Stuffed breast of veal

Cima ripiena
This recipe for stuffed breast of veal  supposed to derive from Liguria, but I have left out the offal to make it less traditional but more mainstream.

Originally this recipe is supposed to derive from Liguria, where they have a pendant for brains, sweetbread and other exotic ingredients, if you are a stranger to offals. For this reason, and because I always seem to end up with much more stuffing than the meat pocket may possibly contain, I have weeded out about half the official ingredients, and still most people tend to like it.

I also replace the cut with a leaner kind of meat like rump or round steak, if the breast looks too fat, but this is a matter of taste, as some (mainly men) might find the dish too “dry”. Both ways it should be praised for looks. And it can be prepared well in advance.

Ingredients
Ca 1 kg veal steak without bones (breast, round or rump)
2 tbsp dried mixed mushrooms
1 carrot
1 clove of garlic
1 moderately thick slice of pancetta, prosciutto crudo (cured ham) or Italian sausage
2 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1 tbsp dried bread crumbs
1 egg
Fresh parsley and marjoram
Salt, pepper.

Vegetables for the broth eg. onion, leek, carrot, celery, herbs

Preparation
Soak the dried mushrooms for a couple of hours. Save the water for broth.
If you have not asked the butcher to cut a pocket in the meat, you do it yourself by making a horizontal incision into the middle of the steak with a sharp knife. The pocket should be as deep as possible.
Chop carrot, mushrooms, garlic, herbs and pancetta finely. (Bacon can be used as a pancetta substitute, though I find the taste too smoky)
Mix bread crumbs and parmesan with pine nuts, salt, pepper and all the finely chopped ingredients.
Stir in the beaten egg:
Fill the stuffing in the pocket in the meat and sew up the opening or tie it up with kitchen string.
Bring 2 litres of lightly salted water to the boil. Add whole onion, leek, carrot, bay leaf, herbs, pepper corn, soaking water from the mushrooms, etc. to make a broth.
Immense the stuffed veal in the broth and let it simmer gently for an hour and a half, or until tender.
Leave the meat in the broth to cool, before carving it in thin slices.

Run the broth through a sieve and use it to make risotto or soup for primi piatti.

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Stuffed breast of veal

Speckless Italians

I don’t think, I have ever encountered a population more obsessed with cleanliness than the Italians. Supermarket shelves and the cupboard below kitchen sinks in private homes boom with soap, soda, washing powder, cleaning agents and detergent for all intends and purposes. Magic concoctions that eat chalk, degrease cooking tiles, shine wooden, laminated or glass surfaces, remove damp spots or polish floors indoors and outdoors. As far as cleaning is concerned, Italians believe in efficiency, and to be efficient household products should be dedicated to one job only. Using universal mixtures that promise to clean everything indiscriminately is substandard and socially unacceptable.

Take a deep breath when you pass through a narrow street of old houses and inhale scent of artificial pine, lemon, lavender and eucalyptus characterizing the various detergents. And watch out for all the house-proud ladies who scrub the pavement outside their front door on a daily basis, before they empty their soapy water bucket in your shoes. Modern Italians like to keep the path clean.

With these experiences in mind, I was greatly surprised to read Charles Dickens description of the women of Genova in 1844.

According to Dickens’ ‘Pictures from Italy’, Italian women were “… very good-tempered, obliging, and industrious. Industry has not made them clean, for their habitations are extremely filthy, and their usual occupation on a fine Sunday morning, is to sit at their doors, hunting in each other’s heads. But their dwellings are so close and confined that if those parts of the city had been beaten down by Massena in the time of the terrible Blockade, it would have at least occasioned one public benefit among many misfortunes.”

It seems Italian cleanliness is not genetically or culturally defined after all, but a result of ordinary European progress, prosperity and increased focus on personal hygiene.

Photo of Vitello Tonnato - Veal in Tuna Sauce

Vitello Tonnato Recipe – Veal in Tuna Sauce

Veal in tuna sauce is an absolute classic in Italian cooking that never fails to please. Here’s the easiest and most fantastic vitello tonnato recipe.

