Sweet and sour carrots

Carote in agrodolce
There are generally seven types of cold Italian antipasti: the pickled sweet and sour carrots recipe belongs to the sott’aceto category.

There are generally seven types of cold Italian antipasti: Sott’aceto, sott’olio, sotto sale, a base di carne, a base di pesce, a base di formaggio and a base di pane. This recipe from Piemonte belongs to the first category, and it is very good this time of year, when you have a craving for salads and fresh vegetables.

Yet the tasty, sweet and sour carrots are preserved and may keep for weeks in a clean, airtight container. They are really easy to prepare and easier still to serve along with other antipasti sott’aceto such as olives, onions, cucumbers and artichokes. Especially, if you are entertaining many guests and wish to show off with a full plate of delicious starters.

Ingredients
½ kg peeled carrots
100 ml vinegar made on white wine
100 ml dry white wine
100 ml water
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
2 cloves of garlic
2 bayleaves
Fresh mint, rosemary, parsley
Salt and pepper

Preparation
Slice the carrots or cut them up into long juillienne sticks.
Place the carrots and the peeled cloves of garlic in a casserole with water, wine and vinegar. And sugar, oil and herbs, and let it boil for 8-10 minutes until the carrots are al dente.
Remove the herbs and transfer the carrots to a clean glass.
Cover with the boiling liquid, and leave the carrots in the fridge for a day or two. (They are delicious from day one, but a rest may improve the taste further.)
Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves before serving.

Other preserves to supplement sweet and sour carrots 

Burrata with pickled aubergine

Make sauerkraut – sour cabbage

Preserving artichokes

Sweet and sour carrots

Recipe meringues

Meringa
Recipes for meringues with egg whites and sugar have been known for centuries, but the name meringue allegedly derives from the Swiss town Meiringen. In this town an Italian chef prepared the confection.According to a special edition of La Cucina Italiana on‘Dolci, torte & dessert’ from 2007, professionals distinguish between ‘Meringa italiana’ made with hot melted sugar and ‘Meringa francese’, where ordinary castor sugar is whipped with the egg whites.

I use the French version from a ‘let’s produce less dish washing’ point of view, and it works fine, as long as you remember to beat the egg whites soft to firm before adding the sugar. Otherwise the mixture will never get stiff.Another important rule for meringues making, which I failed to observe in this instance, is to let the cookies dry instead of baking them. As a result my meringues appear slightly tanned, while they should be white like a wedding dress. After all, the piercing sweetness of the meringue goes well with the grand romantic occasions – and an ordinary cup of coffee.

Ingredients
2 egg whites
100 g sugar

Preparation
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Add sugar and continue beating the mixture, until the peaks are stiff and stays in the bowl even if it is turned upside down.
Spoon the egg whites and sugar into a pastry bag (a bag of plastic, where you cut a corner also serves the purpose).
Make small tops on a pre-greased baking sheet.
Leave the meringues to dry in the oven at 100 C (210 F) for about an hour until they are light and crisp.

If you like this meringues recipe you might also like these other Italian cookies:

Caramel puffs

Torta Sbrisolona – huge polenta biscuit from Mantova

Halloween cookies recipe from Italy

Recipe meringues

Fresh ravioli with ricotta filling

Ravioli con ricotta
The secret behind fresh ravioli with ricotta filling and other good homemade pasta is hard work. You really have to knead the dough thoroughly for a long time in order to obtain a passable texture. That’s why pasta machines are a tremendous help.

Another secret is the absence of eggs – at least to begin with for the inexperienced pasta maker. Most pasta recipes operate with one egg for each serving, which would be enough put an entire family down with acute cholesterol chock. Especially, if you are Italian and eat pasta every day. In my experience, eggs tend to make the pasta heavy and soggy, while I prefer a lighter, fluffy version. The south Italian housewives I have consulted also ban the use of eggs, except perhaps for filled pasta, but they are not that orthodox in their pasta with or without eggs habits. Still, none of them would ever dream of adding salt to the dough. Pasta should be salted though the boiling water. Basta.

As long as you follow these three rules, the result will be truly awesome.

