At home we always eat this savory pie for Easter. It is, together with pesto, the most classic and recognizable dish from Genoa and was made every year by my grandmother Maria, my father's mother. As a child I thought it was wonderful to see how the whole raw eggs, which were cracked inside the filling, would sometimes be perfectly cut in two as the knife went through the pie once baked. Now it is one of the dishes my mother Gabriella is famous for (she made the one in the picture). Originally the pastry was made of 33 (!) super-thin layers of dough (one for each year of Christ's life). Nowadays most people prepare a simplified version with just a few layers of dough, and sometimes even with puff pastry, which is not really what the original recipe requires. The top layer is blown with the mouth to half a globe and quickly sealed so that it stays high and becomes crispy during baking but you can skip this step. I find it hard to describe how this happens, it is actually better to see it once it's being done. My mother still does it every time she makes this wonderful vegetarian pie. Maybe one day I'll make a little video while she prepares the pasqualina.
If you do not know how to clean small artichokes (i.e. the Italian or French ones) take a look at my video. If you can't find artichokes you can use Swiss chard, which some families in Genova prefer, or bok choy.
320 gr. flour (preferably of the type '00', normal flour is also fine) 6 + 6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + extra for greasing sea salt lukewarm water 5-6 small Italian artichokes, cleaned and cut into thin wedges small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, leaves only 500 gr. ricotta black pepper 2 + 5 eggs 150 gr. parmesan or grana cheese, grated a big bunch of fresh marjoram, only the leaves a good pinch of grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the flour with half the oil, a pinch of salt and 130 ml. of lukewarm water - added little by little - and kneed until you obtain a nice, elastic dough. If the dough is too wet you can correct this by incorporating a little extra flour. Let the dough rest in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and prepare the filling in the meantime. Cook the artichoke wedges in the rest of the olive oil with a little salt. Stew them with the lid on the pan and add the occasional bit of warm water to keep them from drying and getting hard. Add the chopped parsley, stir and allow to cool slightly once completely cooked. Mix the ricotta with salt and pepper to taste, the stewed artichokes, 2 eggs, the grated cheese, the marjoram leaves and a pinch of nutmeg. Divide the dough into 3 balls and roll one portion as thin as possible using a rolling pin or pasta machine. If you use the machine you can create flaps of dough that you then stick together to get the desired size. Grease a round, deep cake tin (Ø 24 cm.) with olive oil and line bottom and wall with 1/3 of the unrolled dough. Make sure the dough generously extends above the edge because it will be necessary to make the folded edge. Fill with the ricotta mixture. Using a spoon make five indentations in the filling, one in the middle and four around it at equal distance. Try and avoid going till the bottom of the pie. Carefully break an egg into each "well". The raw eggs will then cook in the oven. Yummy! Roll the two remaining parts of dough making them quite thin too and place them both on the pie, one by one. Fold the overlapping portion of the bottom layer together with the other two and roll to seal creating a nice edge. Grease the top part and the rolled up edges with olive oil and place in the oven until the pastry is crunchy and golden. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.
Course "Di16" on Tuesday 12 & 24 April and 10 & 24 May 2016 (every other week)
ALL MENUS CAN BE MADE 100% VEGETARIAN-PROOF
Lesson 1: Classic Italian dishes, antipasti and starters We start with a collection of classic Italian dishes that have to be part of every Italy loving cook's repertoire: frittata (Italian omelet) with herbs and sweet onions, meatballs in a classic tomato sauce, crespelle con pesto rosso e mozzarella (little oven-baked crêpes stuffed with red pesto and mozzarella), focaccia with tomato and olives, crema di olive (olive tapenade), oven-roasted peppers, crostini with basil-lemon ricotta and several other typically dishes that are real Italian classics. The above-mentioned dishes can vary according to the different seasons.
Lesson 2: Pasta, gnocchi and sauces Pasta making (techniques, tips & tricks, the best ingredients and variations, for example coloured or filled pasta etc), basic sauces (among which the great walnut and cream sauce from Liguria, the pesto alla genovese and a classic bolognese), making potato gnocchi (dumplings).
