.

Also required are:

Mostarda di Cremona – maybe orange marmalade might do instead of this? If you can’t get hold of mostarda that is.  Parmesan cheese.  Freshly grated nutmeg.  Fresh sage leaves.  Crushed amaretto biscuits.  Grated parmesan.

For the sauce to cook the ravioli in: cream, sausage, fresh sage

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Mostarda is basically all about candied fruit.  Sometimes this mostarda comes in spicy mode – something akin to wasabi or horseradish.4

Pear mostarda is the best choice for this recipe but I just used what I found in the store-cupboard.5

Chop it up.2

Process the cooked pumpkin.7Add salt and pepper and plenty of freshly grated nutmeg.

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These are amaretto biscuits – made with bitter almonds.  Very crisp and just the business and TOTALLY called for in this recipe.

10Bash the biscuits to pulverise them.11

Add them to the mix.

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Add some fresh sage – sliced up.

Put it in the fridge.  The firmer the mixture the better and the easier to stuff the ravioli later on.  You could, indeed, make this stuffing the day before.

MAKING THE PASTA

13Once you’ve made the fresh pasta, let it rest in a bowl for about half an hour to one hour, covered with a tea towel.  Allowing it to ‘rest’ will make it a lot easier to stretch it with the rolling pin later on. The resting time makes it more elastic.

14I love how my pasta sheet got so big, I had to ‘dangle’ it over the edge of my countertop.

16Use a glass to cut out some circles.  Discs.  Whatever you want to call ’em.  You could use a cookie-cutter if you preferred.17Fun, hey?  And what a lovely color the pasta is.

1918Out comes the filling, out of the fridge.  Use two spoons .. and spoon the mixture into the middle of the discs.  Then fold them in half.  The shape will now be a half-moon.  Join the corners of the half moon together and fold the edge over.20

And this is what you end up with.  YOU might end up with somethine prettier than this. I was happy enough with what I managed that evening.

MAKING THE SAUCE

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Olive oil in the saucepan, a sausage taken out of its casing … some fresh sage … half a glass of wine.

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Hubble bubble … toil and … add some tomato sauce.  Even out of a tube.  Mine was home-made.

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Taste and add some salt and pepper, as required.

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A splash of fresh cream and a good dollop of butter.  Butter always helps.  It brings everything together.  The Italians use the word ‘legare’ for this, and ‘legare’ means to tie together.  Butter helps to ‘tie together’ the sauce.

COOKING THE RAVIOLI

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water – only a few minutes, since this is fresh pasta we are talking about.

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Then drain the ravioli straight into the saucepan with the simmering sauce.

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We are talking about a minute or two to reach perfection.

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Plate up.  Spray with freshly milled pepper.  Some parmesan.

28-scaled-2560.jpgI can’t tell you just how good these ravioli are … they are redolent of a medieval cuisine when sweet and savoury were part and parcel of the same food course.  There was no distinction as such in those days.  Yet there IS a distinction in this mix – and that’s what makes this a choice for  a sophisticated palate.

29Deeply, deeply yummy.

Comfort food in the extreme.

Polpette di Tonno – Tuna Fish-balls

I wrote this post on 18 September 2011 – Golly ! that is eight years ago.  And my feelings for September continue to be roughly the same.  Not my favourite month.  End of Summer.  Sigh.  The recipe, too, continues to be the same.  Reassuring.  Easy to make, and that’s a good thing.  And good for parties.

Sabaudia

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An Indian summer … although we’re half way through September … it’s so easy to enjoy the heat but too late to pretend not to notice that the days are getting shorter … and busier … and that any day now it will get brrrr-cross-your-arms-and-slap-your-shoulders-nippy and we’ll start having to wear sweaters and what have you and don slippers indoors instead of traipsing about bare foot.  It is as if a whisper of seasonal melancholy were subtly knocking at my front door. For someone who loves summer as much as I do, September is a very challenging month and can see me veering towards a moany-groany, want-to-run-away frame of mind.

This year I decided I would be grown up about it and do my best to stretch the summer’s feel of freedom as much as I could.  I tried to organise myself so that I could work in ‘chunks’ … and thus it was that a few days ago, I was able to scamper off to the beach at Sabaudia for most of the day.  It took us one and a half hours to get there but, as always, it was worth it. There were very few people about, now that people are back at work and children back at school.  The breeze was caressing as only a zephyr can be, the sea was still warm enough for me to swim in (I am such a wimp about cold water!) and it was all I could do to tear myself away and head for home as the sun began to set.  Aaaah.  Sigh …. isn’t the sun setting over the sea one of the most compelling sights to behold?

