Tag: spaghetti

Thyme, Rosemary and Parmesan Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

This is the essence of Italian food for me, a huge plate full of warm pasta with tiny meat balls, fruity tomato sugo and fresh thyme and rosemary. A glass of the deepest red wine, Caruso on the vinyl player and the world is as perfect as it can possible be!

I first learned to enjoy burgers through my Maltese/ American partner, he introduced these rather well sized portions of meat to my cooking. In the past, I only used to shape little balls of minced beef, lamb or pork in my kitchen, that’s how I learned it from my mother and I followed her recipe for years. She mixes the meat with eggs and breadcrumbs for a fluffy texture and lots of fresh herbs from her garden before she gives them a small round shape. In general, she’s not a big fan of huge portions on her plate so the dimensions of a proper burger didn’t really appeal to her. This only changed in the past few years, now she tells me with excitement about rustic burger nights in her kitchen!

I can’t even say which size I prefer, sometimes my appetite calls for a massive burger, preferably pure minced steak stuffed between a bun with some greens and thin tomato slices. Small meatballs are a delicious (and addictive) snack, warm and cold. They are perfect nibbles for a brunch or casual cocktail party, and absolutely tempting when it comes to pasta. Cook them in an aromatic tomato sugo, or with lots of onions and white wine, and you’ll have the most comforting dish on your plate. Their size should always be small enough to fit on a fork with a bit of sugo on top, heavenly! And here my mother’s recipe comes in again, I mixed the minced meat with lots of fresh thyme, rosemary and garlic to give it a rich Mediterranean touch. And not to forget grated parmesan, 3 heaped tablespoons melted into the tiny balls added the cheese’s wonderful aroma to the meat. For the sugo, I used tinned tomatoes, full of summery flavour and sweetness, at this point the fresh ones aren’t an option yet. I added some red wine, Balsamico vinegar, a tiny bit of fresh orange juice and chopped rosemary to end up with a concentrated red sauce full of beautiful flavours. It looked stunning and tasted just as good.

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 Thyme, Rosemary and Parmesan Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

For 3-4 people you need

spaghetti 300g / 10 1/2 ounces

For the meatballs

minced beef 500g / 1 pound
organic egg 1
breadcrumbs 40g / 1 1/2 ounces
medium sized onion, finely chopped 1
garlic, crushed, 2 big cloves
fresh thyme leaves 2 tablespoons
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 teaspoon
freshly grated parmesan 3 heaped tablespoons
salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
pepper
olive oil, for frying
butter 2 tablespoons, for frying

For the tomato sugo

red wine 75ml/ 2 1/2 ounces
fresh thyme 1 small sprig
quality tinned tomatoes 600g / 1 1/4 pounds
Balsamico vinegar 1 1/2 tablespoons, to taste
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 1/2 tablespoons, to taste
fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1 1/2 teaspoons
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

Mix the ingredients for the meatballs with your hands or an electric mixer until well combined. Wet your hands and form walnut sized meatballs. In a large pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter and fry the meatballs for about 6 minutes on medium heat, turning them so that they can brown evenly. Take the meatballs out and set them aside, cover them with a lid. Put the pan back on the heat and deglaze with the red wine, add the thyme sprig and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the tinned tomatoes, chop them and add the Balsamico vinegar, orange juice, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes (bubbling) or until it starts to thicken and season with salt, pepper, orange juice and vinegar to taste. Add the meatballs to the sugo and cook for another minute on low heat. Serve with the spaghetti in warm plates.

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

 

Thyme Meatballs with Pasta and Tomato Sugo

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Olives and Basil

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

The beginning of July is the perfect time to throw a few of my favourite vegetables on a big plate of spaghetti. This dish is basically a Mediterranean Caponata, just without aubergine as it would have stretched the cooking time and changed the texture – I didn’t want a juicy sauce, I was after some crunchiness! I mixed lots of zucchini with my Gozitan capers, anchovies and garlic and sautéed everything for a very short time. This way, the vegetables stay firm and fresh like a salad.

My tomatoes, olives and basil weren’t even cooked,  I just mixed them together with some olive oil into the warm pasta. When vegetables reach the peak of their season they don’t need long to spread their aroma. Spoiled by the sun, strong in flavour and full of vitamins, they have this intense taste of summer that I’ve been waiting for for months. A few minutes in the hot pan and they were done, that’s one of summer’s kitchen qualities!