Lesson 3: Bread, risotto and special vegetables Making ciabatta (basic bread making), making stock (vegetarian, meat), saffron risotto with ossobuco alla milanese (braised veal shank), risotto alle verdure di stagione (risotto with seasonal vegetables), special vegetables that are less common than most (think about cavolo nero, small Italian artichokes, cime di rapa etc).
Lesson 4: Fish, fish and more fish! Recognizing fish, cleaning and filleting it, (fish fillets in spicy white wine sauce), preparing fish stock, cleaning and cooking squid (stuffed squid), shrimp (fried shrimp in kataifi dough), sardines in the oven with garlic and herbs, cockles (spaghetti alle vongole).
Please take with you: your own apron plus a kitchen towel. All cooking lessons start at 18.30 hrs and end around 22.30 hrs. The price for this course is€ 325,00 including Prosecco, wine, all other drinks and all recipes (excl. VAT for companies). You can also give this combination of 4 lessons as a present buying a gift voucher for a 4-week course. Groups: We work in groups with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 14 participants. In case you have to miss one specific lesson you can send a friend, colleague, family member etc in your place. Would you please communicate that to La Cucina del Sole before the lesson starts? Grazie! Would you like to enrol? Please send us an email using the address: email@example.com
Special requirements: are you allergic for certain ingredients? Please tell that to Nicoletta so that she can make sure the menu fits your requirements!
Of course La Cucina del Sole can organize a course just for a private group of friends, colleagues etc. (min. 8 and max. 80 participants). Please contact Nicoletta via firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to organize such course or to register for an existing course.
Course "Ve04" on Tuesday 13 and 27 September and 11 and 25 October 2106 (every other week)
Lesson 1, "King Tomato": we prepare all sorts of dishes with tomato, the real King of the Italian cuisine. Among others oven-baked aubergines with cheese and tomato, Roman stuffed tomatoes in the oven, herb frittata strips in tomato sauce, fried panzerotti with tomato and mozzarella from Puglia plus a beautiful dessert.
Lesson 2, Beautiful Winter dishes: among which a 4 cheeses terrine with nuts and pears served with home-made nut and figs bread, a creamy mushroom paté, small spinach gnocchi with a creamy sauce, chickpea-vegetables burgers with a spicy home-made salsa, aubergine "schnitzels", a hearty winter salad with lots of green veggies and the "roses cake" from Mantua with sabayon.
Lesson 3, A stroll through the Italian regions: with among other a wonderful focaccia with tomato and olives from Bari (Puglia), Sicilian arancini di riso with sun-dried tomatoes, minestrone alla genovese, spinach gnocchi with a creamy sauce, ricotta fritters from Calabria and salame di cioccolata, a wonderful, chocolaty "salami" made with cocoa, almonds, butter and dates.
Lesson 4, Easy and laborious at the same time: with among others a zucchini spaghetti ("courgetti") with herb pesto, creamy Italian mushroom soup, oven-baked mozzarella "cocottes" with tomato sauce, a rich frittata with spaghetti, little courgette "towers" with a delicate cream made with peas, pizza with pecorino, vegetables and fresh tarragon plus a wonderful tart with lemon custard and limoncello flambéed apples.
All cooking lessons start at 18.30 hrs and end around 22.30 hrs.
The price for this course is€ 295,00 including Prosecco, wine, all other drinks and all recipes (excl. VAT for companies). You can also give this combination of 4 lessons as a present: buy a gift voucher for a 4-week course!
Groups: We work in groups with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 14 participants. In case you have to miss a lesson it’s possible to send a friend, colleague, family member and so forth in your place. Would you please communicate that to La Cucina del Sole before the lesson starts? Grazie! Special requirements: are you allergic for certain ingredients? Please tell that to Nicoletta so that she can make sure the menu fits your requirements!
To book a course please send an email clicking on this link.