Ingredients
For the pasta:
250 g pasta flour
200 ml tap water

For the filling
150 g fresh ricotta
4 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tsp grated nutmeg

For the sauce
50 g shelled walnuts
1 garlic clove
50 ml olive oil
2 tbsp crunchy fried pancetta or prosciutto crudo in tiny cubes

Preparation
Make a volcano of flour on a clean table. Pour a little more than half the water in the middle of the mount and use a fork to stir in flour. Add more water gradually, till you have a tough dough. Use the heal of your hands when the fork is no longer useful and knead the dough together. Keep kneading for at least 10 minutes or use a pasta machine.

Run the dough through the pasta machine once. If the edges are frayed, add more water, and if the dough seems sticky, add more flour. Roll the pasta through the machine at least ten times at max width (to make up for ten minutes kneading).

Keep rolling the dough to a thin sheet, while you decrease the width gradually, one step at a time. Cut the pasta out in squares or circles.

Leave the pasta on wire rack covered by a clean tea towel.

Mix ricotta with grated parmesan and nutmeg for the filling.

Put the mixture in a plastic bag, cut off one corner, and place a top of filling on every other pasta square/circle. Cover with another pasta square/circle, and make sure to press the edges together. If the dough has the right texture, the pasta will close tight around the filling, but you can seal too dry pasta shapes with a drop of water.

For sauce pound walnuts and garlic in a mortar. Fry the mixture lightly in olive oil.
Fill a large pan with water and bring it to the boil. Add 1-2 tbsp salt. Boil the ravioli 3-4 minutes until they are al dente. Drain and place in a warm service dish with sauce and a topping of fried pancetta.

Other homemade pasta recipes to supplement fresh ravioli with ricotta filling:

Gorgonzola pasta

Homemade ravioli recipe with radicchio filling

Tasty pecorino stuffed ravioli from Sardinia – Culingionis

 

Fresh ravioli with ricotta filling

Photo of stracotto beef stew

Stracotto beef stew

Stracotto beef stew should be left to simmer for hours on the stove. The result is slow food of the unpretentious, old-fashioned kind.

How to Make Ice Cream in a Nutshell

How to Make Ice Cream in a Nutshell 

Coupelle con gelato
Home-made shells of candied nuts taste great and look dazzling. But they do require quite a lot of practice before you can serve ice cream in a nutshell.

I had to try this recipe three times, before the result was passable, but friends offered to help eat the mishaps and the taste was more than okay. In other words, the effort was not wasted.

The problem with home-made shells of candied nuts is that they tend to disintegrate, when you try to mould them into shape. Therefore it is extremely important to let the cakes cool to just the right temperature, before placing them over the bottom of a glass. And therefore I cheated by adding a little more flour and a little less butter to the recipe, and by using pieces of non-grease oven-paper to keep to act together.

With these small adjustment and a leaf of lemon balm, the dessert was all dressed up and ready to party.

Ingredients for 8 shells
2 dl (160 g) of sugar
1 tbsp butter
100 g finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp double cream

Preparation
Preheat oven to 200 C/390 F.
Leave the sugar to melt over low heat in a casserole. Add butter and make sure the mixture does not burn.
Remove the casserole from the heat and add cream, nuts and flour to make dough that is too firm to run.
Cut oven paper up in eight pieces of the four to an oven plate size. Place a spoonful of nut-dough on each piece and flatten it to a round wafer. (It will melt and spread further, when heated in the oven).
Bake the first four wafers in the oven for about 5 minutes until golden brown.
Place the wafers on a wire-rack to cool. In my kitchen it took exactly 3 minutes.
While it is still attached to the oven paper, place the wafers upside down over the bottom of a water glass. (It is an advantage to have more than two hands in this situation.) If the wafer has the right temperature and texture, it will slowly take shape after the glass. (If not, butter and nuts will float down and form an unshapely pile of crispy caramel on the table).
Repeat the process with the other four wafers.
Remove the oven paper when the shells have cooled completely.
Fill the baked nutshells with the best Italian, readymade ice cream you can find and serve with fruit and caramel or raspberry sauce.

Other great desserts apart from icecream in a nutshell 

Crostata di ricotta – Italian cheese cake

Caramel custard

Original Tiramisu recipe

Icecream in a nutshell