Fried Manchego with Tomato and Orange Blossom Jam

Fried Manchego with Tomato and Orange Blossom Jam

In my early 20’s I visited Spain a few times. Oh Spain, an amazing country, one of my favourite places in the world.  I have been to the North (in the Basque country), the center (Madrid is such a beautiful city), the east (I left a piece of my heart in Barcelona and Catalunya) and the South too (Andalucia is a region not to be missed).  I have shared parts of these trips with a friend and we also did some volunteer work in a mountainous area of Catalunya called the Empordà (near Girona), on the Pyrenees.  We had a fantastic time as it was a big group of young people working and living together.  We had to do everything on our own, cooking included.  In the evenings, after a long day of work, we would sit down together to play the guitar and sing.  One of the songs we liked the most was called Desde mi Azotea (which means “from my rooftop/terrace”).  It is a flamenco love song that describes a spring time evening on a rooftop in Andalucia, where “el aire trae aromas de limón y de azahar” – the air brings the aromas of lemon and azahar, the orange blossoms.  Sicily is so similar to the south of Spain, full of citrus trees and Arab influences, so I can easily relate and I love orange blossoms.  Today’s recipe is a delicious tapa: fried Manchego cheese served with a Tomato and Azahar Jam… they go really well together and the jam itself is so so so good, that you will be eating it with or without Manchego!  Enjoy y buen provecho! Continue reading

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Posted in Appetisers, Finger food, Mediterranean, Snack, Spanish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Minestrone

Minestrone

Having grown up in Milan, where winters are quite cold, I have had my fair share of soups.  In fact, my mum would often make soup for dinner.  My favourite has always been Pasta e Fagioli, but she has always made a fantastic Minestrone.  Contrary to what it may seem, Minestrone is actually a  pretty easy soup to make and it does not take much time at all!  I have been asked a few times by my readers to publish the recipe for Minestrone and I am happy to oblige!  The truth is, there is no real recipe for Minestrone (which, in case you did not know, means “big soup” in Italian), as its ingredients can vary from house to house… and from one week to the other.  We usually make do with what we have in the fridge and play around with seasonal vegetables to come up with all sorts of delicious combinations.  Anyhow, the recipe below is a good representation of authentic Italian Minestrone… feel free to use it as is, or add a few of your favourite vegetables.  I don’t use stock to make my Minestrone.  I try to keep it as healthy as possible, so I use water to help the flavour of the vegetables shine and I do not fry off the vegetables at the beginning of the preparation.  I don’t think it adds anything in terms of taste and when I eat Minestrone, I know it is totally good for me and it tastes delicious.  Also, make sure to add a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil at the end, as that is what makes this soup taste super delicious.  If you want, you can also top it with a sprinkle of cheese.  I like mine with Pecorino Romano, but many Italians prefer Parmigiano Reggiano in their Minestrone.  Also, I add rice to it as I do not like pasta with Minestrone and, even though you can make it with pasta too, I suggest you try it with rice: it is really good.  This is my nonno’s favourite dish… so I dedicate it to him.  Love you nonno!  Buon appetito! Continue reading

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Posted in Italian, Mains, Pasta, Rice, Soups, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vanilla and Yogurt Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

Vanilla and Yogurt Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce

Don’t you just love a good cheesecake?  I certainly do!  I particularly like today’s recipe as it is a 2 layered cheesecake.  The bottom layer is a normal baked vanilla cheesecake, while the top layer also contains Greek Yogurt… this makes the cake a tad lighter to the palate and a bit fluffier on the whole.  This is also the first baked cheesecake recipe I have ever used and it’s never given me any trouble.  It is very easy to make and tastes delicious.  You can serve it with any fruit sauce you like.  Raspberries are a classic, but any other berries, cherries or passion fruit also work a treat with this cheesecake.  I think this is a classic recipe that everyone should have in their “cake repertoire”, especially if you like to bake!  It is the perfect tea time treat!  Enjoy! Continue reading

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Posted in American, Baking, Cakes, Cheese, Desserts, Sauces, Special Occasions, Tea Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beet and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Mint Balsamic Vinaigrette

