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CONTENTS

COVER
LIST OF RECIPES
TITLE PAGE
INTRODUCTION
SOUPS
PASTA & GNOCCHI
RISOTTO & POLENTA
BREADS & PIZZA
FISH
MEAT
POULTRY & GAME
VEGETABLES & SALADS
SORBETS & ICE CREAMS
CAKES
SAUCES & STOCKS
THANKS
OUR FAVOURITE PLACES
FOLLOW PENGUIN
COPYRIGHT

LIST OF RECIPES

ACQUA COTTA
ARISTA DI MONTALCINO
ARROSTO FIORENTINO
ASPARAGI ALLA PARMIGIANA
BACCALÀ MANTECATO
BAGNA CAUDA
BELLINI
BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA
BOLLITO D’ANATRA
BOLLITO MISTO
BORLOTTI CON PORCINI
BRODO DI PESCE
BRODO DI POLLO
BRODO DI VERDURA
BRODO DI VITELLO
BUCATINI CON ACCIUGHE
BURRO DEL CHIANTI
CANNELLINI
CANTUCCINI
CAPONATA
CARCIOFI FRITTI
CARCIOFI ROMANI
CARNE CRUDA DI VITELLO
CARPACCIO DI MANZO
CARTA DA MUSICA
CASTAGNACCIO
CAVOLO NERO CON PINOLI
CECI CON ROSMARINO
CIAMBELLA
CONDIMENTI PER INSALATA
CONDIMENTO CON ACETO BALSAMICO
CONDIMENTO CON LIMONE
CONDIMENTO CON SENAPE
CONIGLIO AL FORNO
CONIGLIO FRITTO
COSTOLETTA DI MAIALE
CROSTATA DI MARMELLATA
CROSTINI DI CICORIA LUNGA
CROSTINI DI FEGATINI
CROSTINI DI OLIVE NERE
CROSTINI DI POMODORI CRUDI
CROSTINI DI ZUCCHINI
FAGIANO CON TARTUFO
FAGIANO IN AMARONE
FAGIOLINI CON PREZZEMOLO
FARAONA CON GRAPPA
FARAONA CON LIMONE
FARINATA CON ROSMARINO
FEGATO DI VITELLO
FEGATO DI VITELLO IN TEGAME
FILETTO DI MANZO
FINOCCHI TRIFOLATI
FIORI FRITTI
FLORENTINES
FOCACCIA AL SALE
FOCACCIA COL FORMAGGIO
FONDUTA DI PARMIGIANO
FONDUTA PIEMONTESE
FRITTO DI GRANCHIO
FRITTO MISTO DI MARE
FUSILLI CON ZUCCHINI
GALLO CEDRONE AL FORNO
GALLO CEDRONE CON FEGATO
GELATO AL CARAMELLO
GELATO AL GIANDUIOTTO
GELATO AL MARSALA
GELATO AL TRIO DI CIOCCOLATI
GELATO DI PISTACCHIO
GNOCCHI DI PATATE
GNOCCHI DI ZUCCA
GNUDI BIANCHI
GRANITA BELLINI
GRANITA DI PERE
GRISSINI
IMPASTO PER PIZZA
IMPASTO TOSCANO
INSALATA D’INVERNO
INSALATA DI OVOLI
INSALATA DI POLPO
INSALATA DI ZUCCHINI
INZIMINO DI CALAMARI
LASAGNETTE DI LAURA
LENTICCHIE CON VINO ROSSO
LO STINCO
MAIALE AL LATTE
MALFATTI DI BIETOLA
MARMELLATA DI PESCHE
MARMELLATA ESTIVA
MAZZANCOLLE CRUDE
MINESTRONE ESTIVO
MONTE BIANCO
OLIVE PER CUCINA
OSSOBUCO ALLA MILANESE
OSSOBUCO CON PISELLI E PANCETTA
PAN SPEZIALE
PANETTONE