Ultra-organised, smug lady had prepared some vegetables the day before (a potato and celery purée and roasted bell peppers), had bought gorgeous fruit on the way to the beach, knew that wine was cooling in the fridge, so it was only a question of buying some chicken or meat on the way home and dinner was going to be a snap.  But, repeat, I had a very hard time of wrenching my body and soul from the siren call of the sea with the result that all the shops were naturally closed by the time we finally did drive past them.

I didn’t feel quite so smug then, as I took on the slim prospect for our main course that evening, knowing that just like Mother Hubbard, I was going to find the cupboard woefully ‘bare’ when I got there —  the ‘cupboard’, these days, naturally being the fridge and the freezer.  But thank goodness for Nursery Rhymes because I realised that there was indeed one food in my cubbyhole cupboard that was going to save the day: tuna fish packed in oil! Polpette di tonno … i.e. meatballs made out of tuna fish (technically the tuna doesn’t qualify them as ‘meat’-balls … but what else can one call them in English? croquettes? ugh).  How about … fish-balls?

The ingrdients: salted capers (which need to be rinsed and drained a few times to be rid of the excess saltiness), lemon zest (the zest you see came out of the freezer), parsley, two tins of tunny fish packed in oil (and please note that it wasn’t the top quality kind but still, a good kind), and last, and in the case of any kind of polpette, never least … the moistened bread (again, as I wrote in the other post on meatballs, ‘plastic’ white bread serves very well). You will also need an egg to bind the polpette mixture, bread crumbs to coat them and, optional, some grated parmesan cheese.

The tuna is drained of its oil and gets plopped into the blender …

Add the other ingredients.  Ordinarily, I would have chopped up the lemon zest before adding it for a ‘finer’ and more understated taste.  But that evening I was in too much of a hurry … and too hungry!

Freshly milled white pepper …  (Don’t ask what the coffee is doing in the photo … I expect it was lurking about near the stove when we got home and nobody bothered to put it back where it belongs).

Process the mix being careful not to ‘overwork’ it … it must not go all liquid-y.   Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and …

Add the grated parmesan cheese if you think you are going to like it.  We do and we did.

I put in about 4 heaped soup spoons.

One egg.  Mix everything up very well and if the consistency is not thick enough, add some bread crumbs to ‘toughen’ it up.

Shaping the polpette di tonno …

Coating them in bread crumbs …

All those polpette from just two tins of tunny fish!

Fry the polpette in plenty of oil and in small batches.  Remove with a slotted spoon and let them rest on some kitchen paper before serving.

I served the polpette over a purée of celery and potatoes (which I had made the day before), together with the peperoni al forno (which I had also made the day before):

Please note the size of the garlic … it is cut very ‘big’.  The garlic imparts an inimitably pleasing flavour to the overall taste of the dish and is thus very necessary.  However, not everyone, including myself, actually likes to eat the raw garlic itself.  The bits of garlic are large enough to be espied by even the most near-sighted diner and hence he or she can safely shove it out of danger’s way, to the far end of the plate.

The impromptu meal brought on by my stubborn desire to tarry a while by the sea reserved another surprise.  I remembered that we had some Canadian wild salmon in the fridge, which we ate accompanied by toasted bread and butter.  So … what was going to be a very ordinary though perfectly good supper turned out to be a bit of a feast.

It was half past nine by the time we sat down to eat.  Very late.  Very very late. The sort of naughty ‘late’ that seems fitting only during Summer, when time flows more slowly, ‘a misura d’uomo’, as they say in Italian, meaning ‘suitable or appropriate for man’.  And for yet another evening, I was able to ignore the whisper of seasonal melancholy subtly knocking at my front door.  It will bang loudly soon enough …

Pasta col Tonno Sfiziosa – ‘Fussy’ Pasta with Tuna

I am reposting another version of the classic pasta with tuna – one that can’t be made in a hurry and that requires a little attention to detail in the prepping phase.  Definitely worth the trouble, however, if you have the time and inclination.  I wrote the post in December 2014, that’s quite a while ago !

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It is very traditional to have a fish-only themed menu on Christmas Eve in most parts of Italy, including Rome.  Also traditional are foods fried in batter such as artichokes, cauliflower, broccolo, apples, cod fish etc.  Spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti in a clam sauce) are always a big hit.  And so is pasta with tuna – not fresh tuna but tuna packed in olive oil.

