Bianca Zapatka’s Spinach Ravioli with Mushrooms

Serves: 4 – 6

This is probably one of the most comfortable pastas I have ever eaten, though calling it comfortable is an understatement.

It’s simplicity is its sophistication.

This is 2-hat sort of stuff. And yet, so simple.

Nat served this as the first course of a slow, Sunday afternoon of pastas and wow.

She adapted the dough slightly and I cooked the mushrooms for longer because mushrooms only improve with time in the pan.

We discovered some time ago that pasta assembly is best accompanied with a few flutes of good Champagne. A celebration of sorts that you have hit the final straight!

As the first course for a late autumn lunch, people would be blown away. A crisp Pinot Grigio, a fire and some good music and here you have all the pieces to start a very good afternoon.

Well done Nat.

Ingredients

For the Ravioli

1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 00 flour
1/4 semolina flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c water
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

For the Spinach Filling

225gm frozen spinach, thawed
125gm cream cheese
5 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300gm brown mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs and/or grated Parmesan to serve

Method

Pasta Dough

  1. Mix the flours, semolina and salt. Heap into a pile and press a well into the centre. Pour in water and olive oil and knead to a smooth dough. (We used the dough hook on a KitchenAid.)
  2. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling foil and place in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour.

Spinach filling

  1. Squeeze the spinach to remove all excess water and chop.
  2. Add the Parmesan, cream cheese, season and mix until combined.

To make the Ravioli

  1. Roll out the prepared pasta dough thinly on a lightly floured surface. (We used a pasta roller down to setting 2.)
  2. Cut out 7cm circles with a round form.
  3. Place approximately 1 tbsp of the spinach filling in the centre of each circle. Brush the sides with a bit of water and fold over the filling into semicircles. Carefully seal with your finer and then press down lightly with a fork.
  4. Bring salted water to the boil in a large pot. Let the ravioli slide in a simmer for 3 – 4 minutes until they have floated to the surface.
  5. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.

Fried Mushrooms

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms until browned and all the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Deglaze with the soy sauce and sauté for at least a few more minutes.
  3. Serve with the drained ravioli. Season and garnish with fresh herbs and/or grated Parmesan.

Grace Parisi’s Pappardelle with Veal Ragù

Serves: 8

The most viewed recipe on my blog is consistently Gordon Ramsay’s Slow Braised Beef Ragù with Pappardelle.

An amazing dish as I wrote up 6 years ago.

Recently we have cooked this Ragù twice and it is just as wonderful.

Simple like Ragù is, though just as rich as an amazing Ragù is and should be.

For me, a long Italian lunch in the sun – one white pasta, one red pasta – is the absolute definition of heaven.

I commend this Ragù to your next such session.

Have a medium-bodied Chianti Classico ready to go and it is bliss.

Ingredients

2kg boneless veal shoulder, cut into large chunks*
Salt and freshly ground pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground fennel
1 1/2 c dry red wine
4 c chicken or veal stock
1 1/2 tbsp minced rosemary
1kg fresh pappardelle
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to serve
Chopped, fresh Italian Parsley to serve

Method

  1. Season the veal with salt and pepper and dust with flour, tapping off the excess. In a large, heavy casserole, heat 1/4 of the olive oil. Add the veal and cook over a moderately high heat until browned all over. Transfer the veal to a plate and do in batches if need be.
  2. Turn the heat down to low, add the remaining 1/4 c oil to the casserole. Stir in the onion, garlic, coriander and fennel and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the wine and boil until reduced to 1/3 c. Add the tomatoes and cook over a moderately high heat for 5 minutes. Add the stock and rosemary and bring to a boil. Add the veal, cover partially and cook over a low heat until falling apart and thickened. 3 – 5 hours.
  3. Cook the Pappardelle in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain, add the Ragù and toss over a low heat until the pasta is coated. Serve with the cheese and parsley.

* I’ve found it increasingly hard to source veal, which could be in-line with questions about the ethics of its consumption. I persevered and got there in the end. One butcher told me the issue is that he wouldn’t sell veal if he couldn’t verify it. Not sure what the answer is. We used veal chuck which broke down beautifully after 5 hours, twice.

Pasta Genovese

Serves: 4 – 6

This classic pasta really is brilliant.

Nat found it in my mother’s collection of recipes and alongside a focaccia Nat cooked, nobody ate a better lunch in our part of town that day.

I love the cooking of the potatoes with the pasta. Which together with the wonderfully simple pesto and the prosciutto, it just so wonderfully rustic.

