Friday, 27 February 2009

Zucchini marinati (Fried and marinated courgette slices)

This tasty vegetable side dish can be pretty addictive! You can prepare this ahead of time, as it needs to be rested at least half an hour or better few hours to let the flavour settled in. Surprisingly, unlike the usual fried food, I find it even tastier the day after as the flavour gets blended better!

600-700g (1-1/2lb, circa) zucchini (courgette), smallish ones are better, not huge.
frying oil (something light, sunflower, corn etc.)
2 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped.
2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
generous handful of flat leaved parsley, chopped
good quality extra virgine olive oil

Using mandolin or similar tool, slice up the courgette/zucchini in thin, small circles.
Heat up the oil and fry the slices, to make something of zucchini crisps. (not too many at a time, so you can cook them evenly. Take care not to burn them to death!)
Dry the slices well on a few layers of paper towel.
Quickly sautè the chopped garlic separately in a small skillet, again taking care not to burn them. (Take it off from the heat as soon as the garlic start to take on some golden colour. They will continue to cook in a hot oil!)
Place them in a large bowl, toss with the garlic, balsamic vinegar, parsley, evoo (as much/little as preferred) and salt (see the amount for evoo).

*ideally you could fry the courgette in olive oil, but since it costs a lot (especially overseas!), use a regular light tasting veg. oil to deep fry, and after drying them off drizzle over a little of the good olive oil for a flavour!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Insalata di funghi (Mushroom salad)

I had always believed it would be a complete waste of delicious food to eat mushrooms while they were raw, and I was very dubious about this recipe until I tried it once. Now I do make an exception with this lovely salad and it became one of my favourite shroom recipes!! Even if you also a staunch believer of cooked shrooms, trying is believing!! :-D

Insalata di funghi (Mushroom salad)

Ingredients for 2:
-500g/1lb White button mushrooms (Champignones), the fresher and larger the better!
-generous bunch of rocket/arugula (roughly chopped)
-80g/3oz.of bresaola or speck, if neither is available good quality smoked ham or lean hard salami, thinly sliced then finely julienned.
-80g/3oz.of parmigiano or aged pecorino, thinly shaved (NOT finely grated)
-grated peel of 1 lemon + the rest of the lemon
-mild gourmet mustard (I use either french dijon with whole mustard seeds, or german/bavarian style sweet mustard)
-good quality Extra Virgine Olive Oil

Wash the mushrooms, remove the stems and save them for other recipes (sugo, omelette etc...). peel off the thin outer surface of the cap. Then slice them as thinly as possible, or with mandoline or food processor will greatly help the task!
Toss in the rocket, bresaola/speck, cheese and lemon zest, squeeze the lemon juice over, and blend everything gently.
Serve the salad into individual serving bowl/plate, then spoon on the mustard and a drizzle of the oil, blend it into the salad and enjoy!!

Monday, 23 February 2009

Connie's Fresh Apple Cake

This has become my favourite apple cake recipe in the last few years, but the credit goes to my friend Connie, whom I met at a cooking forum . The basic recipe was told by her, which I modified it in my own way just a bit. It is very simple to make, even I, who is quite pitiful at cake baking, manage to make this a success every time and it tastes absolutely gorgeous!!

Connie's Fresh Apple Cake

2 eggs
200g sugar
2 tsps baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
a few drops of vanilla essence
250g flour
diced fresh apples (3-4 depending on the size of the apples)
60g butter, softened
80g chopped walnuts
*optional* unbroken, unchipped halved walnuts for decoration

200g mascarpone (if unavailable you can use fresh spreadable creamy white cheese, quark or philadelphia type)
50g butter
a few drops of vanilla
enough powder sugar to make a suitable consistency for frosting

Cream eggs and sugar. Add next 8 ingredients. Pour into a round greased pan, about 25cm diametre.
(at this point the mixture has very little moisture. However have no fear, the juice from the apples oozes out while the cake is cooking)
Bake at 175° for 45 minutes. Let it cool.

Cream together mascarpone, butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla, adding gradually the sugar, to the desired consistency(it must not be runny, pretty dense but manageable).
Spread thoroughly on the cake.

The cake may be spruced up with some halved walnuts on the surface, as in the above pic.. :-)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Pizzoccheri alla Valtellina

Pizzoccheri alla Valtellina (Lombardia)

Pizzoccheri is a very special type of pasta made with buckwheat flour, a specialty of Valtelline, the alpine region of Lombardia, north of Italy. Buckwheat gives an earthy nutty flavour to the pasta, making this recipe truly unique. It is so tasty, you may explore many possibilities using different ingredients, apart from this well preserved traditional recipe!

Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese

Ingredients for 4 (approx):

-250g of buckwheat flour
-100g of regular flour + extra for dusting the board
-pinch of salt
-200g potatoes, peeled and diced in small cubes (1 large or 2-3 smaller ones)
-600g of shredded vegetable – the traditional recipe calls for cabbage, but I find chopped broccoli, halved brussel sprouts or spinach tastier.
-1 Onion, finely chopped
-150g of cheese, alpine cheeses from northern Italy, such as casera, bitto, fontina would be ideal, also gouda, edam, emmental or any kind that melts well with heat can be used. A few different kind of cheeses can be mixed as well, a little gorgonzola (about 50g of it) will add a lovely flavour!
-100g of grated parmigiano or grana padano
-2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
(if available) A few leaves of fresh sage, finely shredded
-100g butter
-dash of white pepper

-knead vigorously together the flours with a pinch of salt, adding just enough water. You need to play around the amount of water, adding little by little for a right consistency taking care not to get it too soggy. The consistency should be on the firm side. Keep on kneading well for at least 15 minutes until it attains a smooth somewhat elastic texture (but not as elastic as the egg based pasta).

-roll out the dough on a flat surface well dusted with flour (keep more flour handy as you work!), stretch it out with a rolling pin to about 3mm thickness (a bit thicker than regular fresh pasta) then cut into short strips about 1cm x 6-8cm (1/3 inch x 2-3 inch).

-cut the cheeses in either small cubes or slices.

-Steam the vegetable to a desired doneness (I prefer them on the al dente side, with the bright colour still intact!)

-In a skillet melt the butter, and gently sautè the chopped onion, minced garlic and sage. When the onion softens and become semi transparent, add the steamed vegetable and mix them well. Turn off the heat and cover and keep warm (if the pasta is not ready at the time).

-Meanwhile boil plenty of water in a large pot, add a pinch of salt then the pasta and potatoes, bring it back to boil and continue to cook for 5 minutes (or until the pasta is cooked al dente, taste a piece before draining).

-drain the pasta+potatoes well, then quickly toss them in a big bowl with the garlic/veg/butter mixture, cheeses and dash of pepper until cheeses are melted and well blended in.

-serve it piping hot.

Note 1: You may be able to find a ready made pasta dried and prepackaged (called pizzoccheri) in a specialty food store or large supermarkets which stock imported items. This will save some work but it will take longer cooking time (anywhere from 10-15minutes, consult with the instruction on the package).

Note 2: Modification from the above recipe, instead of the steamed cabbage/broccoli etc., I also like sautéed radicchio or mushrooms, which can be cooked with onion, garlic and butter. With radicchio, sometimes I may add shredded speck for additional flavour.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Savoury Mushrooms Au Gratin

Here is another very tasty dish that will surely please any shroom heads like myself. The original idea and the real credit goes to Kadesma, a dear friend whom I met at a cooking forum. I modified her recipe slightly. This amount listed will serve anywhere from 2 hungry mushroom-heads to 4.

600-700g mushrooms, ideally porcini, oyster or portobello, but regular button mushrooms work just as well.
2 large cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
4-5 shallots or 1 onion, thinly sliced
Good fistful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Dash of dry marjoram
salt and pepper
80g evoo
splash of balsamic vinegar
butter for sautè, baking dish + for topping, circa 100g

1/2-c. fresh bread crumbs
1/4-c. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano

Clean the mushrooms. Cut into small chunks if porcini are used, strip into thin pieces for oyster mushrooms, thin slices for portobello or button mushrooms (champignons).
put garlic, onion, parsley, marjoram,salt,pepper, evoo and vinegar in a good sized bowl.
Add mushrooms, mix well and marinate for a few hours, stirring occasionally.
Melt 1/2 the butter in heavy skillet. Sautè the marinated mushroom mixture thoroughly.
Pour the sautèed mixture in a buttered medium baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and cheese dot with remaining butter. Place dish under preheated broiler for some minutes until the top is golden brown. (Watch closely so it doesn't burn)

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Kaiserschmarren (Trentino-Alto Adige)

This pancaky omelette/omeletty pancake is originally an austrian recipe, but it is very popular also in the alpine region of Italy. You can make a savoury version with cheese, chives, asparagus etc., but for a first try I definitely recommend this sweet version!! Lovely for brunch or afternoon tea, but it also offers great opportunity for us sweet toothes to enjoy a full sweet dinner!!