I stopped buying tuna a few years ago, after reading about the parlous state of this particular fishing industry.  I don’t want to sound all holier than thou over this decision and I am sure I am not the only one.  However, I also keep an optimistic attitude and look into reports on improvements (in Italy’s Mediterranean waters at least) and it would appear that the numbers of tuna have grown to the point that I can now resume eating it without feeling guilty (and being careful, of course, to choose the right brand).

The photos on today’s post were taken at the end of last summer, the tuna being a present from friends who had just returned from a holiday in Puglia.

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This tuna was A-star stuff, packed in proper olive oil and not some other substandard seed oil, and presented in a glass jar.

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Some tomatoes, a couple of cloves of garlic … and my new kitchen ‘toy’ – a tomato peeler.

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You don’t have to peel the tomatoes but I was in raptures of reverent tomato peeling activity and enjoying myself the way little children do when trying out a new toy …

IMG_9621IMG_9622A couple of anchovy fillets … and some lemon zest (for freshness).

Chop and de-seed the peeled tomatoes …

 

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Cook the garlic (careful that it doesn’t burn, it must cook until it is golden).

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Sprinkle salt all over the chopped tomatoes while the garlic is cooking …

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Get your pasta out (spaghetti would have been nice but I didn’t have any that day) …


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Add the tomatoes to the frying pan …

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After a few minutes, add the anchovy fillets …

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Taste … and add a pinch of sugar if necessary.


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It won’t take more than 10 minutes to have this sauce ready.  At that point, add some torn basil leaves and the lemon zest.  Switch off the heat.

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Sssssh … don’t tell anyone but I didn’t do such a good job of de-seeding the tomatoes.  Never mind.  I am still alive.

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Grate some pecorino cheese.  I think anyone who has been reading my blog for a while is fully aware of my reluctance to engage in cheese grating which is why I do my level best to fob this job off to any other family member or friend who happens to be in the vicinity.  It is important to have someone else grate your cheese for you, yes … but it is also important to make sure that the proper sized cheese grater is used.  See the photo above? The holes in the grater are too big … the grated cheese is not ‘fine’ enough for a pasta.  The finer the cheese grated, the easier it will be for the cheese to ‘melt’ completely into the sauce.  I know it sounds silly but it makes all the difference.

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While the pasta is cooking … drain the tuna.

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When the pasta is just about cooked, transfer it it to the pan with the tomato sauce.  Turn the heat on again and allow the pasta to finish its cooking time directly in the sauce.  If the sauce looks like it’s going to dry out, add some of the cooking water.

 

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Add the tuna last …

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Combine all the ingredients and switch off heat.
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The green bits are, I think, a mixture of mint and marjoram.  Parsely would be great too.

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Add the grated cheese last.

It is not ‘normal’ in Italian cuisine to mix cheese and fish together.  This recipe is one of the exceptions.  As is pasta with mussels and pecorino.

https://myhomefoodthatsamore.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/pasta-al-tonno-variation/

Pasta col Tonno – Classic Pasta Recipe with Pre-Cooked Tuna

I am reposting a recipe I wrote back in March 2011.  It is a classic and it’s worthwhile keeping in mind when time is of the essence.  So think of this variation as the “quick and easy one”.

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At a restaurant not far from home last night, I was surprised to be served a dish made up of polenta accompanied by a tomato sauce and tuna – most unusual and very good too. Upon closer inspection, it transpired that that the tuna was not the fresh kind but, rather, the tuna that is packed in oil – you know, the kind one always keeps in the pantry for salads or for those just-in-case emergency occasions when a very hungry stomach (or two) will fight a very convincing battle with the brain when it presumes to think that cooking can’t be paramount on one’s list of priorities. And that is time to make a pasta and tuna dish so that both stomach and brain will be appeased.

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The ingrediens: some pasta, a jar of tuna packed in olive oil, a jar of tomato sauce, garlic, anchovy fillets and any fresh, green herb you may have around … in this case it was some marjoram.

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When one is in a hurry, it is best to think slowly and act quickly … so take a moment to ‘orchestrate’ the necessary steps.  First things first: put the water on to boil and pour some olive oil into a good-sized saucepan.

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Peel some garlic and cut in half and put it into the saucepan together with one anchovy fillet.  Turn the heat on a low heat (we don’t want the garlic to burn to a crisp) … and then open the jar of tuna and put it through a colander, and open the jar of tomato sauce.