PANINI FRITTI DELL’HARRY’S BAR
PAPPA AL POMODORO
PAPPARDELLE ALLA LEPRE
PASTA FRESCA
PASTA LIGURE
PASTA PIEMONTESE
PASTA VERDE
PATATE ARROSTO
PATATE DA LUCCA
PENNE ALL’ARRABBIATA
PENNE CON STRACOTTO
PENNE LISCE CON MELANZANE
PEPERONATA
PEPERONI MARINATI
PEPERONI RIPIENI
PEPOSO
PERNICE AL FORNO
PESCE AL SALE
PESCE ALL’ACQUA PAZZA
PESCE INTERO AL FORNO
PESCE MISTO AI FERRI
PESTO
PICCIONI
PICI AL LIMONE CON PECORINO
PINZIMONIO CON OLIO NUOVO
PISELLI CON PROSCIUTTO
PIZZA FRITTA
PIZZETTA DI PATATE CON ACCHIUGE, PEPERONCINO E ORIGANO
PIZZETTA DI PATATE CON MOZZARELLA, CAPPERI E BASILICO
PIZZETTA DI PATATE CON PECORINO E ROSMARINO
PIZZETTA DI PATATE CON PROSCIUTTO TOSCANO
POLENTA AI FERRI
POLENTA CON VINO BIANCO
POLENTA FRITTA
POLENTA MORBIDA
POLLO CON OLIVE NERE
POLLO DISOSSATO
POLPO IN UMIDO
POMODORO FIORENTINO AL FORNO
PORCHETTA
PORCINI ARROSTO
PORCINI FRITTI
RAVIOLI CON RICOTTA
RICCIARELLI
RISOTTO AL BAROLO
RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE
RISOTTO CON BRUSCANDOLI
RISOTTO CON LATTE
RISOTTO CON PESCHE
RISOTTO CON PISELLI
RISOTTO CON VONGOLE
RISOTTO NERO
ROGNONCINI AI FERRI
ROGNONCINI TRIFOLATI
SALMORIGLIO
SALSA CALDA DI OLIVE
SALSA D’ACCIUGHE E ROSMARINO
SALSA DI DRAGONCELLO
SALSA DI POMODORO CRUDO
SALSA DI RAFANO
SALSA PER CARPACCIO
SALSA PER PUNTARELLE
SALSA ROSSA CRUDA
SALSA VERDE
SALSICCE ARROSTO
SAPA
SARDE MARINATE
SCHIACCIATA
SCORZETTA CANDITA
SEPPIA IN UMIDO
SORBETTO DI CASTAGNA
SORBETTO DI CIOCCOLATA
SORBETTO DI CLEMENTINE
SORBETTO DI RIBES
SORBETTO DI UVA FRAGOLA
SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA
SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE CON BURRO
SPAGHETTI CON BOTTARGA
STRUDEL
SUGO DI POMODORO
TAGLIATELLE CON PORCINI
TAGLIERINI AL TARTUFO
TORTA DELLA NONNA
TORTA DI CAPRI
TORTA DI LIMONE CON PINOLI
TORTA DI POLENTA
TREVISANO TARDIVO
VIGNOLE
VITELLO TONNATO
ZABAGLIONE
ZUCCA AI FERRI
ZUCCHINI E PATATE AL FORNO
ZUCCHINI FRITTI
ZUCCHINI SCAPECE
ZUPPA ALLE VONGOLE
ZUPPA ALLE VONGOLE DI CAMPAGNA
ZUPPA CON SARDE
ZUPPA D’AOSTA
ZUPPA DI BACCALÀ
ZUPPA DI CANNELLINI
ZUPPA DI FARINATA DI CAVOLO NERO
ZUPPA DI PANE
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INTRODUCTION