Ingredients to feed 4 hungry people

100g(3,5oz) sultana/raisins
6tbsp of rum (optional)
8 eggs, separated
8tbsp sugar
vanilla essence
2 pinches of salt
100g (3,5oz) flour
200ml (7 oz) milk
125g (4+oz, or 1 stick?) butter
100g almond slivers
powdered sugar
your choice of fruit comport or jam

Rinse the sultanas(raisins) with cold water, drain well and soak in the rum (or water).
Whip the eggwhite, gradually adding 4 tbsp of sugar, until firm.
Beat together the yolk, 4tbsp of sugar, salt and a drop or two of vanilla.
Add to the yolk mixture the flour, then milk, and the sultanas, mix well.
Finally, gently fold in the whipped eggwhite.

Melt half of the butter in a large skillet. (preferably cast iron)
When the skillet and the butter is well heated, pour in the mixture.
When the bottom side becomes golden brown, roughly cut up the mixture, using a spatula or large fork, to something like bite sizes or slightly bigger.
Add another half of butter and almonds, toss around and cook until they are nicely golden brown all round.
Generously coat with powdered sugar before serving, serve with your favourite fruit comport or jam, enjoy them while piping hot!!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Trentinian Apple risotto

This is the newest and pretty exciting addition to my risotto repertoire. As versatile as they are, apples are not one of the first ingredients that come to your mind when you are making a risotto. I found this recipe in a book of regional cooking from Trentino-Alto Adige, the alpine region north of Italy where the apples are one of their most famous local products. It inspired me a lot so I gave it a try, it bursts with the interesting fusion of flavours savoury, sweet and a touch of tartness, gave a fresh and pleasant twist from the usual risotto you may be familiar with. The ideal apples for this recipes are the ones from the Trentino region, however any type of apples that have firm flesh and not too sweet but not entirely sour (Royal Gala, Stark, Fuji etc.) would be perfect!

Ingredients: to feed about 4 people
360g Carnaroli rice (if carnaroli can’t be found Arborio will do)
3 medium apples
1 lemon
200ml white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
40g butter
600-800ml steaming hot vegetable broth
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Freshly grated parmigiano or grana padano

1. Peel, core and cut the apples in small chunks. Squeeze the lemon juice over the chunks and mix very well in a bowl.
2. Sautè the chopped onion in butter in a saucepan. When onions are entirely soft, add the rice, continue to sauté stirring continuously, until the rice is semi transparent.
3. Add 100ml of white wine to the sauce pan and stir well. As soon as it start to boil, turn the heat to very low. Continue to stir to avoid sticking at the bottom.
4. When the liquid is almost absorbed (not entirely dry but very little excess liquid left) Add a ladleful of the hot broth. Stir often. As the liquid get absorbed, continue to add another ladleful of the broth. *
5. In the meanwhile, cook the apples with another 100ml of wine and about 100ml of water in a separate saucepan for about 5 minutes.
6. After 15 minutes of cooking the rice, add the apple mixture and a dash of cinnamon, mix thoroughly.
7. Continue on cooking until the rice attains the desired consistency, another 5 minutes or a little more.
8. Serve with generous serving of freshly grated parmigiano, or grana padano.

*this method of adding the liquid a little at a time and stirring continuously, may look very tedious, but is actually the secret of making a delicious risotto. This ensures the proper distribution of the flavour, coating every morsel of the rice richly with the condiments! So be patient!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Creamy Mushroom Lasagne

I just love shrooms, and love to invent dishes dedicated to this adored ingredient of mine... I whipped up this lasagne on a whim, and turned out to be a big hit! :-D The description became a little long and ended up looking complicated, but if you ever made a regular lasagne, the method is pretty much the same... just the difference of using mushroom mixture instead of tomato based meat sauce. Warning: like so many of my recipes, the exact amount of ingredients were never measured... they are all approximate, so please prepared to be a little flexible! (I am sure if you are interested in this recipe, you wouldn't mind a little extra mushrooms, or cheese or bechamel, so better to be on the generous side :-) )


Egg based lasagna sheets: about 400g, or enough to cover 20cmx30cm (8x12 in.) baking dish in 4 layers. Fresh ones are ideal (especially home made!), but you can also use certain type of dry sheets, for example Barilla "oven ready"

2 large onions, or 3 smaller ones, finely chopped
800g-1kg button mushrooms (champignons), thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
3 generous tablespoons of butter
dash of majoram
dash of oregano
generous fistful of fresh flat leaved parsley, chopped (optional)
salt & pepper

250-300g solid mozzarella (the kind generally used for pizzas, sold in larger block or log, not the pure white moist ones conserved in liquid), diced or thinly sliced*

500ml+ bechamel sauce (Packaged Bechamel can be found ready to use in supermarkets, but it is also fairly easy to whip up. recipe is listed below!) **

60-80g freshly grated parmigiano or grana padano


1. In a large skillet melt the butter, add the onions, mushrooms and garlic, season with the majoram, oregano and s+p. Cover and simmer on a moderate heat, stirring occasionally.
Continue to cook until onions and mushrooms are completely softened.
By keeping the cover on you will extract the liquid to cover the bottom of the baking dish. If it gets too watery, remove the cover and let it evaporate.

