Tag: Traditional Foods of Italy

Legendary Dishes | Risotto alla Zucca (rice with pumpkin)

ITALY

Some versions of this recipe call for the rice to be dry-toasted.

  • 1.4 litres vegetable stock
  • 650 g pumpkin, cubed
  • 320 g Carnaroli rice
  • 100 g shallots, chopped
  • 75 g Parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 60 g Asiago cheese, grated
  • 30 g butter
  • 60 g white wine
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 2 sage leaves, chopped
  • 2 thyme sprigs

Sauté shallots in butter and one tablespoon of oil for 10 minutes.

Add pumpkin, fry for a few minutes, then add one ladle of stock. Cover and cook over a medium heat until the pumpkin has broken down, about 30 minutes.

Put a tablespoon of oil a large frying pan, heat and toast the rice, about three minutes.

Pour in white wine, allow to evaporate.

Add a ladle of stock, cook until it is absorbed by the rice. Repeat with three ladles.

Stir the pumpkin mixture into the rice. Add a ladle of stock and repeat with a sixth ladle.

Stir in the black pepper and cheese. Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.


Legendary Dishes | Risotto con Pomodori e Basilico (rice with tomatoes and basil)

ITALY

The secret to a perfect risotto is always the stock. With this risotto an aromatic vegetable stock is called for. We made a vegetable stock with root vegetables, the complete range of herbs, aromatic flavourings such as forest mushrooms, fresh and dried, and chestnuts and walnuts, plus candied fruit, dried fruit and fresh fruit.

  • 1.2 litres vegetable stock
  • 400 g San Marzano plum tomatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 320 g arborio rice
  • 150 g mozzarella, chopped
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 60 ml white wine
  • 45 g Grana Padano cheese / Pecorino cheese
  • 45 g pine nuts
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 15 g basil leaves plus a few for garnish
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt

Fry basil, garlic and tomatoes in two tablespoons of oil over a medium heat until all the water in the tomatoes has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Season with black pepper and salt. Set aside.

Pour two tablespoons of oil into a large saucepan, add the pine nuts, heat until the nuts turn golden brown.

Add the rice, toast gently.

Add the wine, stir and allow to evaporate.

Add a ladle of stock, cook until it is absorbed by the rice.

Repeat this process with two ladles, then add the tomato, basil and garlic sauce.

Resume the stock-rice process until the rice is al dente.

Remove from heat, stir in both cheeses.

Cover, leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve with a garnish of cheese and basil leaves.


Indigenous Ingredients

Arborio Rice
Basil
Garlic
Grana Padano Cheese
Mozzarella
Olive Oil
Pecorino Cheese
Pine Nut
San Marzano Tomato
White Wine

Legendary Dishes | Risotto con Sedano e Porro (rice with celery and leek)

ITALY

One of the most aromatic of the numerous risotto dishes made with vegetables. The combination of celery and leek is culinary genius because the leek melts in the rice while the celery adds a piquancy that is subtle. We used the green part of the leek as well as the white to give the dish a bit of colour.

  • 1.2 litres vegetable broth
  • 320 g arborio rice / carnaroli rice
  • 300 g celery, cubed small
  • 200 g leeks, white part, sliced thin
  • 45 g + 30 g parmigiano, grated
  • 60 ml white wine
  • 45 g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 g black pepper
  • Salt, several large pinches

Sauté celery and leeks in butter and oil for 15 minutes, add the rice, toast, deglaze with the wine.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time to absorb the rice, about 20 minutes.

Add salt and test for taste, add more salt if necessary.

Sprinkle three tablespoons of cheese on top of the rice followed by the black pepper, turn off heat, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve garnished with more cheese.


Legendary Dishes | Sandwich di Prosciutto e Formaggio Tostato (toasted ham and cheese sandwich)

ITALY

Ideally this should be made with the unsalted Tuscan bread. Any white loaf is suitable but the shape of the slice must be rectangular. Uniform ciabatta would suffice but the quantity of cheese would have to increase. Anyway the amount of cheese is personal, but it should be a mountain cheese, like Ossolano.

  • 8 thick slices Tuscan bread
  • 300 g mountain cheese, cut into 16 thin slices
  • 16 slices prosciutto
  • 10 g black pepper

Grill the prosciutto until crispy, leave to cool.

Place a slice of cheese on each slice of bread, lightly toast under a grill to melt the cheese.

Place a slice of prosciutto on four of the cheese-melted breads and another slice of cheese on top, grill to melt the second layer of cheese.

Place a slice of prosciutto on each of the remaining bread slices, place on top of the cheese and prosciutto layered breads.

Finally place another slice of cheese on each of the four sandwiches. Grill to melt the cheese.

Garnish the cheese-topped side each sandwich with black pepper.


Indigenous Ingredients

Ciabatta
Tuscan Bread
Mountain Cheese
Prosciutto

Legendary Dishes | Risotto con Salsa di Nebbiolo e Pere (rice with pears and red wine sauce)

ITALY

Derived from the word fog because they bud early and ripen late to be harvested in late October amidst the autumn morning mist, the nebbiolo is a red grape with a strong personality.

Nebbiolo wines – Barbaresco, Barolo, Carema, Gattinara, Langhe Nebbiolo, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Roero – have a distinctive full-bodied structure with fruity and spicy aromas.

The vines are prominent in Piedmont and generally in north-eastern Italy where they are paired with appetisers, first and second courses. Among these are a condiment made with the wine and this enigmatic dish – one of the legendary rice dishes of the world.

Risotto

  • 1.5 ml beef broth
  • 350 g carnaroli rice
  • 1 shallot, chopped small
  • 20 ml olive oil
  • 15 g butter
  • 5 g salt

Sauce

  • 750 ml Barbaresco red wine / Barolo red wine
  • 4 pears, halved, cored
  • 1 celery, cubed small
  • 1 carrot, cubed small
  • 1 shallot, cubed small
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 10 juniper berries
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Finish

  • 400 g Castelmagno cheese

Put the carrots, celery, shallots in a saucepan with the wine, add bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries and peppercorns.

Bring to the boil, continue until the liquid is reduced by half and the vegetables are soft.

Some versions call for a smooth sauce. If this is your choice leave the mixture to cool, then blend. Return to the saucepan, add the pears, simmer for 15 minutes.

As soon as the wine mixture begins to reduce start the risotto.

Sauté shallot in butter and oil over a low heat for ten minutes.
Increase heat, add rice, coat and toast for five minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

Pour in a ladleful of hot stock, cook until the stock is absorbed. Add a large pinch of salt.

Keep adding ladlefuls of stock one at a time allowing the rice to absorb the liquid, continuing until the rice is al dente, no more than 20 minutes. Taste for flavour and add more salt if necessary.

Finish with a ladle of stock, half of the cheese and some butter, cover, leave to rest for ten minutes.

Scatter the remaining grated cheese on the serving plates, arrange the risotto on one side and the pears and wine sauce on the other side of each plate.


Indigenous Ingredients

Cheese
Pear
Rice
Wine

Legendary Dishes | Cinghiale Dolceforte (meat in chocolate sauce)

ITALY

A significant event in food history was the founding in 1512 of the curiously named Compagnia del Paiolo (company of the cauldron) by Giovan Francesco Rustici in Renaissance Florence.

The motto of the company was l‘arte si fa a cena (the art of dining). It innocently sought culture and conviviality, good taste and simplicity, frankness and friendliness.

