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Tartufo (Dark Chocolate Ice-cream)

The rainy weather in Johannesburg at the moment is probably not ideal for ice-cream eating, but make it so long for when the sun comes out! It only has 4 ingredients, and you do not need an ice-cream maker to make it!   After tasting Tartufo at Bar Tre Scalini in Rome in 2005, I have been trying to recreate this delicious dark chocolate ice-cream.  Tartufo (tahr-too-foh) means “truffle” in Italian.  Not that this ice-cream tastes or smells like truffles (thank goodness!).  

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Authentic Panna Cotta

This classic Italian dessert Panna cotta is made of sweetened cream which is thickened with gelatin and usually moulded. The cream may be flavoured with vanilla, coffee, rum, etc. Although the name does not sound appetizing at all (it means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian), panna cotta is silky smooth with a melt-in-the-mouth texture and is as close to perfection as it gets!

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Biscotti

Every home should permanently have a jar of Biscotti in the kitchen! Best biscuits ever to nibble or dunk in coffee or as the Italians do, in sherry or wine! Thanks to the clever Italians! New style biscotti are light, crisp and irresistible and have gained popularity worldwide! These Italian “biscuits” were traditionally hard and dry and to become palatable, they were dipped into dessert wine or after dinner cappuccino. Currently many delightful variations are made which can be nibbled on as is, at any time of the day! And best of all, they are not difficult to make at home!

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Chicken Puttanesca

This tangy, somewhat salty Italian pasta dish has ingredients that are typical of Southern Italian cuisine: tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, olives, olive oil, capers and garlic. Traditionally, the sauce is served with spaghetti, although it also goes well with penne, tagliatelli, linguine and even rice.

salt and pepper to season the chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 100 g each)
olive oil to fry
125 ml white wine or chicken stock
2 medium onions, peeled and finely diced
200 g cherry tomatoes, halved
30 ml tomato paste
10 ml crushed garlic
15 black olives, pitted
15 ml capers
30 ml basil, finely chopped fresh
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

  1. Brush the chicken breasts lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat and then sear the chicken breasts on both sides until nicely colored and almost done. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Add half of the white wine or chicken stock to the hot saucepan to deglaze – scrape any bits of chicken that may have stuck on the bottom.
  4. Add the chopped onions and cook until the onions are translucent and soft – about 5 to 6 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste.
  6. Season with some salt, freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you like it spicy.
  7. Stir well and add the other half of white wine and cook covered with a lid for about 7 to 8 minutes until the tomatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.
  8. Stir in the the olives, capers and minced garlic, and cook for another couple minutes.
  9. Add the chicken breasts into the saucepan. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes covered, or until the chicken breasts are thoroughly cooked.
  10. Sprinkle with the chopped basil and serve either with pasta of your choice or rice.

Photo credit: https://www.deliciousmeetshealthy.com

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Spinach Gnudi

Gnudi (pronounced nude-y), is basically meatless meatballs, and the best way to eat spinach!  I adapted this recipe from a recipe by Canadian-Italian celebrity chef David Rocco.   It is a firm family favourite and I get requests to make it often!

600 g baby spinach leaves
1 large egg, (yolk only)
60 ml spring onion, finely chopped
200 g ricotta cheese, crumbled
50 g parmesan cheese, grated
5 ml salt
10 ml crushed garlic
150 ml cake flour or additional grated parmesan cheese

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180º C and grease an ovenproof dish (20 x 20 cm) with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Transfer the spinach in a large saucepan with just the water that clings to the spinach and sauté gently until wilted. 
  3. Transfer the spinach to a colander and set aside to cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Combine the egg yolk, spring onion, ricotta cheese, salt and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Squeeze out as much as possible of the liquid out of the spinach and chop the spinach finely.
  6. Take a handful of the chopped spinach at a time and squeeze again to get it as dry as possible before transferring it to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Do the same with the rest of the spinach.
  7. Add just enough flour or additional grated parmesan cheese to bind the mixture, i.e. the mixture must hold its shape when formed into a ball.
  8. Using oiled hands, take a tablespoon of the mixture at a time and shape into 16 to 20 balls – about the size of a golf ball.
  9. Place the balls in the dish and brush with a little olive oil.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  11. Serve the gnudi warm as a vegetable side dish.

Makes between 16 and 20 balls.

SpinachGnudi

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Affogato (Coffee Dessert)

Affogato (Italian for “drowned”) is a coffee-based dessert. It is basically a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso.  Quick and easy!