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When the garlic has turned golden and the anchovy fillet has sort of dissolved …

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Add the tomato sauce.

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Put the pasta into the boiling water …

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Add some salt …

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Add a pinch of sugar too … it is the sugar and the salt that really ‘add’ taste to any tomato sauce because both ingredients are enhancers of taste: i.e. both ingredients make any flavour taste better !  That is why a little bit of salt is added even to sweet dishes.

I defy any chef worth his or her hat to deny that salt has no place in the kitchen ! People are absolutely terrified of salt and this is very silly indeed.  The important thing is to use only a small amount … in fact, only the RIGHT amount.

And as for those who worry about high blood pressure and all that that entails … please take the time to google around on the merits of untreated sea salt versus the very nasty chemically cleaned sodium chloride (here is one easy link to get you started: http://www.ecomall.com/greenshopping/salt.htm ).

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As the sauce sputters away merrily, add a sprig of your herbs …

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Followed by the tuna, drained of the oil it was preserved in …

Give it a good stir, gently breaking up the tuna so that it thickens the sauce.

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When the pasta is almost ready (i.e. two to three minutes before the cooking time recommended on the packet), you can drain it directly into the saucepan …

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If the sauce is a little too thick, you can ladle in a little of the cooking water … and keep cooking the whole lot until the pasta has ‘absorbed’ all the sauce and is ready to be served.

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The reason I insert this somewhat unappealing photo is to show that a jar of tuna and a jar of tomato sauce and 500 g of pasta can go a long way !  It can definitely feed four very hungry people …

 

 

Ready to eat … and it took just over 15 minutes from start to finish.  (For your information, the above pasta is the kind that takes 12 minutes to cook.)

There is nothing like a plate of pasta to placate a hungry belly AND a brain that thinks it’s too busy to cook …

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Salame di Tonno / Twice-cooked Tuna Rounds

INGREDIENTS

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Did you know there is a semantic relationship between cod and salami in the Italian language?  I only just found out myself.

In Italian, calling someone a dried cod, i.e. “baccalà” is not a compliment.  The same can be said for name-calling someone a salami, in Italian “salame”.  Basically, you’re telling a person they are not very bright, that they are ‘thick as a plank’, rigid or just plain stupid in their thinking or acting.

I discovered that in the 1400s both pork meats and fish were sold by butchers (?) called “lardaroli”, meaning that both cured meats and salt cod were sold at the same store.  Both were salted.  And the word “salame” derives from “salamen” which itself deries from the Latin word for salt.  It turns out that these fish were salted, historically speaking, before meats were.  And if you look at a salame, well … it’s going to be pretty ‘stiff’, just like an entire salt cod.

Anyway.  About the recipe that I have dubbed “salame di tonno”, i.e. tuna salami.  Some Italians would call it a “polpettone” instead, the same word to describe a meat loaf.  I stick and abide by salame, because its shape is just like that of a salame – only it’s made with tuna, the kind of tuna that cames already cooked and preserved in oil in a glass jar or a in metal tin/can.  The kind that is stocked in every Italian larder to be eaten all year round, especially for those ‘just in case’ moments, when there doesn’t seem to be much other choice to which to resort.  And extremely often for the Christmas Eve fish-themed dinner.

Duing the warmer months of the year, this kind of tuna is often served with beans and for those brave enough, with slices of onion too.  This kind of tuna can also be added to salads.  It can be used to make little tuna meatballs.  It can be used to stuff tomatoes. And, for the rest of the year, this kind of tuna will be used to make a pasta.  You can see how indispensable this food item really is.  The next two posts are going to be about tuna pasta.

It was my sister-in-law Nadia who taught me how to make a tuna salame.  And the first thing that shocked me was the addition of a cheese – parmesan – and eggs to the recipe.  In Italy fish and cheese/dairy do not usually do a meal tango together.  The second ‘shock’ was that the recipe entailed cooking the already-cooked tuna … again.  How strange.  Once I tasted the end result, with a great deal of groaning over its goodness, all those ‘shocks’ melted away, never to return.

An added bonus to this recipe, is that it can be made in advance and even frozen.  I hope I am able to encourage you to make it.

DIRECTIONS

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Start by draining the tuna by placing it in a colander.  The oil that gets drained is usually of poor quality so just chuck it.

3Place the drained tuna in a bowl.

456Add some lemon peel/zest and some salt and pepper.

7Mash everthing up with a fork.  By the way, you could put everything in a food blender if you preferred.

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9Add 1 whole egg per jar of tuna and combine with the fork.