2. Line a 20x30cm baking dish (or 8x12 in... normal rectangular size?) with a wax paper as neatly as possible. Or you can generously butter the surface alternatively.

3. Scoop out the liquid from the mushroom mixture, and generously and thoroughly wet the bottom of the dish.

4. Lay the first sheet of the lasagna pasta sheet.

5. Spread some of the mushroom mixture evenly on the surface (keeping in mind the shroom layers going to be repeated 3 times)

6. then sprinkle over the mozzarella cubes/slices. considering the cheese will melt and spread out, you don't need to cover the surface entirely. (you are going to run out of the cheese way too early!) sort of dot them over the mushrooms as evenly as possible.

7. sprinkle a little bechamele over, again sort of dot them around, otherwise you will get a lasagna swimming in bechamelle "soup"!

Repeat the procedure from 4. to 7. 2 more times.

8. Now Pour the bechamelle this time generously over the surface, making sure you will cover every corner of the pasta so it won't dry out in the process of cooking.

9. Cover the baking dish tightly with a foil and bake in the oven at 180°C/350°F for 30min.

10. Take out the dish and remove the foil. Turn up the oven to 210°C/425°F. Sprinkle generously with the grated parmigiano/grana padano.

11. Return the lasagne in the oven, bake for another 10-15min. or until the surface becomes golden brown.

*if the right kind of mozzarella can not be found, you could use a good quality ricotta, or other type of cheese that melts well with the heat, such as provola, fontina, gouda, emmental etc.

**Bechamel sauce
50g butter
500ml whole milk (room temp.)
50g flour
pinch of nutmeg (optional)

melt the butter in a double boiler on a medium heat.
vigorously whisk the milk and flour together until smooth.
add the milk/flour mixture into the double boiler and stir well.
season with a little salt and nutmeg
Stir often in order to keep the texture smooth, and continue to cook until the mixture attains a desired density.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Tiramisu Piemontese

Tiramisu Piemontese (Piemonte)

To kick off MuchoGusto the blog with a style, I needed a very special recipe with an universal appeal, yet something typically Italian, and something SWEET. After racking my head over some tough choices, I picked Tiramisu for my starter, even though its a classic dessert!

I love desserts and many of my favourite foods are from this department, although my partner Cristiano is much more expert in baking... here is one recipe he taught me, one of the most celebrated italian desserts and and there is no baking required!! yum, yum!
There are several theories as to the origin of Tiramisu, but Cristiano found this recipe from a Piemontese (the region around Turin) cookbook years ago and proved to be a winner!
Tiramisu Piemontese

700g/ 1,5 lb mascarpone
6 very fresh (essential!!) eggs (5 if eggs are particularly large)
100g / 3,5 oz sugar
half cup of Marsala wine
1 cup (circa, more if needed) freshly brewed coffee (not too strong, slightly diluted) or little more as needed.
600g / 1 lb + 5oz Savoiardi or lady fingers
pure cocoa powder unsweetened
sweetened cocoa powder


Separate eggs. Beat together yolks, sugar, wine and mascarpone until the mixture attains a smooth creamy texture.
Whip the eggwhite vigorously until it becomes solid. (do this patiently with "high energy", if it is not solid enough the end result will be soggy and soupy!)
Carefully fold in the whipped eggwhite into the mascarpone/york mixture, blend them well and evenly.

Mix 2 teaspoonful of sugar into the coffee, then pour in a container large enough to dip savoiardi/lady fingers comfortably. dip each pieces of biscuits into the coffee quickly, (wet the entire surface for a moment but not until it gets soggy all the way through) lay them neatly in one layer at the bottom of a large square/rectangular baking dish (or 2 medium).
pour half of the cream (mascarpone/egg mixture) evenly over the savoiardi, then sprinkle the sweetened cocoa powder to cover the surface.

Arrange another layer of savoiardi on top, repeat with the cream, then top it off with unsweetened pure cocoa powder.

Chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.

Ciao from Rome!!

Ciao everyone!!

As some of you may already know, I am Licia, that cat-mad person from Rome who is always getting up to something in her kitchen in Rome... ;-)
Anyhow I've finally decided to get my recipes together over here, as the notes from my facebook profile is getting a little messy lol!! To start with I am going to start copying all the recipes I already entered over there so for those of you who have been following my notes, it will be the same familiar stuff for a while, but be patient with me very soon I will start writing the whole new series of goodies!!
For a starter, I would like to let you all have a few vistas of my kitchen, where all the fun begins...

Mucho gusto mi amigos, and buon appetito a tutti!!