We have had some extraordinary opportunities to visit Italy during the twenty–two years since we started the River Café. We love the architecture of the great cities, the landscapes, the sea and the mountains, but what we love most is the instinctive way food and wine play such an important part in everyday Italian life. From our very first visit, we have been inspired by the pride Italians take in their ingredients and their regional recipes. We knew then that this was the way we wanted to cook, and it is the way we still cook today.

We have travelled all over Italy, from Sicily to Piedmont, from Le Marche to Liguria, increasing our knowledge of the local specialities and classic recipes of each region. Through these journeys we have made friends with cooks, and have shared their passion for their family dishes – handed down from generation to generation. These talented people have taught us about the ingredients they use, and how to follow the seasons, using locally grown produce. Simple, regional cooking that gives endless pleasure – the Italian ethos. This book is the result of these encounters, which we want to share. It is our friendships with those who grow the grapes, tend the olive trees, make the wine and olive oil we use, the cheesemakers and salami producers, that have taught and inspired us.

The stallholders in the vegetable markets, whose produce changes throughout the year, have always explained to us the seasonality of what they grow and their way of making the most of what is abundant at any time. Eating in trattorias and people’s homes has taught us, better than any elaborate research ever could, how to put a salad together using raw ovoli mushrooms and rocket in the summer, and how to make a soup with just three ingredients – broccoli, Lambrusco wine and garlic – in the winter.

Every recipe has its memories. We remember a visit to Giovanni Manetti, the famous wine and olive oil maker from Fontodi in Tuscany. His mother made us a ribollita, a soup of bread, cabbage and chicken stock that was unlike any Tuscan ribollita we had ever tasted because of its unusual sweet flavour. It made sense when we were told that she had changed the recipe in order to best show off her son’s newly pressed, peppery, very green olive oil.

There was a winter’s day we drove for miles up into the mountains of Piedmont behind Genoa to visit a wine dealer who wanted us to experience his grandmother’s cooking. She and all the women of her family cooked for us the very delicious but frugal dishes they had survived on during the war. For three hours we sat with the men of the family in a vast, cold room, eating course after course of thick, creamy, comforting polenta, while the women stayed in the kitchen around the stove, stirring. This is where we learned how long polenta takes to cook. Every sauce we ate that day was made with wild ingredients – rabbits, hares, boar – with salads of wild herbs and greens.

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On a trip to Puglia we slept in a bakery just so we could watch the many stages involved in the making of huge four–kilo semolina loaves throughout the night. We were astounded when we found out that these loaves used a sourdough ‘mother’ base that was started in 1945 and was still alive! We felt honoured to be given a piece of this ‘mother’ to take back to the River Café, and, since that trip, we use Pugliese bread every day.

In Maremma we were introduced to a winemaker whose estate makes a delicious Pecorino cheese. As we use fresh ricotta daily to stuff our ravioli, we were interested to see how they made their sheep’s ricotta, the most delicate of all ricottas. Seeing it made, and tasting the soft warm curds by the teaspoonful that day, inspired us to use this cheese in various new ways.

On a more recent trip to Italy, we took the opportunity to visit Verona, a city we both love, to take photographs for this book. We returned to one of our favourite restaurants, Al Pompiere, for it was here, on our initial trip to VinItaly (the grand annual wine fair) in 1989, that we first ate risotto Amarone. The risotto was just as we remembered it from twenty years earlier – intensely flavoured with this powerful, spicy wine. When we make this risotto ourselves we use Mari Lisa Allegrini’s Amarone, which we think is one of the best made in Valpolicella. Al Pompiere also specializes in local prosciutto and salami. There is lardo from Colonnata, local culatello, and the delicately soft sopressa, sweet horsemeat bresaola and mortadella. Every table is served large, carefully arranged platters of these meats, ranging in colour from pale pink to deep crimson, all prepared with great care by the chef, who presided over this domain with pride.

There are other restaurants in Italy that we always return to – Piperno in Rome for artichokes alla giudia, Alla Vecchia Bettola in Florence for arista di maiale, and, in Vernazza on the Ligurian coast, Trattoria Gianni Franzi for fritto misto and pesto. Every year in November we go on a trip to Italy with our chefs from the River Café to choose a new olive oil and taste some wine. We always make a special detour to Scacciapensieri in Cecchina to visit the woman who bakes whole fish over potatoes. When we are in Piedmont in the white truffle season, we try to have a meal at Il Giardino da Felicin in Monforte d’Alba, which has an amazing view over the Barolo vineyards, and a beautiful cheese room. And in Milan we always try to discover a simple and surprising soup recipe at La Latteria.

This book is a collection and celebration of these wonderful Italian dishes. Inside you will find over 200 newly written recipes, the ones that we’ve been taught over the years and which mean so much to us, and those that we cook most often – our personal interpretation of these recipes and a tribute to the people we’ve met along the way.

This is classic Italian food – the traditional, regional food we love to eat when we are in Italy, the food we cook at the River Café, and the food we cook at home for our families.

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, 2009

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SOUPS

Zuppa, passata, minestra, minestrina, crema, pappa and brodo are just some of the words Italians use to describe what we simply call ‘soup’. Some of our favourite classic Italian soups are included in this chapter.

