Italian, Pasta, Pork

The Best Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves: 6

Where does one start?

Spaghetti Carbonara is that dish that divides more than any spaghetti dish. Cream or no cream?

Or mine is the best or that is the best?

This is the traditional or this one is even more traditional?

Or that Italians don’t even do Spaghetti Carbonara and it is an invention of the Americans: Italians don’t do pasta like this.

I don’t mind a cream-based Spaghetti Carbonara and how couldn’t you? Anything with pasta and cream – at its best – is amazing.

Though it isn’t traditional in the sense that I cannot find any pasta Italian cookbook of mine that asks for even a touch of cream.

Equally though, I can’t find a Carbonara in any of these books.

Which I think means that Carbonara definitely shouldn’t have cream though it probably isn’t an Italian invention either.

Which leaves us here: what is the best ‘traditional’ Carbonara recipe.

For 8 years straight until he was 18, for his birthday, my middle brother Adrian asked nothing else of me than that I cooked this pasta for his birthday.

This recipe was something my mother would do after a day on our boat and as kids, and it simply never failed to wow us.

After years and years of telling Nat this Carbonara was the best she would ever have, she finally let me make it.

And Nat – and the boys – agreed, this is simply the finest Carbonara that exists.

This truly is the best Spaghetti Carbonara you will ever cook.

And this is from someone that makes a point of ordering every time it is available.

THE BEST.

Ingredients

9 slices bacon, trimmed and julienne
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp butter
½ cup julienned ham (or prosciutto)
12 tbsp grated parmesan
6 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Spaghetti

Method

  1. Brown the bacon and pour off any fat.
  2. Cook the spaghetti.
  3. Add the olive oil, butter and ham and saute for 5 minutes without browning.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and beaten eggs, Place over the heat only to sufficiently to firm up the sauce.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the spaghetti.
  6. Serve with more grated spaghetti.
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BBQ, Beef, Italian

Bistecca alla Fiorentina with Salsa Dragoncello (Steak Florentine with Tarragon Sauce)

Serves: 2

I am a big fan of dressing up steak and we generally have at least one steak butter on hand for a moorish dinner of steak and potatoes. (You simply cannot go past Café de Paris butter if you are new to it all!)

This recipe is a step up and really is the center of a wonderful meal.

Any number of sides you could serve from chargrilled asparagus with chilli and toasted sesame seeds, a potato gratin, a green salad or all of the above.

However you do it, this will get Saturday lunch talking and kick off an afternoon of wine, laughter and promises you’ll never keep.

I can’t wait.

Ingredients

1kg piece porterhouse steak on the bone (T-bone with loin attached)*
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (with extra to brush)
1 tbsp each chopped thyme and rosemary
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Salsa dragoncello
6 hard-boiled eggs
2 slices day-old ciabatta or sourdough, crust removed, torn into 2cm pieces (makes 1 cup)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
6 anchovy fillet, chopped
1 ½ tbsp baby capers, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Heat your grill on a high heat.
  2. For the salsa: Halves the eggs and scoop out the yolks (you don’t need the whites for the dish). Place the yolks in a bowl and mash with a fork.
  3. Place the bread in a separate bowl with the red wine vinegar and 2 tbsp of warm water. Mash together until the liquid has been absorbed. Add the egg yolks, tarragon, anchovy, capers and oil and stir to combine. Set aside.
  4. For the steak: Brush the steak with the extra oil and season with salt. Reduce the the heat of the grill to medium-high and then cook steak for 15 minutes each side for medium rare. (If using an alternative cut, cook until medium rare.)
  5. Whilst cooking, place thyme, rosemary, garlic and olive oil in a shallow dish with freshly ground pepper and a couple pinches of salt. Place the cooked steak in the dish, cover with foil and set aside in a warm place for 15 minutes, turning once.
  6. To serve, cut steak away from the bone on either side, then slice the fillets. Spoon some of the salsa on top and serve with a drizzle of the resting juices.

