Fish, Pasta

Spaghetti with Stracciatella, Datterini Confit and Prawn Tartare

Yes, it sounds strange. And wrong. For all your life, you’ve been taught that fish and cheese is not a good marriage. And when it comes to something so delicate and unique as prawns, it gets even worst. No cheese, no cream, no butter. Nothing but extra virgin olive oil, maybe some lemon zest and – if you’re very brave – some basil or parsley.

But since cooking is all a matter of bravery and a touch of recklessness, today I want to break all the rules. Yes, I’m going to use prawns AND cheese. In the same dish. Try to stop me if you can.

It’s a rainy morning in Venice, and the fish seller has a wonderful variety of shellfish. Prawns are among my favorite kinds of crustaceans, so I’ve decided to buy some of them. I’m going to meet my dear friend Sara for lunch. I think that prawns are the perfect ingredient for two gourmandes as we are.

The secret of this simple pasta dish is balance. Prawns are sweet and salty at the same time, so you’ll need a sour element – but not too sour to balance their flavor. Datterini tomatoes confit play this role. They give a touch of sourness to the dish, still keeping their sweetness. For the creamy side, I’ve decided to use stracciatella. This cheese has a very mild flavor and an interesting texture – imagine strands of mozzarella soaked in cream. Yes, it’s THAT good.

You’ll love it. Plus, it’s the perfect dish if you want to stun your guests with almost no effort. In fact, you can prepare the basic ingredients in advance, then put together the dish at the last moment.

Spaghetti with Stracciatella, Datterini Confit and Prawn Tartare (4 servings)

4oo gr. spaghetti

16 prawns

250 gr. Datterini tomatoes

250 gr. Stracciatella cheese

extra virgin olive oil

lemon zest

sea salt

sugar

black pepper

thyme

1 tbsp of colatura di alici (optional)

 

LET’S DO IT! 

First of all, let’s prepare the datterini tomatoes. The confit technique takes time. You can cook them in advance, even the day before. Cut them in half and place them on a baking tray, with the cut side on top. Sprinkle them with fresh thyme, sea salt, sugar, black pepper and some drops of oil. Bake them at 120° (248°F) for about two hours, or unless they are dried out.

Now it’s time to clean the prawns. Remove the shells and the heads by pulling and twisting. Use a sharp knife to create a slit down the back of the prawns to remove the vein. Clean them with a dry paper towel and cut them thinly to have a nice tartare. Season the prawn tartare with black pepper, olive oil and some lemon zest. Add some salt, if needed.

Bring the water to a boil, then add a tbsp of salt and the pasta. Cook the spaghetti following the instructions on the package, keeping them al dente. When they’re ready, drain them and cream them in a large pan with some oil and a tbsp of colatura di alici. Add the datterini tomatoes and keep stirring. Now you’re ready to serve.

Create a nest on the plate with the spaghetti. Put a tbsp of stracciatella cheese inside each nest, then add a tbsp of prawn tartare. You can give a final touch by adding some black pepper, lemon zest and some drops of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find!

 

 

 

Pasta, Veggies

Bigoli de Bassan with Anchovies and Savoy Cabbage Cream

It’s always a pleasure to buy veggies from a boat. Every Friday night I wait for the boat that comes from Saint Erasmus island. I wait at a bacaro – a traditional Venetian bar -, sipping a glass of wine, chatting with friends, enjoying the beginning of the weekend.

You don’t know which vegetables you’ll find in your bag. You just wait for the arrival of the little boat, which bravely crosses the lagoon at night, full of wonderful organic veggies. Of course, not knowing what to expect makes the whole thing even more special!

When I made shopping for veggies last Friday, I found a beautiful Savoy cabbage in my bag. I’m serious when I say that Savoy cabbage is just perfect with Bigoli de Bassan and anchovies. It’s a true love affair.

You don’t know what Bigoli de Bassan is, right? Don’t feel ashamed. It’s quite normal to ignore its existence in the enormous variety of Italian pasta. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to start filling this gap!

Bigoli de Bassan is the typical pasta of Bassano del Grappa, a beautiful village near Venice. It’s quite similar to spaghetti, but thicker, and it’s made with a special press called bigolaro. Durum wheat semolina, water and nothing more. These simple ingredients contain all the culinary traditions of the Venetian region.

Savoy cabbage and anchovies will do the rest. The salty presence of the lagoon finds a perfect balance with the sweetness of the veggies grown on Saint Erasmus island. Still tender and light green.

