Italian

5th June
2011
written by Nibblish

This recipe came about on a lazy sunday night when there was nothing in the fridge and I couldn’t be asked going out shopping. With the help of a bit of garlic, chilli and a bit of fresh herbs, you can turn a last minute improvisation into something quite delicious — and worth preparing even if the fridge is full!

Best vegetarian pasta recipe

Ingredients:
(serves 2)

250g spaghetti
2 cloves garlic
1/2 bunch fresh basil, leaves picked
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried red chili flakes
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
Salt & freshly ground pepper
2 egg yolks (optional)

Basil, Garlic, lemon & Chili spaghetti pasta

Instructions:

1. For the pasta, use the ratio of 1 litre of water to 100g of pasta and 10g of salt, and cook as per packet instructions.

2. The traditional way of making pesto is with a mortar and pestle. Start by adding basil, garlic, salt and a pinch of garlic flakes to the mortar and bruising them to a paste. Whisk in the oil until you have the desired consistency. If in a hurry or if you’re making large quantities, you can also use a blender or food processor.

3. Once the pasta is cooked, start heating up the pesto in olive oil for 20 seconds or so. Drain the pasta, add to the frying pan with 1 tbsp of the cooking water. Toss well and cook for a few minutes. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Add a little olive oil, sprinkle chili flakes and freshly grated parmesan. Place an egg yolk on top if you would like a bit of extra richness.

If you fancy something a bit more substantial, add prawns to the pan before the cooked pasta.

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5th April
2011
written by Nibblish

This basic gnocchi recipe is really easy to follow and will give you the perfect, delicate, super soft and heavenly gnocchi which can be dressed in many different ways! A simple tomato sauce and grated cheese is a very delicious and authentic way to serve it, but you may prefer tossing it with other classic flavour combinations, such butter & sage, parm ham & ricotta, garlic & wild mushrooms, or peas & mint.

Potato gnocchi, gnocci

Ingredients: serves 4

Gnocchi
6-8 large potatoes
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup plain flour
1 pinch nutmeg, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Classic Tomato Sauce
5 ripe tomatoes, chopped or 1 can diced tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 handful Basil, thinly sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Parmesan, freshly grated

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Instructions:

1. Boil potatoes in salted water for about 25 minutes or until tender, drain and let is cool down for 10 minutes or so. Peel and mash the flesh while still warm and place into a large mixing bowl. Fold in the egg yolks and the flour, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and gradually add a little more flour if the mixture is still too wet and sticky to form a ball.

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2. Divide the mixture in 4-6 portions, roll each piece into a sausage shape on a floured surface and cut each into thick slices.

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3. To shape the gnocchi, place it against the back of a fork, press in and down the length of the fork. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi, dust with a bit of flour and cover with a wet cloth for up to a couple of hours or until ready to cook.

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4. To prepare the sauce, pre-heat a splash of oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, onion and season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and cook gently for 5 minutes and stir in the chopped basil.

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5. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Boil the gnocchi in small batches in salted water for 2-3 minutes, scoop out with a slotted spoon as they start floating to the surface and continue until all remaining gnocchi have been cooked. Place the cooked gnocchi in the sauce and place in a baking tray. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

While a little fiddly, gnocchi can be really rewarding to make fresh as the soft little pillows will taste amazing, honestly nothing like the supermarket bought version! One last little tip, be careful not to add too much flour though as the more flour the firmer the gnocchi will be. Adding some salt to the water will prevent the gnocchi from sticking and disintegrating while cooking. When the water starts boiling, reduce the heat to moderate. Try and add small batches of gnocchi at a time to ensure the temperature remains stable. If you wish to freeze the gnocchi, do so before they’ve been cooked and start by laying them on a tray to prevent them from sticking together. Once frozen, you can stick them in a freezing bag to store.

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10th March
2011
written by Nibblish

This delicious dish is perfect to be made on the weekend and then heated up in the oven for 15 minutes when you get home. For added health benefits, this recipe is made with wholemeal instead of white pasta and is literally packed with heaps of veggies!

