Tag Archives: Italy

Bella Italia

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There are certain images of Italy that everyone is familiar with, mostly involving Tuscan villas. What I am sharing here is NOT quite so stereotypical.  We spent this past weekend in Trento, a city so far north it approaches the border with Austria. The first time we visited Trento a year ago we were not even sure we were still in Italy. Many signs were in both Italian and German, we couldn’t recognise half of the food items in local restaurants, while beer drinkers seemed to outnumber wine drinkers. And yet there remains something distinctly Italian, and the area itself is out of this world gorgeous. The mountains, the lakes, the rugged outdoors reminded us so much of our beautiful home in British Columbia. The centuries old architecture made it unmistakingly clear we were in Europe.
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Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella

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Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
I’ve had a realisation a couple of days ago that there is an unforgivable lack of pasta dishes on my blog which is so odd considering we eat pasta 2-3 times a week. I want to say we are pretty Italian in this respect but I am afraid if I check with my Italian friends Tano and Angela they would say that’s still not often enough. 🙂

Oh well to the task at hand, I am presenting you Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce we ate last night.  A truly amazing dish that takes a whole 20 minutes to make! This sauce is so flavourful yet simple Brad considers it his signature dish and the guy does NOT really cook.

I learned how to make this little number while watching a friend cook it in front of me in Italy. It was a few years ago on my very first trip to that beautiful country. Little did I know we are going to be always connected to it! Italy is such an amazing place, it captures you as soon as you breath in the air and take in centuries old cityscapes and stays with you forever. Pure magic. And so is their food! Italians are one of those people who will always speak of the quality of the ingredients over the complexity of the cooking process. This dish is a bright example of that philosophy- just a few beautiful ingredients produce stellar results!Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5)

  • Tagliatelle (or any other pasta)- 500 gr
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp.
  • Basil, sliced- a bunch
  • Garlic, minced- 2 cloves
  • Pancetta, cubed (or any other unsmoked bacon, cubed not sliced)-100 gr/ 1/2 cup
  • Red Chilli flakes (optional)- a little pinch
  • Italian Passata, smooth, thick sieved tomatoes (feel free to use crushed tomatoes)-500 gr/2 cups
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Mozzarella ball- 125 gr
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

Before I get deep into cooking instructions I’d like to give a few of tips that will help with achieving an authentic Italian dish at home.

1. Look for pasta produced in Italy or the brand that says 100% durum semolina or 100% durum wheat. That will make a world of difference.

2. Use real parmesan cheese that you have to grate yourself, it costs a bit more but you get a good value for your money because the flavour is incredible and you will need much less to be satisfied.

3. Mix your pasta and sauce as soon as it’s cooked. Pasta in Italy is ALWAYS served mixed with a sauce rather than being scooped on top of plain pasta at the table. Something magical happens when you combine hot pasta with hot sauce as the flavour coats the pasta and gets absorbed by it, so don’t wait until it’s at the table. Do it the Italian way! 🙂

4. Do not overcook pasta. I know every recipe says it but non-Italians horribly overcook their pasta, it really should be cooked al dente. So when you bite into it, it should not taste like noodles from grandma’s Chicken Noodle Soup but have a bit of firmness to it. 🙂

5. And last but not least. it deserves mentioning that Italian food has a bad rep for being unhealthy. Unfortunately, it’s only the case for Italian cuisine outside of Italy. This recipe only uses 100 gr/ 1/2 cup of pancetta and 125 gr/ 1/2 cup of mozzarella for the ENTIRE recipe that can feed 4-6 people!! Not too bad at all!

Alright, let’s get to it.

Method:

Set a large pot filled with water and bring it to a boil. When it boils put a good pinch of salt and pasta, cook 1 minute less than your package suggests, it can vary between 7-10 minutes. Remember when you combine it with sauce it will continue cooking.

While you pasta is cooking, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat and cook your pancetta until there is virtually no visible fat, add garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes if using  and cook for 1 minute, then add half of your basil and tomatoes, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer until pasta is cooked.

Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozarella (ingredients)
Tagliatelle with Panceta, Basil and Mozzarella
When your pasta is cooked al dente, drain it while reserving a cup of water you cooked your pasta in. Put your pasta into the sauce along with the remaining basil leaves. I don’t slice basil leaves, I just tear them as I like bigger pieces.
Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
Then simply tear your fresh mozzarella ball with your hands directly into the pan with pasta. Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
I have to confess that mozzarella addition is my own twist to this recipe but it turns out so wonderfully gooey. Pure comfort food!
Gently stir fresh mozzarella into your pasta over low heat, add a splash of reserved water if your sauce is getting a bit dry. Take off the heat as soon as mozzarella melts and turns stringy, it will only take a couple of minutes. Serve immediately topped with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan.
Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella
And maybe a slice of garlic bread. Not too authentic but a bit of a guilty pleasure for everyone in this family. 🙂
Doesn’t this look incredible!Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella Tagliatelle with Pancetta, Basil and Mozzarella