 

*Ask your butcher ahead of time for this.

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Italian, Pork, Stew

Rosenstrach’s Pork Shoulder Ragu

Serves: 6

Bit of a no brainer this one.

Some weekends call for a ragu. A slow roasted pork shoulder ragu.

Where of course, the longer you cook it, the better it is.

And there you have the Rosenstrach’s pork shoulder ragu: one I found online and one that nailed the note the moment we served it.

It is simply an excellent, down-the-line, rich, warm, wholesome, screw-you ragu. With a glass of red and a green salad at the side… this is as good as things get.

Cook it the night before and serve at a dinner party the next day.

Cook it the night before and serve it on the couch on Sunday.

Cook it whenever you want and eat it whenever you want.

However you do it, this is a winter win.

Ingredients

1 ½kg boneless pork shoulder
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
80gm butter
2 cans tomatoes (800gm)
1 cup red wine
5 sprigs fresh oregano
Small handful of fennel seeds
1 tbsp hot sauce
Pappardelle
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Roughly chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180c. Liberally season the pork with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the olive oil and butter to a large, heavy saucepan over  medium heat until the butter melts. Add the pork and brown on all sides: around 10 minutes.
  3. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, thyme, oregano, fennel and hot sauce and bring to the boil. Cover and put in the oven.
  4. Braise for 4 hours, turning every hour or so and adding more liquid (water and wine) as is needed. When the meat is literally falling apart, remove, break apart and return to the pan. Cook until thickened and back the seasoning.
  5. Serve on the pappardelle with plenty of parmesan and parsley on top. And plenty of red wine at the side.
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Italian, Pasta, Vegetarian

Penne Pasta in Creamy Vodka Tomato Sauce with Mushroom (Pink Sauce)

Serves: 4

We live in Cammeray in Sydney and there has been this hole-in-the-wall pizza joint here since I was a kid catching the school-bus past many, many years ago.

Brick facade, large pizza-oven style window out the front, dark inside.

Until we moved to Cammeray, I had never been into the pizza place though I had always wanted to. Old-school pizza places are the best.

Our first meal there was memorable and for all the right reasons.

And it turns out that the place has been there since I was a kid, run by this Italian who cooked pizzas every night for 40 years or something.

Sadly, he passed away a year ago, though he left the restaurant to his nephew, who, when we arrived, was still finding his feet: cash only, several items on the menu not available, the poor guy cooking and serving and cleaning up.

But wow, his pizza and homemade pasta was just awesome.

And $50 with no corkage.

A real win.

Half-a-dozen visits since and he has found his feet, though the important elements remain. A dark, cosy, pizza restaurant with locals handing over cash for excellent pizzas. There is a second guy in the kitchen and a young girl taking orders and delivering the pasta.

We have mixed it up every time we have been there and last time we had a pasta similar to this one; mushroom spaghetti in a pink sauce: essentially half cream, half tomato.

I didn’t ask for the recipe though I found this one online and it is pretty much on the money.

Ensure you cook the alcohol off and you are left with a really wonderful dinner: pretty much what you would expect from a local, 40-year-old pizza joint that only cooks 6 pizzas and a rotation of the same number of pastas.

Do this some Saturday night and put your feet up.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomatoes (400gm)
¾ cup vodka
½ tsp chilli flakes
Handful fresh basil, torn
½ tsp dried oregano
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup cream
¾ tsp salt
500gm penne (we used spaghetti)
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and then add the onion and garlic and slowly saute until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes, vodka, chilli flakes, basil and oregano. Break up the tomatoes if necessary.
  2. Bring the mixture to a medium-heat and then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the mushrooms and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cream and salt and continue to simmer ensuring that the alcohol is cooked out. Season.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, drain and add to the sauce. Mix through and season again if necessary.
  5. Serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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Italian, Poultry

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Serves: 4.