Rustici was a painter and sculptor, friend of Andrea del Sarto and Leonardo de Vinci and cousin to Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (later Pope Clement). At small banquets the members of the company, which included the imaginative gastronome del Sarto, had an obligation to bring a dinner of their own invention and if two had had the same thought they were sentenced to a penalty.

Among the dishes featured by the Paiolanti and possibily one that would have attracted a penalty is this typically Tuscan wild boar dish, with a preparation as old as the Tuscan hills that surround Florence.

Presented in one of the dolceforte (sweet-strong) sauces favoured by the Romans, this dish is making a comeback, albeit with pork (as well as boar). This is an adaptation of the original 1500s recipe.

For the story of the ancient Compagnia del Paiolo, we recommend journalist Pier Francesco Listri’s book.

  • 1 kg boar / pork, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 350 ml red wine
  • 200 g carrots, cubed small
  • 180 g prosciutto / cured ham, cubed small
  • 150 g shallots, chopped small
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped small
  • 75 g raisins
  • 65 g candied peel
  • 65 g chocolate 75%, grated
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped small
  • 50 g pine nuts
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 20 ml red wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp chestnut flour
  • 10 g brown sugar
  • 25 black peppercorns
  • Lovage, 3 large sprigs, chopped small
  • Parsley, large bunch, leaves and stalks separated, chopped
  • Rosemary, 3 large sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Marinade meat in black peppercorns, red wine, red wine vinegar and bay leaves overnight.

Sauté carrots, celery, onions, garlic, prosciutto, lovage, parsley stalks and rosemary in oil in a large saucepan until the vegetables are soft.

Drain soaking liquid from meat, brown a few pieces at a time in a little oil in a separate frying pan.

Transfer meat to the large saucepan with the vegetables.

Add a little flour to the frying pan that contained the meat, deglaze with some of the marinade liquid.

Put the meat and its liquid into the large saucepan, cover and cook over a low heat until the meat is tender, about 90 minutes, adding more liquid as necessary.

In a large bowl combine brown sugar, candied peel, chocolate, pine nuts and raisins.

When the meat is cooked add the chocolate mixture to the large saucepan, cook uncovered over a low heat for 20 minutes.


Indigenous Ingredients

Bay Leaf
Boar
Candied Peel
Chestnut
Lovage
Olive Oil
Pine Nut
Prosciutto 
Raisin
Red Wine Vinegar
Wine

Legendary Dishes | Risotto con Gamberi (rice with melon and prawns)

ITALY
  • 1.5 ml fish stock, heated
  • 1 melon, halved, skinned, deseeded, flesh cut into cubes
  • 350 g baldo rice
  • 250 g prawns
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 75 g parmigiano cheese, grated
  • 50 ml wine
  • 20 ml olive oil
  • 15 g butter
  • 10 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • Saffron, large pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Put half of the melons cubes into a food processor, refrigerate the paste.

In a deep, wide frying pan sauté shallots in butter and oil over a low heat, about 15 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, coat and toast rice, add wine and a ladleful of broth.

Repeat until the rice absorbs the liquid.

After the third ladle add the melon paste.

Reduce heat to low, stir and repeat until the stock is finished and the rice is al dente.

Add the melon cubes and push the prawns into the rice, then the saffron and seasonings and finally the cheese.

Leave to rest for ten minutes.


Legendary Dishes | Bottaggio (pork casserole in sour-sweet sauce)

ITALY

This is a mini-bottaggio made with beans, cabbage, potatoes, pork belly and fresh pork sausages in an aromatic tomato sauce

The art of braising vegetables with meat in an aromatic stock has lost none of its allure among rural communities where pork, leaf vegetables and root vegetables are essential ingredients in the indigneous food culture.

Pot cooking is still an integral aspect of the traditional food culture in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, where every part of the pig is utilised in a variety of dishes and vegetables are used for their specific properties.

Combining a battuto of carrots, celery and onions with the poorer parts of the pig, pork products, herbs and spices, water and cabbage or potatoes to produce a creamy potage that is neither soup nor stew is still popular in northern Italy.

This ancient tradition goes by many names.

In Lombardy it is generally known as bottaggio or potage and cooked using a method thousands of years old.

In some regions potage is regarded as a medieval food. Restaurant chefs keen to infuse dishes with their creative juices enjoy the potage challenge, flavouring duck and goose with sour and sweet flavours.

But it is the bottaggio made with cabbage and pork that is still a dish of high esteem.

What is interesting is the debate over the origins of this dish. Some food historians believe it is a product of the Spanish when they ruled Lombardy and Naples. They trace it to specific mentions in the cookbooks of the 1600s and 1700s.

Others point to the Medicis in Florence, while some insist it is nothing more than a tradition that has existed in Europe since Roman times when wild boar played a huge role in feast and festive occasions among those who lived in tribal communities.

We have looked at the various interpretations including the ancient traditions and have arrived at this version.

Stock

  • 4 litres water
  • 1 pig head
  • 4 pigs feet
  • 4 pigs ears
  • 200 g pork belly rind
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Place all ingredients in a very large pot, bring to the boil, remove scum, reduce heat and cook over a low heat for six hours, strain.

  • 3 kg cabbage, cut into strips
  • 3 litres stock
  • 1.5 kg pork ribs
  • 12 fresh pork sausages, pricked
  • 500 g carrots, diced
  • 500 g celery, diced
  • 500 g onions, chopped small
  • 400 g prunes
  • 400 g salami, cut into slices
  • 350 g plum tomatoes, skinned
  • 100 g pork belly / bacon, cubed
  • 75 ml dry white wine
  • 60 g butter
  • 60 g olive oil
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Melt butter into oil in a large pot over a low heat, add carrots, celery, onions and pork belly or bacon pieces.

Increase heat to high and cook for ten minutes. Remove pot from heat, deglaze with wine.

Put pot back on heat, add ribs, salami and sausages. Stir for a couple of minutes, add tomatoes and stock (less if you want a thick pottage), bring slowly to the boil.

Reduce heat to low, add cabbage and cook for two hours.

Add prunes and seasonings, cook for thirty minutes.

Serve with polenta.


Legendary Dishes | Castagnaccio / Baldino (chestnut cake)

ITALY

In Siena, where the chestnut cake is part of a rich tradition of cake making, the bakers keep their secrets to themselves, not least with the centuries old methods of making castagnacci. The big secret is the ratio of liquid to chestnut flour, the next is the oven temperature, then the baking time, and then the amount of olive oil. The difference is a hard (less liquid) or soft (more liquid) cake, an even bake and a crisp crust.

  • 700 ml water
  • 500 g chestnut flour
  • 10 g rosemary, fresh, chopped small
  • 90 ml olive oil
  • 100 g pine nuts, whole
  • 100 g raisins, soaked in water, drained, dried
  • 75 g walnuts, crushed (optional)
  • 50 g candied fruit
  • Salt, pinch

Preheat oven to 200ºC.

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, pour the water into the bowl in a drizzle, whisking constantly to eliminate lumps.

Separate a tablespoon each from the pine nuts and raisins, set aside.

Add salt, candied fruit, pine nuts, raisins and walnuts to the batter.

Grease a 30 centimetre round baking tin with 60 grams of oil, pour in the mixture, sprinkle surface with rosemary and remaining nuts and raisins, finish with remaining oil.

Bake for 35 minutes.

The cake should have a dark chestnut colour, a crispy cracked surface. Cut, it will be soft and slightly moist.