I love this dish. It feels like home.

Bigoli de Bassan with Anchovies and Savoy Cabbage Cream (4 servings)

400 gr. Bigoli de Bassan

7-8 anchovies in oil

2 cloves of garlic

40 gr. breadcrumbs

400 gr. Savoy cabbage

2 shallots

150 ml of whole milk

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

sea salt

 

LET’S DO IT! 

Bring a huge pot full of water to a boil and salt it. In the meantime, thinly cut the Savoy cabbage and the shallots. Brown them in a large pan with 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil, then add salt and black pepper. Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, or until they become tender.

Blend the Savoy cabbage and the shallots while adding some warm milk. You should obtain a creamy texture, not too liquid. Taste the Savoy cabbage cream and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Start cooking the pasta. Meanwhile, take a large pan, add 2 tbs of oil, the garlic and the anchovies. They should melt into the oil. Add more oil if you need it. In a small pan, toast the breadcrumbs for 3-4 minutes.

After 10 minutes, drain the pasta and add it to the anchovies sauce. Add some cooking water and keep stirring the pasta while it ends its cooking time absorbing the sauce. When it’s still al dente, add the breadcrumbs.

To serve it, pour some Savoy cabbage cream on the bottom of the plate, then create a nice nest of Bigoli on top of it. A few drops of oil, some black pepper, and you’re ready to serve it!

Pasta, Veggies

Tagliatelle with Honey Fungus and Taleggio Fondue is All You Need

I love mushrooms. They’re super versatile and they give you an extra dose of satisfaction when they decide to grow in your garden. This morning I have found bunches of honey fungus. I’m not a mushroom picking specialist, but I’m used to this specific type. It’s quite popular in this area. The frost of last night made the colors of leaves and grass brighter. It was so nice picking them, frozen and perfect in my hands, with their characteristic golden color.

Nice, right? Well, be sure to cook them and never eat them raw, because they’re poisonous. These little guys are a delicacy, they can compete with porcino mushrooms, but they contain a toxin that may give you a very bad night. You only need to cook them thoroughly, then you’re fine. I promise!

To bring out their nutty flavor in the best way, I have decided to prepare a first dish of tagliatelle, mushrooms and Taleggio cheese fondue. Of course, if you can’t find honey fungus, feel free to use morels, porcini mushrooms or any kind of wild mushroom you like. The same freedom can be used in the choice of the cheese for the fondue. Parmesan cheese (real Parmesan, please!) is perfect, or you can use Gorgonzola cheese for a stronger flavor, but use more milk in this case. So, get ready for a foodgasm.

 

Tagliatelle with Honey Fungus and Taleggio Fondue (for four persons)

400 gr. tagliatelle

400 gr. honey fungus or other kinds of wild mushrooms

50 gr. unsalted butter

a sprig of fresh parsley, finely minced

1 clove of garlic

sea salt

black pepper (don’t be cheap with it)

150 gr. Taleggio cheese

125 ml. whole milk

125 ml. cream

50 gr. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (yes, more cheese)

extra virgin olive oil

 

LET’S DO IT!

Clean the mushrooms from dirt and grass. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the clove of garlic and the minced parsley. Let it cook gently for about two minutes, then add the mushrooms. Stir and add a pinch of sea salt and a lavish pinch of black pepper. The honey fungus will release their liquid, but I suggest adding some water. Let them gently simmer for about fifty minutes, or until tender.

Now it’s time to take care of the cheese fondue. Heat up milk and cream, but don’t let them boil. When the mixture is hot, add the Taleggio cheese that you have previously cut into small pieces. Now stir and be patient – your fondue needs time and a soft touch. It should simmer, but never boil.

Boil the water for the pasta in a big pot. When the water is boiling, add a pinch of salt, then pour the tagliatelle in. Since it’s fresh pasta, it doesn’t need to boil too long. In fact, if you do, your dish will turn into a complete disaster! So, do not go over the time indicated, that should be six minutes. When the pasta is ready, drain it and keep a glass of the cooking water. Cook the tagliatelle with the mushrooms and the grated Parmesan cheese until creamy. If you lack some liquid, use the cooking water you have saved.

Time to serve! Pour some of the fondue at the bottom of your plate, than make a nest of tagliatelle and lightly place it on top of the fondue. A sprinkle of parsley and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil will turn this dish into a special moment to enjoy with your loved ones.