Beet and Goat’s Cheese Salad with Mint Balsamic Vinaigrette

I love cheese.  All kinds.  Goat’s cheese in at the top of my list, together with Gorgonzola, Parmigiano Reggiano and Taleggio.  I like it so much that I even learnt how to make it by myself, at home (click here to find out how to make your own Chėvre)!  I love how flavourful and tangy it is.  I like to eat it plain, simply spread on some good crusty bread, but I also like to cook with it.  Today I am going to share with you the recipe for a simple salad with a sophisticated touch.  The salad itself is very easy to make, and what I like most is the way that the Goat’s cheese mixes up with the fabulous mint balsamic dressing when you eat it… it adds an extra layer of texture: creaminess!  And don’t forget the crunchy hazelnuts… just delicious!  Enjoy! Continue reading

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Posted in Appetisers, Cheese, Mains, Salads, Side dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Finally a pasta dish again! I cannot believe I haven’t published a recipe for pasta in a while!  When we were living in Italy, we used to eat pasta once a day… almost every day.  Yep, that’s the way Italians do it.  But after moving to Australia, we don’t eat it quite as often.  Still, I love cooking pasta and it is my “go-to-dish” for busy days, especially during the week.  Today’s recipe is a classic of Italian cuisine.  It is very famous in Italy and it originates from the regions of Campania and Lazio (where Naples and Rome are respectively).  The name literally means “spaghetti a la whore”… but in Italian we also say puttanata (which derives from the Italian word for whore – puttana) to describe something worthless.  It appears that the name derives from this second meaning as it is a dish made with simple and humble ingredients that everyone has in their fridge/pantry and that are often left overs.  So it is a very quick and easy recipe… perfect for a quick meal.  It is one of those recipes that Italians use for spaghettate. Ah, there goes another funny term.  A spaghettata is a very quick meal (usually, but not necessarily made with spaghetti), that you put together at the last minute for unexpected guests.  This recipe is always a hit, as it is delicious (and vegetarian too, so it is a crowd pleaser).  I am sure this is going to be a very useful recipe for busy times, so make sure you bookmark it!  Enjoy and don’t forget to check out my other Regional Italian Recipes! Continue reading

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Posted in Italian, Mains, Mediterranean, Pasta, Regional Italian Dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Piadina Romagnola with Mortadella and Stracchino and a Barilla Cooking Class

Piadina Romagnola with Mortadella and Stracchino

Over the weekend, I was invited by Barilla Australia to one of their Hands-on Cooking Classes at Casa Barilla, here in Sydney.  The class was about food from Emilia Romagna, home of many iconic Italian products like Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Balsamic Vinegar and Mortadella, to cite just a few.  It is a true foodie heaven and one of my favourite places to visit! Continue reading

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Posted in Appetisers, Bread, Finger food, Italian, Mains, Mediterranean, Regional Italian Dishes, Sandwiches, Snack, Street Food | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Poire Belle Helene

Poire Belle Helene

Today’s recipe is a dessert: Poire belle Hélène is a beautiful looking treat made up of vanilla poached pears, served with a warm chocolate sauce, whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream) and toasted almonds.  Need I say more?  I personally love it.  I think pear and chocolate, just like orange and chocolate, is a match made in heaven.  What I love most in this dish is the balance of both flavours (the bitterness in the chocolate contrasts with the sweetness of the pear and cream/ice cream) and textures (the soft cream, the silky sauce, the crunch of the almonds and the sightly firm pears all balance out).  Eating a spoonful of this dessert is a blissful experience.  And, it is very easy to make.  In no time (and with very little effort), you will have a very impressive dessert, perfect for any occasion!  Enjoy! Continue reading

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Posted in Desserts, French, Fruits, Gluten Free, Special Occasions, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mushroom Sofficini

Mushroom Sofficini

If you follow this blog, you will be already familiar with sofficini, as I have published a Ham and Cheese Sofficini recipe a while ago.  For all the others who still do not know them, sofficini are delicious pockets of crunchy (yet soft) dough filled with all sorts of scrumptious cheesey goodies.  These are usually sold frozen by a well known brand in Italy and they are some of the most loved food by Italian children.  I have eaten all sorts of sofficini while growing up, and really miss them here in Australia.  So, I have resorted to making them at home.  And they taste even better than the store bought version!  One of my favourite sofficini fillings has always been mushrooms.  I love how well the mushrooms go with cheese and béchamel!  The result is so creamy and gooey and they taste so good.  I always make extra and freeze them, so I have them ready whenever I need a quick lunch or dinner.  This is some of my favourite comfort food!  Enjoy and buon appetito! Continue reading

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Posted in Appetisers, Baking, Italian, Mains, Snack, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments