Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vegetarian Lasagna

Hands up who likes baby tomatoes and a wedge of ricotta cheese.

An overwhelming response!  And what can we make with baby tomatoes and ricotta cheese?

I'm being inspired by these freshly rolled lasagna sheets.

Cousin Laura has arrived at Nonna's with some empty baking dishes, ready to be filled with her requested lasagna.

Lasagna is often requested and then produced at Nonna's.  For parties, farewell dinners, and pretty much anyone's birthday.

That little one on the end is mine, because I'm not really helping much by taking photos.

Dropping in: Pasta Carbonara

Dropping in on Nonna unexpectedly is always an adventure.  Especially if you've managed to arrive at lunch time (completely unplanned, I assure you).

 While most of us are used to grabbing a quick sandwich, or heating up last night's leftovers, lunch at Nonna's is The Meal Of The Day.

(The perks of being a retiree....)

Lunch times at Nonna's always include something made fresh and hot, straight from the pan or oven. 

And today is no exception.  Nonna happens to have some bacon and mushrooms on hand, combined with several things always handy in her fridge/pantry (cream, shallots and penne pasta).

I'd also like to point out the shiny new frying pan/skillet Nonna is using to fry all of this deliciousness.  This was a gift from my mother and aunty, because they've learned that a cooking utensil in Nonna's hands is the gift that keeps on giving.


At this point, words cannot describe the aroma coming from this simmering sauce.

There's nothing that makes a grandchild feel more loved than being told to 'come anytime', including lunchtime, and knowing that Nonna has the frying pan ready, the pasta on hand, and an empty place at the table just for you.

Buon appetito.   

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Hidden at the back of Nonna's freezer is a very ordinary looking plastic container which you might easily overlook when reaching for a frozen chicken or a tray of ravioli.

It holds my favourite summer treat.

Three layers of gorgeously smooth and exotic icecream, sandwiched together into a cassatta, or basically, an ice cream cake.

Now these shots are from summer 2013/14 when the Cooking With Nonna project BROUGHT BACK CASSATA. 


The biggest benefit of my cooking spree so far, has been the return of family favourites which haven't made an appearance for literally decades.
My last memory of cassata had been glace cherries and that hidden container at the back of the freezer.

Now cassata is back on the menu, and in the next couple of weeks a fresh batch will be going into the freezer, ready for Christmas '14.
Everyone approves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Amaretti di Palma

I love looking through Nonna's recipe scrap book (and it's definitely a scrap book).  Lots of little bits of paper with cryptic recipes, written in that distinctive handwriting, some English words mixed in with dialect and 'proper' Italian.

It brings back memories of Italian school, learning about those special action words you only find in recipes. "Sbattere!"

The best part is seeing all the different names of aunties, cousins, and mysterious strangers pop up on the recipes they've shared with Nonna.

We made Zia Palma's amaretti, and I sincerely believe that crushing the almonds through the sauce/salami maker is what makes them taste so wonderfully good.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Red Sauce (on the go)

While red sauce is really a very big, elaborate event once a year (blog post coming soon), sometimes it's okay to take a few shortcuts and use a bottle of passata.

Want to whip up a quick Pasta al Forno?  (That's oven-baked pasta my lovelies).

If I've learnt one thing over my Ital-Anglo upbringing, it's 


It's evil (tasting).

And if you think I'm being unnecessarily dramatic, well you just haven't tasted the real thing, have you?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fresh Pasta: Spaghetti & Fettuccine

This is where the magic happens...  (hint: replace fairy dust with generous handfuls of flour)

Combine one nonna, one over-excited granddaughter, a well-oiled pasta machine, and a couple of hours after lunch...

 Fresh pasta.

Fresh pasta was the bread and butter of Nonna's upbringing in the village in Italy.  I don't need to spell out how synonymous pasta is with the Italian way of life, but I assure you that it's not a cliche.
Pasta is verrrrry necessary. 

I promise I cranked the handle too, and did a reasonable amount of kneading...

There are three unique pasta shapes/types to Nonna's own tiny village which makes me wonder how many pasta shapes Italy has produced.  Can a hedge a bet at 50,000?

Nonna reminded me that there wasn't always a pasta machine on hand, and demonstrated the way to make the fettucine village-style.

Tossed through lots of fairy dust/flour...


Friday, November 7, 2014

Ricotta Calzone

While compiling a mega list of recipe ideas with Nonna at the beginning of the year, I realised there were so many glorious foods and baked goods she had simply stopped cooking/baking.  How could this be?

Just more proof of the importance of The Cooking With Nonna project - some extra motivation to do a little extra shopping, find a little extra time, and make something a little extra special.

I now love the familiar feeling of pulling out the giant wooden board from the back of Nonna's linen cupboard, laying it out, and pouring out flour.  Bowls are just so overrated.

Creating edible things from scratch is the best way to learn that cooking and baking are really just the same steps repeated over and over with slight variations.  Pasta, pizza, biscotti and now calzone all start here, on the board, with some egg and flour.

Ricotta calzone variation: lemon rind.

Oh, Ricotta, how I love thee without shame.

And how improved you are with some sugar and spice.

Having grown up in a largely gluten-free house, seeing the fluffiness of risen dough can be a bit too exciting.


Does it get any better than fresh pastry wrapped around sweet, creamy ricotta?  I THINK NOT.