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

 Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomatoes, Olives and Basil

For 3-4 people you need

spaghetti 300-400g / 10.5-14 ounces
zucchini, cut in half and sliced, 350g / 12.5 ounces
anchovies, rinsed, dried and finely chopped, 1 1/2
garlic, thinly sliced, 3 cloves
capers 2 heaped tablespoons
tomatoes, cut into cubes, 350g / 12.5 ounces
black olives (whole or chopped) 8
fresh basil leaves 10
optionally: fresh mint, chopped, 5 leaves
black pepper
olive oil

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil, add the anchovies, garlic and capers and cook for 1 minute on a medium heat. Add the zucchini and a little more oil and cook for 5 minutes on high-medium temperature, stirring every now and then. Season with pepper (no salt!) and mix into the spaghetti, add a tiny bit of olive oil if the pasta is too dry. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, basil and mint and serve immediately. There should be enough saltiness from the anchovies and capers, I didn’t need to add anymore.

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

 

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

 

Spaghetti with Zucchini, Tomato, Capers + Olives

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

La dolce vita, I can hear it calling me! I need a holiday, some Mediterranean vibes, the sea that slows down my pace! For now I only have my beloved Mediterranean food but there’s only a month between me and a little dolce far niente! Our flights are booked and in four weeks we will be heading South, but my mind is already there, in Malta, our beautiful rock in the Mediterranean Sea. I find myself daydreaming about all the things I will do and eat.

I have a plan, I will enjoy the sea and spend lots of time with our friends and family as I always do but I will also share some of my culinary hotspots with you. Over the years, I found so many delicious restaurants, small producers of olive oil, cheese, bakeries, winemakers and my salt pans in Gozo of course. I met many people who are as passionate about eating and cooking as I am, chefs and Maltese Mamas who have treated their families to years of the most delicious traditional dishes. Soon, I will meet these food lovers, we will talk about food, I will watch them cook and share their recipes with you on the blog. I’m very excited and I can’t wait to show you this amazing island, its food and natural beauty!

For now I can only enjoy all the lovely dishes that feed my memories and fit my daydreams, like spaghetti with pangrattato (meaning grated bread in Italian), crisp breadcrumbs fried with anchovies and garlic! I sprinkle it with freshly squeezed lemon juice, crushed black pepper and parsley, a summer meal which couldn’t be quicker and easier!

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

 Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

For 2 people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
breadcrumbs 5 heaped tablespoons
(if you have some stale white bread left put it in a food processor and turn into breadcrumbs)
anchovies, rinsed, dried and finely chopped, 2-3 big fillets (use 3 if you like a strong fish taste)
garlic, finely chopped, 2 cloves
parsley, finely chopped 1 1/2 tablespoons
lemon 1/2, to drizzle over the pasta
black pepper, crushed coarsely
salt
olive oil for frying

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water al dente.

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the garlic on a medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the anchovies and fry for a few seconds before you pour in a little more oil, add the breadcrumbs and fry until golden brown and crisp. Divide the spaghetti and the pangrattato between 2 plates and sprinkle with lemon juice, black pepper and parsley. Season with salt, carefully as the anchovies are very salty.

Spaghetti with Anchovy Pangrattato, Lemon and Parsley

Sicilian Spaghetti with Bottarga di Tonno

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

Marzamemi! This is the name of a picturesque fishing village in southern Sicily in the Syracuse region. It’s right by the sea, with two churches – an old and a new one – both dedicated to the village’s patron San Franceso built around the historic piazza which is, as in every Mediterranean village, the lively centre especially at night.

Two years ago we spent an evening in Marzamemi, strolled through the narrow alleys, between the old limestone houses where  fishermen used to live. We passed a beautiful artisan market which was still open at night and enjoyed the sight of all the restaurants which had placed their long tables outside in the piazza where families already filled the air with laughter and the delicious smell of seafood. We couldn’t wait any longer to join them and went straight to the restaurant at the sea where our table was waiting for us, but as we wanted to sit down we spotted an old storehouse with a big, open gate and people walking in and out. Curiosity was still stronger than our appetite, so we took a look.