Ingredients (8 servings):

2 tsp olive oil
2 brown onion, halved, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
12 mushrooms, washed and finely sliced
3 capsicums, finely sliced
2 bay leaves
500g beef mince
1 small bunch basil, finely chopped
1 x 400g can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1tbsp sugar
300g frozen peas
60g butter
1/3 cup plain flour
2 cups milk
8 wholemeal lasagne sheets
1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large non stick pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions, garlic, bayleaves and cook for a few minutes or until soften. Add the mince and use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps. Add the mushroom, capsicum, half the basil and season with salt & pepper.

2. At that stage, you can add a splash of red wine if you fancy it. Add the diced tomato, tomato paste, a cup of water, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Add the peas and simmer for another 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a non stick saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour gradually until if forms a thick paste. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat, add a third of the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

4. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush a large rectangular oven dish with oil and sprinkle with flour to make it non stick. Arrange 1 layer of lasagne sheet in the bottom, top with half of the mince mixture, half the bechamel sauce and sprinkle with half the cheese and fresh basil.

5. Continue layering with the remaining lasagne sheets, mince mixture, finishing with a layer of bechamel. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until brown and crispy. Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes to set.

Cut the lasagne into 8 portions, top with fresh basil, sour cream and serve with mixed salad leaves.
Homemade comfort food has never been easier!

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28th February
2011
written by Nibblish

Zucchini flowers stuffed with goat cheese are so delicious and easy to prepare, but can also look quite fancy as a gourmet starter! I personally prefer the batter to be super light using just sparkling water and a bit of flour but you can also make a traditional batter by adding an egg in the mix for a crispier result.

Ingredients: (4 people)

8 zucchini flowers
120g fresh goat cheese
80g Ricotta cheese
1/2 bunch of chives, finely chopped
1 handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 nutmeg, grated
Freshly ground pepper & salt
100g plain flour
200ml sparkling mineral water, very cold
30ml vegetable oil (for frying)

Instructions:

1. Gently open the zucchini flower, remove the stamen and make sure there are no insects inside.

2. Combine the goat cheese, ricotta, chives, parsley, nutmeg in a mixing bowl and season with salt & pepper. If you don’t have a piping bag, cut the corner from a plastic freezer bag, add the cheese mix to the bag.

3. Squeeze the mixture through the whole into the flowers, set aside and refrigerate for 30 minutes to avoid the mixture to leak straightaway as you start frying.

4. Prepare the batter by whisking the cold sparkling water in the flour. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly smooth when combined.

5. Pre-heat the vegetable oil in a large non stick frying pan. Dip the flowers in the batter and fry on high heat for 30- 60 seconds on each side until golden in color. Remove with the wire strainer, let drain, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

I like serve to it on a bed of green leaf salad topped with caramelised figs! It also works really well with a few pieces of crispy shredded Parma ham on top!

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17th February
2011
written by Nibblish

This is such a simple and classic dish, perfect as an Italian appetiser, brunch or as a snack. The trick is to rub the hot bread with a raw clove of garlic and then brush it with olive oil for an amazing flavour…It’s bold, fresh and delicious!

Ingredients (serves 4 people as a starter)

1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch of basil, chopped
300g vine ripened tomatoes, diced
olive oil
white wine vinegar
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
garlic cloves, peeled & cut in half
4 thick slices round rustic bread, cut in half

Instructions

1. Preheat grill on high heat. Mix chopped tomatoes, onion and basil into a bowl and season with salt flakes, freshly ground pepper, olive oil and white wine vinegar. Toss well.

2. Toast both sides of bread slices. Rub each slice with a garlic clove while hot and brush it with a bit of olive oil.

3. Spoon tomatoes onto bread and serve immediately!

The secret for this dish to be a hit is to use the freshest ingredients you can find and keep it simple and bold. The only extra add on would be to shred a few pieces of creamy buffalo mozzarella and place it on top! You can also swap the white wine vinegar for a good quality balsamic vinegar.

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17th February
2011
written by Nibblish

Chicken stuffed with homemade pesto and wrapped in proscuitto ham…such a delicious combination of ingredients and so Italian! The ham and the pesto will not only give a rich flavour to the dish, but it will also keep the chicken moist and tender! Its extremely quick and easy to make, yet it looks really impressive on the plate!

Ingredients: (4 people)

4 organic chicken breasts
8 slices of proscuitto ham
1 small bunch of basil
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 cup of pine nuts
4 tbsp Olive oil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper

Instructions

1. Pre-heat the oven on 250 degrees. To prepare the fresh pesto, blend the pesto, parmesan, garlic and pine nuts together. Add in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. To stuff the chicken, simply cut each breast open along one side to form a pocket and spoon in some of the pesto mixture.