We find something very calming and creative about making a soup – the slow steps of building it up from the soffritto, adding the vegetables, beans, potatoes, the stock or water, and watching as the consistency, flavour and fragrance develop as it cooks.

The foundation of most soups is the soffritto, a lightly fried mixture of finely chopped vegetables and herbs. Traditionally, it consists of parsley, celery, garlic, carrots and onions, but pancetta, prosciutto or speck might also be added, or herbs such as thyme, sage and marjoram. We once watched a cook in Sardinia making a minestrone – she was surrounded by bowls of herbs, and added handfuls of each kind to the soffritto.

Broths or brodi are generally the basis for the soups of the north, like the one from the Val d’Aosta that we’ve included here. They are light broths, achieved by simmering chicken, veal or beef with ‘odori di cucina’ – celery, carrots, onion and parsley – for about two hours. A flavourful vegetable broth, made by boiling carrots, celery, tomatoes, onions and herbs for about an hour, can be used as an alternative to traditional meat or chicken broth.

Italian bean soups can have subtle, complex flavours. When they are available, we use fresh cannellini or borlotti beans, which are harvested in the summer and are plentiful in all the markets in Italy, but dried ones are also delicious. Sometimes we use farro, barley and rice in place of beans.

In Tuscany, where bread is essential to cooking, it is almost always included in soups. The bread is unsalted and the texture is rough and grainy, with a thick crust. Traditionally bread was made once a week and, as it became hard and stale, thrifty Tuscan cooks developed recipes for soups such as ribollita and pappa al pomodoro – a summer soup fragrant with ripe tomatoes, basil and olive oil (see here). In the mountains of Piedmont, bread soups are filling and comforting, made with toasted bread placed in the bottom of a bowl, strong meat broths poured over, then covered with the local Fontina cheese.

When we were in Campagna, our winemaker friend Bruno Deconciliis was keen to introduce us to some of its unique ingredients. We visited an exceptional bakery that made freselle, a local traditional dry bread bun made with a fine-ground unbleached flour. In the restaurant Il Ceppo we ate a delicious zuppa alle vongole made with clams, garlic and chilli and a few torn-up late-season small tomatoes. No wine, no stock, but the freselle buns were there in the bowl to thicken the soup and were a crucial ingredient in giving it its particular texture and flavour.

Soup recipes can easily be adjusted to whatever ingredients you have to hand – as you make more and more soups you will become increasingly confident and find your own way. It takes time to understand Italian soups – how thick they can be, how they are often served at room temperature, the importance of olive oil and which ones taste better the next day. The ingredients in a soup can also tell you a lot about the area they originate from, the season you are in, the traditions of the area, and something about the person who cooked it.

 

RECIPE LIST

ZUPPA CON SARDE
ZUPPA ALLE VONGOLE
ZUPPA ALLE VONGOLE DI CAMPAGNA
ZUPPA DI BACCALÀ
PAPPA AL POMODORO
MINESTRONE ESTIVO
ZUPPA DI PANE
ACQUA COTTA
ZUPPA D’AOSTA
ZUPPA DI CANNELLINI
ZUPPA DI FARINATA DI CAVOLO NERO
 

ZUPPA CON SARDE

BORLOTTI AND SARDINE SOUP

Lipari is one of the beautiful Aeolian islands off Sicily. When we arrived we took a walk from the harbour up the hill and ate at Ristorante Filippino, sitting outside in the garden with views across the island and the sea. This soup is made with sardines, pine nuts and sultanas, ingredients used for the traditional Sicilian pasta sauce. To have them in this soup with borlotti beans was astonishing and memorable.

For 6

extra virgin olive oil

½ a red onion, peeled and finely sliced

3 salted anchovy fillets

1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted

1 tablespoon sultanas, soaked in hot water

2 garlic cloves, peeled: 1 finely chopped, 1 cut in half

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

12 whole sardines, filleted

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

300g cooked borlotti beans (see here)

6 slices of ciabatta bread

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and gently cook until soft and translucent but not brown. Add the anchovies and crush into the onion, then add the pine nuts, sultanas, chopped garlic and fennel seeds and stir to combine.