We went inside a huge hall piled high with fish products, mainly made of bluefin tuna but also anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and swordfish. I discovered food I had never seen before, tuna salami for example, I had to buy it! It tasted interesting, salty, something I would have to eat a few times and try out a few combinations to get used to it. They also sold the famous Bottarga di Tonno, the dried roe pouch of bluefin tuna. If it’s in one piece, you slice it thinly over spaghetti, grated you sprinkle it over a quick pasta dish. Its taste is distinct and salty, it comes from a fish with a strong flavour and you can taste it!

I haven’t eaten it since my last visit to Sicily so I was happy to finally open a jar of grated Bottarga di Tonno again and mix it with my pasta. I like to add some lemon (juice and zest), garlic, parsley and coarsely crushed black pepper.

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

Spaghetti with Bottarga di Tonno, Lemon and Parsley

For this meal I suggest you warm up the plates in the oven.

For 2 people you need
(the amounts are matched to taste, just play around and season to your own taste)

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
olive oil 6 tablespoons
garlic, cut in half, 2 cloves
grated Bottarga di Tonno 4-6 heaped teaspoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
lemon zest 2 teaspoon
parsley, chopped, 4 heaped tablespoons
salt and coarsely crushed black pepper

Cook the pasta in lots of salted water till al dente.

Heat up the oil in a sauce pan, add the garlic and take the pan off the heat, let it infuse the oil for a couple minutes and add the lemon juice.

After the pasta is mixed with the warm oil and divided between the plates, sprinkle with parsley, lemon zest, pepper and salt and add the bottarga di tonno to taste.

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

 

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

 

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

 

Pasta with Bottarga di Tonno, Parsley and Lemon

Spaghetti with Crisp Bacon, Tomatoes and Fennel Seeds

Bacon Fennel Tomato Pasta

A fruity tomato sauce with spaghetti together with a glass of red wine can never go wrong. To add some crisp bacon and fennel seeds makes it even better! I don’t even remember all the different variations on tomato sauces I’ve made in my life but this one is really good, and quick to prepare. For days I’ve been wanting to make a Sauce Bolognese but I never found the time as it needs to cook for an hour. This one here is meaty as well but only needs 10 minutes on the cooker. The bacon (I used lots of it!) makes it hearty and the aromatic spice adds a Mediterranean touch to it.

For 2 people I used 100g / 3.5 ounces of bacon, cut into little cubes and fried until golden and crunchy. I fried 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds, 2 cloves of garlic (crushed) and 1 small dried chili together with the meat for about 2 minutes before I added 400g / 14 ounces of tinned tomatoes (crushed), 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper. The sauce simmered on medium temperature for 8 minutes while the spaghetti (200g / 7 ounces ) cooked in lots of salted water until they were al dente.

If you prefer a vegetarian sauce just leave out the bacon and add a bit more olive oil to fry the fennel seeds, I make that sometimes and it’s great, too.

Bacon Fennel Tomato Pasta

 

Bacon Fennel Tomato Pasta

Broccoli Pesto with Spaghetti and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Broccoli Parsley Pesto + Spaghetti

Finally pesto! I love it, bunches of basil, parsley, chopped green or black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, garlic, anchovies mixed with olive oil, nuts or cheese. There are endless possibilities to bring one of the most satisfying meals onto the table, pasta with pesto. It’s so simple yet so special! When I make pesto I just follow my mood and appetite, picking what the kitchen herbs on my window sill offer and mixing it together with the Mediterranean fruits and vegetables preserved in salt or oil I keep in jars in my fridge. Sometimes I mix fresh vegetables in as well, like green asparagus or broccoli.

Today is a broccoli day! I cook it al dente, put some of it in a blender and mix it with parsley, ginger, garlic, anchovy, lemon juice and olive oil. Some of the water used to cook the broccoli stirred in makes the pesto nice and smooth, it’s lighter than using just olive oil. When the warm spaghetti has been mixed with the broccoli pesto, I sprinkle some broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and red chili on top. There are lots of different flavours in this pesto but they blend in perfectly and allow the broccoli to show its fresh side.

Broccoli Parsley Pesto + Spaghetti

Broccoli Pesto with Spaghetti and Sun-dried Tomatoes

For this meal it’s best to warm the plates in a 75°C / 165°F warm oven for a few minutes. I prepare them while the pasta is cooking.