I had completely forgotten how good Chicken Cacciatora was until I did this number.

What a fool!

Seriously, this is so good. The richness, the warmth, the depth of flavour. And so easy.

This is a Jamie Oliver version and served with some Italian potatoes and roasted brussel sprouts, it was just glorious.

And served on some toast the next morning for breakfast?

You would have a queue at your cafe if you simply did that. Genius.

I substituted chicken thigh for the whole chicken simply to make things easier; if we were entertaining, the whole chicken would have been the go.

Either way, do this old-fashioned Italian dish and you’ll be a hero.

Ingredients

1 x 2kg chicken, jointed (or 1kg of chicken thigh)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 clove of garlic peeled (1 crushed, 2 sliced)
½ bottle of Chianti (the other ½ is for you, my friend)
Flour, for dusting
Extra virgin olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
A handful of green or black olives, stoned
2 x 400gm tins of tomatoes

Method

  1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and put them in a bowl. Add the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs and the crushed clove of garlic and cover with the wine. Leave to marinate for at least an hour and preferably overnight in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c. Drain the chicken reserving the marinade and pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Dust the chicken with flour and shake off any excess; especially important if you are using thigh meat only.
  3. Heat a large saucepan, add a good splash of olive oil, fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over and set aside.
  4. Place the pan back on the heat and add the sliced garlic. Gently fry until golden brown and then add the anchovies, olives, tomatoes and chicken pieces together with the reserved marinade. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 1 ½ hours.
  5. Skim any oil that has collected at the top of the sauce, remove the bay leaves and rosemary stalks, season and serve.
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Italian, Side, Vegetarian

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Garlic Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Serves: 4 – 6

Haven’t brussel sprouts come into vogue?!

They’re the go to as a side in every second Sydney bistro at the moment, especially the sauteed kind with any number of accompaniments including bacon, pistachios, cranberries and of course, lots of garlic.

See you later rocket, pear and shaved Parmesan salad!

This simple take on them is as good as anything you’ll get dining out.

Indeed, experiment with a few additions and make it lunch. Or as a simpler side to pretty much any chicken/pork/whatever dish and you really do have a winner on your hands.

Just make sure to give them the occasionally stir so they don’t char too much on top whilst cooking.

Ingredients

1 kg fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half (or quarters if sprouts are large)
6 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180c.
  2. In a baking dish, carefully combine all the ingredients and shake the dish until the brussel sprouts are even.
  3. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes.
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Healthy, Italian, Salad, Side

Italian Coleslaw

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Just wonderful; creamy thanks to the parmesan; hot thanks to the chilli oil.

Italian Coleslaw

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a really sophisticated little number I pulled from Gourmet Traveller.

It speaks of the thinly sliced, super-fresh vegetables and herbs you throw in and with the parmesan, chilli oil and some seasoning, wow.

We had it with a glazed pork chop and some braised beans it was wonderful; it is hot, fresh, soaked up the rest of the plate and stood its own as a side. The next lunch served with a rare BBQed eye fillet and some hand-cut chips, it got even better.

Slaw is always good and this is a wonderful version of it.

Ingredients

180gm peas (de-thawed peas are fine or if using podded peas, start with 500gm )
¼ white cabbage, thinly sliced
Fennel bulb, thinly sliced
½ Spanish Onion, thinly sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
½ cup each (loosely packed) basil, mint and flat-leaf parsley, coarsely torn
¼ cup (firmly packed) watercress sprigs
1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
40gm parmesan, finely grated
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp chilli oil
2 tbsp lemon juice

Method

  1. If using podded peas, blanch peas in boiling salted water until tender (1 – 2 minutes), fresh and drain. If using frozen, de-thaw completely.
  2. Combine in a large bowl with cabbage, fennel, onion, radish, herbs, watercress, capers and parmesan and toss to combine.
  3. Just before serving, add oils and juice, season to taste and toss lightly to combine.
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