During winter my Grandma Isa and Grandpa Angelo always ate lots of citrus fruits, especially oranges. After dinner there was always a bowl of fruit on the table, even after the big Christmas lunches where we had more than enough to eat. Oranges were their favourite fruit. I think they ate quite a few kilos per week, the two of them together. Their house always smelled of orange peel, a wonderful smell for my young nostrils.
These fragrant orange peel balls are a great example of 'recycling' in the kitchen: my grandmother made them before Christmas with all the left-over orange zest which would otherwise be discarded. Nowadays I make them with organic oranges but then there was no choice: they were just oranges from the market. My grandmother soaked the peel in cold water for a few days to remove the bitter taste of the white, softer part, then it was chopped, cooked in a water and sugar syrup and then rolled into little balls.
You can store these balls in a glass jar or a tin. They get harder with time but they stay very tasty and are great as a digestif - very handy after those heavy Christmas meals! - thanks to the essential oils in the orange peel. When I was young I made them for my friends as a Christmas present because they all loved them. If you store them in a pretty glass jar or tin they are very nice as a gift. To make them even better, dip them in melted dark chocolate (just half of their surface, so that you can still see the beautiful orange colour of the peel) and let them dry on a sheet of baking parchment.
Serve with a cup of strong espresso. Perfect combination!
PALLINE DI BUCCIA D'ARANCIA CANDITA - Candied orange peel balls
Preparation: 40 minutes – makes about 30 balls
500 grorganic orangepeel, white part included 500 grsugar + some extra sugar for rolling the balls in it a littlewater
Soak theorange peels for afew daysinabowl with coldwaterand change the waterregularly.
Remove thepeelfrom the water, chop finely and bring slowlyto the boil withthesugaranda little water.It is best if you use anon-stick pan.
Ifyou notice thatthe mixture istoo dry adda little bit of water and letitboil downfurther. The mixtureshouldremainfairlysoft soyoucan rollinto balls after cooling it.
When the mixturehas cooled, roll intoballsthe size of awalnutthenroll the balls throughtheextrasugar.
Leave the ballsto dryfor half a dayon a baking sheet.
There's something I've clearly noticed in the 15 years that I've been working as a cooking teacher: the Italian cuisine is probably the most loved of ALL. Pretty everybody seems to enjoy our pastas and the other simple and yet tasty dishes that are part of our cooking tradition so I was wondering... what is the secret of this world-acclaimed cooking style that makes it so appealing to all palates?
I summarize this "secret" with the formula "Less is more, more is more". Confusing? It's not a contradiction as much as it may seem, and I'll explain you why. Have you noticed how obsessed and picky with food we Italians are? Well, that's probably part of the reason why our cuisine is so popular. We LOVE our food and tend to talk about it all the time, especially when we're eating. A classic question at lunch is "What shall we eat for dinner?" and when we're eating out with family or friends it's very common to hear conversations like this one: "Do you remember that time we ate at XY and had that wonderful meal?" with plenty of details about the food. We're kind of always busy with thinking of food, cooking it, eating it or talking about it (obsessed is the word). :) This thing of always talking about food when we're eating is quite peculiar and so very Italian. Let's face it, I don't think there's any other country in the world where that happens that much. This extreme love for food makes us very choosy as far as ingredients are concerned: we simply want the best. Moreover, we don't like too many things on our plates but we tend to prefer just a few, great quality ingredients put together with love (ingredient numero uno) by careful and experienced hands. So that's for me the essence of the "less is more, more is more" principle: a few very good ingredients prepared in a simple yet skilful way guarantee the best, yummiest results. Less ingredients + more quality = great food.
Take for example one of our most famous dishes: the insalata caprese. It's a preparation that doesn't even requite cooking and yet it's one of Italy's most renowned and loved dishes. It's just good, sun-ripened tomatoes, great, juicy mozzarella, the freshest basil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of great extra virgin olive oil. And yet... these few ingredients can cause an explosion of taste and sensations in your mouth that are difficult to explain if you've never tried a good caprese before (and I'm clearly not talking about rubbery supermarket mozzarella, watery tomatoes and freeze-dried basil).