Lay the sardines in the pan and season them. Pour over just enough boiling water to cover the sardines, then cover and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, or until the sardines are cooked. Add the borlotti beans and stir, crushing and breaking up the sardines.

Toast the bread and rub one side lightly with the halved garlic clove. Place each of these crostini in a bowl and ladle over the soup. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Zuppa Con Sarde
Zuppa con Sarde
 

ZUPPA ALLE VONGOLE

CLAM SOUP

Every Friday the fish sellers from Grosseto bring fish to the hill town of Montalcino. They sell from what is literally a hole in the walls of the town, but step inside and there is an abundance of glistening fresh fish – different sizes of squid, sea bass, swordfish, anchovies, clams and mussels. You have to get there early – and even then there is a queue – for by ten o’clock it is all gone. We bought clams and cooked them this way; the toast absorbs the delicious broth.

For 6

2kg small clams, washed

extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 dried red chillies, crumbled

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 bottle of dry white wine, such as Vermentino

12 small slices of sourdough bread

Check over the clams and discard any that are not closed.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan large enough to hold the clams. Add all the garlic and chillies and half the parsley and cook for a few minutes. Add the wine, bring to the boil, cook for a minute, then add the clams. Stir well, to coat the clams with the wine. Cover the saucepan and cook the clams over a fairly high heat until they open, which will take 2 or 3 minutes. Discard any that remain closed.

Toast or grill the bread until brown, then prop up the pieces around the sides of a warmed oval dish. With a slotted spoon, remove the clams to the dish. Reduce the wine in the saucepan for a few minutes more, then pour over the clams.

Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and drizzle with plenty of extra virgin olive oil.

Zuppa Alle Vongole
Zuppa alle Vongole
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ZUPPA ALLE VONGOLE DI CAMPAGNA

A CLAM SOUP FROM CAMPAGNA

For 6

500g ripe vine cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small light wholemeal loaf, with the bottom crust cut off

5 fresh red chillies

olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2kg small clams, washed

3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

Tear up the tomatoes and put them into a small bowl with all their juices. Add the ground fennel seeds. Season with sea salt and black pepper and leave to marinate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 110°C. Tear the bread into rough pieces the size of thick slices. Place on a rack and place in the oven to dry out, but not colour beyond a light tan. This should take 25–30 minutes.

Meanwhile check over the clams and discard any that are not closed. Cut the chillies in half lengthwise and scrape out most, but not all, of the seeds, then roughly chop. In a large thick-bottomed pan, gently heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic, chilli and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. When the garlic is soft and beginning to colour, turn up the heat and add the clams. Stir to turn the clams over in the oil, then add the tomatoes and their juice and 1 cup of water. Cover and cook until the clams have opened. Discard any that remain closed.

Throw in the parsley and test the juice for seasoning. Season with black pepper and add 2–3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice.

Heat the soup bowls. Divide the dried bread between the bowls and pour over, in equal amounts, the clams and their juices. Remove any empty shells before serving.

Zuppa Alle Vongole Di Campagna
Zuppa alle Vongole di Campagna
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ZUPPA DI BACCALÀ

DRIED COD SOUP

For 6

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

½ a celery head, chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

8 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes

3 bay leaves

2 dried red chillies, crumbled

freshly ground black pepper

8 plum tomatoes, drained of their juices if tinned

1kg dried cod stoccafisso, soaked and beaten (see here)

1 bottle of Pinot Bianco

1 lemon, juiced and zested

extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the onion and celery and cook gently over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until softened and lightly brown. Add half the garlic, the potatoes, bay leaves and chillies, season with black pepper and cook briefly to combine the flavours. Then add the tomatoes, breaking them up into the mixture. Cook, stirring to prevent sticking, over a low heat for about 35 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

In a separate thick-bottomed pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the rest of the garlic and, when it begins to colour, add the cod, skin side down. Pour in the wine to just cover the fish, add the lemon juice and cover the pan with a lid. Bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. If the cod is very thick you may have to simmer it for 5 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and leave, covered, for 10–15 minutes.

Remove the cod from the pan, break it up into pieces, removing the skin and bones, and add to the potatoes and tomatoes. Add the strained wine and juices from cooking the fish, stirring to combine. Test for seasoning; you may have to add salt!

Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and with the parsley and lemon zest scattered over.

 

PAPPA AL POMODORO

BREAD AND TOMATO SOUP

Although we have always thought of pappa al pomodoro as a Tuscan soup, it is virtually unknown in the southern region of Tuscany. We discovered this one day when, having decided to make it, we asked a local cook how she did it and she suggested this method. After peeling the tomatoes, she put them into the food processor and made a thick purée.

It was delicious – we were lucky, as the tomatoes and the basil had been picked that morning and had a wonderful sweet flavour.

For 8

2kg very ripe tomatoes, peeled, skinned and deseeded

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g stale bread, crusts removed, broken into pieces

a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and torn

extra virgin olive oil

Roughly chop a quarter of the tomatoes and set aside. Place the rest in a food processor and blend until completely smooth and thick. Season well.

Put the blended mixture into a large pan and bring to the boil. Season generously, add the stale bread and stir until the bread absorbs the liquid and becomes soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and the basil leaves, stirring well. Check the seasoning again and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Pappa Al Pomodoro
Pappa al Pomodoro
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MINESTRONE ESTIVO

SUMMER MINESTRONE

In a small trattoria just inside the Italian border not far from Ventimiglia, they serve bowls of minestrone at each table setting, a refreshing way to begin a summer lunch as an alternative to pasta.

For 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

1.5kg very young peas, podded

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in 0.5cm thick slices

a bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked, stalks kept, plus 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint for serving

2 litres water or chicken stock

3kg very young broad beans, podded

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan and gently fry the onion for about 5 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the peas and potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, then add a handful of the mint leaves. Pour in enough water or stock to cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add half the broad beans and simmer for 5 minutes more.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the mint stalks and the remaining broad beans. Cook, covered, for 2–3 minutes, then drain, discarding the mint stalks.

Put a ladleful of the soup mixture into a food processor with a ladleful of blanched broad beans, and pulse-blend to a rough texture. Remove from the processor and keep to one side. Pulse-blend the remainder of the soup with the rest of the mint leaves. Return the soup to the pan and add the remaining whole broad beans and the puréed broad bean mixture. Season well with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup at room temperature, sprinkled with the chopped fresh mint. The soup should be very thick, with a combination of whole young broad beans and a rough purée. It is also delicious with a dollop of fresh pesto (see here) on each serving.

 

ZUPPA DI PANE

BREAD SOUP

We have been making ribollita for so long that it was interesting to discover another type of vegetable, bean and bread soup. Zuppa di pane has no soffritto but has the addition of potatoes. The vegetables are boiled in water, imparting their flavour to the broth.

For 8

extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

6 large waxy potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 head of celery, all green parts removed, coarsely chopped

2 zucchini, roughly chopped

200g cooked fresh or dried cannellini or borlotti beans (see here)

1.5kg green chard, roughly chopped including stalks

200g very stale white bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces

In a large thick-bottomed pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lightly brown the onion and garlic for a few minutes, then add the potatoes, tomatoes, celery and zucchini. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the beans if using fresh ones. Cover very generously with water, bring to the boil and cook for 30 minutes, then add the chard and stalks and cook for another hour. The stock will be a dark colour. If using cooked dried cannellini beans, add them now and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Put the stale bread into a large soup bowl and pour the soup over. Stir to combine – the bread will absorb most of the liquid and become soft. Check the seasoning and add some extra virgin olive oil. Let the soup sit for half an hour to cool and intensify the flavours.

Serve at room temperature, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Zuppa Di Pane
Zuppa di Pane
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ACQUA COTTA

BREAD AND TOMATO SOUP WITH PORCINI

We first ate this in the restaurant Due Peppe in Saturnia, driving from Orvieto to the Maremma. Acqua cotta, translated as ‘cooked water’, belies its simple name. It is one of the most sophisticated Tuscan soups, using dried porcini mushrooms, ripe tomatoes and toasted Tuscan bread. It is important to cook the soffritto of carrots, onion, celery and garlic for a long time – until they become soft, lose their individual shape and merge into one strong flavour.

For 6

75g dried porcini mushrooms

extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 celery heart with leaves, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled: 3 chopped, 1 cut in half

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 small dried chilli, crumbled

1 x 850g tin of peeled plum tomatoes

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices of ciabatta bread, cut into 1.5cm thick slices

Soak the porcini in a bowl of lukewarm water for an hour.

Heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pan and gently fry the onion, carrots, celery, chopped garlic, parsley and chilli until soft.

Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, then rinse and roughly chop. Add to the cooked vegetables and cook gently for a further 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the tomatoes to the pan, smashing them into the mixture one by one. Season.

Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, adding some of the strained reserved mushroom liquid, and a small amount of hot water if necessary. Acqua cotta is a very thick soup. Season well.

Grill the slices of bread on both sides and rub one side with the halved garlic clove. Place a toast in each bowl and cover with a ladleful of soup. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

 

ZUPPA D’AOSTA

CABBAGE AND FONTINA SOUP FROM VAL D’AOSTA

Val d’Aosta is the most Alpine of the Italian provinces and its proximity to France has influenced its cooking. In this soup the combination of Fontina, a mountain cheese, with anchovies and bread, expresses all those influences. In the past the people here traded their dairy produce for salted anchovies from the coast, and cabbage was a vegetable they could grow easily.

For 6

1 Savoy cabbage

1 ciabatta loaf, or ½ a Pugliese loaf, crusts removed

1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

1 litre chicken stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g unsalted butter

120g Fontina, coarsely grated

12 salted anchovy fillets, plus extra for finishing

50g Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for serving

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the leaves from the cabbage one by one, and cut out the thick stems from the centre of each leaf, keeping the leaves whole. Use the dark green outer leaves and bright green inner leaves – keep the central paler leaves for a different recipe. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the cabbage leaves until tender; this will take up to 5 minutes, especially for the tougher outer leaves, which have the most interesting flavour. Drain, set aside and keep warm. Cut the bread into 1cm thick slices and toast on each side. Rub one side lightly with the garlic. Bring the stock to the boil and test for seasoning. Leave on a very low heat.

Butter the base of a medium thick-bottomed casserole and put in a layer of cabbage leaves, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. Cover the cabbage with a layer of grated Fontina and a layer of toast. Place 4 anchovy fillets over the toast, dot with butter, then cover with two further layers of cabbage leaves, Fontina, toast and anchovies. Finish with a layer of cabbage, Fontina and a few anchovies. Dot with butter and sprinkle the Parmesan on top. The layers should only come two-thirds of the way up the casserole.

Slowly pour in the hot stock. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, and bake until the cheese has melted into a golden crust. Cut the soup out of the casserole into warm bowls, using a large kitchen spoon. This is a very substantial soup that is a meal in itself. Serve with Parmesan.

 

ZUPPA DI CANNELLINI

CANNELLINI SOUP WITH PORCINI

This is a very thick substantial soup from Atripalda in Avellino, the mountainous area on the coast south of Naples famous for its wine. It was made for us in the late summer last year when fresh cannellini beans, plum tomatoes and porcini mushrooms were all in season. The flavour from the uncooked porcini, slightly warmed by the beans, is unusually delicious and very simple to achieve. You can substitute zolfino beans for cannellini.

For 6

600g fresh cannellini beans in their pods, or 200g dried white cannellini beans soaked overnight and cooked (see here)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and kept whole

3 large ripe tomatoes, washed

1 large sprig of fresh sage, leaves picked

extra virgin olive oil

500g fresh porcini mushrooms

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped

Pod the fresh beans, wash and drain, then place in a large, thick-bottomed pan. Cover with cold water and add the garlic, whole tomatoes, sage and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer very gently, half covering the saucepan, until the beans are tender, about 30–40 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Clean the porcini caps by wiping them with a damp cloth. Scrape the stems with a small knife and cut off any rotten bits. Cut the caps into fine slices and roughly chop the stalks.

Drain the cooking water from the beans and keep it to one side. Use a potato masher or fork and smash the tomatoes, garlic and most of the beans together in the pan, keeping the texture quite rough but keeping some of the beans whole. Season.

Put the beans back on to a medium heat and add the porcini stalks, stirring to mix them into the beans. Add enough of the reserved bean water to loosen the consistency to a thick cream and bring to the boil. Finally stir in the porcini caps.

