FOOD

Need Comfort Food? Try These Italian Recipes

Pumpkin and sausage pasta, eggplant parmigiana, stuffed zucchini flowers and risotto.

03/08/2017 9:45 PM AEST | Updated 03/08/2017 9:45 PM AEST

We've got under a month left of winter, which will either be reason to jump for joy or burrow under the doona in denial, depending on your weather preferences.

Either way, what's left of winter is the perfect time to indulge in all your favourite comfort foods, and in this case, mouthwateringly tasty, carby Italian recipes.

The first comforting recipe is orecchiette pasta with pumpkin and sausage, followed by cheesy eggplant parmigiana, stuffed zucchini flowers and seafood risotto.

Aside from being delicious, these recipes reflect the Italian city of Naples -- beautiful, vibrant contrasts, and full of a variety of tastes, textures and cooking techniques.

Don't worry, though, these Italian recipes are pretty easy to make and require ingredients you can get from your local supermarket.

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1. Pasta with pumpkin and sausage

Serves six.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg diced pumpkin (winter squash)
  • 100g extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 chilli, finely sliced
  • 200ml white wine
  • 350g sausage meat
  • 50g grated Pecorino
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500g orecchiette pasta

METHOD

  1. In a pot over medium heat, add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli. Add the sausage meat and cook until the meat is browned. Deglaze with the white wine. Cook the sausage through, then remove the sausage from the pot.
  2. Add the diced pumpkin and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the sausage and cook until the pasta is ready to be added.
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for approximately two minutes less than recommended cooking time on the packet. Drain.
  4. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for approximately two minutes. Mix well and serve on a large plate and top with the grated Pecorino.

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2. Eggplant parmigiana

Serves six.

INGREDIENTS

  • 700g sliced eggplant, 5mm in thickness
  • Plain flour, to dust
  • 500ml vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 litre Napoli sauce
  • 300g grated parmesan cheese
  • 500g buffalo ricotta cheese
  • 25 basil leaves
  • 300g fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 balls buffalo mozzarella cheese

METHOD

  1. Lightly salt the sliced eggplant and leave on a wire rack to rest for one hour.
  2. Dry the eggplants, then dust evenly with the flour. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large deep saucepan to 175°C (347°F). Deep-fry the eggplant until golden, then set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place a small amount of Napoli sauce in a terracotta dish. Layer the eggplant, breadcrumbs, Napoli sauce, parmesan, ricotta and basil. Repeat the process twice more.
  4. Top with buffalo mozzarella, then cover with baking paper and foil. Place in the oven and cook the parmigiana for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

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3. Zucchini flowers with crab filling

Serves 6-12. Makes 12.

INGREDIENTS

Crab filling:

  • 100g crabmeat
  • 350g ricotta cheese, strained through a drum sieve
  • 10g grated parmesan cheese
  • 5g chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
  • 5g breadcrumbs
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 500ml vegetable oil

Batter:

  • 250ml soda water
  • 60ml rice flour
  • 60ml plain flour
  • 500ml vegetable oil, for frying
  • 12 zucchini flowers

METHOD

  1. To make the crab filling, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag.
  2. Clean each zucchini flower and remove the internal stem. Once cleaned, pipe the mixture into each flower (about 45g of filling). Close the top of the flower and set aside.
  3. To make the batter, add the soda water to a bowl and mix in the rice flour and plain flour.
  4. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or large deep saucepan to 175°C (347°F).
  5. Dip each flower in the batter, one by one. Carefully place each zucchini flower in the fryer. Fry in small batches until evenly golden, turning as needed. Drain on paper towels.

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4. Seafood risotto

Serves six.

INGREDIENTS

Pescatore sauce:

  • 18 vongole (clams)
  • 18 mussels
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped, to taste
  • 12 large or 16–20 small prawns
  • 12 Canadian scallops
  • 20ml white wine
  • 150ml fish stock
  • 50ml Napoli sauce
  • 10 basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Risotto:

  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 300g Carnaroli rice
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 litre fish stock
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 handful flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

METHOD

  1. Place the vongole in salted water for one hour to clean.
  2. To make the pescatore sauce, in a pan add the extra virgin olive oil, garlic and chilli. Cook until the garlic begins to brown, then add the prawns and scallops. Cook for approximately two minutes, then add the mussels and vongole. Add the basil. Cover with a lid to steam. Remove the lid and glaze with the white wine. Add fish stock and simmer for three minutes approximately, add a touch of Napoli sauce. Set aside until the rice is ready.
  3. To make the risotto, add the extra virgin olive oil to a small pot over medium heat. Sauté the diced onion until transparent. Add the Carnaroli rice and cook over low heat. Once the rice is toasted, add the white wine and wait until wine is fully evaporated.
  4. Once the wine has evaporated, add a third of the fish stock and stir until absorbed. Repeat this until all fish stock has been used.
  5. Add all the pescatore sauce and cook until a creamy consistency, add remaining fish stock and stir gently on a medium heat consistently. Once the stock has reduced to a creamy consistency take the pot off the heat and add the butter, parsley and stir fast until the butter dissolves. This will add to the creaminess of the risotto.

Tips: Stir with a wooden spoon gently to avoid the rice from breaking. Add the butter. For best results, divide the recipe in two or four pans.

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Recipes and images from Food of Naples, New Holland Publishers RRP $45.00 available from all good bookstores or online.

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