For 4 people you need

spaghetti 400g / 14 ounces
broccoli, florets and the soft part of the stem, 450g / 16 ounces
water used to cook the broccoli 50ml
sun-dried tomatoes, cooked in a little water for 2 minutes to wash off the salt, dried and chopped, 1 1/2 tomatoes for topping
water used to cook the sun-dried tomatoes 3 tablespoons
parsley, chopped, 3 heaped tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 1 big clove
ginger, grated, 1/2 teaspoon
anchovy preserved in salt (optionally), rinsed and dried, 1 fillet
lemon juice 2 teaspoons
olive oil 3 tablespoons
salt and pepper
fresh red chili, chopped, 1 for topping

In a large pot, bring water to the boil, add some salt and cook the broccoli al dente. Keep 1/3 of the cooked florets, cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Cook the spaghetti al dente.

Put the rest of the broccoli (florets and stem cut into pieces) in a blender and mix together with some of the water used to cook the broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the parsley, garlic, ginger, anchovy, lemon juice, olive oil and mix well. Season the pesto with salt and pepper but keep in mind that the tomatoes used for the topping will add some saltiness as well.

Arrange the spaghetti and the pesto on big plates and sprinkle with the chopped tomatoes, pieces of broccoli, chili and some more black pepper.

Broccoli Parsley Pesto + Spaghetti

Spaghetti Carbonara with Onions and Prosciutto

Spaghetti Carbonara

There was a time when I had this meal at least once a week. It was a special winter that I spent in the North of England, in North Yorkshire directly on the coast. The sea was rough, the air was damp and salty, and it was cold, the kind of wet cold that creeps into your bones. My diet concentrated on fish and chips (every year, this place is voted for the best fish in England), pies and simple dinners I could cook in our tiny kitchen. Spaghetti Carbonara was one of them. Fried Prosciutto, onions and eggs and you can brave any weather.

I use my Tyrolean Prosciutto from San Cassiano – luckily there’s still some left. I tried many others for this recipe but I still think this one is the best. In the past I used to make it with crispy bacon but the spices of the Prosciutto add something really nice to the creamy egg and onions. I cut it into strips, like the onions, and fry everything before I mix it with the pasta, eggs, cream and Parmesan. And crushed black pepper, of course!

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

For 2 people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
Tyrolean Prosciutto, cut into strips, 5 slices
medium sized onion, cut in half and into thin slices, 1 -2
egg yolks 3
cream 80ml
salt and crushed black pepper
olive oil for frying
Parmesan, freshly grated

In a large pan, fry the onions in some oil until golden and soft. Add the Prosciutto and fry for a couple minutes as well. Mix the egg yolks together with the cream, salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta al dente and immediately put it into the warm pan (off the heat) on the fried onions and Prosciutto. Pour the egg and cream mixture on top, mixing well. Sprinkle with lots of crushed black pepper and Parmesan, and enjoy a glass of red wine with it – that’s what I do!

Maltese Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon

Pasta Lemon Ricotta

This pasta recipe is there for me at any time of day or night. It started as a middle of the night cooking experiment after being out at a party. My boyfriend and I came home late and hungry, so we sat down in the kitchen over a bowl of pasta with ricotta, lemon zest, basil and crushed pepper. This became a standard post-party hunger salvation.

The inspiration for this combination came from our last trip to Malta. We had just come back from our regular summer stay on this beautiful Mediterranean island where my boyfriend’s family is from. Ricotta, lemon, basil and the bold use of roughly crushed pepper are essential ingredients of Maltese cooking as well as fennel seeds, the best tomatoes in the world (together with Maltese potatoes) and lots of herbs. Another treat I always look forward to is Qassata, a savory ricotta filled pastry spiced with crushed pepper and parsley. We make our own when we don’t have a Maltese bakery close by (in other words, the rest of the year), I’ll write about it soon!

Back to the pasta, I normally throw in a handful of freshly chopped basil but my plant had just given its last leaves so I had to do without.

For 2 people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
fresh ricotta 4 heaped tablespoons
zest of 1/2 lemon
basil, chopped, 8-10 leaves
salt and crushed pepper
olive oil for the spaghetti

Mix the cooked pasta with a dash of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and divide between the two plates. I prefer to mix the pasta with the ricotta on each plate and not all together, therefore, I add a couple spoons on top of each spaghetti portion and sprinkle with the lemon zest and basil. I always offer some more crushed pepper and salt with it.

Pasta Lemon Ricotta