Tag Archives: vegetarian

Mamma Rosa’s Zucchini Ripieni (stuffed zucchini)

Mamma Rosa has been great at catering for my vegacquarian Marito over the years. Though really, in the world of Southern Italian cooking, this isn’t hard. A lot of Southern Italian is old style “cucina povera”, or peasant food, as meat was considered a real luxury, and vegetarian anyway. That is the type of food I ate all of my childhood, and what I often now make my own children. The decades following the second world war, when my parents grew up, were a time of terrible poverty in Italy’s south, hence the name of this type of cooking. My father tells the story of him as a very young boy, sneaking out to the chicken coop to take the eggs, eating them raw, so desperate were the times and so severe his hunger. My nonna would go to collect the eggs wonder and why the chickens weren’t laying. He tells it with a laugh, the story of a mischievous boy who tricked his mother, but there is sadness there too.

But I’ve meandered a little. Flipping through Mamma Rosa’s little book this weekend, I felt like making this stuffed zucchini recipe of hers. Like many of the recipes, it is a little light on detail and quantities, as when she is making something it is generally done by feel and taste, and she found them difficult to scribe for me. She has always used the light green zucchini variety for this dish – the variety you’ll see growing in Italian backyards around Sydney in the Summer – and I think the shape is better for this recipe. The number of zucchini is approximate, it really depends on the size. Mine were on the smaller size so I used eight.  Her quantity of cheese is “a piacere”, a phrase you see a  lot in Italian recipes.  It means “to your liking”. I used about half a cup, but use more or less as you please!

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Ingredients
6-8 light green Italian zucchini
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 leek, white part only, diced
50ml olive oil
1 cup aborio rice
750ml stock
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
Grated parmesan cheese, “a piacere”
3 eggs
Salt for seasoning

Making them

1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil.  Cut the zucchini in half, and place in the boiling water for 4-5 minutes so that they soften slightly.  Drain and once they are cool enough to handle, using a knife and/or a spoon scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin. (This step is rather fiddly, you want a nice thin casing, but not too thin so that it doesn’t hold). Set the flesh aside in a colander to drain.  Place the hollowed out zucchini in a baking dish or a tray lined with baking paper, and season with salt.

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2. In a pan, heat the olive oil then saute the onion and leek until softened. Squeeze the zucchini flesh to remove any excess water, chop coarsely then add to the pan and continue to cook for a couple of minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat, then gradually add the stock as if making a risotto until cooked. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the parsley and parmesan and stir through. Taste for seasoning and add salt if required. In a bowl, beat two of the eggs and stir through.

3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Fill each of the zucchini cases with rice. (If you were preparing ahead, after stuffing you could place them in the fridge for cooking later). Beat the remaining egg and brush over the top. Spray some foil with olive oil, cover, and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 20 minutes. Serve.

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Spaghetti with zucchini and baby spinach

This recipe of Adam Liaw’s that appeared in the paper a few weeks ago has become a regular one in the Napoli household. All that lovely green! The original recipe is here but I’ve made some minor tweaks. I’ve upped the quantities to make it a main course instead of an entree, and I’ve swapped some of the butter for olive oil as I found it a bit too buttery. I used a mandoline with the finest Julien setting for the zucchini. And I made it with wholemeal spaghetti which added to the flavour. You could probably also add some nuts to this, either toasted pine nuts, some slivered almonds or chopped pistachio. You could make this vegan by using all olive oil instead of butter and omitting the cheese.
Serves 4

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Ingredients
40g butter
250g baby spinach
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 medium/large zucchini, cut into matchsticks
salt for seasoning
500g Barilla wholemeal spaghetti
Grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Making it
1. Heat the butter in a pan over low heat, saute the spinach until wilted, season then transfer to a small food processor and puree until smooth

2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frypan, saute onion until softened, then add zucchini and toss for a few minutes until softened. Drain the spaghetti and add to the frypan, season then stir through the spinach puree an combine well so that all the spaghetti is well coated. Serve with parmesan cheese as desired.

Mamma Rosa’s rice balls (polpetti di riso)

Mamma Rosa rules supreme in the “rice ball” world, as we call them.  For as long as I can remember, a plate of steaming hot rice balls appears at any family get together for us all to snack on before the main event.  Countless times over the years she’s been asked to make them for parties of family friends and relatives too.

One Sunday I say to the Marito “I’m going to have a crack at making them myself”.  There is a sharp intake of breath – it is like I am committing a transgression, or heading into some seriously dangerous territory.  I use the recipe she scribed in my little book. I need about another twenty years practice to get them like hers, but I’ll get there.  These are best if you cook the rice a day ahead of making them.