Indigenous Ingredients

Chestnut
Pine Nut
Raisin
Rosemary
Walnut

Legendary Dishes | Frico con Patate e Cipolla (fried cheese with potatoes and onions)

ITALY

Cheese originated in the Carnic Alps with the Benedictine monks, specifically in Moggio Udinese on the northern slope of the Jof di Montasio peak around 1200. Production techniques spread through the valleys of Carnia down to the Friuli-Veneto plain.

Cheese with pork fat is among the oldest of the traditional recipes of this region with numerous variations.

  • 300 g Montasio stagionato cheese, grated
  • 300 g waxy potatoes, boiled, peeled, thickly sliced and cubed
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 120 g pancetta / bacon, cubed
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch
  • Water

In a saucepan sauté the onion and bacon until browned. Add potatoes, a pinch of salt, a good amount of pepper and two tablespoons water. Cover.

Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent potatoes sticking to the pan. Remove from heat when all the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in grated cheese.

Brown the frico evenly on both sides. Serve hot.


This version is from Alessandro Molinari Pradelli’s Cooking of Friuli-Venzia Giula, published by Newton Compton of Rome.

  • 175 g Malga cheese, mature
  • 175 g Montasio cheese, young
  • 50 g pork belly, cubed

In a very hot pan taken off the direct heat, fry the pork cubes, moving them around. When they turn brown, add the grated cheese, pressing it into the pork pieces with a spatula. Return to heat, set very low, stir several times. Cook until the frico is golden and crisp, brittle to the touch. Serve with polenta.


Indigenous Ingredients

Malga Cheese
Montasio Cheese
Onion
Pancetta
Potato

Legendary Dishes | Broccoli Romani (dressed broccoli)

ITALY

Pellegrino Artusi gives an interesting twist to broccoli cooked with pork belly and sweet white wine.

  • 1 kg broccoli heads, washed, blanched, cooled in ice water bath, drained
  • 250 g fatty pork belly, chopped small
  • 250 ml sweet white wine
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, large pinch

Chop broccoli coarsely.

Heat a frying pan and start rendering the fat from the pork belly. When the pork is crispy add the broccoli and wine, cook over a medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Season and serve.


Indigenous Ingredients

Broccoli
Pork Belly
White Wine

Legendary Dishes | Risotto all’Ardenza (rice with fish)

ITALY
  • 1.2 litres fish stock
  • 320 g arborio rice
  • 400 g mussels cooked with 100 ml wine
  • 120 g onion, chopped
  • 100 g prawns
  • 100 g scallops
  • 100 g squid, cut small
  • 50 ml dry white wine
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 20 g butter, for frying and dressing
  • 5 g peperoncino
  • 1 tbsp cilantro / parsley

Add mussel liquid to fish stock.

Sauté garlic and onion in butter and oil in a deep, wide frying pan over a low heat, about ten minutes.

Increase heat to high, coat rice, toast for three minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour in the wine and allow to evaporate, decrease heat to medium, add a ladleful of the hot stock, simmer and stir until the liquid is absorbed.

Repeat until rice is creamy but not cooked through, about 15 minutes.

There should be some liquid floating on the surface of the rice.

Stir the prawns, scallops and squid into the rice.

Turn heat to low.

Lay the cooked mussels on top of the rice.

Complete with butter, cilantro or parsley and peperoncino.


Indigenous Ingredients

Cilantro
Garlic
Mussels
Peperoncino
Prawns
Rice
Scallops
Squid
Wine

Legendary Dishes | Broccogli (broccoli with garlic and olive oil)

ITALY

This traditional broccoli dish is believed to be one of the first to be made with broccoli when the Romans or possibly the Etruscans realised the flower heads on wild brassica plants had a delicate flavour, broccoli coming from the Italian word brocco = shoot. This dish is still traditional in the central provinces of Italy, especially around Rome.

  • 2 litres water
  • 1 kg broccoli, whole heads, hard stalks removed
  • 450 ml broccoli cooking liquid
  • 12 garlic cloves, crushed and mashed, chopped small
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 30 g anchovies (optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, for cooking water
  • 15 ml wine vinegar (optional)
  • 10 g salt

Bring a pot of salted water with one clove of garlic to the boil. Add broccoli pieces, cook for five minutes.

Drain, reserve liquid and keep warm.

Mash the broccoli. Put oil in a frying pan. Over a low heat sauté garlic with broccoli.

If using anchovies fry them with the garlic.

After 10 minutes add a splash of wine vinegar.

Loosen the mixture with a few ladles of the broccoli cooking liquid.

Serve with pasta, polenta or on its own.


Indigenous Ingredients

Broccoli
Garlic
Olive Oil

Legendary Dishes | Pastitsio (pasta bake)

CAUCASUS CYPRUS GREECE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

Tourists visiting the Mediterranean islands of Crete, Cyprus, Malta, Sicily and Sardinia might be forgiven for thinking there is an ad hoc competition among their restaurants to see who produces the best pasta bake. The Greeks of course will tell you their pastitsio is the best and the rest are mere imitations.

And there is the dilemma, each chef – domestic and professional – has their own interpretation, albeit subtle tweaks that are not always discernable.

We have favoured an eastern Mediterranean sensibility with cheese custard for the topping rather than a white sauce, thick tube pasta cooked and dressed with eggs and cheese, and a meat filling flavoured with onion, marjoram, mint, parsley and thyme.

Pasta

  • 500 g penne / rigatoni pasta
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g hard cheese
  • 60 g butter
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, large pinch
  • 2 gratings of nutmeg

Meat

  • 750 g beef / lamb / pork mince
  • 250 g onion, thin sliced
  • 125 ml meat stock
  • 45 ml dry white wine
  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt
  • 5 sprigs parsley, chopped small
  • 10 mint leaves, chopped small
  • 5 sprigs marjoram
  • 5 sprigs thyme

Topping

  • 1 litre full-fat milk
  • 500 g halloumi cheese, grated
  • 4 eggs, whisked
  • 45 g cornflour
  • 30 ml water

Finish

  • 90 g kefalotiri cheese / hard cheese, grated
  • Butter, for greasing

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, drain and place in a large bowl. Melt butter and pour over the pasta. Add the cheese and seasonings, toss, add eggs and toss again. Set aside.

Sauté onion in oil for 10 minutes, add the meat and cook until brown. Add the wine, stock, herbs and seasonings, simmer for 20 minutes until almost all of the liquid has been reduced. Leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs and milk for the topping in a pot, bring slowly to the boil. Whisk the water into the cornflour, pour slowly into the egg-milk mixture, heat gradually until the mixture begins to thicken, add the cheese.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Grease a large baking tray, place half of the pasta mixture on the bottom, follow with the meat mixture, the remaining pasta mixture and the cheese custard. Sprinkle the top with the grated hard cheese.

Bake for 50 minutes.


THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Verona | 10 Traditional Dishes

Verona has an immense traditional food history so we were faced with an inenviable task – what to exclude, what to include. In Fricot fashion we employed our people + place + produce criteria. The Veronese make good use of their indigenous ingredients – the dairy products (especially the local cheeses), the meats (beef, game, horse, lamb, pork, veal), the fruits, the grains (corn, rice and wheat), the legumes, the vegetables and the vines. Add the aromatics – garlic and onion in particular – and you have a rich food tradition that is as diverse as any of the Italian regions.

The soft wheat flour of the region is evident in the bone marrow sauce called pearà, in the star-shaped festive biscuits called nadalin, in the pasta called bigoli and maccheroncini and in the potato dumplings called gnocchi.

Among the grains of the region wheat is rivalled by the rice varieties of the Po Valley paddy fields, vialone nano in particular, and the legumes that are now an integral part of Italian traditional food, the common bean known as borlotti, also feature in Veronese dishes – pasta and beans among the most popular.

But it is the seasoned ground pork used to make salami and sausage that has pride of place. As the main ingredient in the salami called sopressa it has status yet it has another existence. Called tastasal for the obvious reason it is a dumpling dish and a risotto dish.

For that reason three risotto dishes are featured – each with vialone nano, with the red radicchio of Verona, with the tastasal of Verona and with the quixotic Amarone della Valpolicella of Verona.

Grana Padano, the hard cheese of the Po Valley communities (including Verona), is ever-present in those risotto dishes, and in the pasta and beans, the peará sauce, the potato dumplings and the roast lamb – seven dishes!


Agnello Arrosto (roasted lamb loin)

  • 1.5 kg lamb loin, cut into large pieces
  • 300 g onions, sliced, divided into three portions
  • 250 g Grana Padano cheese, sliced into shavings
  • 125 ml Soave wine / dry white wine
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt
  • 6 sprigs of rosemary

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Sauté a third of the onions in a tablespoon of oil in an oven-proof frying pan.

Add a teaspoon of oil and brown a third of the lamb with two rosemary sprigs. Repeat with second and third batches. Season the lamb.

Deglaze the pan with two tablespoons of the wine, add the second portion of onions, the remaining oil all of the lamb, cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Add remaining onions and wine, transfer to the oven, cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake, for another 30 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven to place the cheese shavings on top of the lamb, put back in the oven, bake for a further 15 minutes.

Rest before serving as a second plate with an accompanying vegetable.


Hot bigoli pasta

Bigoli (hand-made long pasta)

Traditionally served with l’anatra (duck), with musso (minced donkey meat), with red raddichio (chicory), with sarde (sardines) and with salsa (sauce), bigoli is made using a bigolaro, a press associated with Marco Polo.

Version 1

  • 400 g white wheat flour
  • 120 ml milk
  • 1 egg
  • 40 g salted butter, softened

Version 2

  • 400 g white wheat flour
  • 75 ml milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 40 g butter, softened
  • salt

Those two variations produce a porous pasta suitable for sauce.

Version 3

  • 400 g white wheat flour, t00
  • 4 eggs
  • salt

This version produces a harder pasta. Pour flour into a clean surface, make a hole in the middle, break egg or eggs into the hole (adding other ingredients according to each version), gradually bring together to form a loose dough, knead for ten minutes.

Rest covered for half an hour, roll out the dough to a thickness of 2 millimetres, cut into strips.

Roll each strip with the hands for a solid round shape, leave to dry on a floured cloth.


Gnocchi di Verona (potato dumplings)

A speciality, traditionally served with horse meat stew, or with melted butter and grated cheese, or with melted gorgonzola cheese, or with cinnamon and sugar, or with tomato sauce and a cheese dressing, these dumplings are a taste to behold. Every Italian will tell you quietly that the secret to gnocchi is hidden in the choice of potato. These would be the varieties of Agate, Agria, Amber, Arizona, Chopin, Finka, Marabel, Monalisa, Universa and Vivaldi.

  • 2 litres water
  • 1 kg potatoes, boiled in skins, peeled, mashed
  • 300 g white wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 90 g Grana Padano cheese
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Flour a clean work surface Place potatoes, some salt and flour on a clean work surface sprinkled with flour.

With floured hands knead, adding the eggs one at a time, into a pasty dough.

Roll into a sausage 3 cm thick, cut into 1 cm slices. Press each piece with the handle of a knife to form a cup shape.

Bring a large saucepan with water and remaining salt to a rolling boil. Add gnocchi in batches. When they rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon.

Serve accordingly.

In Verona the wines that accompany gnocchi are Bardolino red wine and Custoza white wine.


Guancia di Manzo Brasata all’Amarone (braised beef cheeks with red wine)

The aristocratic courts of Europe served this dish with a red wine reduction in the days before potatoes while the peasantry remained faithful to their root vegetables, ironically a tradition that continues in France as a food of the fields dish. It remains a dish of haute cuisine but now it is served with puréed potatoes, particular in Italy and Spain.

Beef cheeks braised in Amarone wine and served with puréed potatoes is a signature dish of the Antica Bottega del Vino in Verona.

Aromatic simplicity.

  • 1.5 kg beef cheek
  • 1.5 kg potatoes, peeled, cut in quarters, cooked, mashed, kept warm
  • 375 ml Amarone wine
  • 50 ml Marsala wine
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 piece of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves

Sauté carrots and onions in oil in a saucepan with bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, juniper berries, peppercorns and rosemary, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Brown the cheeks in a tablespoon of oil and some butter in a second saucepan over a high heat. Add the Marsala and let it evaporate.

Transfer the cheeks and vegetables mixture to a crock pot, add the red wine and seasonings. Cook covered for 4 hours at a low temperature.

Strain the cooking liquid from the crock pot into a new pot, reduce to obtain a smooth sauce.

Serve the cheeks immersed in the sauce with mashed potatoes.


Nadalin di Verona (star-shaped sweet biscuits)

These delights, according to legend, originated with the Signoria Scaligera after their investiture in 1262. Their pastry chefs were instructed to invent a sweet confection that would symbolise the greatness of Verona, celebrate the energy of the sun and pay homage to the five-pointed star associated with Christmas.

  • 575 g white wheat flour
  • 160 g butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 g vanilla sugar
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 60 g almonds, blanched, peeled, roasted, chopped
  • 60 g lukewarm water
  • 60 g pine nuts, chopped and whole
  • 60 g yeast
  • 40 g butter, for coating
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt, large pinch

Make a paste of 60 grams each of butter, flour, yeast and lukewarm water, 1 egg and 30 grams vanilla sugar. Leave to rise for three hours.

Work remaining butter and vanilla sugar into the remaining flour, add the yeast mixture, lemon juice and salt. Work into a soft dough with a temperature of 27ºC.

Leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour.

Roll out and push into 7 or 8 centimetre-wide star-shaped moulds or cut with a similar sized star-shaped cutter.

Preheat oven to 170ºC.

Coat each piece with melted butter, sprinkle with almonds and pine nuts.

Alternatively make a paste with an egg yolk, a large splash of marsala, 100 grams each of flour and sugar. Mix with the almonds and pine nuts. Spread on each piece.

Place pieces on greased baking tray.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Dust nadalin with icing sugar.


Pasta e Fasoi (pasta with beans in aromatic soup)

Pasta and beans is a typical medieval dish of Veronese popular cuisine. An exquisite ensemble of flavours, chef Giorgio Gaming, owner of Restaurant 12 Apostles, called it homely.

‘Robust, almost muscular, roughly plebeian devised by the imagination of the poor, still unsurpassed in the art of eating well.’

Pasta e fasoi is the term given to dishes that contain a soupy sauce made with a soffritto (minced vegetables), often containing peas and beans, served with home-made long pasta.

In Verona this dish is sumptuous with fat borlotti beans and home made strip pasta, served with a Bardolino or a Valpolicella wine.

  • 2.5 litres water
  • 250 g fagioli di Lamon (Lamon beans) / borlotti beans, soaked overnight
  • 200 g bigoli / maccheroncini / tagliatelle home-made pasta
  • 150 g Grana Padano cheese
  • 150 g onion, chopped small
  • 100 g carrots, cubed
  • 100 g celery, cubed
  • 100 g pork belly rind
  • 50 g smoked bacon, cubed, fried
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt
  • 6 sage leaves, whole
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Place beans and pork rind in a large pot with the water, bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat to low, cook until beans are tender, about two hours.

Remove the beans, divide into two portions, pureé one portion with a little of the cooking water.

Cut rinds into thin slices and place back in pot.

Sauté carrots, celery, garlic, onions, rosemary and sage in half of the oil for five minutes.

Add the portion of whole beans, and toss in the vegetables for two minutes.

Remove rosemary sprig.

Place all the beans and vegetables into the pot and summer gently.

Cook the pasta in the pot until al dente.

Serve warm dressed with the crispy bacon cubes, sprinkings of cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground pepper and a glass of red wine.


Risotto all’Amarone (rice with red wine)

  • 650 ml vegetable stock
  • 500 ml Amarone wine
  • 320 g Carnaroli rice / Vialone Nano rice
  • 80 g butter
  • 50 g Grana Padano cheese
  • Salt, large pinch

Heat wine.

Sauté rice in 20 grams of butter in a large frying pan. Add wine gradually, stiring constantly.

Heat vegetable stock.

When the rice has absorbed the wine, gradually add the vegetable stock.

Cook until rice is al dente, about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in remaining butter and cheese.

Rest for five minutes.

Serve hot.


Risotto alla Radicchio di Verona (Verona radicchio risotto)

There are four distinct geographical varieties of radicchio:–

Radicchio di Chioggiasmall and large spherical, amaranth, soft bitter and sweet taste, crispy.
Radicchio di Veronasmall and medium heart-shaped, dark-red, soft bitter taste, crispy.
Radicchio Rosso di Trevisosmall elongated, wine-red, bitter taste, crunchy.
Radicchio Variegato di Castelfrancomedium and large open-round, white-cream, variegated violet-red, light bitter and sweet taste, crunchy.

As you can see each has a varying bitter taste which some cooks like to remove by soaking slices in water and vinegar for 30 minutes, then left to dry. Others prefer to add sugar to the risotto to counter the bitter taste of the vegetable. We don’t feel the need to soak Veronese radicchio for this dish, although a hint of sugar is an option.

  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock, heated
  • 350 g vialone nano rice
  • 1 head of radicchio di Verona, chopped
  • 100 g onion, chopped
  • 40 g Grana Padano, grated (optional)
  • 30 g dry white wine
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 30 g sugar (optional)
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Sauté onions in oil in a deep, wide frying pan saucepan over a low heat, about ten minutes.

Add half of the radicchio and the rice, toast, add the white wine and allow to reduce.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time to absorb the rice, about 20 minutes.

After 10 minutes add remaining radicchio.

Finish with seasonings and sugar.

Rest for five minutes. Garnish with cheese.


Risotto al Tastasal (rice with seasoned ground pork)

Tastasal is the term given to pork that is ground into a fine mince and seasoned with a copious amount of coarse ground black pepper and sufficient ground salt to give the meat a depth of flavour. The name derives from a tradition when butchers (and domestics) sampled the seasoned pork that was used to make salami, sausage and sopressa. In the northern region, around Vicenza, this mixture is called salami paste, because it resembles a paste after seasoning. Here they use it to make a sauce to go with pasta. In the low Verona plain they use it to make a risotto.

  • 1 litre meat broth
  • 300 g tastasal (ground pork seasoned with 15 g black pepper and 5 g salt)
  • 320 g Vialone Nano rice
  • 125 g white onions, chopped
  • 100 g butter
  • 80 g Grana Padano cheese, grated.
  • 60 ml white wine
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped
  • Cinnamon, pinch
  • Nutmeg, grated, pinch
  • Rosemary, chopped small, pinch

Heat the stock and keep warm. Toast the rice in a dry frying pan, set aside.

Melt half of the butter in a large frying pan over a low heat, add the onions and sauté until soft, about ten minutes.

Stir in the rice and coat in the butter-onion mixture. When it starts to stick on the bottom, pour in the wine and allow to evaporate, then add the first ladle of stock.

When the rice absorbs the stock add a second ladle, repeat this process several times until all the stock is gone.

In a separate frying pan, melt the remaining butter, add the rosemary and garlic, stir. Add the pork, increase heat and fry quickly.

When the pork is browned stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg, spoon on top of the rice, leave to rest for ten minutes.

Stir the pork mixture into the rice, serve, dress with cheese.


Salsa Pearà (beef broth, beef marrow and breadcrumb sauce)

Traditionally made in an earthenware pot to accompany the meat used to make the stock, the pearà of the Veronese is now a multi-functional white-brown sauce prized for its enhancing qualities. Creamy, buttery, peppery and sometimes cheesy, pearà is known to accompany the large dumplings known as canederli.

In the Antica Bottega al Vino in the heart of Verona it is served with pan-fried scallops in a culinary expression that unites Venice (with its lagoon seafood) and Verona (with its rustic agriculture).

  • 2 litres beef and chicken broth, heated
  • 300 g bread crumbs
  • 120 g beef bone marrow
  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g Grana Padano cheese
  • 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 g black pepper
  • Salt, large pinch

In a large deep pot melt the butter with the marrow, add the breadcrumbs, stir thoroughly. Pour in the broth, bring to a low boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, for two hours.

Add the salt, and copious amounts of fine ground black pepper.

The sauce should have the consistency of cream. The cheese and oil are optional.


THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Verona | Pastissada di Caval (horse meat stew)

Despite an appearance that suggests modesty, the horse meat stew of Verona is either a one-night stand or a complex entanglement, plain or spicy. Meat (usually from the shoulder, occasionally from the loin), onions (80% of the meat weight), red wine, water with a tomato concentrate or vegetable broth, and herbs and spices are the primary actors in this romantic culinary drama.

Some chefs sauté the onions in butter and olive oil, add the meat, wine and seasonings and cook for between three and eight hours. These are the quick versions!

Carrots, celery and tomatoes might feature and they might not. There is a debate about this!

Other chefs prefer an elaborate preparation, a 24-hour or 48-hour marinade followed by three days of cooking at three hours each. The latter method is the consequence from the origins of the dish.

In September 489 at San Martino Buon Albergo the armies of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, and Odoacre, king of the Heruli, faced each other. Theodoric emerged victorious from the bloody battle, which left thousands of men and horses dead on the battlefield. Seeing the rotting meat on the field the king declared that it could be used, contrary to a Papal ruling. To overcome the smell of the meat it was marinaded in red wine and then cooked.

Generally it is served with gnocci or polenta. This version of the stew is also used as a stuffing for pasta.


Pastissada de Caval — Fast Version

These quanities are for six people.

  • 1 kg horse shoulder meat, whole piece (see method)
  • 800 g onions, sliced
  • 500 ml red wine
  • 500 g passata / plum tomatoes, skinned and sieved
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 30 g butter
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch

Beat meat to relax the fibres, cut into 3 cm square pieces. Brown in the butter and oil. Remove meat from pot. Sauté the onion for 15 minutes, add passata or tomatoes and seasonings. Add the pieces of meat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the wine and cook over a low heat for three hours.


Pastissada de Caval — Medium Version

  • 1 kg horse shoulder meat, cut into small pieces
  • 1 litre Recioto / sweet red wine
  • 800 g onions, chopped small
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 80 g lard
  • 40 g butter
  • 30 g white wheat flour
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch

Marinate meat in wine for 12 hours. In an earthenware dish melt butter and lard, fry onions and carrots. Remove meat from wine, place in a large pan, sprinkle with flour, season and sauté. Add the marinade, simmer for five hours, until the sauce is quite thick.


