Leek, Cheese and Pine Nut Risotto

I really love risotto and I loved the look of this one from Gino D’Acampo’s ‘Italian Escape’. I love Gino D’Acampo and our cat’s named after him (kinda). We had to give him an Italian name as his brother is named Figaro after the cat from Pinocchio. I picked the recipe in his book because it used Taleggio cheese which is one of my favourites – a creamy cheese with a slight blue taste to it. As I couldn’t find it, I instead used half St Agur (a mild blue cheese) and half Iberico (similar to Manchego). It was so tasty and now I just need to make it again but with Taleggio to compare.

Serves 4 (large portions)

Ingredients

  • 30g butter
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 courgette
  • 400g arborio rice
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 200g Taleggio (100g St Agur/100g Iberico cheese)
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Wash and slice up the leeks. Dice the courgette.

2.) Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the vegetables.

3.) While these are softening, strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs. Measure out the rice and weigh out the rice.

4.) Add the rice and thyme to the pan and stir for a couple of minutes.

5.) Add the wine to the pan and let it cook off. In the meantime, make up the stock.

6.) Add ladles of the stock at a time to the pan and let them be absorbed.

7.) In the meantime, weigh out the cheese and cut into cubes.

8.) Once all the stock is absorbed, add the cheese and pine nuts and stir through until the cheese is melted. Season and serve.

Neopolitan Scrambled eggs

My last recipe from the Cicchetti book (at least for a while). I was intrigued by the use of tomato, anchovies and mozzarella in this recipe and it is delicious. You could change the cooking method slightly and finish under the grill to make an omelette.

Serves 2 (main meal) 4 – brunch

Ingredients

  • 1 tin anchovies in oil
  • 125g passata
  • 125g mozzarella
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 8 large eggs
  • handful spinach

Method

1.) Add the anchovies and oil to a heated pan, cook until the anchovies have broken down

2.) Add the passata and turn down the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes

3.) While this is cooking, chop up the mozzarella and crack the eggs into a container and beat

4.) Add the mozzarella and oregano to the pan and stir to distribute around the pan

5.) Add the beaten eggs to the pan and cook until set. For the last 5 minutes, sprinkle the handful of spinach over the top to let it wilt.

Broad bean stuffed pancakes

Another recipe that caught my eye in the Cicchetti cookbook was this one for stuffed pancakes. It’s probably not so much a normal weeknight dinner meal but being on holiday this week, I’ve been a bit more flexible. This would be a good one to make if you have guests as you can make them the day before. The recipe suggests to use cocktail sticks to hold the wheels in place but I didn’t personally feel the need.

Ingredients

  • 1 tin broad beans (250g drained)
  • 60g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 5g chives
  • salt and pepper
  • butter
  • 8 slices quorn ham
  • 3 sprigs basil

Method

1.) Make the pancake batter by beating the eggs in a bowl, whisk in the milk and flour. Chop up the chives and mix in the batter.

2.) Melt some butter in a small frying pan, add 1/4 of the pancake mixture at a time and make 4 pancakes. Set aside on a plate to cool.

3.) In a food processor, add the drained broad beans, the cream cheese and the parmesan. Blend until a smooth paste.

4.) One at a time, move a pancake to another plate, lay 2 slices of quorn and dollop on 1/4 of the broad bean mixture in the middle. Spread out the broad bean paste all around the pancake.

5.) Roll up the pancakes one by one then cut into slices. At this point, seal with the cocktail sticks if wanted.

6.) Chill until cool, then rip up the basil and sprinkle over the top.

Creamy mushroom and sausage courgetti

After falling off the wagon a bit recently with the diet, there’s been a bit of a low-carb theme this week with the Summer Rolls and the Cauliflower Pizza. This courgetti is also a good option. The cream sauces always tempt me but generally I try to avoid. This is so much lighter just using courgetti and doesn’t feel heavy at all. I do have a spiraliser that I don’t use enough but the success of this recipe made me feel inspired to use it more. You can get ones that are just like pencil sharpeners though and sometimes you can even find the pre-done noodles in the supermarket. This recipe was on BBC Good Food with standard pasta but I added some veggie sausages to make it more protein heavy and bulk it out a bit.

Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 4 veggie sausages
  • 4 rashers quorn bacon (honestly I don’t think this added much – I just had some in the house)
  • 2 courgettes
  • punnet mixed mushrooms
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 100ml white wine
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g parmesan

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees

2.) Line a baking tin and place on the veggie sausages

3.) When ready, stick the tin into the oven for the prescribed cooking time.

4.) Spiralise the two courgettes

5.) Heat some spray oil in a pan and sauté for 5 minutes or so then set aside.

6.) Chop up the mushrooms

7.) Melt the butter in the pan and add the mushrooms

8.) Let them start to brown, in the meantime, peel and chop up the onion and add to the pan. Cook until soft.

