Recipes from the Books

Tomato Water

Have ready 2 bowls.

Process ripe tomatoes until chunky in a food processor. Add salt to taste. Place in a cheese cloth lined colander over the first bowl. The liquid that passes through the colander will be a cloudy pink color.

When most of the liquid has passed through, transfer the colander to the second bowl and pour the cloudy water back over the remaining tomato solids. Repeat this process 2 or 3 times until a clear water comes out of the cheesecloth. If the water does not run clear add a pinch more salt and repeat the procedure.

Leave the colander in the fridge overnight to drain all the remaining water from the tomatoes. A by-product, a very thick bright red paste, remains. Pass this through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds for the rosiest coloured passata ever.

pecorino Crema caramellata

  • 112 ml cream
  • 1 egg
  • 60 grams grated pecorino cheese

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C. Whisk or blend all the ingredients together. Bake in individual custard moulds in a bain marie for 30 minutes or until the custard is set.

To finish sprinkle a bit of sugar over the custards and place under the broiler to caramelize.

Fonduta Truffle Santolina

If you are lucky enough to run into a fresh truffle then shave some over the top of this delicious fonduta.

  • 2 sage leaves cut into a chiffonade
  • ½ cup cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh truffle (optional)

Add the sage to the cream and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 10 minutes. Pass through a sieve to extract the sage then squeeze the leaves over the cream to release their essential oils before discarding. Whisk in the egg yolk and the parmesan cheese and return the pan to a low heat. Stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and strain once more to remove any solids.

From Piano Piano Pieno

Primi: Pasta e Ceci

Pasta e Ceci • Pasta and Chick Pea Soup from Napoli

This is Italian “home to mama” food—delicious and addictive. Although technically a pasta dish, its consistency is more like soup. It uses one pot, so cleanup is easy. Don’t be tempted to add anything to this recipe. What makes it special is what is not in it.

Versions of this dish are found in many Italian regions. I think the best one I ever had was in the Vomero district of Naples, at the Osteria Da Sica. Its excellence was due to its simplicity and the quality of its two main ingredients: pasta and chick peas. In Naples, this dish is made with a mixture of several different pasta shapes. A mixture I bought there included broken pieces of spaghetti, linguine, bucatini and lasagne as well as fusilli, gemelli, penne, elbow macaroni and ditalini. It came from one of the excellent artisanal pasta producers in the towns of Gragnano and Torre Annunziata just outside Naples. You can make your own mix by saving the bits of pasta left in a package that are not quite enough for a meal. In other regions of Italy the small tube-shaped ditalini are used, or the scraps left over from making homemade pasta called malfatti or maltagliati.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3/4 cup dried chick peas, soaked overnight in water
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few fresh sage leaves
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 170 g (6 oz) mixed pasta shapes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To finish

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese to pass at the table

Drain the chick peas and put them in a saucepan with the onion, garlic and a bouquet garni made with the herbs. Add enough water to cover by about 3 inches and simmer until the chick peas are tender. The time will vary depending upon the age of the chick peas. Check from time to time and add more water if needed.

When the beans are soft, remove the bouquet garni. Use a hand blender, blender or potato masher to roughly purée the chick peas and the onion. You are not looking for a smooth purée—the soup should retain some semblance of the original chick peas.

Bring the soup to a boil, add the pasta and reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately with a drizzle of the olive oil and the grated cheese.