Isn't good Italian food just the best? The thought alone of tucking into a big bowl of pasta is enough to make your heart sing. And let's not get started on pizza, lasagne or tiramisu.
It’s one of the most popular cuisines in the world and we all have our own adaptations of our favourite Italian meals. But if your Italian food-loving self is after something new, these Italian recipes from Luca’s Seasonal Journey by Luca Ciano are bound to expand your culinary repertoire (and your stomach, for that matter).
If you've never tried the flowers that grow on zucchini, you're in for a real treat. These delicate blossoms have a fresh, subtle flavour, and taste especially great when paired with taleggio cheese and pesto. This dish would make a great entrée, along with the delicious dishes below.
- 150g taleggio cheese, diced 1cm thick
- 100g fresh ricotta
- 4 anchovies in oil, drained, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 zucchini flowers
- salt and pepper
- 30g flaked almonds, toasted
- 12 small zucchini, from flowers
- 10 large basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- ½ clove garlic
- 125ml olive oil
- 40g grana padano, grated
- ½ lemon, juiced
- Mix together the Taleggio, ricotta, anchovies and one tablespoon of the oil until smooth. Season to taste.
- Remove flowers from zucchini.
- To make the zucchini pesto, chop zucchini and place in a food processor with basil, pine nuts and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. Add remaining oil and process until smooth. Add grana padano and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Season to tate.
- Split open one side of the zucchini flowers and, using fingertips, gently remove stamens. Fill flowers with ricotta mixture and gently twist ends to enclose.
- Place the courgette flowers in a bamboo steamer. Cover and steam over a pan of gently simmering water for 2-3 minutes, until filling is firm.
- To serve, place 2-3 tablespoons of zucchini pesto onto each serving plate. Top with zucchini flowers and scatter with toasted almonds.
Tomato soup is a classic Italian favourite that, unfortunately, has a pretty bad rap for being bland. Remove the image of canned soup from your mind and try this flavour-packed chilled recipe instead. The herbs add depth, while the parmigiano-coated crostini give a welcome crunch factor.
- 12 vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled and seeded
- 1 spring onion, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 90ml extra virgin olive oil
- 2 slices of ciabatta, focaccia or sourdough bread, cubed
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon parmigiano reggiano, grated
- oregano leaves, fresh
- Place tomatoes, spring onion, garlic and 60ml of oil in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat remains oil in a large frying pan on high. Add the bread and cook for five minutes, tossing so that the cubes are golden and crisp on all sides. Remove from heat.
- Add dried oregano and parmigiana reggiano and toss gently, until cheese softens slightly.
- Pour soup into bowls and top with warm parmigiana crostini and oregano leaves to serve.
Pasta, check. Lots of cheese, check. Wine, check. With all the right ingredients, this hearty pappardelle dish will make you want to retire your spag bol. For best results, serve at your next dinner party (or for your partner) for ultimate points.
- 125ml extra virgin olive oil
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- ½ carrot, finely chopped
- ½ bunch celery, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli
- 300g goat meal (shoulder or leg), diced 2cm cubes
- 250ml red wine
- 250g tomatoes, peeled
- 220ml beef stock
- 3 juniper berries
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig rosemary
- salt and pepper
- 250g egg pappardelle pasta
- 125g chestnuts, cooked and sliced
- 50g ricotta salata (salted ricotta), grated
- 100g baked ricotta, crumbled
- 20ml truffle oil (optional)
- In a large casserole pot, add a little olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots, celery and chilli and cook until onion is golden.
- Add the meat, season and sear, then add the wine and allow to evaporate by half. Add the tomatoes and the stock. Add the herbs and spices and bring to simmer. Let meat and spices cook for one hour with a lid on. Remove the lid and cook for a further one hour or until the meat is tender. Season to taste.
- Bring plenty of water to the boil in a large pot (add 1½ teaspoons of rock salt per one litre of water for 100g pasta). Once boiling, add the pasta and stir well. Cook according to the directions on the packet or until pasta is al dente.
- Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce for one minute. Add the chestnuts and ricotta salata. Stir and remove from heat.
- Serve with crumbled baked ricotta and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or truffle oil (if using).
Note: To make baked ricotta spread fresh ricotta in a later 3cm thick on baking paper on a flat tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, or until golden. You can also buy it in Italian delis or specialty stores.