Just add plenty of Parmesan, open a bottle of white and there you have it… classic.

Ingredients

Dried linguini or tagliatelle
6 small baby potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
100gm baby green beans, trimmed
Grated Parmesan
Thinly sliced prosciutto
2 c tightly packed basil leaves
50gm pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
150ml olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Process the basil, pine nuts and garlic to a paste, stir in the olive oil and 100gm Parmesan: season.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water and 5 minutes before the cooking time is done, add the potatoes.
  3. Just before draining, add the beans and cook briefly. Drain, retaining 100ml of the pasta water.
  4. Add a generous amount of the pesto to the pasta water together with some additional Parmesan, toss together all the ingredients and serve with prosciutto slices draped over.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s One-Pan Crispy Spaghetti and Chicken

Serves: 4

You have to give it to this guy. He is so clever.

And this dish is just that. Like, screw you clever. Like, why didn’t I bloody think of that clever.

Like one-pot-pasta clever, though cleverer than the first batch of one-pot-pastas we were all inundated with five years back.

It’s the simplicity. The rusticity. And the various textures of the spaghetti, from soft to crunchy: the caramelised chicken.

Look at that spaghetti!

And it is fun to dish and eat.

Screw you clever.

It is a weeknight meal though served on a Saturday night with friends, it would absolutely not look out of place.

It is just that fun… and good.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1kg skin-on chicken thighs (4-6)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1cm dice
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 c boiling water
230gm spaghetti, broken into thirds
1/3 c lightly packed finely grated Parmesan
3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 c finely chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 220c.
  2. Add 1 tbsp oil to a large, ovenproof lidded skillet and heat over high. Season the chicken with 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, then add to the hot oil, skin down. Cook for 7 minutes, without turning, to brown well.
  3. Turn down to medium-high, stir in the onion and turn over the chicken; cook for 5 minutes until the onion has softened and is slightly browned. Add the tomato paste, garlic and 1 tbsp thyme and cook, stirring the paste into the onions for 2 minutes or until fragrant and all browned.
  4. Add the boiling water, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, then add the spaghetti, stirring to submerge and evenly distribute. Lift the chicken pieces so that sit on top of the spaghetti, skin side up. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest and remaining thyme.
  6. After the pasta has baked for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the oven to its highest setting and get the grill on. Sprinkle the Parmesan mixture evenly over the chicken, drizzle with the remaining oil and grill for a few minutes until nicely browned and crisp. Set aside for a few minutes and serve straight from the pan.

Sixpenny’s Mushroom Lasagne

Serves: 8 – 10

Sixpenny is a Sydney institution – 3 hats no less – and their head chef Dan Puskas is clearly a genius.

We have only eaten there once, though it was an entirely memorable and particularly impressive meal.

So when the head of Sixpenny puts out a lasagne recipe and it is based on mushrooms with a celeriac thrown in, time to listen up.

Simply put, this is mushroom greatness.

Yes, being a lasagne helps, though the mushroom is is the clincher. It is so moorish, so satisfying, so endless, it’s as I said, mushroom greatness.

I was wrong footed on the porcini powder, though simple blitz dried porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder and voila.

Also, I used instant lasagne sheets which seems to me a fine cheat. No doubt, fresh would be even better and the next time I do this dish, I’ll make the effort.

Live like they do at Sixpenny and mushroom it up the next cold Saturday night you can.

Ingredients

50gm dried porcini mushrooms, broken into small pieces
1kg button mushrooms, finely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
100gm butter
1 medium celeriac, peeled, coarsely grated
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp coarsely chopped sage
1/3 c porcini powder
100gm tomato paste
200ml red wine
4 c vegetable stock
Lasagne sheets

Béchamel sauce

125gm butter
125gm plain flour
5 c milk
165gm Parmesan, finely grated
1 1/4 tsp white pepper
1 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Method

  1. Soak porcini mushrooms in 3 cups boiling water until soft (30 minutes); drain, reserving liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, working in batches, use a food processor to finely chop the button mushrooms.
  3. Heat half the olive oil in a deep frying pan over a high heat. Cook half the button and porcini mushrooms, stirring until browned and tender; transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and mushrooms. Set aside with the cooked mushrooms.
  4. Add butter to the pan, reduce heat to medium and use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan of any caramelised bits. Add celeriac, celery, carrot, onion, sage and porcini powder; cook, stirring until softened. Add the tomato paste and mushrooms and mix well. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated.
  5. Add the reserved porcini liquid and 2 cups of the stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until well reduced. Add remaining stock and simmer until the consistency of a meat sauce.
  6. To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add flour and stir until bubbling. Remove from the heat, gradually whisk in milk until combined. Simmer over a low heat stirring until thick and smooth. Add 125gm of the Parmesan, pepper and nutmeg. Season with salt. Set aside until needed.
  7. Preheat oven to 180C. Great a large ovenproof dish. Spread 1/4 of the mushroom mixture in base of the dish. Top with pasta sheets and then a layer of béchamel. Repeat, finishing with béchamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbling.

