Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Risotto Nostalgico e Profumo di Mare ( Pea and Asparagus Green Risotto With a Poached Fish Rollatina. Very green and beautiful!)

I grew up in a busy city by the Adriatic sea. On a really hot day, the city smelt of tar, expensive perfumes and seaweed. Though the city was big and busy and very crowded, it was beautiful and cosy: it was home. On Summer nights the bars and caffe` stayed open until the early hours of the morning. The city wore a new dress with every season, but one element, one presence was constant : the sea.

On a Summer's night you could almost hear the waves, crushing against the rocks and, if you were in a romantic mood, you could even hear the crabs. They make a bubbling sound at night. I know, because I heard this sound many times.

In Winter, on really windy, rainy day, the sea would be very angry and rough. The waves crossed the Lungomare and invaded the long, wide road which, like a very beautiful snake, ran  parallel with  the city, and led to nearby seaside town. It was and still is a beautiful road. It's the place where my dad's family originated from. It's very beautiful.     

My father loved the sea. He took me to the seaside for the first time and put me on a little island, where I sat like a little mermaid, screaming. I was afraid of the sea. He taught me how to catch crabs and shrimps and sea cucumbers. If you squeeze them, they spit water. It was funny! I loved my Babbo!

My mother loved the city: she loved traffic, noises, crowded shopping centres, and big buildings. She loved people and talking: she talked a lot! Not a country girl, my mother. She was able to see beauty in buildings and cement. But it was she, who, strange enough, taught me how to look at nature, plants, and especially vegetables. My mother wasn't a meat eater. 

During our visits to Caterina's, her farmer friend, who lived outside the city, beyond a railway line, we would pick baby artichokes, fresh peas still in their pods, baby tomatoes (I can still remember the smell!) and, if I was really, really lucky, Caterina would let me have one or two freshly laid eggs.

During these visits I saw things you never see in a city: a horse, chickens, crickets and worms. I loved it!

I feel very lucky to have these places, in my mind, which I can revisit when I feel sad, or when the sky has been grey for far too long.

It has been a very long, Northern Winter and I needed to re visit those places. With this in mind, I got a few ingredients inspired by the sea and the countryside of my childhood and cooked a nostalgic dish. And here it is:

Risotto Nostalgico e Profumo del Mare
( Pea and Asparagus Green Risotto
with a Poached Fish Rollatina)

Serves 2

( For the risotto)

a small bunch of fresh asparagus
5-6 spring onions (scallions)
1 very small garlic clove
two handfuls of peas
5 tbsp olive oil
Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese
150g Arborio rice
1-2 stock cubes

For the Fish Rollatine:

2 large fish fillets
(can be sea bass or sole
or any white fish)
10 shelled prawns
2 small garlic cloves
small bunch of parsley
a few basil leaves
some Pecorino or
Parmesan, grated
black pepper
Cling film for wrapping the

Making my risotto

Before I started, I washed my asparagus and prepared my spring onions. I cleaned and chopped a small clove of garlic and then proceeded to chop the onions and the stalks (just the tender part) of my asparagus, reserving the tips.

I made some stock (about 1 litre) by using a couple of stock cubes and hot water, and placed in large jug, ready to be added to my risotto. If you have time, you can make your vegetable stock by  using water, some oil, an onion a tomato and some celery.
In a medium saucepan I heated some olive oil until really hot, I then added my spring onions ( I used the whole thing, leaves included, as I wanted my risotto to be green.) After two or three minutes, the asparagus stalks were added with the garlic, very finely chopped.

 I let the vegetables cook and blend together for a couple of minutes, then started adding my rice, one handful at the time. I let the first lot toast, then added some stock. I stirred all the time to make sure the rice didn't dry out too much and didn't stick to the pan. I continued to add more rice and stock, until the rice was used up. I carried on stirring and adding small amounts of stock, as I went along. I never let it dry out. Risotto is very easy to make.

When my rice was almost ready, I put my lovely peas in a small food processor and blitzed  until they became a bright, emerald green "cream". 

I added this to my risotto with a generous grating of cheese. I served garnished  with some asparagus tips which I had quickly poached. 

This risotto can also be served and enjoyed with a generous garnish of uncooked pea shoots.