Pastissada de Caval — Slow Version – 1

  • 1 kg horse shoulder meat, cut into large pieces
  • 1 kg white onions (or no less than 80% of the meat weight), thin sliced
  • 1 litre Valpolicella / red wine
  • 300 g carrots, cubed small
  • 125 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 g + 30 g butter
  • 30 g lard (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 3 cloves
  • 5 g cinnamon
  • 12 juniper berries
  • Salt, pinch
  • Black pepper, pinch

Drown the meat in the wine with the herbs and spices and about a third of the onions. Marinate for 24 hours. Drain the liquid and set aside.

Brown the meat in batches in the oil with two tablespoons of butter, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add remaining butter and about two tablespoons of oil and brown the remaining onions over a high heat, adding the carrots after 10 minutes.

Put the meat and onion-carrot mixture in a large pot, add lard, olive oil and butter (to taste), add the drained meat and marinade.

Cook over a low heat covered for at least 12 hours.

Season with salt and pepper and other spices to taste.


Pastissada de Caval — Slow Version – 2

This a long and very slow version with intermissions, that should produce a thick sauce with melt-in-the-mouth pieces of meat. This stew is very suitable as a stuffing.

Marinade

  • 1 kg horse shoulder meat, whole piece
  • 1 litre Valpolicella / red wine
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 10 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs sage

Marinate meat in wine and spices for 48 hours. Remove meat from liquid, cut into 3 cm square pieces. Filter the liquid.

First Cooking

  • 1 kg onion
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped small
  • 2 carrots, chopped small
  • 80 g lard / butter
  • 30 g butter
  • 15 ml olive oil

In a large heavy-bottomed pot melt the butter and oil, brown the meat, add the vegetables and sauté for five miniutes, then add the marinade. Cover and simmer for three hours. Leave to cool and refrigerate.

Second and Third Cooking

Slowly reheat the stew, simmer for three hours, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool and refrigerate. Repeat 24 hours later.


Pastissada de Caval – Large Quantity

  • 5 kg horse shoulder meat, cubed 2 cm x 2 cm
  • 5 kg onions, sliced
  • 3 lites Valpolicella Classico
  • 2 litres water
  • 400 g carrots, sliced
  • 50 g cinnamon
  • 50 g cloves
  • 50 juniper berries
  • 25 g black pepper
  • 25 g fresh rosemary springs10 g salt
  • 5 bay leavesOil

Make a stock with the carrots, onions and water, leave to cool.

Put the cubed meat in a large bowl, add the carrot-onion stock, two litres of Valpolicella, herbs and spices. Marinate for 24 hours, strain the liquid, retain, and remove the meat, leave to drain. In a large frying add some oil and fry a small batch of the meat, set aside, repeat until the meat is used up. Fry the carrots and onions from the marinade. Place the fried carrots, onions and meat in a large pot, add the remaining bottle of wine and a litre of the marinate liquid, season and simmer until the meat disintegrates, adding more marinate liquid as necessary.

THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Borghetto sul Mincio | Village over Water, Templar Tavern, Love Knots (tortellini – filled pasta)

We are on via Michelangelo Buonarroti standing outside rusty wrought-iron gates, perusing the wall menu of the Borgo Dei Templari. Old wooden wine barrels stand sentry on each side of the gates, close to grey stone walls that enclose a cream-washed three-storey building with a two-storey annex. Each of the barrels has been punctured with a pole to hold a covering.

Today, as the twilight fades, the gates are locked. Still, the menu attracts. It advertises several of the traditional dishes we have come to the region to enjoy.

From the first plates:–

Canederli al Tastasal con Pearà e Bietolebacon, bread and pork meatballs with bone marrow, breadcrumb, broth sauce and steamed chard.

Tortellini di Valeggio con Tartufo del Baldo e Ricotta Affumicata della Lessina – filled pasta with the smoked ricotta cheese of Lessina and truffle.

Tortellini di Valeggio in Brodofilled pasta in meat soup.

From the second plates:–

Coniglio Ripieno al Vapore su Creme di Zucca – rabbit with creamed pumpkin.

Ravioli alla Pastissada de Cavaldumplings filled with horse meat stew.

Risotto con Radicchio Treviso rice with the chicory of Treviso.

Tortellini – the ‘Love Knots’ of legend and memory

The following day our travelling companion Emanuele Sbraletta called the osteria on the phone to see whether they would be open early. We were told to come immediately. We obeyed, raced out of Verona, toward the Mincio river into the wide plain of the Verona region.

It’s early December and the the biting air of the flood plain is bitterly cold. The Templar Tavern opens its doors to a warm delightful ambiance that triumphs over the cold breeze outside. Love for an exquisite taste and sheer curiosity has driven us here, and we are excited.

The maitre’d is attentive. He directs us into the annex where beautifully restored kitchen equipment adorns the floor and walls, and adds to the ambiance. He becomes a discreet guardian angel ready to to satisfy our needs.

We make our selection from the assorted dishes and turn to the wine menu. We ask for a recommendation and decide on a ‘Seccal Valpolicella Ripasso’ from Nicolas, made with Corvina (70%), Rondinella (20%), Molinara (5%) and Croatina (5%) grapes and on a ‘Refosco’ from Cassal, dark red, full bodied and eager to linger.

Local homemade cheeses with honey and mustards – delicate and tasteful – complete the feast. We are sated, but remain curious.

We are in the ‘village over water’ – the village and river are a perfect marriage – intertwined. They mash and play along, their mood is infectious.

This green river snakes through the countryside. Here it reveals an unexpected arcadia and proclaims an endless reverie. The river runs so close it hugs the broken lines of the buildings – the fate of a village built beside a riverbed.

Emanuele explains: ‘This is a tiny medieval village not far from Valeggio sul Mincio. It deserves to be listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy. Right here, between the 8th and 9th centuries, the Longobards erected its original core, but archeological findings indicate a human presence a thousand years earlier.’

The Visconti bridge over the Mincio, the crumbing Della Scala (Scaligeri) castle – only the round tower and one of three drawbridges remain – the neo-classical San Marco Evangelista church and the watermills give this medieval village a charm all of its own.

Equally charming are the traditional dishes. The tortellini of Valeggio sul Mincio (stuffed pasta served garnished with a butter and sage sauce or in a meat broth) are known as ‘love knots’ in memory of a love tryst at the Mincio river.

Every summer, in June, the ‘Love knots Festival’ is the happening in Borghetto as thousands of aficionados swarm through the village to enjoy its world famous tortellini!

During summer the ‘affair with the river’ repeats itself with the dishes prepared by the restaurants, eel, pike and trout among the local tastes, are washed down with a Bardolino red or a Custoza white.

Those who know the history of the region complete their repast with a walk up the rock, above the village, taking the modern route past modern houses, into the remains of the old castle. It was never that easy in medieval times.

‘A great way to see the Mincio valley is to climb up the cobblestone path from the borgo to the Scaligero castle,’ says Emanuele. ‘The view opens to a 360 degree delicate green countryside perfect to inspire an impressionist painter to produce a landscape with watercolours, shadows following the sunrays that break through the natural light of the early afternoon.’

Back in Verona we have one last pleasure.

You guessed it.

We are going back to Morandin, this time to taste their range of snacks and savour once again their wines.