Antonio Carluccio’s Salsa di Funghi (Mushroom Sauce)

Serves: 4

How good is Northern Italian food?

And how good is simplicity?

Which when combined, begs the question, just how good was Antonio Carluccio?

I absolutely love mushrooms and cooked down slowly, with just a bit of olive oil and rosemary; the addition of the porcini stock, butter and then Parmesan. My word.

Toast me something and pile those mushrooms on that! Polenta equally so!

Again, it’s simple, though cook those mushrooms as slowly as possible and live the Northern Italian life.

(We did the white sauce… which is not what you might expect.)

Ingredients

25gm dried porcini mushrooms
150ml water
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400gm fresh mushrooms (mix it up!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan to serve

For white sauce

15 butter

For red sauce

2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp tomato pulp (passata)
1 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Soak the dried porcini in tepid water for 30 minutes and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquor.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the rosemary and garlic for 20 seconds. If you are making the red sauce, add the extra virgin olive oil at this point. Add the fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms and continue to slowly cook for no less than 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. (I cooked for 45 minutes and wow!)
  3. Cook your pasta, reserving a small amount of pasta water for the sauce.
  4. For the white sauce, stir in the soaking liquor and the butter and cook for another 15 minutes. Add some of the pasta water and check the seasoning.
  5. Serve with the pasta and a good amount of Parmesan.

Method

Antonio Carluccio’s Gnocchetti Sardi Con Broccoli (Sardinian Gnocchi with Broccoli)

Serves: 4

The first post I did for robbydogcooks.com was an Antonio Carluccio dish.

His pastas are always unique, always simple and always 1-hat. We can never fault them, especially the fact that you can start cooking at midday and serve lunch at one.

This pasta is wonderful.

And absurdly simple to make.

With a green salad and a glass of cold vino, it really doesn’t get better.

I have slightly adapted this recipe.

Ingredients

500gm broccoli florets
60gm smoked, streaky bacon, finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
200ml heated milk
400gm Sardinian gnocchetti (I used Casarecce which seemed close)
A little hot water from cooking the pasta (this is important)
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the broccoli, drain and process in a food processor until finely chopped. Set aside.
  2. In a large pan, start to fry the bacon in the olive oil. Once it begins to brown, add the slices of garlic, which should not be allowed to colour. Add the broccoli and the milk and cook for 10 – 15 minutes over a medium heat, stirring every now and then. At the end of this time, the broccoli should be reduced to a creamy texture.
  3. Cook the gnocchetti until al denote, drain (reserving some of the water), then our the pasta into the pan with the broccoli mixture, adding the Parmesan, salt and pepper. Add a spoonful or two of cooking water so the mixture is creamy rather than stiff. Stir well over a moderate flame for a few minutes or so and serve.

Sean Connolly’s Crab Linguini

Serves: 4

Nat and I have a great tradition on those public holidays where the gathering of family isn’t a prerequisite: Labour Day, Queens Birthday, Boxing Day etc.

We lock in a babysitter for the kids and we have lunch at The Morrison, a Sydney-city institution by Sean Connolly.

Clean, crisp seafood. Great wine list. Great buzz looking out onto the street at all the trams going backwards and forwards.

The oysters are a must. The prawn cocktail is a must.

Though the biggest must is the Crab Linguini.

We order it every time and I know of at least one other mate that does the same.

And here is the receipe.

Simple as one would expect from a chef that heros simplicity.

To really go the extra mile, Nat made fresh linguini and my word, what an awesome dinner we had:

If you really want to bowl your guests over, this is how you do it!

Paired with Rodney Dunn’s Leaf Salad with an Anchovy Cream and a great bottle of Chardonnay, nobody ate better in our part of that night.

(And when this Sydney lockdown ends, book a table at the Morrison. It really is a fun afternoon.)