Take the soup off the heat and check for seasoning. When ready to serve, sprinkle over the oregano and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

 

ZUPPA DI FARINATA DI CAVOLO NERO

CAVOLO NERO SOUP WITH POLENTA

There are many recipes around northern Tuscany for farinata, the regional name for soup made with polenta and cavolo nero. It is picked as the first frosts arrive, when the flavour of the cabbage is sweet and the texture creamy. Tuscans love to pour lots of their wonderful, green, peppery, newly pressed olive oil over this soup. We first ate farinata at Cappezzana, a wine and olive oil producing estate in Carmignano, near Florence.

For 6–8

olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

1 celery head, centre white part and leaves roughly chopped

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped

1 dried red chilli, crumbled

1kg cavolo nero leaves, washed and centre stems stripped off, roughly chopped

250g coarse polenta flour

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan, add the onion, celery stalks and carrot, and cook until the onion is turning brown and all the vegetables are soft. Add the potatoes, garlic, sage, rosemary and chilli, and cook, stirring, for just a few minutes. Add the cavolo nero, then just cover it with water and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for an hour. The soup should be watery, not too thick.

Now add the polenta in a thin stream (pour it from a jug to control the amount), simmering and stirring all the time with a wooden spoon. The soup will thicken very quickly when you first add the polenta – add more hot water if you feel it is too thick. Cook until the polenta is soft, which will take at least 30 minutes. Season and serve with the freshest new season’s extra virgin olive oil.

Zuppa Di Farinata Di Cavolo Nero
Zuppa di Farinata di Cavolo Nero
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PASTA & GNOCCHI

In the Italian menu, pasta or gnocchi are served after the antipasti course and before the secondo. Seen as dishes to stimulate the appetite, they therefore come in rather small portions – the perfect amount should leave you not too full to enjoy the rest of the meal. When we travel through Italy we always know where we are by the pasta we eat, for every region – indeed almost every city – has its own particular type.

Emilia Romagna is the home of fresh pasta, and in Bologna, Modena and Parma making pasta is part of daily life. Using fresh golden yellow ‘rossi’ egg yolks and Tipo ‘00’ flour, ‘pasta all’uova fatta in casa’ is rolled out and either folded around delicate fillings to create the traditional stuffed pastas such as ravioli, tortellini and agnolotti, or cut into various widths of ribbons: tagliatelle, the fine tagliarini or the very wide pappardelle.

Making fresh pasta is one of the most pleasurable of cooking experiences, particularly if you have a special ingredient – when you have delicious fresh ricotta to use in a stuffed pasta like ravioli; or in the summer, when you have the most perfect pungent basil for pesto and you want to enjoy it with the fresh thin Ligurian lasagnette; or if you are fortunate enough to have a white truffle to slice over delicate fine egg tagliarini. There is not just one recipe or technique for making fresh egg pasta. Talking to cooks in Liguria and Piedmont, we have learned their many recipes and developed the ones we think are the most delicate and fine-flavoured. If you find you don’t have enough time to make your own, or don’t have a pasta machine, we think it is better to buy a superior dried egg pasta than to use commercially manufactured fresh pasta.

It is dried pasta that most Italians cook and eat every day. The best is made from 100% durum wheat, the hardest wheat grain. In Rome, it is the basis for well-known dishes such as spaghettini aglio, olio e peperoncino, with olive oil, garlic and dried chilli; spaghetti alla carbonara, made with eggs, pancetta and Parmesan; and bucatini all’amatriciana.

Bucatini are like thick spaghetti but with a hole down the centre, and are perfect for the strong-flavoured sauce of pancetta, onion and tomato. In Naples local pastas include conchiglie (shells) which hold small clams and their juices. In Puglia the orecchiette (little ears) are perfect for cime di rapa (turnip tops) in a thick anchovy sauce. In Lucca and Florence, larger pasta quills of penne lisce (smooth) or rigate (ridged) are served with spicy arrabbiata sauce, or with stracotto, a rich dark sauce made from cooking a whole piece of beef in wine until it melts and becomes the sauce itself.

We have also included recipes for gnocchi in this chapter, the dumplings traditionally made in northern Italy. For us, the gnocchi we like best are made simply with potatoes and flour, but they can also be made with spinach and ricotta, or squash (see here). The less you handle the dough and the less flour you use, the lighter the gnocchi will be.