Tortellini di Valeggio (filled pasta)

Arguably the best filled pasta there is, immeasurably better than the rest because of the delicate depth of flavour in the filling, and the simple fact that these little treasures were handmade every summer by young girls to celebrate the handkerchief tied into a love-knot surrendered by a Visconti soldier and a river nymph on the bank of the Mincio.

Typically filled with a ‘stew’ of finely chopped beef and pork, ham, herbs and spices in a dough made with eggs and durum wheat flour, there are numerous variations, including simmering the filling ingredients in wine or cooking them in butter.

Valeggio tortellini can be served with a butter, cheese and sage dressing or in soup with grated cheese. Both are recommended.

This quantity of dough will make 400 tortellini. Cook immediately, and air-dry or freeze the surplus.

The remaining filling mixture can be frozed in small batches of 80 grams and 160 grams, sufficient to make 40 and 80 tortellini.

Dough

  • 1 kg white wheat flour, t00
  • 10 (50 g) eggs

Filling

  • 400 g pork, double minced
  • 300 g onions, diced small
  • 250 g carrots, diced small
  • 200 g beef, doubled minced
  • 200 g butter
  • 200 g chicken livers, minced
  • 200 g dry-cured ham, chopped small
  • 100 g Grana Padano cheese, grated
  • 30 g breadcrumbs
  • 5 g black pepper, fresh ground
  • 3 g green peppercorns, fresh ground
  • 3 g salt
  • 2 g dried sage, chopped small
  • 2 g fresh sage, chopped small
  • 2 g rosemary, chopped small
  • ½ nutmeg, grated

Melt butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add carrots and onions, sauté for ten minutes, reduce heat, add meat in batches, continue cooking for a total of 30 minutes from the moment the vegetables were put in. Add rosemary, sage, nutmeg and salt.

Leave to cool.

Add the breadcrumbs, cheese and ham to the meat mixture.

Shape the filling mixture into 2 gram balls.

Roll the dough thin, almost transparent.

Cut into 4 cm squares.

Place a ball in the centre of each square, wet the edges, fold diagonally, twist the two ends inwards to form the classic handkerchief shape.

Cook in broth or stock, about two minutes, until the tortellini rise to the surface. Serve in the broth with a little grated cheese on top.

Alternatively serve with a butter and sage dressing and grated cheese.


THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Verona | Antica Bottega del Vino and Traditional Veronese Food and Wine

This ostentatious osteria has an equally glamorous history. once one of many that characterised Verona’s place in the renaissance period of the Venetian Republic, it was known as Osteria Scudo di Francia, after the French Consulate, housed upstairs.

It got its present name in the 1890s when the Sterzi brothers bought it from a winery in Soave. In 1957 the Rizzo-Grigolo family enriched the cellar and offered restaurant style meals, a tradition that has been maintained since the ‘Amarone Families’ acquired it in 2011.

The significance of Risotto all’amarone as one of their signature dishes is not lost on those who know the story. Rice and wine define the Veneto region, the area around Verona in particular. More so because Amarone is one of the great stories of the modern era.

Here in the bottega, wine is slightly more important than rice. They have 18,000 bottles of almost 5,000 labels, and all of them are excellent. Why? Wine is their stock and trade. It is wine that makes them what they are and they know what they are doing, so when you visit, as you must, expect only the best.

Sabina Zantedeschi, their young sommelier, will guide you through the tastes of Verona’s best wines. We sampled a ‘2013 valpolicella Classico’ from the Begali Lorenzo winery, a ‘2013 Valpolicella Ripasso’ from Venturni and a
‘2010 Capitel Monte Olmi’ from Tedeschi.

The food was exquisite. Luca, the manager, tried to explain that the first dish was an excellent marriage between the sea of Venice and the land of Verona. This was scallops with pearà sauce. He was right.

The high standard was maintained with the horse meat stew and potato dumplings. Their hand-made pasta dishes were superb!

Then came the amarone risotto. Sabina tried to convince us that the tradition of cooking rice with wine started in the Bottega.

‘Journalists came to drink the wine, and the wine that was left over was used to cook the rice that made the risotto, a tradition that began here over 100 years ago.’

To learn more about amarone we are heading north to Negrar.

Amarone is the alter-ego of recioto. Sweet to bitter, and all because of a mistake! Traditionally made with Corvina, Corvinone, Negrara, Oseleta and Rondinella grapes, which are left to dry after harvest to concentrate the
juice content, recioto is produced when the fermentation is stopped to create a wine high in sugar, and sweet.

In the 1950s a winemaker lost a barrel intended for recioto. When the barrel was discovered all the sugar had been converted but the wine was stronger with a high alcohol content and was slightly bitter. A new wine had been discovered.

The Vogadori winery in Negrar is one of several in the region that specialises in amarone. They also make it into grappa, but that is a story for another day.


This is the room in the Vogadori winery in Negrar where they age the wine.

THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Verona | Osteria Morandin and Traditional Veronese Food

Morandin Menu

Verona will be one of our long stops, because we are going to avail of its hospitality to allow us to visit the region. We are staying at the Residence Viale Venezia, named because it is on Corso Venezia, several hundred metres from one of Verona’s iconic gates – Porta Vescovo.

From here we can take the bus or walk into the city and we plan to do both.

Corso Venezia begins and ends at the gate, depending on the direction you are coming from. On the western side of the gate, 20 September Street runs into the university area, where Ship Bridge allows traffic to cross the Adige river and slip into Bra Square, dwarfed by the 2000 year-old amphitheatre known as the ‘Arena’ – a consequence of the city’s inglorious Roman past. These days the entertainment has an aesthetic quality, summer operas that attract thousands of music lovers.

The food of the Veronissima remains very rustic, very traditional and very rural. In osteria throughout the city the products of the surrounding countryside are evident. From the highly prized Amarone, Recioto and Valpolicella wines made from local Corvina, Croatina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes, to the Carnaroli and Vialone Nano rice varieties that feature prominently in risotto made with the salami-sausage mixture they call Tastasal or with the Amarone wine or with the locally grown Radicchio, to the soft wheat flour that is used for the hand-made pasta known Bigoli, Maccheroncini, Tagliatelli and Tagliolini, and for breads which are crumbed and used to make an iconic sauce called Pearà, to the horse meat stew served with potato dumplings or with a creamy Polenta – each dish a melt-in-the-mouth experience.


The Adige river approaches Verona from the west like a snake. Twisting into an inverted s-shape it encloses the beating heart of the city. A short walk from the new bridge over the eastern sweep of the river, through Independence Square – where Garibaldi stands proud, into the alley way named after Dante Alighieri, the sound of muted voices rises into the cold December air. They are muted because we are in one of Verona’s famous linked squares, where culture and history mingle among ancient stones. It is the palace of the old market, a trading place since the 1400s, that we are interested in. Here they sell the traditional foods of the region – biscuits, breads, cakes, cheeses and confections associated with ancient traditions.

We have found a quaint osteria called Morandin a few metres from the Porta Vescovo. It has everything we want, and much more. Their horse meat stew is delicious, their potato dumplings are divine, their pasta is delicate and their little snacks are a delight to behold.

Their menu of the day is written on paper and pasted on a wine barrel lid outside the door. At any time of the year it reads like a window into the regional food and the traditional dishes associated with the fresh produce of the seasons.

In the summer this includes aubergine with parmigiana, pasta with donkey meat, pasta with peas or beans in an aromatic tomato sauce, seasoned pork mince with the ear-shaped pasta called Orecchiette among dishes with Burratina (the small smoked cheeses made with mozzarella and cream), radicchio and mushrooms and fish from the Adriatic.

