More than lasagne: diversifying your Italian repertoire
Pizza and pasta may now be staple foods in the average British household, but there’s a lot more to Italian cookery than a spag bol or a margherita.
If you’re serious about Italian cookery, it’s time to put down the jar of shop-bought tomato sauce and start making your own from scratch. Even making pasta isn’t as hard as you might think. They key is keeping it simple, and staying as authentic as you can to true Italian flavours. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Classic Italian ideas for your recipe binder
One Italian classic that’s best made from fresh ingredients is minestrone. Minestrone is now so popular in tinned or cup-a-soup form that many people have even forgotten its Italian origins. Look for a good recipe, like this one from Delia Smith, which is packed with vegetables, tomatoes and a good helping of pasta. Delia uses macaroni but any shape will do, as will short-grain rice if you’re out of pasta. To make the soup go further, you can also add a tin of beans – like borlotti or cannelini beans – or leftover meat.
Another fantastic traditional Italian recipe that’s rarely seen outside restaurants in Britain is cannelloni. Cannelloni is a large tube-shaped pasta that is stuffed with filling and baked in tomato sauce and bechamel (white sauce). A popular meat-based filling for canneloni is beef, but an excellent vegetarian alternative is spinach and soft cheese. This spinach and ricotta cannelloni recipe from Jamie Oliver is simple and delicious. And if you can’t find dried cannelloni tubes in your local supermarket or Italian deli, try rolling up fresh lasagne sheets into tubes instead and reduce the cooking time.
And when it comes to desserts, you’re spoiled for choice. Tiramisu may be tantalising and quintessentially Italian, but it’s hard to beat a good panna cotta. This set-cream dessert is now widely available ready-made but a homemade panna cotta is special, provided you give it enough time to set. The Guardian’s how to make the perfect panna cotta recipe demystifies the process, and the addition of buttermilk gives the treat a lovely tang. Serve with some tart berries on the side; raspberries are ideal.
The best Italian cookbooks
Much of Italian cooking is intuitive and once you have mastered a taste for the basic ingredients – like olive oil, basil, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and lemons – trying new and adventurous recipes will be easier. However, it always helps to have a cookbook in your kitchen for reference. Jamie’s Italian is a wonderful introduction to Italian cookery, with simple and tasty recipes – his lemon sherbet, made with fresh lemon juice and mascarpone, is particularly delectable.
Elsewhere, Marcella Hazan’s seminal 1970s tome The Classic Italian Cookbook is a must-read for cooks who want to learn the art of traditional recipes, and Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking is a fantastic addition to the culinary canon by a great Italian chef. At the other end of the scale, Nigellisima – Nigella Lawson’s most recent Italian-inspired cookbook – has some very modern Italian-British combinations. Her recipe for spaghetti with Marmite, for instance, seems completely incongruous but tastes very good.
Latest posts by Sally - Silversurfer's Editor (see all)
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!