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Spaghetti all’amatriciana and the story of the beginning of a new life

If you love Italian cuisine you certainly know this. It’s a pillar and has a very old tradition but, like pretty every dish in Italy, you can ask 100 Italians for a recipe and you will always obtain different answer. There are of course the “purist” (no, you don’t have to use onions!!) and then there are all the others that cook it exactly the same  way someone teached them.

This recipe is my father’s one and, till  last December, it was just another great Italian pasta dish. But on the night of  December 12th it became really special for us …,  that was our last dinner before the night race to the hospital..my first daughter was coming to this world!

I remember how that evening seemed strange…our daughter Lucia was expected for December 9th but she was late. We chose that name because 2 of our grandma’s were named the same, but also because the name comes from the latin lux, lucis that means light. In Italy Saint Lucia is very popular and her day is the December 13th. The Saint came with gifts for the good children during the night because “Santa Lucia è la notte più lunga che ci sia” (meaning that this is the longest night of the year). So at evening of  December 12th my husband and I were  eating this so good spaghetti and we tought: maybe Saint Lucia will take a gift and finally we’ll start to be real parents…At 3.20 during that night we went to the hospital and a new life begun at midday…that is the moment of greatest light during the day and also our daughter’s name-day. Even after six months this story seems magical to me and every time I cook spaghetti all’amatricia I remember exactly that feeling of anticipation and all those joyful emotions. I hope, when you’ll cook this, to pass a little bit of that incredible happiness to you..enjoy!

Ingredients:

400 g spaghetti (uncooked)

1 spoon of olive oil

1/4 teaspoon  of red pepper flakes

1 onion chopped

4 slices of bacon, diced

1 spoon of white wine

80 g pecorino cheese

6 big tomatoes sliced

salt and black pepper

In a large sauce pan put 1 spoon of olive oil and cook the bacon with the red pepper till it takes a good color, add the white wine and let it evaporate. Take out and put it in a warm place. In the same pan add onion, fry them slightly and add tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add again the bacon and cook at low flames for few minutes.

In the meanwhile cook spaghetti in a large pot of 4 quarts boiling and salted water. When they are “al dente”, drain them and put in the pan with the sauce. Add pecorino and black pepper and toss. Buon appetito!

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The legend of madeleines and how everything with a French name sounds aphrodisiac

“In general, every dish with a French name looks aphrodisiac: it’s not really the same serve mushrooms with garlic or  champignon à la provençales, bread and fish eggs or croque-monsieur au caviar”. That’s what one of my favourite writer, Isabel Allende, says in her book “Aphrodite” and I really agree with her. French is such a romantic and musical language that a dish with a French name often reminds us something beautiful and luxurious. When I think at the French cuisine I think at Alain Ducasse and at Pierre Herme, but the reality is that the  French, like the Italians, have a very old and strong food culture and this kind of culture has necessarily its origins in very good raw materials and in the simplicity of recipes that can be passed from a generation to another.

Madeleines history is really the perfect photography of what I say. The legend says that, during the making of a gala dinner, there was a terrible fight in the kitchen and the pastry chef went away. The Duke of Lorraine was desperate: what could he offer to his important guests as dessert? His butler helped him introducing a waitress that was ready to cook small cakes with a shell shape using her grandma recipe. Read more

Mini pie with smoked salmon & zucchini, because summer is a state of mind

Yesterday was, again, a rainy day. After a long and cold winter and such a rainy spring I have to say that I had enough! So I started thinking at what I could do to let summer start..at least in my head! You know, a bit of positive thinking never killed anyone!

I’m really happy to say that I reached 2 results: the first one is this pie with smoked salmon, zucchini and lemon. It has really a fresh taste that reminds me open air, sun and free time! The second one, that is if it’s possible even better, is that today seems really a summer day here in Switzerland! So this morning I took my baby and we went to Basel town, we waited for my husband and we had a kind of picnic on the river…I’m just wondering: are these mini pie magical or something?

Ingredients:

100 g smoked salmon

1 big zucchini

2 pie crust

zest of 1 lemon

4 spoon of heavy cream

3 spoons of olive oil

salt and black pepper

Put 3 spoons of olive oil in a skillet and add the grated zucchini. Cook for 10 minutes at low flame. Adjust with salt and let cool. Chop the smoked salmon in small stripes and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the zucchini, the 4 spoon of heavy cream and the zest of 1 lemon. Mix well and adjust with black pepper. Line a pie plate with the bottom pastry and add filling. Roll out the remaining pastry to fit the top of the pie. Cook for 20 minutes in preheated oven at 200 °C  (392°F)