In the winter the aubergine with parmigiana, pasta with donkey meat and pasta with sauce are joined by filled pasta, grilled chops, horse meat stew with polenta, pasta with octopus and tomatoes, soused sardines and whipped dried cod with polenta.

Most of all Morandin offers the feeling that is always illusive in places that serve food, a combinaton that is superb service, fabulous food and quixotic quality, and a friendliness that cannot be bought.


Morandin also excels with its selection of local wines, but their cellar is nothing compared to our next destination. We have been invited to the Bottega del vino, a stone’s throw from Juliet’s balcony in an alleyway named via Scudo di Francia, near the linked squares and not too far from the Arena.


THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | 10 Fish Breakfasts

1 Norwegian Breakfast

Lefse – Potato Cakes

Once upon a time travellers on Norwegian Railways sleeper trains were handed special tickets by the train chief. ‘These are for your breakfast, go to the hotel across from the station,’ the chief would explain to bemused travellers. The sight on arrival in the grand hall of the grand hotel was a grand breakfast, an assortment of hot and cold foods that had no rival anywhere in the world. Sadly this tradition has lapsed. On the sleeper trains between Oslo, the capital of Norway, and Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim and between Trondheim and Bodø in the far north, a modest breakfast is served onboard. The grandiose buffet breakfasts are becoming a thing of the past, but some hotels are clinging to tradition by presenting modest grand buffets. Think of every possible breakfast food that is served across Europe, add the Norwegian love for loaves and fishes, cheeses and crispbreads, bacon and eggs, pickles and potatoes, and then something you never imagined.

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Cheese – Brunost Cheese – Gamalost Cheese – Gudbrandsdalsost Cheese – Jarlsberg Cheese – Norvegia Cheese – Pultost Cheese – Ridder Cheese – Snøfrisk Coffee
  • Crackers
  • Crispbreads
  • Eggs – boiled, fried, poached
  • Fishes – Klippfisk (cod), Lutefisk (lyed cod or ling), Sild (herring)
  • Leverpostej (liver paste)
  • Milk
  • Museli
  • Pickles
  • Lefse (potato flatbreads)
  • Potatoes
  • Smoked bacon, grilled to a crisp
  • Smoked salmon, with lefse or toast
  • Tea
  • Toast
  • Yoghurt

2 Welsh Breakfast

Bacon and eggs are a traditional breakfast throughout Europe, cockels and laverbread less so. In south Wales the sands stretch the length of the Gower peninsula. This is the cockel shore – a place of the laver. Laver is a soft purplish sea vegetable found at Atlantic shores, picked from rocks at low tide. It is thoroughly washed in two changes of water, drained, cooked and sold dried or fresh.

  • 8 slices smoked back bacon
  • 400 g laver pulp
  • 100 g oatmeal
  • Cockles
  • Eggs

Combine laver pulp and oatmeal, shape into 5 cm wide, 2 cm thick cakes. Fry bacon, remove, allowing fat to drip into the frying pan, keep warm. Bring heat up, wait until the bacon fat is starting to smoke, then fry the laver cakes, two minutes each side. Serve with bacon, sausages and poached (or fried) eggs … And fresh cockles.


3 Irish Breakfast

  • 8 potatoes
  • 4 mackerel, filleted
  • 90 g butter
  • Seasonings

Boil the potatoes in their skins. Pan-fry the mackerel in half of the butter, skin-side down first. Serve with the potatoes, split in half, a little butter in each.


4 Sicilian Breakfast

  • 2 squid, cleaned, cut into small pieces
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 45 ml olive oil
  • 5 g chilli flakes
  • Water, for boiling

Bring water to the boil, heat oil in a deep frying pan. Place squid in the boiling water, boil for 90 seconds, then transfer it to the frying pan. Flash fry squid, about three minutes, adding the chilli after two minutes. Deglaze pan with lemon juice, pour over squid, serve.


5 French Breakfast

  • 16 oysters
  • 4 slices thick country bread
  • 4-6 slices streaky bacon
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 15 ml anchovy sauce
  • Pepper, large pinch
  • 4 wooden skewers

Shell the oysters, soak in the anchovy sauce and lemon juice. Season, wrap a piece of bacon around the oyster, skewer, four to each stick. Toast the bread and place the oyster wraps under a hot grill for two minutes.


6 English and Scottish Breakfast

  • 600 g haddock / smoked haddock, cut into chunks
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 350 g long grain rice
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 75 g onion, chopped
  • 25 g butter
  • 5 g parsley, chopped
  • 5 cardamoms, crushed
  • 3 g cinnamon
  • Turmeric powder, very large pinch
  • Seasonings
  • Water, for boiling

Sauté onion in butter in a large frying pan for ten minutes, add bay leaf, spices and seasonings. Stir rice into the onion mixture, add stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Simmer haddock in water for five minutes, flake and set aside. Chop eggs into small pieces. Stir the eggs, fish and parsley into the rice, heat through, season.


7 Swedish Breakfast

  • 2 litres water
  • 250 g smoked salmon, sliced thin
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 slices wholewheat bread
  • 10 g salt
  • Black peppercorns, crushed

Salt the water and bring to the boil. Break an egg into a small bowl, carefully let it slip into the water, reduce heat and poach for three minutes, remove with a slotted spoon onto kitchen paper. Repeat with remaining eggs. Toast bread, place a poached egg on each slice, garnish with equal amounts of the salmon and a sprinkling of black pepper.


8 Turkish Breakfast

  • 1 kg Black Sea anchovy fillets
  • 250 g corn / maize flour
  • 4 lemons, juiced
  • Sunflower oil

Pour flour into a large bowl, dredge anchovies through flour, place side by side on plates. Heat oil, fry anchovies until crisp, drain. Serve with lemon juice.


9 Greek Breakfast

The art of preparing octopus for the grill has consumed the time of Greeks for centuries. The tenderising process alternates between pounding, freezing, baking, marinating and slow cooking. Yet the one method that remains infallible is drying the whole fish under a hot sun in a light breeze.

  • 1 kg octopus, sun dried
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml vinegar
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tbsp oregano

Blend the oil and vinegar, cut the octopus into pieces. Marinade in this mixture for an hour. Grill under a high heat for three or four minutes until the flesh is tender. Serve with vinaigrette of lemon juice and oregano.


10 Russian Breakfast

Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat describes caviar as ‘the last legendary food of modern times’. Traditionally caviar was made from the roe of wild sturgeon in the nutrient rich Caspian Sea.

It came in four varieties: –

Beluga (pale to dark grey eggs from the larger fish, up to 1000 kg).

Oscietra (various coloured eggs from the smaller fish, 300 kg).

Sevruga (dark grey to black eggs from the smallest fish, 60 kg).

Sterlet (a very small sturgeon that is almost extinct).

Seruga is thought to be too strong for a breakfast caviar, beluga too rich, which leaves oscietra, a light nutty caviar. Because of its flavour, roe from the Icelandic capelin is accepted as caviar and suitable for breakfast.

  • 2 eggs
  • 80 g oscietra caviar / black capelin caviar
  • 45 ml kefir
  • 45 g flour
  • 10 g sugar
  • Baking soda, large pinch
  • Oil, for frying
  • Salt, pinch

Whisk the kefir into the eggs, season, add flour and soda to make a smooth batter, leave to froth. Heat some oil in a hot frying pan, pour a tablespoon of the batter into the centre of the pan, remove from heat. When holes form on the surface, flip over, and after a few seconds press with a spatula into the pan, putting it back on the heat for a minute. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with the caviar.