Ingredients

500gm thickened cream
300gm fresh crab meat
50gm unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp canola oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
Handful mint leaves, torn
Handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Method

  1. Heat the cream in a large pan, bring to a simmer and reduced until thickened.
  2. Remove from the head, add the butter and a pinmch of salt, combining vigorously.
  3. Once combined, return to the heat and add the lemon juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and reduce for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Cook the linguini al dente and set aside.
  5. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and once hot, warm through the crab and chilli. Add the mint and then the cream sauce. Season, stir through the parsley and serve.

Crab and Preserved Lemon Risotto

Serves: 6 as an entree

Just before Sydney’s lockdown, Nat and I did one of the Sydney Seafood School classes: a well received Mother’s Day present.

At their best, these classes are a lot of fun. An hour in the auditorium watching the chef cook and then two hours cooking at a workstation with another couple, knocking over the various dishes.

Then it’s lunch with a glass of wine. (You can even order an additional bottle of wine which of course, I commend firmly.)

The Italian Seafood class we attended did not push us particularly in terms of technique or complexity, though Nat cooked one of her first risottos (I am the resident risotto cooker) and I cleaned a squid for only the second time. And hey, we had fun!

And of course, I only type up recipes that are great and genuinely, this risotto is great.

I overheard someone saying that the preserved lemon was a little overpowering and lemon zest would be better.

Wrong.

It works and if you love crab and/or preserved lemon, this risotto is definitely for you.

Ingredients

300gm raw crabmeat*
1.25 litres quality chicken stock
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, chopped
Salt flakes and freshly ground white pepper
250gm risotto (do not rinse)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 preserved lemon, rinsed and dried, skin only finely diced
50gm salted butter
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp snipped chives

Method

  1. Heat stock in a saucepan until simmering, then maintain at that temperature.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat, add onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until soft but not coloured.
  3. Add the rice and stir over a high heat until grains are well coated in oil and warmed through.
  4. Add white wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
  6. Continue until rice is tender, with a slight bite, and has a creamy consistency (about 18 minutes): you may not need all of the stock.
  7. Add a final ladle or 2 of stock, preserved lemon, crabmeat, butter, Parmesan, salt and pepper and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the butter is incorporated and the grab has broken into thin wisps. The finished risotto should be quite soupy. (The Italians call it all’onde which translates to wave-like.)
  8. Taste, season, stir through chives and serve immediately on a flat plate, tapping the bottom of the plate to spread the risotto out.

* Look, maybe it needs to be said, maybe not. We need to be buying only local, sustainable seafood. Australian for me. The time is up on imported seafood, please.

Justin Smille’s Chicken Thigh Ragù with Pappardelle

Serves: 6

Justin Smille is a New York Times three-star chef and this genius chicken ragù is total proof. Bold, rustic, slow-braised wonderfulness when you want a ragù that isn’t pork or beef.

The chicken doesn’t overwhelm the light tomato and olive sauce and my goodness.

It is a bit of a labour of love, though worth every step.

Lock in Saturday afternoon and live the good life. Champagne from 3pm will make it go faster (and I know this from experience)!

Ingredients

20gm dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp sugar
2 red onions, chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
250gm pancetta, cut into 1cm dice
1kg skinless chicken thighs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tbsp finely chopped sage
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 c sherry vinegar
3/4 c dry white wine
2 c chicken stock
1 c pasata
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
750gm fresh or dried papardelle
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serv
ing

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine the porcini mushrooms and sugar, cover with hot water and let the mushrooms soak for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms have soften. Drain discarding the water and chop.
  2. Meanwhile, in the food processor, combine the onions, fennel, celery, carrot and garlic and pulse until finely chopped.
  3. In a large, heavy casserole pot, heat the oil over a moderate heat. Add the pancetta, stirring until browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and set aside.
  4. Season the whole chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to the casserole. Cook over a moderately high heat until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a platter.
  5. Add the chopped vegetables, a generous pinch each of salt and pepper to the casserole. Cook over a low heat until the vegetables are softened, the liquid is evaporated and the vegetables are just starting to brown. Stir in the rosemary, sage, tomato paste and porcini.
  6. Add the vinegar and cook over a moderate heat until almost evaporated. Add the wine and cook, stirring until reduced by half. Add the stock and pasta and bring to the boil.
  7. Return the chicken thighs to the casserole. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until the chicken is tender: about an hour.
  8. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let cool slightly. Shred the chicken and stir into the sauce with the olives and pancetta. Season and reduce until you have a ragù consistency.
  9. Cook the papperdelle al dente, drain well and toss gently with ragù. Serve with the freshly grated cheese.
  10. Enjoy.