While I was making my risotto, I also had a fish rollatina poaching in water. I actually made this first, so the two dishes could be served together, as a delicious main course.
I placed my fillets on a clean surface, placed four large prawns in the middle of each with some parsley, basil, some cheese, a tiny bit of chopped garlic, some salt and black pepper and then proceeded to roll the fish, till it looked like a sausage. The fish parcel was then placed in the middle of a biggish piece of cling film, which was then wrapped very tightly round the fish rollatina and then secured ( I tied the ends of mine, together.)

At this point, my fish really looked like a sausage, as it was being poached in hot water.

My little fish parcels were poached in boiling water for about 7-10 minutes, then unwrapped, sliced, and served with some of the rice.

 I also made a small warm salad, with broad beans (fave) which I cooked and then shelled, with some feta cheese and olive oil. I also poured some lovely Italian olive oil over the fish. It looked gorgeous! 

My dish was fresh, delicious and very healthy. I think both my parents would have enjoyed it, as it was made using some of their favourite ingredients. Beautiful!


  1. Dear Anna - so pleased that you managed to post this delicious recipe. We had asparagus tonight, but I shall be getting it every week now that it is in season. It is here for such a short time in England. I love the idea of blending the peas and then adding them to the risotto rice to make it a love green. Definitely one I shall try. Love the way you did the fish, so simple but looks so delicious.
    I noticed that you have also watermarked your photos - that is good too.
    Well done dear Anna, glad you succeeded with the little problem♥

  2. Hi Rosemary!

    I'm glad you like my recipe. The rice is fantastic and the fish very, very delicate. You should make it!

    Rosemary, if you look through my blog, you will notice that, except for the last two posts, or so, I usually add text ( my name or initials) to my pictures. I think watermarking is something else (can't be removed!)and I was actually trying to find out how it's done, or if anyone's pictures can be copywrighted, as I have found my pictures on other websites on the net. I don't think my photos are perfect, or professional, but they are "mine" and I would like to be the only one to use them. I'm sure you feel the same about your photos.

    Thank you for your help. I'm glad I looked in Picasa. I shall now have to remember how to do it, next time!



    1. Back again Anna - watermarking does just mean writing across the photo. If you put your blog title on the photos, and display it higher up then nobody can use your photos because they have your blog on them. Also if you write it across the lower middle region they cannot really use any part of the photo without spoiling it, so it is of no use to them.

    2. Thank you, Rosemary. I somehow believed that watermarking was achieved in a different way. My mistake!

      I noticed that you print the title of your blog across the images and I realized why. Now I know for sure!

      Thank you for all the good advice you gave me, today!



  3. Dear Anna
    Congrats! You display all the photos! The recipe looks great and as I understood, may be easy! Your parents will see you with proud of where they are. The way of linking the recipes with the memories is wonderful. Enjoy your food with a delicious glass of wine and relax!
    Good night

    1. Ciao, Olympia! Yes, I finally did it! I managed to post, with pics! We'll see what happens next tme!

      You are right: this recipe is easy and very good and healthy and you should try it!

      I loved the film clips you posted, especially the one where you can see the great Theodorakis do the Sirtaki. I recognized the first song, which is one I love: "Strose To Stroma"... I love that song! I actually love all Theodorakis' music!



  4. Dear Anna,
    I'm always touched when you tell us about your wonderful italian childhood!

    The menu sounds great!

    ♥ Franka

  5. Ciao Franka! i'm so glad someone actually reads what I write. It means a lot to me. "A Taste of Italy" is not just about food... it's a also about giving you a taste of life in Italy, filtered through food and my life (so far!)

    Thank you very much!


  6. Ai , ai, ai, Mamma mia... questa recita e fantastico. Grazi Anna..
    This is surely going to be on my list for this weekend..
    I feel through your post, that you are missing Italy. (thank you for your most generous and loving comments on my blog)..
    Its the time for wild asparagus here. There is a man and his wife in the village who go to the riverside and cut it . I eat it with my adopted family who have a restaurant in the village.
    She cooks it in a similar way.. but the rice has beans.
    sometimes the asparagus is cooked in an omlette with chouriço..
    Such loving memories that you write about your parents Anna.
    I can feel they were both wonderful people.
    I somehow imagined your mother to have grown up in the country! alas she was a city lady, but she taught you about the country. Fresh eggs..yummi nothing better.
    You soon got used to the sea with Babbo sitting you on an island ..!! fun memories.
    There is nothing better than than family memories .. yours i love to read always.
    Think of Italy Anna. the sun shining and hopefully you will be there soon.
    big hugs to you..
    de amici val
    hugs xxxxx

  7. Hi Val!

    Yes, I'll never forget being "dumped" on that island! It was very windy and the sea was rough. Poor me!

    My mother was born in a small town outside Bari, but the family moved into the city when she was a tiny baby. By the time she was born, her dad had died, so, my poor grandmother was left to bring up a family of several children, on her own. And what a wonderful job she did!

    Val... the only taste of the countryside I had, when I lived in Italy, was through my mum's connections. We were city people, but, the main reason why we weren't "countryfied" was that we were born on the coast, right by the sea, in a city with a big port, where you saw and breathed the sea, every day. We love all things good in life, but, especially, the sea and everything connected with it.

    What I miss, Val, are the colours of my country. I miss the blues skies, the flowers, the crowds, the traffic, the music (I have to sing to myself, I miss it so much!)and even the silly jokes (italian humour is pathetic!)

    I hope my blog conveys a little bit of the love and pride I feel for my origins, my language, my history. Failing that, I hope I can at least bring you a bit of sunshine, every time you come in here (though you must have plenty in sunny Portugal) I love the sun!

    Try my recipe... it's really good! I shall post more risotto recipes, maybe. We have wonderful local asparagus, here, at the moment. In Ogliastro Cilento, where we have our house, they sell bunches of tiny little wild asparagus, ideal for frittata. I love asparagus so much, I can eat it raw, like fennel and celery!

    BIG HUGS TO You!

    PS: I love Rosie, your new little foal!


  8. Hello Anna, long time no see! How are you? I love to hear these stories of your childhood, they are so atmospheric. I had no idea that crabs made noises! I love risotto but don't make it because no-one else would eat it in my house. However I notice that your recipe is a small quantity, so I could make it for myself....yay! Love Linda x

  9. Yes, Linda... crabs make noises, a little bit like bubble bath, when the tiny bubbles begin to burst. In fact, tiny little bubbles come out of the heads of crabs, continuously (I think.) I remember making that sound when I was little, with saliva, inside my mouth (nice, eh?)

    You always know where the crabs are, at night, if you are near them, because of that lovely noise...

    Make my risotto (you can make a tiny portion, if you want!)



  10. I enjoyed reading your memories of the seaside Anna. Living close to the sea myself I share your love for it!

    The risotto looks delicious. With the abundance of asparagus in Holland at the moment I just may try out your recipe :-)!

    Have a lovely weekend!

    Madelief x

  11. I think it must be asparagus season all over the world, which is good, as I love it! i noticed that in Germany, most of the asparagus is white (blanched) which I found really strange, as I love its bright green colour, as it makes it more appetizing!

    Thank you for reading my little story and make sure to try the recipes (they are truly delicious!)


    ANNA :)

  12. Oh I am transported there with you Anna, it is lovely to be back in blogland at last able to visit your blog.

    1. Hi Lindy... So good to hear from you again! Thank you for the "visit!" I hope you are enjoying the hot weather! I can't wait to come back!



  13. un risotto sfizioso da morire

    1. Ciao Giovanna! Grazie dell visita! Mio fratello mi ha chiesto di mettere un traduttore sul blog, perche` e` in lingua inglese, quindi cerhero` di farlo, per permettere a tutti di capire le mie ricette.

      Baci alla Sicilia!


  14. Dear Lindy... you don't need to "transported"... you already are there! Well... not in the past, but in my country!

    My husband and I are planning to spend a lot more time in Italy (most of the time, in fact) starting from the new year, so I'm quite excited, Lindy!

    I'm glad you're back, as I was thinking of slowing down with my blog!