Last August I had the privilege and the pleasure of cooking for the expatsHaarlem/Haarlem Foodies/Haarlem Photo Club Mobile Food Photography workshop atProefPark Haarlem 2015. The dish I prepared for all the participants to photograph was, indeed, a simple caprese, yet taken to another level: a caprese destrutturata (a deconstructed caprese). A delicate mozzarella mousse gently resting on a bed of diced, seasoned tomatoes and topped with intensely tasting freshbasil. A really surprising and different way to have your caprese and a perfect little starter for a dinner party.
Try it, it's very easy and extremely satisfying. Just make sure you buy good, tasty tomatoes (for example Tasty Toms or any other type of good smaaktomaten as they call them here in Holland to distinguish them from the ever-present tasteless ones) and great mozzarella (it doesn't have to be buffalo, I actually prefer cow's milk ones). A very good extra virgin olive oil is important too, I use my own import organic one from Puglia, peppery and strong. These and some fresh basil are all ingredients that nowadays can easily be found practically everywhere in The Netherlands. I still remember the agony of looking for good Italian products when I arrived here, almost 30 years ago. Thank goodness my days of "suffering" have long gone and now I'm a happy cook. Things have changed quite a lot here in Holland and these days we can all enjoy great products from all over the world, Italy included. :)
Caprese destrutturata (deconstructed caprese salad in a glass)
4 ripe yet firm tasty tomatoes 2 mozzarella balls (about 125 gr. each) sea salt and black pepper 3-4 tablespoons of extra vergine olive oil for the mousse plus a bit extra for the tomatoes basil leaves and/or edible flowers for seasoning and garnishing 4-6 verrines (little glasses)
Cut the mozzarella balls in chunks and put them in the mixer together with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of pepper. Puree until you obtain a nice, smooth and slightly fluffy cream.
Dice the tomatoes after removing their seeds and hard central parts.
Season the diced tomatoes with salt, olive oil, some shredded basil leaves and a bit of black pepper.
Fill each little glass with a layer of diced tomatoes and a layer of mozzarella mousse (you can use a piping bag).
Garnish with basil leaves and/or edible flowers.
TIP: for some extra taste you can use as last layer some home-made pesto instead of basil leaves.
Here at Italian cooking school La Cucina del Sole in Amsterdam you can book a morning, afternoon or evening cookery session with your own group (lunch or dinner). Our cooking workshops are totally suitable for corporate events, team building, bachelor parties, staff meetings with an extra activity and family reunions. How does it work? You choose a date according to your availability and that of the other participants, you book and you cook all together, after which you enjoy a wonderful, real Italian meal prepared with the best ingredients.
These cooking classes are ideally suited to serve as a company outing or team building activity. Everyone gets to know each other better while preparing a wonderful traditional Italian meal and enjoying together all the different dishes while drinking fine Italian wines. You can also decide to have a meeting first (with coffee/tea, fruit, drinks and snacks) and then a cooking session. Our cooking school is perfectly suitable for both activities.
Each workshop includes Italian snacks while cooking, ingredients, e-recipes to use at home too, 1 glass of Prosecco with nibbles on arrival, three glasses of wine or six glasses of alcohol-free "wine" (Amé), Italian beer, Italian mineral water, juices, coffee and tea.
Lots of people care about the environment and the well-being of animals, and that's great, I'm definitely one of them. When I was younger I managed to be completely vegetarian for one full year because of my love for all living creatures until one day I noticed that my body craved meat, so I had to start eating it again. I do believe in cravings as a signal of what my body needs so I tend to respect them. Nowadays I eat smaller quantities of meat, and only of the organic type, so that I can still have the illusion of respecting the animals a little more (and yes, I know it's just an illusion because if I wanted to respect them 100% I would become a vegan...) So all my admiration goes to vegans: they do something I'm not capable of doing in spite of how much I'd like to from a moral point of view.
RESPECT, dear vegans! I love the fact that you try as hard as you can to avoid anything that has been made with animal-derived products and that you succeed in doing that. Well, you do MOST TIMES.