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11Add 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan per can of tuna.  You could add a little more – you’ll have to taste and decide for yourself.

1213The same idea with the breadcrumbs.  Basically, you are going to add as many breadcrumbs as it takes to make the texture a firm one.

14Here we are – done.  Repeat, you can do all of this with the help of a food processor.  In which case you will have a more ‘refined’ texture.  Both are admissable, both are good.

PREPARATION BEFORE COOKING

1516Place the tuna on some parchment paper and shape the ingredients into a salame.  By the way, I did not do it in this photo but I would now recommend that you wet the parchement paper first – it makes everything a lot easier.  Proceed as follows, it’s basically common sense.

171819Now place the wrapped salame on a sheet of aluminium foil.

20The place it on another sheet.

21Done – nice and snug and hopefully watertight.

COOKING

Place in a pot of boiling water and cook for 20 minutes.

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By the way, it used to be traditional to wrap and cook the salame di tonno in a clean tea towel.

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Remove fromt the pot and remove the aluminium sheets and parchment paper too – careful they are very hot.

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At this point, once the salame has cooled down enough, you can wrap it in some parchment paper and freeze it or put it in the fridge for later use.  Wait for it to be completely cool before attempting to slice it.

HOW TO SERVE

Home-made mayonnaise is the classic option.  Any salsa of your choice would be excellent too.

Below are some other ideas.

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Unlike my dear gastronomic friend Phyllis Knudsen, I just adore anchovies.  So I added some to the slices before slathering a home-made salsa verde concoction over them.  So rich, mmmm.  Yep, a little decadent.  This was last year.

The other day I made a mayonnaise with fresh tarragon.  I never know what to do with tarragon so this was a welcome ‘input’ for me. (FYI I have tarragon growing in a pot on my balcony.  The only reason there is plenty of it is that tarragan doesn’t need much tender loving care to grow, it just ‘grows’, phew.)

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IMG_4347.JPGIMG_4350This mayo complemented the tuna salame very well.

Last, here it is served with tomato and some rocket/arugula – plain and simple.

IMG_4356IMG_4358The sky is the limit for any sauce you might care to add – the tuna will hold its own in terms of flavour.  It is robut without being too ‘heavy’ if you know what I mean.

Since it can be made in advance, it’s a great idea for parties.

Aubergine/Eggplant Baked ‘Boats’

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I would rank this among the ‘epitome section’ of home-made dishes.  And by that, I mean that I would not expect to see it offered on any restaurant menu.  A quiet pride at their core made up of unsophisticated and bold statement-making flavour(s), the ‘barchette di melanzane’, i.e. “little aubergine boats”, are the kind of summer dish that only a Mamma would make for her family.  It does take patience, for one thing.  My own mamma never made these but my mother-in-law did.

We were visiting my husbands’ parents who spend their summers in a small town in the Marche, called Monterubbiano.  Very sadly, my mother-in-law is now incapable of cooking anything because she has Alzheimers and her version of reality has already gone beyond the slippery edge of mixed-up reasoning.  She still recognizes us and that is a boon and when she sees me preparing for a meal asks me whether I could do with some help.  I make her peel garlic or potatoes, or slice tomatoes – that sort of thing.  Funny how ‘manually’ speaking she is still capable of some things.  Conversation, however, can veer off into pockets of the absurd that might have inspired Beckett, and repetition is the least of it.   All ill health is tragic but some diseases are more tragic than others.

This recipe, the aubergine boats, used to be one of her summer specialities, that my husband remembers with the fondness of a grateful son.  Now she can’t even remember making them.  I had never made them before and I expect there are other versions out there that are easier or better to make but here we go anyway.

INGREDIENTS

Aubergines/egg plants, minced meat, onion, garlic, parsely, tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, freshly grated parmesan cheese

Silly things first: turn the oven on, put a pot of water to boil, arm yourself with some patience – depending on which time of day make yourself some coffee or tea or else pour yourself a glass of wine.

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Begin my cooking the minced meat with a little olive oil.

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While it’s cooking, cut the two aubergines in half and use a sharp knife to diagonally cut the inside of the half into diamond-like shapes – as in the photo above.  Be careful not to reach the bottom of the aubergine otherwise you’ll cut that too.

4Spoon out the cut chunks of aubergine.  This is not quite as easy as it looks by the way, be prepared.

5Brown an onion with some olive oil.

67Three things going on here at the same time: (1) the meat is cooking, (2) the onions are browning and (3) the aubergine halves are being dunked in boiling salted water for only a minute or so, to soften them.