  15. Hi Anna,as I said I would, I'm here for my dose of you and your Mother's wonderful Italian cooking, and the sunshine you conjure up when describing your childhood memories and as usual your post is a feast for the senses!
    I love the sound and look of all the dishes you have shared here - what a lot of work for you, taking the photos at different stages as well as the recipe and instructions.
    I will be trying these for sure, as my daughter does not eat meat or poultry but loves fish, and I just know she will enjoy all of this healthy and colourful food.
    I know it will all be good as I have tried several of your recipes now and they have all been fantastically tasty, from simple wholesome ingredients and no fuss to make.
    Thank you so much for sharing your memories and the recipes, it is such a delight to visit you Anna!
    Have a good week, and I now have the pleasure of catching up on your other posts!
    Gill xx

    1. Dear Gill,

      I can only say "Thank you!" for a delightful comment! You, my readers and friends, make all the hard work involved in peparing every post, worthwhile. Unfortunately, I like to do step-by-step images and they are time consuming! I'm glad to hear that you have tried several of my revipes and have found them easy to follow and the end result edible! That's the main thing!

      I love sharing snippets of my life in Italy with you and making you travel to another time and another (warm, sunny and music filled) place! Thank you for following me all the way there!




  16. Thank you Anna, for a wonderful post and for sharing your memoirs about your happy childhood and your father and mother with us. It is so beautiful, I like your father and mother. My father loved the sea too, and I feel the same about the sea. I wouldn't be able to live in a place far from the sea. Your description about your mother is so lovely. She was a special woman.
    And thank you for a great recipe. Italian food is the best!
    Grethe ´)

    1. Grethe,

      I do agree: Italian food IS the best! And the variety is unbelievable: I could cook a different dish every day of the year!

      I like sharing my childhood memories... I don't know... this blog has developed into a kind of collection of memories connected with food. It has its own "will" and it takes me places!

      My mother was indeed a very special woman, like every good, loving mother... and I never knew she had been as strong an influence on me, as I know realize, until she became really sick. We tend to appreciate what has gone, more than what is under our eyes. Now she's gone, I love her even more. True love is eternal, isn't it?

      Thank you for a lovely comment!


  17. Dear Anna

    You had a charmed life with two loving parents,both different in their tastes and two big hearts of gold.
    I love fish too and grew up eating it. To this day I still prefer fish and could live without meat (like my mother)
    Don't you love this time of year when vegetables and berries are plentiful. Today I purchased cherries. Delicioso.

    Hope the sun shines on you tomorrow

    Helen x

  18. You are such an enchanting story writer, Anna! It must have been wonderful and it's great to unpack all these memories and go through them again with joy and sometimes with sadness. During our several stays on a farm in Tuscany we were walking in the woods and often we encountered little fields with tomatoes, artichokes, herbs etc. They looked wild and I do not think anyone had planted them. They were just there ready to pick! I think your menu is delicious - I love fish and your recipe sounds unusual but delicious. Tomorrow we are going out to eat and in that restaurant they make wonderful tripa! I love to eat it when we are in Firenze. They eat them like we would eat a sausage here! Have a good evening! I hope the sun shines tomorrow - just for you! Christa

    1. Hello Christa! So glad to hear you like trippa!Here in UK, people don't even like feeding to their dogs! That's because they think it smells and tastes vile (I could say the same about butter!) I love trippa! And I remember how wonderful it tasted when my mum was lucky enough to be able to get hold of some and cook it for us, in a delicious tomato sauce, or even made into fantastic braciole! Here, they told me, they eat it with a white sauce, which doesn't sound good, and onions! In Campania, I had trippa e fagioli ( a kind of wintery soup) with chillies. It was very yummy, but not as good as the stuff we ate at home. But very nice, all the same.
      The place in Tuscany sounds fantastic, Christa! I love to pick wild dandelions and asparagus, in the countryside. During a visit to the ancient ruins of Paestum, I picked wild rucola (rocket), tiny mint and sage and even delicious fresh thyme. My friend Sandra happened to have a plastic bag with her. It was filled with all kinds of green "treasures" which became our salad, for the evening meal.

      Enjoy the rest of the evening!


  19. Dear Anna,
    wishing you a wonderful weekend..
    Hope your weather is better.
    much love
    val xxxx

    1. Thank you, dear Val...

      I am cooking goodies for a special meal, tonight!

      It's just lovely, as I write: very sunny, the birds are singing and my roses are out! I cut some to have in the house. Love them!



  20. Thanks Anna for your lovely comment! You are such an incredible person! I hope you don't mind me writing it: Ti amo! Ciao e buona serrata! Tomorrow my post will be even more Italian... Christa

  21. what a fantastic blog you have ! I am a huge fan of all kinds of "risotti", we make at least two a week at home:-)
    simply great the way you describe the preparatio and the steps! sunny greetings from Holland...