1 liter vanilla ice-cream
10 shots (30 to 45 ml per person) hot fresh espresso coffee

To serve
Italian biscuits, e.g. biscotti or amaretti

  1. Line up 10 dessert glasses.
  2. Place a scoop of ice-cream in each of the glasses.
  3. Make espresso in a coffee machine, Brikka pot or Aeropress and pour a shot of espresso into the glasses to drown the ice cream.
  4. Serve immediately with Italian biscuits on the side.

Affogato

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Tiramisu

Tiramisu means “pick me up” and is a popular coffee-flavored Italian dessert. It is made of ladyfingers or Boudoir Biscuits dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, flavoured with cocoa. Countless variations of Tiramisu exist. (see variations below).   Marsala wine can be added to the recipe, but other liquors are frequently substituted for it including dark rum, Madeira, port, brandy, Malibu, or Irish Cream and especially coffee flavored liqueurs such as Tia Maria and Kahlua.

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Home-made Basil Pesto

This is one of my all-time favourite recipes to make – it has so many uses!  Stir it into cooked pasta or roasted vegetables, use it as a topping for bread or baked potato, etc.  You are going to need a food processor to make  it.  Unless you want to try and do it Jamie Oliver-style with a pestle and mortar – not my idea of fun!

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Panettone

Panettone is an Italian type of sweet bread originally from Milan, which is usually prepared and enjoyed for Christmas and New Year.  Traditional Panettone is flower-pot shaped and to achieve this effect it is baked in a deep high container with slanted sides.  You can use a silicon mould, a 1.5 litre soufflé dish, a flower pot or just loaf tins – whatever you fancy!

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Ossobucco

This dish is a Milanese specialty of cross-cut veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth. It is often garnished with gremolata and traditionally served with polenta or mashed potato.  When loosely translated from Italian, Ossobucco means hollowed bone – a reference to the large piece of marrow in the center of the veal shank bone.

6 x 200 g crosscut veal shanks (2.5 to 4 cm in thickness)
125 ml cake flour
salt & pepper
45 ml butter
30 ml olive oil
30 g dry porcini mushrooms (optional)
125 ml onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
375 ml dry white wine
250 ml veal or beef stock

Gremolata (see Notes)
2 lemons, zest only (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
90 ml parsley, finely chopped

Creamy Polenta
250 ml polenta (yellow maize meal)
80 ml cream
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.
  2. Dust each shank with flour, salt and pepper.
  3. In a large oven proof pan, melt the butter with the oil, and brown the shanks well on both sides.
  4. Remove to a separate plate and pour off any fat.
  5. Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms in a cup of warm water for 30 minutes.
  6. Drain, retaining the mushroom liquid, and finely chop the mushrooms and set aside.
  7. Strain the mushroom liquid through a fine sieve, and measure out 1/2 cup, then set aside.
  8. Add the vegetables to the pan, and sauté the vegetables until tender.
  9. Add the wine, scrape up any brown bits on the bottom, bring to a boil and reduce.
  10. Add the beef broth and mushroom liquid and heat.
  11. Return the shanks to the pan, cover and place in the oven for at least 2 hours, or until the meat begins to fall off the bones.
  12. Combine the ingredients for the gremolata topping and set it aside.
  13. To make the polenta, bring 750 ml cold water to the boil in a saucepan.
  14. Add the polenta in a thin, steady stream, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, while stirring, for 5 minutes or until the polenta is soft.
  15. Remove the polenta from heat and stir in the cream.
  16. Season with salt and pepper and spoon into individual plates.
  17. Serve one shank per person and spoon some of the sauce over the shank and polenta.
  18. Sprinkle with the gremolata topping and serve.

Notes

  • If the sauce is not thick, carefully remove the veal shanks to a warm dish and return the pan to the stove top over high heat. Cook until the sauce has thickened. Just before serving, return the veal shanks to the pan to reheat.
  • Gremolata is an Italian garnish made from finely minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest.  It is traditionally served with veal but it is also an excellent accompaniment for fish and seafood dishes.

6 servings.

Photo credit: https://juliasalbum.com

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Veal With Tuna Sauce (Vitello Tonnato)

Vitello tonnato is a Piedmontese dish of cold, sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce that has been flavored with tuna. It is served chilled or at room temperature as the main course of an Italian meal or as antipasto.  This dish has unlikely ingredients, but the end result is quite delicious!  Be sure to read the post The Veal Deal for more info and recipes on veal.

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Parmesan & Potato Focaccia

This is my version of focaccia bread that I ate in Tuscany, Italy a few years ago.  Focaccia (pronounced “fo-KA-chee-a”) is an Italian flatbread, often topped with herbs and spices or other ingredients such as cheese, vegetables or meat. It is similar in style and texture to pizza dough, but without the tomato sauce base that most pizza’s have.

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