9.) While this is cooking, peel and finely chop the garlic. Chop up the quorn bacon.

10.) Once the onion is done, add the bacon and the garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.

11.) Add the wine to the pan and cook down until it’s mostly evaporated.

12.) While this is cooking, grate the parmesan

13.) When the wine has cooked down, add the cream and cook on a low heat for a couple of minutes

14.) Take the sausages out of the oven and chop them into biteable pieces. Add to the pan.

15.) Add the parmesan to the cream sauce and let it melt into the sauce

16.) Finally, add the courgetti to the pan and toss with the sauce.

Cauliflower Pizza

So if you overindulged at Easter but you still want to tuck in to some pizza, here’s the solution. The base of this thing is just basically cauliflower and egg. Obviously it’s not as good as a real bread based pizza but after visiting Naples and noticing the pure number of gluten-free options available there, maybe it’s not such a good idea to eat pasta and bread all the time. Load this up with your favourite toppings – I went for cheese, tuna and olives. Very un-Italian as it’s basically a sin over there to pair fish with cheese – something I categorically disagree with. I love the creaminess of the cheese with the salty fish, also great on a panini/toastie.

Serves 4 as a light meal with some salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower (mine was around 730g)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp parmesan
  • 150g cheese (I went for mature cheddar – it’s a staple in my house)
  • Some kind of jarred tomato sauce
  • 1 tin tuna
  • 15 olives

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C

2.) Line a pizza tray with parchment paper (I used foil but had some issues with sticking)

3.) Roughly chop the cauliflower and blend in a food processor, it’s easier to do this in batches.

4.) Get a clean tea towel and spread it out, put the blitzed cauliflower in the middle of the towel. Scrunch up the tea towel and press out any excess water over the sink. I didn’t have a lot, it more just dampened the tea towel.

5.) Put the cauliflower into a microwave proof bowl and cook for 5 minutes.

6.) In another container, crack and beat the eggs.

7.) Grate the parmesan.

8.) When the cauliflower is done, add the parmesan and the onion powder. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes.

9.) Add the eggs and mix in.

10.) Tip the cauliflower onto the pizza tray and pat out to the shape of it.

11.) Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden and firm.

12.) While the base is cooking, grate the cheddar, chop the olives roughly and open and drained the tinned tuna.

13.) Once the base is done, spread over the tomato sauce to cover, sprinkle over the cheese, tuna and olives

14.) Bake for a further 10 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Mascarpone stuffed pasta shells

I always used to love these conchiglie shells when I was a kid. They taste like every other kind of pasta but have the bonus of catching the sauce inside. So this recipe is a nice comfort food for me (I guess I can’t blog about potato smileys!). A base of rich Bolognese sauce holding shells are stuffed with creamy indulgent mascarpone and mozzarella. I spotted the recipe on BBC Good Food but for me 250g pasta shells was too much pasta for the amount of mascarpone so in the recipe below I’ve cut it down to 200g. I also think you’d benefit more from the mozzarella being placed on top of the shells and grilled at the end rather than stuffed in the shells.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 200g giant pasta shells
  • 200g mascarpone
  • bunch basil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 30g parmesan
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 carrot
  • 250ml red wine
  • 400g quorn mince
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 400g passata
  • 200ml beef flavoured stock (or vegetable)
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method

1.) Put a kettle on to boil and measure out the pasta into a pan. Boil until soft but not too soft as you’ll have to handle them to stuff them. Leave them to one side so they cool enough to handle.

2.) Peel and finely chop the onion and carrot. Finely chop the celery. Make up the stock.

3.) Heat the tbsp oil in an ovenproof pan and add the veg and sauté until soft.

4.) In the meantime, peel and chop 3 of the cloves of garlic.

5.) When the veg is soft, add the garlic and continue to sauté for another minute or two.

6.) Add in the mince and cook until it’s defrosted completely.

7.) Add the wine and continue to cook until it’s mostly evaporated

8.) Add the tomato purée and stir, add the bay leaves then add the passata and stock.

9.) Turn up the heat to a boil then turn down to simmer and simmer until the sauce is just a little less thick than you’d want for a normal Bolognese (about 40 minutes)

10.) In the meantime, stuff the pasta shells.

11.) Make the mixture for the pasta shells by adding the mascarpone to a bowl and beat it well.

12.) Peel and chop finely the garlic and add to the mascarpone. Also finely chop the mozzarella and the basil and give it a mix with the mascarpone.

13.) Fill up the pasta shells with the mascarpone mixture and set aside until the sauce is ready.

14.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/180 degrees fan

15.) Place the shells open side up on top of the tomato sauce and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until bubbling.

16.) While this is baking, grate the parmesan

17.) When done, sprinkle over the parmesan and serve.