Ricotta cake, or how love is the only ingredient that matters

The legend says that when my mother-in-law Ester married my husband’s father, she was completely unable to cook. I know, it may seem strange that an Italian girl can’t cook, but I swear that it is possible! It was 1973, she was just 21 and she was the sixth of 7 children. Poor grandma Lucia had a lot to do managing a house with 9 people without a washing machine and a dishwasher, so there was something like a military discipline at home: everyone had a role and specific tasks. Ester entered the kitchen for the first time when she was 8, she was too young to cook and her task was to wash dishes…I can imagine this little girl, standing on a stool washing dishes as if I were there…

After the first marriage month, and overall after eating  steaks, eggs, and steaks with eggs more that 30 days long, she remembered that, if she wasn’t able to cook, her mother and her mother-in-law (Grandma Lucia and Grandma Maria, 2 real family’s pillars!) were really good in doing that. So she did the most simple thing: she took up the phone and every day  asked them how to cook this and that.

I’m writing this story because I think that the kitchen follows life rules. At a certain point  you meet the art of cooking because well…you need food! And maybe it’s like meeting Mister Right…bells ring and you know that you have just found something that you’ll love for the rest of your life…or..well…nothing really happens and you cook not because you love it, but because you love the people who sit around the table with you. And to be honest, this seems to me a very good reason! And that’s probably why, even if Ester doesn’t love to cook very much, her food is always incredibly good!

Now I have known Ester for more that 11 years and in all this time I ate only one type of cake (and no more than 4 or 5 times so I suppose you can trust me if I say that she’s not a cooking addict!) that is, of course, this ricotta cake. It’s really good, light (just 80 gr of butter) and perfect for breakfast or tea time. Please remember to add the most important ingredient: the love for your family!

Click here for the recipe  Read more

Days of fishing and picknicking: frittata with vegetables, cheese, bacon and sweet memories

Spring has always been my preferred season. After the long and cool winter months the sun returns, the nature wakes up again and, in my childhood, the trips finally started! Dad has always had a marvelous hobby: go fishing! A contagious one (also my brother fell in love with fishing and it’s beautiful, now that we are adult and some grey hair has taken place on dad’s head, to still see them joke on who has fished more) that has given us so many happy moments.
With spring’s arrival dad programmed the fishing days: alarm clock before dawn and everybody in the car toward the lake or the river. While they fished, the “not fishermen” played cards, caught the sun, read books or newspapers…the day before mother had already prepared lunch and in the car there was always a purse full of good food…We were a modest family, we have never been able to do great vacations (I perhaps remember 4 of them in all my childhood) but those marvelous days on a river’s shore, spent all together laughing and joking, never seemed to me the poor men’s holidays solution.
This story  is mine, but  is also the story of a lot of other families as mine that in the years of the economic boom lived with lightheartedness and delight, enjoying even small things…today, even if we can allow trips with lunch in good restaurants, it’s still beautiful prepare a picnic basket full of good food, like a frittata that, like life does, mix so many things together….
Ingredients:
1/2 onion diced
7 eggs
1 or 2 zucchini
7 or 8 cherry tomatoes
bacon
half a cup of mozzarella or other cheese
olive oil, salt and black pepper
Put 4 spoon of olive oil in a saute pan, add the bacon cut in small cube and cook it till it takes a good color. Take it off and in the same pan fry lightly the onion diced. Add grated zucchini and the cherry tomatoes cut in 2 parts. Cook for 10 minutes, add salt and black pepper and let cool down. Beat the eggs, add the cooked vegetables, bacon and diced mozzarella. Anoint an oven bakin-pan with olive oil and pour the mixture. Cook for 40 minutes in preheated oven at 180°C (350°F)

Italians do it better?

ssshhh..tell no one but…I’m Italian! The kind of Italian that was born in Italy and spent most part of her life there. Yes, also the kind of Italian that thinks that there’s no kitchen like mummy’s one (apart granma’s kitchen, of course!). That’s the reason why in this blog you will find a lot (but not only) of pasta recipes and a lot of mediterranean food.

I don’t know if Italians do it better (remember… I’m talkin about cooking!), but for sure I know that mediterranean cuisine is healthy (you can check on wikipedia or in the web for more information about mediterranean diet) and, above all, it’s soooo goood!! So, I hope you enjoy it!

The chef’s corner

If there’s something really beautiful in having a brother who’s a pastry chef is that you can call him every 10 minutes and ask him: “Hey, do you have a new recipe for me…?” or ” I did this recipe but something went wrong… where the hell is the mistake??!!”. Even if the main idea of this blog is to collect recipes that are linked to special memories, events or people, recipes that have a story to tell, you sometimes cook just because you like it and maybe you want to try something new. That’s the reason why I thought of this section where to post famous recipes from pro chefs and tips and tricks or tutorial about fundamental techniques.