8Add some parsely to the onions.

10Then add the chunks of aubergine.

11Add the meat and some tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro).

912I decided it needed some garlic too – and extra parsely.  Make sure to taste and season accordingly (salt and pepper, maybe a little bit more olive oil even).

All this didn’t take very long and is quite an ‘intuitive’ approach to cooking minced meat in a tomato sauce – think lasagna for instance.

I had to wait for the aubergine halves to cool down – and they were very ‘floppy’.  It was at this point that I asked my mother-in-law to help me – and she did.  By spooning the sauce into the aubergine ‘boats’.

13Here she is.  As you can see, we sprinkled some parmesan over the boats before placing them in the previously heated oven.

14Bake for about 30-40  minutes at a temperature of 200°C.

15They can be eaten at room temperature – in fact, even better.  Here they are served the following day.

Just Another Summer Tomato Spaghetti Sauce – Almost “Crudaiola”

A “crudaiola” sauce (pronounced croo-dah-yo-lah in English) is essentially a sauce that is made up of raw ingredients.  This pasta recipe is almost raw.  It’s cooked very little.  It is a take on a classic Italian tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes when in season.

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The word for uncooked in Italian is “crudo”.  So, I’m thinking that the word “crude” in English must somehow be embroiled etymologically with this … who knows how or why.  Of course, the Ancient Greeks called everyone who was not Greek a “Barbarian” and barbarians were known NOT to cook their food.  Can we hence assume that the Italian “crudo” (uncooked) had something to do with the English “crude” (i.e. unsophisticated) ?

Understated in the extreme as this recipe may be, there is nothing unsophisticated about it whatsover.  And as with the luxury of understated and refined goods, the secret lies in the quality of the ingredients.  I wouldn’t dream of making this recipe during the colder times of the year.  It requires the best of Summer tomatoes.

INGREDIENTS

San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, parsely stalks, extra virgin olive oil, basil, spaghetti

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I like kitchen toys – they make life a lot more interesting when cooking.  That little black thing you see on the right?  It’s a tomato peeler.  Yes, not a potato peeler – a tomato peeler.  And it does a wonderful job of peeling tomato skins.  If you don’t own one of these (and why would you?), then … then plunge your tomatoes in boiling water and let them sit there for a couple of minutes – after which, remove them and plunge them into very cold water, so that you don’t scorch your fingers when removing the skins.

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Now that the tomatoes have been skinned, they need to be quartered.  And then the quarters need to be halved.

IMG_3753And then … and then you want to get rid of the ‘inside’ of the tomatoes so that all you are left with is the pulp.  The stuff on the left, in the bowl on the left, is the ‘inside’ of the tomato.  And will be thrown away.  The stuff on the right is the good stuff, the pulp.

IMG_3754Job done.

IMG_3755Job almost done because it’s a good idea to slice the tomato pulp now, into thinner slices.

IMG_3756And to finish off the job, sprinkle salt over the slithers of tomato pulp.

IMG_3758People sometimes ask me to recommend pasta brands.  This is a brand I like. It’s called Pasta Cocco  and comes from the region of Abbruzzo.  If you want to read a little bit more about it, here is a link: https://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/making-pasta-pope-abruzzos-mastri-pastai  Here is their website but there is no translation in English it would seem? https://www.pastacocco.com/ .

TIME TO GET COOKING

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Bring the water to the boil, add salt (10g of salt per liter of water) and when the water returns to a rolling boil, lower the spaghetti into it.   Avail yourselves of a nice big saucepan and generously pour extra virgin olive oil into it.  Add as much or as little garlic as you like.  A handful of parsely stalks.  And some fresh chilli – or dry chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh.

IMG_3760Unlike other occasions when the garlic needs to be cooked to a golden colour before adding other ingredients, this time everything gets thrown in together – à la crudaiola. Boom.

IMG_3761And only now do we turn the heat on.

IMG_3762Cook for a few minutes.

IMG_3763Then add basil and cook some more.

IMG_3764Then add the cooked spaghetti and some more fresh basil and any other fresh herb you fancy and finish off cooking the pasta.

IMG_3765Toss and toss to finish cooking the pasta and then switch off the heat.

IMG_3767Can’t say this presentation looks like much.

IMG_3768Nor this.  But can I say?

It tasted just mmmmmm.

PS I was inspired to do this recipe by a similar one outlined in the book called “Faccia da Chef” written by comedian and cook Andy Luotto.