Why not always? Because if you are wine lovers and buy vegan friendly wines you usually think you're consuming vegan wines while that's not the case. I'm very sorry for you, my darling vegans, but vegan wine does NOT exist. Usually wine that has been clarified with substances other than egg white, gelatine and casein (which are all animal originated substances) is labelled as "vegan" but people tend to forget all the little spiders and insects that are crushed together with the grapes when making the wine... So I'm very sorry to drop the bomb but, as I said, vegan wine is just - lovely - animal-friendly wishful thinking. :)
Dear vegans, don't hate me for telling you this. I very much hope that after reading this post you'll still be drinking wine, otherwise you would also have to stop walking to avoid killing ants and other tiny critters! :) So raise your glass to the well-being of all living creatures, enjoy a generous swig of wine made with good, vegan fining agents and don't worry too much about its "label"!
In my search for good substitutes for durum wheat pasta (which I love VERY MUCH and which, since a few years, gives me belly aches *sigh*) I decided to try a completely gluten-free combination of buckwheat and rice flour. The result was so good that I'm definitely keeping this recipe to use in my "Healthy Italian Cooking" workshops. I had already tried several alternatives to gluten pasta but the results didn't really make me happy. This version, on the contrary, is totally satisfying and beautifully smooth both to knead and to roll out with a rolling pin. I haven't even tried using a pasta machine since during my previous experiments the lack of gluten had made it impossible but I will try next time I prepare this.
For this new dough I used two very finely ground organic flours I bought in Italy where rimacinata (re-milled, thus ground twice) flour is quite common. If you could find very fine, powdery flours like the ones I've used it would be great, since I'm pretty sure some of the smoothness of the dough is due to this particular detail.
This dish is laborious but not difficult at all. You'll just need some time and patience to make the pasta and the béchamel sauce, sauté the veggies and assemble these scrumptious lasagne, plus of course some baking time (about 20-25 minutes). I can assure you it's totally worth the while and I definitely encourage you to try this VERY yummy and healthy dish. Should you want to make it with more traditional ingredients you can use half buckwheat flour and half, plain all-purpouse flour, or half buckwheat, 1/4th plain and 1/4th durum wheat flour for more bite, even though the buckwheat already gives a TON of bite. You can of course use another nut/cereal or normal milk instead of rice milk which usually has a very sweet taste. For these lasagne I used just a little béchamel sauce to give the dish a touch of sweetness which is totally OK, especially to compensate the slightly bitter after-taste of the buckwheat. If you use another type of flour containing gluten to make the béchamel prepare the sauce in the traditional way making a roux with flour and butter first (here you will find my recipe). Enjoy!
Lasagne di grano saraceno con formaggio e verdure, senza glutine (Gluten-free buckwheat lasagne with cheese and vegetables)
LASAGNE: 160 gr. finely milled buckwheat flour 100 gr. finely milled rice flour or 100 gr. plain all-purpouse flour some rice flour for dusting 2-3 medium-sized eggs a pinch of salt
BÉCHAMEL SAUCE: 300 dl./1.2 cups rice or nut milk/plain milk 25 gr./1.5 tablespoon rice flour a pinch of salt a pinch of grated nutmeg
SAUTÉED VEGETABLES: 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 1 onion 2 small courgettes or 1/2 a big one 2 medium-sized carrots 2 handfuls of cooked string beans some fresh marjoram leaves salt and black pepper
PLUS: 60 gr./0.25 cups mild sheep cheese, in thin slices 40 gr./4 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese (Italian sheep cheese) 4 single-portion oven dishes some extra virgin olive oil for greasing the oven dishes
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/392°F. Prepare the veggies frying the peeled and diced onion and carrots in olive oil until slightly soft. Add the diced courgette and cook until tender. Add the cooked string beans (chopped in pieces) and the marjoram leaves and cook for 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and leave to cool off.
