Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Pappardelle alla Barbabietola con Formaggio di Capra e Verdurine (Pink Beetroot Pappardelle Pasta with Goat's Cheese and Baby Leaves)

It's cold outside, My house and garden are covered in snow... so much white, I felt like cooking something summery and full of colour.

Outside, today...

Beetroot is everywhere...all over the shops a fashionable ingredient, you would say! But, with its distinct "earthy" flavour it's not an easy one to cook with!

But Anna remembers her mamma boiling enormous beetroot for what seemed hours, in water and vinegar. How she disliked the smell of earth which filled the house as the roots cooked in the big pot of Fuchsia pink water and how she disliked peeling the "things" and getting her fingers a very bright shade of shocking pink!

But she loved being in the kitchen with Mamma Rosa and she would happily stand on a stool, carefully placed under the table, and get her hands "dirty" if it meant spending "cooking time" in the kitchen with her beautiful mother.

Once cooked and peeled (by me!) the beetroot was preserved in vinegar, and mamma would use it in salad, sliced, and simply dressed with olive oil, salt, chopped garlic and parsley.

I created the recipe below for a competition (even the fresh beetroot pasta recipe is mine) and I must say, it works. This dish is, to me, the equivalent of a box full of flavours, colours and textures totally Mediterranean)

Pappardelle alla Barbabietola con Formaggio di Capra e Verdurine 
( Pink Beetroot Pappardelle Pasta with Soft Goat's Cheese and Baby Leaves. Very pink and beautiful!)

Pappardelle alla Barbabietola
con Formaggio di Capra e Verdurine

(Pink Beetroot Pappardelle Pasta
with Goat's Cheese and Baby Leaves)

 For the pasta:

200 g Plain Flour
 One medium sized Beetroot boiled, peeled
and mashed
pinch of salt

For the Sauce:

 Six tablespoons of Olive Oil
 Balsamic Vinegar
 Two cloves of Garlic
 Half a red Chilli Pepper
 Mixed baby leaves
 65 g of soft Goat's cheese
 A few cubes of diced Beetroot for garnish
Pinch of salt

Before you start, puree your boiled and peeled beetroot. Make sure you get a really creamy, blended texture-no bits! Next, place the flour on a clean surface make a well in the centre and place your pureed beetroot in the middle, with a large pinch of salt. Gradually incorporate the two ingredients. If the mixture seems too dry, add a small amount of warm water. You should get a firm, but soft dough.

 Divide the dough in two pieces, roll each one out until it is 3 mm thick. With the help of a knife, cut your pasta into long strips 3 cm wide. Then, starting at the top, cut diagonally, to obtain diamond shaped pasta (Pappardelle.)

Heat some water in a pan and add some salt. When the water comes to the boil add your pasta. While your pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Place the oil in the frying pan and when the oil is really hot add your finely chopped cloves of garlic. Once the garlic is golden, add some sliced chilli pepper and a handful of baby leaves. Stir to mix the ingredients and take off the heat, as the vegetables should be warm, and firm.
Next, drain your pasta and add to the frying pan with the other ingredients. Blend everything together very gently.
Serve on a plate with another handful of uncooked baby leaves, some diced beetroot (boiled and peeled) and the diced Goat's cheese. Finally, drizzle with a few drops of Balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the dish, to add extra flavour. 

If you scroll down, you will also notice the beautiful salad I made by cooking a couple of beetroot in half water and half vinegar. This process took about one hour. I peeled the cooked beetroot and diced, to make a wonderful salad, by adding olive oil, salt, mixed baby salad leaves and pink peppercorns. Just beautiful and fresh!