Ligurian Easter pie

Torta pasqualina
Ligurian Easter pie adds a touch of bright spring colours to the traditional pasquetta picnics.  The recipe is included in several Italian cookbooks and with my usual craving for unnecessary hard work in the kitchen, I follow the most elaborate version, where the dough is prepared from scratch and rolled into numerous thin sheets placed on top of each other to provide the right, multilayered crispness.

I did, however, stop short after 4-5 sheets of dough, as the 33 layers prescribed by traditional recipes to mark the Christ’s 33 years of age, seemed excessive. Still, you can use ready-made puff pastry, or even better multiple layers of thin filo pastry to make the pie less heavy. Any which way, the torta pasqualina, which is best when served warm, will feed at least 8 people.

Ingredients
For the pastry
500 g flour
2 tbsp olive oil
250 ml water
Salt

For the filling
500 g chopped frozen spinach or 1 kilo fresh spinach
500 g ricotta
8 eggs
1 dl milk
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh bread crumbs
Olive oil
Marjoram, salt, pepper

Preparation
Make a heap of flour and a little salt on the table. Stir in olive oil and water and knead thoroughly till you have an elastic, smooth dough. Cut the dough in 8 pieces, and let it rest under a wet tea-towel, while you prepare the filling.

Clean the fresh spinach and give it a quick boil before chopping. If you are using frozen spinach, it should be thawed in a casserole. Make sure to drain all excess water from the spinach.

Mix spinach with generous amounts of marjoram, salt and pepper.

Soak the bread crumbs in milk.

Mix ricotta with 2 beaten eggs and the parmesan cheese and fold in the spinach.

Roll each of the 8 dough balls into very thin round sheets.

Grease a high pie dish with olive oil, and line it with a sheet of dough. Brush the first sheet of dough with olive oil, before adding the next pastry layer. Repeat 4 times.

Pour in half the filling and make 6 hollows in the filling with a spoon.

Break the eggs carefully and place one egg in each hollow. Top up with extra salt, pepper, parmesan and the remaining spinach/ricotta mixture.

Close the pie with 4 sheets of oil brushed dough, and roll the sides to seal.
Prick the surface with a pin (without puncturing the egg yolks) and brush with olive oil.

Bake the pie in a pre-heated oven (180°C/350°F) for about 1 hour, until golden brown.

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Ligurian Easter pie

Ligurian stockfish recipe

Stoccafisso
This Ligurian stockfish recipe is a stew made from dried or salted fish, tomatoes and potatoes.

It is last call for dried or salted cod bought in Southern Italy in the fall. Shop owners always find it hilarious to see Scandinavians stock up on a Scandinavian specialty in Italy, and they do not quite believe us when we say that dried fish costs three times as much, when bought 2 500 closer to its native waters. One of life’s small paradoxes.

As we don’t want to change a tenderloin steaks for preserved cod, we prefer to buy Norwegian fish to last the winter in Italy. It keeps fine in the refrigerator for a couple of months, and the craving for this kind of food passes with the winter.

This year I used the last baccala in a Ligurian recipe, according to which the fish should be boiled directly in the suace. Normally, I give it a boil and throw away the water, before mixing the fish with the other ingredients, but this had to be tried, and the result was unsurprisingly …. salty. Next year I think I will stick to my old habits and boil the cod a little on its own first.

Ingredients
500 g baccala, stockfish or other kind of dried salted cod
1 red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 celery stick
1 carrot
1 ltr vegetable stock
2 cans of tomatoes
5 potatoes
Olive oil, pepper, (salt)
Pine nuts, parsley or fresh basil

Preparation
Leave the fish under water for 24 hours to remove the salt. Change the water 2-3 times along the way.
Put the fish in boiling water for 5 minutes
Drain fish, remove skin and bones and cut it into fair sized cubes
Clean, peel and chop onion, garlic, celery and carrot finely and fry it in olive oil.
Add the cod and let it steam for a few minutes
Pour in stock and tomatoes, but remember it is not a soup.
Peel the potatoes, cut them in pieces, and add them to the pan, so they can help to thicken the sauce.
After 1-1½ hour the dish is ready to serve with good Italian bread and a sprinkling of pinoli, parsley and/or basil.

Great altenatives to this Ligurian stockfish recipe

Salmon Ceviche

Italian fishballs

Marinated anchovies

Sole with spinach and white sauce

Pollack with tomato sauce

stockfish recipe