Make the dough mixing all the ingredients in a bowl using a fork. I used 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white. The quantity you need can vary based on the size of the eggs (the organic ones I used were quite small). Once you obtain a course dough transfer the mixture on the working top and kneed further with your hands, adding more rice flour if the dough is too wet or some egg (white or yolk) if it's too dry. The dough has to be smooth, elastic and not sticky or dry. Make a dough ball and leave it to rest wrapped in cling film.
Prepare the béchamel sauce whisking together all the ingredients except for the nutmeg and slowly bringing the mixture to a boil. Let it thicken while gently stirring it (don't let it become too thick). Season with grated nutmeg.
Roll out the dough with the rolling pin trying to make it as thin as possible, then cut in rounds or squares (I had round oven dishes of about 9 cm/3.5 inches of diameter). Cook the rounds or squares of dough in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes and lay them in a bowl with cold water in which you have dissolved a bit of salt.
Grease the oven dishes with 1 teaspoon of olive oil each and add 1-2 spoons of béchamel sauce. Make layers with the cooked lasagne, some veggies, a bit of sliced mild pecorino cheese, some black pepper and a couple of spoons of béchamel then start all over again. End with veggies, a bit of béchamel and a generous sprinkle of grated pecorino romano.
Bake in the hot oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
I totally love fresh spring rolls, both the Thai and the Vietnamese versions. I'm completely addicted to the pleasant chewiness of the rice paper and the crunchiness of the raw vegetables and I can eat them for at least a couple of days in a row. I just vary the filling and never get tired of them.
Last weekend I had an oriental cooking evening with a bunch of friends at my cooking school and we made both fried spring rolls and fresh ones. For the fried version we used wheat wrappers and we filled both types with the same ingredients, including sautéed shrimps. Both very yummy, and yet my BIG preference goes to the fresh, rice ones. I made them again the day after and again yesterday (I told you I'm addicted...). This is a bit of a fusion recipe since I've never seen original oriental spring rolls made with shredded beets but the fact that I've never seen them doesn't mean they do not exist.
They're super easy to make, the only work needed is transforming the veggies into a nice julienne. If you have a food processor that does it for you then that's easily done. I did it by hand using a special julienne peeler because I like the thinness of the veggies - carrot and red beet - once they've been shredded like this. Spring onions, avocado and mint were the other fresh ingredients, and instead of shrimp this time I used grilled organic chicken marinated in sesame oil and a bit of salt. A sprinkle of white sesame seeds for the extra crunch was the finishing touch. I dipped them in soy sauce first and immediately after in hot sriracha sauce. Total yumminess.
I've also made a vegetarian version filled with rucola, avocado, carrot, Parmesan cheese flakes and roughly chopped Brazil nuts. You can also use cashews, previously soaked in cold water for a few hours. Very nice variation!
TIP: There's a beautiful tutorial on how to make Vietnamese spring rolls by Whiteonricecouple and you can find it here.
Hope you'll enjoy this version as much as I did.
Fusion spring rolls
Serves 2 (about 10 rolls)
1 medium-sized chicken breast sesame oil salt 3 spring onions 1 medium-sized carrot 1 small red beet, raw and peeled 1 small ripe avocado white sesame seeds a few sprigs of fresh mint Vietnamese rice paper sheets (about 22 cm) soy sauce sriracha
Massage the chicken breast with sesame oil and a pinch of salt and leave to rest for about 15 minutes. Grill the chicken until well done and nicely striped, let it cool and cut into thin strips.
Shred the beet and the halved carrot (julienne) and slice the spring onions into thin strips of about the same length of the julienned vegetables. Dip a rice paper sheet into a bowl of cold water for a few seconds until it's soft and pliable and lay it on the working surface (you can put it on a wet towel but I noticed that the ones I used - see photo - didn't stick to the chopping board I was using as a working surface anyway). Fill each rice paper sheet - only the lower part, the one closer to you - with a bit of vegetables, a couple of strips of grilled chicken, some thin slices of avocado, a few mint leaves and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Leave the sides free. Start rolling and tuck the filling while you roll. Fold the sides of the rice paper sheet to make sure the filling stays inside and roll until completely sealed. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients and dip your spring rolls soy sauce and sriracha for some extra zing.
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