Italy. It's one of the best countries to go to in the whole world for food. Whether it's the carb-rich pizza, pasta with a myriad of sauces, or decedent, slow cooked meats, it's certainly the best place to go for food lovers the world over. Here are a few of our favourites, buon appetito!
The perfect lunch - bruschetta (simplyrecipes.com) - great with a Trebbiano grape based wine from Umbria, whose low acidity complements the astringency of the tomato.
The quintessential Italian snack, bruschetta is perfect for a light lunch on a hot day, or as a delicious entrée to your meal. For what is essentially tomatoes on bread, it certainly is a mouth-watering meal, and so quick and easy to make!
1.5lbs of ripe tomatoes
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tbsp olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Sliced ciabatta (or similar)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Blanch and peel the tomatoes, cut into quarters, then squeeze out most of the seeds and juices
- Preheat oven to 230oC/210oC fan/gas mark 8
- Chop tomatoes, and mix with the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper. For the more adventurous of you, throw a tiny bit of sugar in there as well - it'll really bring out the flavour of the tomato
- Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil, and place them olive oil side down in the oven. Toast until brown around the edges
- Top each bread slice with the tomato mix and serve
The Quick fix - pasta carbonara (bbcgoodfood.com) - A well-chilled Pinot Grigio (look for something from Alto Adige) is just delightful with carbonara, as the crisp, clean finish is the perfect palate cleanser between bites.
The important thing to remember here is that a real Italian Carbonara does not require cream! This recipe is a quick fix meal that you can whip together in 10 minutes. Despite the short time scale, it's a delicious treat that is ideal for a get together with friends or indulgent, late-night supper.
350g linguini (fresh if possible)
350g of diced pancetta or streaky bacon (smoked)
2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 egg plus 4 egg yolks
As much grated parmesan as your heart desires
- Boil the pasta and fry the pancetta in oil for a few minutes until golden. Add the garlic, and fry briefly.
- Whisk the egg and yolks together with parmesan and some seasoning
- Drain the pasta (keeping some cooking water aside). Add the egg and parmesan mix to the pasta and mix until the pasta is well coated
- Stir in the pancetta and garlic, and serve with yet more parmesan
The easier done than said - easy pizza (bbcgoodfood.com) - Tastes great with a GSM wine (blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes) as the acidity and intense flavours won't be overwhelmed by all the cheese.
Another giant of the Italian food world, we'd be a bit remiss if we missed out pizza from our list. Of course, this is a quick pizza recipe, and its simplicity may incur the wrath of any Italian friends you have, but as we're all about delicious results with minimal preparation, this is perfect. Please bear in mind this is for a traditional thin crust pizza!
(For the base)
300g strong bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
(For the tomato sauce)
Handful of fresh basil, or 1 tsp of dried
1 crushed garlic clove
(For the topping)
Literally anything you want, that's the beauty of pizza! (Though for classic Neapolitan flavours, anchovies and olives are always a good go to)
- Put the flour in a large bowl, then stir in the yeast and the salt. Make a well, and pour in 200ml of warm water and the olive oil, and bring together. Knead for 5 minutes until smooth, then set aside while you make everything else
- Mix the passata, basil, and crushed garlic together, then season to taste. No need for refrigerating!
- Split the dough in two and roll out to your preferred thickness and size. Bear in mind the pizza will rise in the oven!
- Heat the oven to 240oC/fan 220oC/gas 8. Put an upturned baking tray on the top shelf. Spread the sauce over the base, and add your toppings of choice. Put the pizza tray on top of the tray already in the oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes.
The Complicated, but worth it - Tuscan slow cooked beef with Chianti (olivemagazine.com) - fantastic with Chianti, seeing as you'll already have opened a bottle!
Slow cooking is the absolute best way to cook meat, especially when it's not the leanest of cuts. It makes for an absolutely melt in the mouth experience, and is the ideal meal for these cooler autumn nights. This one takes a fair few hours, so may be best on a day when you've got nothing much to do, but it's worth totally worth it, and the oven does most of the hard work anyway.
600g beef shin, off the bone
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
750ml of chianti, or another full bodied red wine
4 tbsp tomato puree
4 bay leaves
150ml beef stock
- Heat the oven to 180oC/fan 160oC/gas mark 4. Season the meat, then brown all over in a heavy-bottomed pot.
- Cook the onions, celery, carrot and garlic until softened, then add the wine. Allow it to bubble briefly then stir in the tomato puree, bay leaves, and beef stock. Add the beef back to the pot and bring to a simmer
- Cover with a lid and put in the oven. Cook for 4 hours until the beef starts to fall apart. Pull the beef into chunks and stir through the sauce
- Serve with fresh pappardelle or potatoes