Garden Pizza Party all’Italiana

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Proscuitto di Parma Pizza
Who likes pizza? Who doesn’t! I have a confession to make. I didn’t like pizza for many years. I could eat pizza but it was never my number one choice if I had one. That until Brad and I went to Italy and had pizza the way God intended it to be. Thin yet satisfying crust crowned with a flavour galore of completely different toppings than we were used to…better toppings! The best part about Italian pizza is that flavour combinations are endless depending on the region of Italy you are visiting. With the variety you are facing one is guaranteed to find a favourite. Another great thing about Italian pizza is its simplicity. Is your mouth watering yet? Can’t make it to Italy by the next weekend or no authentic Italian restaurant in your area? No problem. This post is all about the homemade pizza that tastes even better. In order to achieve that authenticity I asked my great friend Angela to join me. Angela is 100 % Italian who happens to be one of my best friends and since two months ago is my “next door neighbour”. Alright, take that “next door neighbour” thing with a grain of salt, we do live in London after all but Angela and Tano and their two adorable girls live a stone throw away from us. That’s better:-).
One beautiful Sunday afternoon we decided to get together for lunch in our garden and pizza seemed like a good idea. Needless to mention a good time was had by all.

Adorable child “numero uno” Signorina Gloria sporting “pizza face” 🙂

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Adorable child “numero due” Signorina Sofia looking mischievous as usual.
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The usual suspects (minus me hiding behind the camera lens).
the usual suspects
My children are taking a break from modelling this time and running wild in the garden while Sofia and Gloria are taking their place.
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Here is a list of pizzas we made:
Prosciutto di Parma e Rucola Pizza
Proscuitto di Parma Pizza
Salami and Mozzarella Pizza
Salami and Mozzarella Pizza
Ham, Artichoke and Moroccan Black Olive Pizza
Ham, Artichoke and Moroccan Black Olive Pizza
And here is how we made them. Ready?
Ingredients(for pizza dough): Makes 6 medium pizzas

  • Flour- 1 kg
  • Salt- 1 tsp.
  • Active Dry Yeast- 14 gr (2×7 gr packets)
  • Sugar- 1 tbsp.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil- 4 tbsp.
  • Lukewarm Water- 650 ml.

Method:

In a bowl mix sugar, yeast, olive oil  and lukewarm water and let the yeast work its magic for about 5 minutes.  Sift together flour and salt and empty the mixture  in the food processor or a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and pulse it until the dough comes together. Remove the dough from the food processor into a large bowl, cover it with a tea towel and let it rise somewhere warm  for 2 hours. (You can easily make it by hand if you don’t own the machines but they make this task a snap.)

Once the dough is doubled in size remove the bowl on a flour dusted surface and knead it a lit bit. Divide the dough into 6 equal sized balls. Now Angela tells me that a real Italian never rolls out their pizza dough but works it by hand that is why their pizza is never perfectly round. I trust her wholeheartedly when it comes to Italian food. The girl can cook!

The picture below demonstrates 4 main steps in pizza making. (It’s there just scroll down a teensy bit :-))

Ingredients for pizza sauce:

  • Tomato Passata (for non UK readers-passata is a smooth tomato puree)-1 tall jar
  • Olive Oil-1 tbsp.
  • Basil and Oregano-fresh or dried (I used fresh basil and dried oregano)

Ingredients for toppings:

  • Salami slices- 10
  • Fresh Mozzarella- 6×125/4 oz gr balls
  • Artichokes (from your local deli or tinned)- 4 0z/ 125 gr
  • Fresh basil – a handful
  • Black Olives ( we used Moroccan dry black olives from Sainsbury’s)- 5-7
  • Prosciutto di Parma- 6 slices
  • Ham- 2-3 slices
  • Arugula/Rocket- a handful
  • Parmesan cheese- a few shavings

Method: 

As you can see the quantities are hardly exact because it all depends on your taste. The main difference between American pizza and Italian pizza is that Italians don’t overload it, instead they use a few really good quality ingredients that deliver that flavour punch. Usually there is only 1 or 2 toppings besides mozzarella. Also, Italian pizza crust is really thin. Pizza often gets a bad rep for being unhealthy but if you make it at home the Italian way it’s not unhealthy at all!!!

Stretch out your pizza dough just like Angela is showing in the picture and let it sit for 10 minutes to allow it to rise again just a little bit. (However, if you like a very thin, I mean a paperthin pizza crust like Angela does, don’t allow the second rise and top it right away.) Use 2 tbsp. of pizza sauce and 1 mozzarella ball per pizza, improvise with the rest! If you decided to make Prosciutto Di Parma e Rucola Pizza, place prosciutto slices and arugula on pizza after it’s already baked with mozzarella and add a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano or any other good Parmesan cheese on top for the authentic touch.

Place your topped pizza on a parchment paper brushed with oil,( otherwise it will stick really badly as I learned the hard way) and bake at 350F/180C for 10 minutes or until the crust is baked all the way through and mozzarella is melted and bubbly.

The last and the main step is to enjoy it with your friends and family!


pizza steps

Salami Pizza
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