3. Place 2 slices of prosciutto flat on the surface, overlapping slightly on one end and wrap the ham tightly around the first chicken breasts. Repeat with the other three.

4.Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Make sure you follow the cooking instructions in order to keep the chicken nice and moist. Serve it on a bed of fresh tagilatelle pasta, risotto or green beans for a healthier option!

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16th February
2011
written by Nibblish

Risotto is a really quick and versatile dish, which can make either a beautiful hearty main course, or an indulgent side to a Mediterranean meat/fish. In this version, the roasted mushrooms garnish adds a delicate nutty touch to the dish and elevates it to… something else!

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main)

olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400g risotto rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups hot chicken stock
75g butter, diced
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
300g wild mushrooms (eg. shiitake & oyster), cleaned and sliced
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Pre-heat oil and a knob of butter on low/medium heat in a large non stick heavy bottom pan, add the onion, half the garlic and slowly cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until nice and soft. In a separate pan, start warming up the chicken stock on medium heat.

2. Turn up the heat and add the rice to the onion mixture and fry until the grains look translucent. Stir in the wine and cook until fully absorbed into the rice. Season with salt & pepper.

3. Start adding the warm stock to the mixture, one ladleful at a time. Carry on adding more as it cooks into the rice, until soft. It should take around 20 minutes.

4. In the meantime, let’s get started on the mushrooms. Pre-heat the oven on medium heat and heat up a bit of oil in a frying pan. Fry the mushrooms with the rest of the garlic, salt and pepper for 3 minutes or until it starts colouring. Transfer to the oven and roast for 6-10 minutes. Chop about half of the amount and mix it into the risotto.

5. Take the risotto off the heat and stir in the rest of the butter (should be around 70g) and chopped parsley. Mix well. Stir in the chopped mushrooms and lemon juice. Finally, add the Parmesan and season to taste. If it looks a bit too dry, add a bit more stock at that stage to make it really creamy.

6. Serve with a garnish of the remaining roasted mushrooms.

There are countless variants of risotto, some with meat (chicken, bacon), some with seafood (mussels, prawns) and some with vegetables (Asparagus, pumpkin)… for which the base recipe can still be used, but just bring in the extra ingredients (cooked & seasoned) at stage 4.

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9th February
2011
written by Nibblish

Ragù is a beautiful alternative to a bolognese sauce, especially during the cooler months of the year. I like to make it with lamb, but you could make it with beef instead. While it take a little while to cook, it’s actually really easy to make and it will taste delicious!

Ingredients (serve 4)

400g lamb, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 parsley bunch, finely chopped
2 sage leaves
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 courgette, diced
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Pre-heat 2 tsp. of olive oil on high heat in a heavy non-stick oven proof sauce pan and fry the garlic, chili and sage for 30 secs before adding the onion for 5 minutes or until nice and soft. Add the meat to brown and then the red pepper and courgette for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. In the meantime, start pre-heating the oven at 200 degrees.

2. Add tomatoes, parsley, wine and cook in the oven on low heat for 4 hours, checking the texture every hour or so to ensure it doesn’t dry out.

3. When the meat is tender and soft, shred any remaining chunks of meat. Taste and season if necessary with additional salt and pepper. To serve, mound the pasta in individual bowls and top with plenty of the ragu and a sprinkling of cheese and chopped parsley.

As an alternative to chunky pasta you can also serve it with mash or polenta. I managed myself to change my mind between the time the ingredients were shot and the dish was ready! You can also transfer the mix to a slow cook dish at step 2 if you’re not using an oven proof pan. The lamb ragù can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

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8th February
2011
written by Nibblish
This entry is part 1/2 of 2 in the series Homemade Pizza

Pizza can be a really fun dish to prepare, especially when you have kids or friends around! You may just want to prepare the base ahead as it can be a bit messy, but let everyone pick their own topping! Capricciosa is my personal favourite, but you may want to be more adventurous!