Friday, 4 January 2013

My Delicious Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Pasta ( Pasta alla Salsa di Pomodoro con Deliziose polpette)

She had a beautiful Christmas tree, red and white, with millions of fairy lights, which flickered happily in the dark evenings. In the morning, throughout the holidays, she would wake up early, and play beautiful Christmas songs, all the way from America, and Carols, from England, of course. The Viennese Waltz made her dream of dancing in a beautiful palace wearing the pink dress she dreamt of, as a child.
Every time, her mind would go back to her childhood years, in Italy. Being the youngest in the family, on Christmas Eve, she had to walk round the house, holding a statuette of Baby Jesus, for everyone to kiss, before she carefully placed it in the crib, between his Mum and Dad, Maria e Giuseppe, and in front of an ox and a donkey.
The sounds of Christmas were different, then. Everybody sang "Tu Scendi Dalle Stelle" and she felt so important, carrying the Holy Baby in her little hands, carefully cupped, to make sure " HE" didn't get dropped.

When you were born in the Country where every day, though you live in a city, you can smell oranges, resin and seaweed, there is no Bing Crosby or Holly or Ivy, that can take away those scents. It's a kind of addiction and it's what my mind and my heart miss so much: the scent of a happy past!


How I wish, every Christmas, that I could go back in time and help my Babbo make a little duck pond for our Nativity. How I wish I could peel those pungent mandarin oranges, and pick resin off the trunk of one of those Mediterranean pines I loved so much.
 I believe our mind is like a computer: you push a button and millions of windows open up and carry you back to the past, just when you are happily making mince pies and listening to "White Christmas!"
I never had a white Christmas, as a child, but, what I do remember are the smiles, the scents, shopping with my dad, music and laughter.
"Smells like Italy, Mummy!" My daughter Gabriella said to me one day, in the holidays! Just like Mamma's house!" (Mamma is my mother, her grandmother.)
As much as I try to cook Italian food with a contemporary twist, the kind of food my mamma used to cook, did smell "Like Italy!"
It's the kind of food which makes you homesick for the past... that special kind of eternal, universal past, which is hidden right there, inside you. I think you could call it love and, if I have not managed to do really special things in life, I know that I have succeeded in one thing: bringing  my children up to be bilingual, proud of their Italian heritage and... very good cooks!
So, here is a recipe from Mamma Rosa's kitchen. It was her birthday on the 17th of last month. I feel joyful when I remember her.
My Mum's recipe for Pasta alla  Salsa al Pomodoro con Deliziose Polpette ( Delicious Meatballs in Tomato Sauce With Pasta) is here, ready to be shared with you.
Pasta alla Salsa al Pomodoro con Deliziose  Polpette
Serves 4
For the sauce:
5-6 tbs olive oil
1 onion
1 carton passata
black pepper
a handful grated Parmesan
a sprig of fresh basil
For the meatballs:
6tbs olive oil
(if you are frying, rather than baking)
400g minced beef
1 egg
2-3 slices white bread
some fresh parsley
some grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper
Before you start, chop the onion quite finely. Next, heat some olive oil in a medium size saucepan. When the oil is piping hot, add the onion, stir and fry until golden.
Carefully add your passata and stir. If you wish your sauce to have more flavour, you can add some cheese and black pepper to it, and some fresh basil.
This sauce needs to cook for at least twenty minutes.


While your sauce is cooking, make your meatballs. Place your beef in a bowl, make a well in the centre, then add, in the middle, two slices of bread (no crust) broken into small pieces, one egg, some fresh parsley, a generous grating of Parmesan cheese, salt pepper and even a tiny bit of very finely chopped garlic (optional.) Using your hands to mix and combine the ingredients.
Using your hands, again, take small pieces of the mixture, to make balls the size of a golf ball, or bigger, if you prefer. This amount should make about 12 medium size meatballs.
Your meatballs now need to be fried, or baked, in a fairly hot oven, until golden. When you have done this, you are ready to add them to the tomato sauce and cook for a further 10 minutes.


This sauce is delicious with spaghetti or any pasta shape. As you can see from the photos below, I cooked my pasta with some broccoli and cauliflower, as I love vegetables with everything!

In Italy, we would serve pasta with sauce and a generous sprinkling of cheese, first, followed by a "secondo": meatballs with a side dish... I had mine with salad... very nice!

I love the smell of this dish: so Italian, warm, wintery and homely! Very true, it really smells "Like Italy!"