July newsletter Rome,Greece and the AmalfiCoast
June was a delight after the prolonged cold winter. The market stalls were awash with fruit and vegetables and everything seemed to be in season. I made my first 2012 pesto sauce and followed the Ligurian tradition of cooking and serving with a few green beans and slices of boiled potato – delicious. The elongated, small datterini tomatoes have overtaken the small Pachino variety for pride of place on the market stalls. When I was the M & S Italian food consultant exploring the different varieties of Italian tomatoes I discovered that in Sicily at a certain stage they watered the Pachino tomatoes with sea water. The salt made the plant suffer and intensified the flavour. I am not sure what happens with the datterini. However I am soon expecting to learn there is a society for the prevention of cruelty to plants! This year the apricots and figs are particularly good so I am going to make some apricot jam when I am in Ferentino at the end of the month, and prosciutto and figs have replaced my favourite prosciutto e melone summer starter.
I have a few more Rome classes before the August exodus and I am looking forward to Rome September classes and the chance to visit some of my favourite low key trattorias on the sea at theAmalfiCoastat the end of the month.
I am just back from Greece and I am posting full details for anyone who might be interested.
Pasta with pesto sauce (Pasta al Pesto)
Although in Liguria tthey tell you pesto must be pounded by hand today very few people have the time, arm muscles or inclination.
Rome has adopted pesto and here very few people even pretend to make it by hand. In spring and summer when basil is in season I make it several times a week, using my food processor to make a delicious sauce in less time than it takes to cook the pasta. I like to leave some rough crumbs of Parmesan and pine nuts to give the sauce some texture. Traditionally inLiguria chestnut pasta was used and some green beans and sliced boiled potatoes would be served together with the pasta. Potatoes go beautifully with the pesto sauce.
1 large bunch basil
2 garlic cloves
2 T pine nuts
4 T Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
In a food processor put the garlic, pine nuts and roughly-chopped Parmesan. While the pasta is cooking add the sponged and dried basil leaves and the seasoning. Just before draining the pasta add the oil to the food processor and process to make a sauce which still has some texture from the Parmesan.
Arni Katsikaki or Lamb fricassee
1 k lamb, cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
s & p
4 artichokes and 2 T chopped dill or 500g spinach, chard etc.
2 eggs, beaten and at room temperature
strained juice 2 lemons
Heat oil and lightly brown the lamb. Add the onion, let it soften then stir in garlic, dill and seasoning. Add enough boiling water to cover the meat and cook gently for 35 minutes. (We will cook for 15 mins. because very tender.)Add artichoke halves and cook for another 20 minutes. Beat together the eggs and lemon juice. Add a ladle of the lamb liquid. Then on a low heat stir this mixture into the lamb. Do not let it boil. This is called an avgolemonosauce.
Spaghettini with Pachino cherry tomatoes (Spaghettini con pomodorini Pachino)
In the past in winter everyone inRomeused bottled or canned tomatoes for their pasta sauces when the San Marzano plum tomatoes were unavailable. (It is better to use good, full-taste canned tomatoes than insipid tasting fresh tomatoes.) Then eating habits were revolutionised by the advent of a small, sweet winter tomato from Pachino inSicily. They are vine ripened and sold with stalks still intact. The perfume that is released as the stalks are removed signals their very special flavour. This tomato sauce is usually made southern style without the skins being removed, and the taste is so intense the pasta is usually served without any cheese.
400 g spaghettini or other dry pasta
500 g small full-flavour tomatoes, pricked with a sharp knife
1 small onion, chopped
6 fresh basil leaves
3 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper
Heat the oil and let the onion soften and begin to change colour before adding the tomatoes. After a few minutes add whole basil leaves and seasoning. Cook gently for a few minutes, taking care not to let the skins come off the tomatoes. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until “al dente”. Drain and stir into the tomatoes. Simmer for a few minutes then serve at once.