Ingredients (serves 4 people – 2 medium pizzas)

Base

1 ¼ cups warm water (not boiling)
2 tsp. (1 sachet) of active dry yeast
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
3 cups strong bread flour

Sauce

1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 handful Basil or Oregano, chopped
400g can Italian diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Topping

2 tsp. pesto paste
1 onion, finely sliced
150g mozzarella or bocconcini, torn into medium pieces
1 red capsicum, halved, deseeded, thinly sliced
4 mushrooms, sliced
8-10 black olives, pitted
100g prosciutto ham, torn into bite size pieces
1 handful fresh basil or oregano, chopped
1 egg yolk (optional)

Instructions

1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 100-150°C and then turn it off after 5 minutes so that it’s just warm enough for the dough ball to rise quickly.

2. Pull the warm water into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle on the yeast, let it dissolve and activate for 1 minute. Mix in the flour, oil, salt and sugar. Cover your hands with flour and knead for 5 minutes or until nice and smooth. If the dough looks too wet, add a bit more flour. Form a ball and coat with a little bit of oil. Cover with a wet kitchen towel and place in the warm (not hot) oven to rise for 30 mins or until it doubles in size.

3. In the meantime, get started on the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a small pan; fry the crushed garlic for 30 seconds before adding the fresh herbs and then the diced tomatoes and sugar. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

4. Grease two pizza trays with a little bit of oil and sprinkle with flour to make it non-stick.

5. Once the dough is ready, place it on a lightly floured surface and punch it down in the center. It feels good, doesn’t it?! Knead it again for another minute to get it back to its original size. Divide into two portions and flatten it down to a round shape using your hands.

6. Spoon on the tomato sauce and place your toppings on the pizza. Place in the oven and cook at 200°C for 15 mins. Place the egg yolk in the middle, a little bit more cheese and cook for another 5 minutes.

For an express pizza, you may prefer buying the base already made from the refrigerated Italian section of your local super market isn’t a bad option. But you could also prepare the base in advance and save it in the fridge wrapped as a ball in cling film. Save any leftovers for a great lunch at work!

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8th February
2011
written by Nibblish
This entry is part 2/2 of 2 in the series Homemade Pizza

Pizza can be a really fun dish to prepare, especially when you have kids or friends around! You may just want to prepare the base ahead as it can be a bit messy, but let everyone pick their own topping! The Meaty one is Rog’s favourite, but you may want to be more adventurous!

Ingredients (serves 4 people – 2 medium pizzas)

Base

1 ¼ cups warm water (not boiling)
2 tsp. (1 sachet) of active dry yeast
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
3 cups strong bread flour

Sauce

1 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 handful Basil or Oregano, chopped
400g can Italian diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. sugar
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Topping

2 tsp. barbecue sauce
150g mozzarella, grated
1 onion, finely sliced
1 red capsicum, halved, deseeded, thinly sliced
100g pepperoni, slices
100g bacon, diced
5 jelapenos, sliced
1 handful fresh basil or oregano, chopped
1 egg yolk (optional)

Instructions

1. Start by pre-heating the oven to 100-150°C and then turn it off after 5 minutes so that it’s just warm enough for the dough ball to rise quickly.

2. Pull the warm water into a large mixing bowl, sprinkle on the yeast, let it dissolve and activate for 1 minute. Mix in the flour, oil, salt and sugar. Cover your hands with flour and knead for 5 minutes or until nice and smooth. If the dough looks too wet, add a bit more flour. Form a ball and coat with a little bit of oil. Cover with a wet kitchen towel and place in the warm (not hot) oven to rise for 30 mins or until it doubles in size.

3. In the meantime, get started on the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a small pan; fry the crushed garlic for 30 seconds before adding the fresh herbs and then the diced tomatoes and sugar. Let it simmer for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

4. Grease two pizza trays with a little bit of oil and sprinkle with flour to make it non-stick.

5. Once the dough is ready, place it on a lightly floured surface and punch it down in the center. It feels good, doesn’t it?! Knead it again for another minute to get it back to its original size. Divide into two portions and flatten it down to a round shape using your hands.

6. Spoon on the tomato sauce and place your toppings on the pizza! Place in the oven and cook at 200°C for 15 mins. Place the egg yolk in the middle, a little bit more cheese and cook for another 5 minutes.

For an express pizza, you may prefer buying the base already made from the refrigerated Italian section of your local super market isn’t a bad option. But you could also prepare the base in advance and save it in the fridge wrapped as a ball in cling film! Any leftovers can make a great lunch at work!

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