Ingredients
500g long grain rice
200g grated Parmeggiano
5 eggs, lightly beaten
Finely chopped parsley, to taste
Breadcrumbs
Salt
Oil for frying

Making them
1. Cook the rice in a large pot of well salted water. Once cooked, let strain for at least an hour then put the rice in  a large bowl. If you are making them on the day, wait till the rice is completely cooled, otherwise put the rice in the fridge for assembly the next day.

2. To the rice, add the eggs, cheese, parsley and season.  Combine well with your hands.  Once combined, start shaping the mixture into rissoles then roll in breadcrumbs to coat. Once formed, put them in the fridge for at least an hour before cooking.

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Here are my uneven, awkward, and slightly too big ones

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Here are Mamma Rosas petite uniform ones

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3. Heat the oil in a heavy based frypan and fry gently until golden. Serve hot.

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Roasted capsicums with breadcrumbs and olives

This simple dish comes courtesy of Rosa’s Farm, a lovely cookbook with recipes you would actually cook, and not just imagine cooking.  It can be served as part of an antipasto or as a side dish with a main course. In the recipe she suggests putting the capsicums on a baking tray; I put it in a baking oven-to-table dish so that I could prepare and serve all in one dish. I also upped the quantity of parsley

roastcapsicum

Ingredients
6-8 red capsicums
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3/4 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/3 cup chopped continental parsley

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 180C

2. Cut the capsicums, remove seeds and cut into strips. Place in a bowl, add oil and season to taste with salt and pepper, mixing well. Place on a baking tray or in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes – stir them three or four times while cooking

3. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the olives and breadcrumbs, mix and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until capsicum are tender

4. To serve, sprinkle with parsley

Casarecce with asparagus and baked ricotta

With the arrival of Spring comes an abundance of Australian grown asparagus, rather than the wilted imported stuff we get a lot of the year.   Often I gently bake it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but that evening I felt like throwing it in some pasta.  I chose casarecce, but any short pasta will work well.  The ricotta can be done a day ahead. Serves four.

asparaguscasarecce

Ingredients
250g fresh ricotta, well drained
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
3 bunches of asparagus, cut into 3cm length
500g casarecce, or pasta of your choice

Breadcrumb topping
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbps olive oil
Half a cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tbps finely graded lemon zest (optional, or to taste)

Making it
1. For the ricotta, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and combine. Place in a mini cake tin or loaf pan sprayed with olive oil, and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool in tin then remove and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. For the breadcrumb topping, heat the olive oil in a small pan, and gently fry the bread crumbs until golden and crunchy. Place in a bowl and allow to cool. Add the parsley, parmesan and lemon zest and combine.

3. Blanch the asparagus for a minute in a pot of boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside. You can then use this water to cook your pasta

4. While the pasta is cooking, in a frypan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the asparagus for 3 or so minutes. Add the drained cooked pasta once read, crumble in the baked ricotta, season and drizzle with a little more olive oil if desired, and serve. Top with the desired amount of the breadcrumb mix.

Caponata – Italian sweet and sour

Caponata is a humble but delicious Sicilian eggplant dish.  While the origin of the name is unknown, it is considered by many Siciliani to be a core dish of the region’s cuisine . Typically served at room temperature or even cold, it makes a great side dish for fish or grilled chicken.  Or even for breakfast on some crusty bread with a fried egg.   The quantity below is enough as a side dish for 8-10, however it keeps well in the fridge for a good few days if you’re keen on making a batch and eating it gradually. I had some the following day from the refrigerator and it was even tastier with more developed flavours. Variations on the theme – some versions add toasted pinenuts and sultanas. Also add some fresh basil if you have it on hand.

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Ingredients
4 medium eggplant
Salt
Olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large brown onion, diced
2 cups celery, cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup green Sicilian olives, pipped and quartered
2 tablespoons salted capers, well rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon raw sugar
50ml red wine vinegar
1 tin peeled tomatoes

Making it
1. Cut eggplant into 2cm cubes, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20-25 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels.
2. Put a generous amount of olive oil in a frypan, heat, and fry the eggplant in batches until golden and soft but not collapsing. Line a colander with paper towels and drain the eggplant, using more paper towels as needed.


3. In a heavy based frypan, heat the 2 tablespoons of extra olive oil and saute the onion until soft, then add the celery and saute for another 5-7 minutes. Add the eggplant, capers olives, sugar, red wine vinegar and tomatoes, gently combine and simmer on low heat, covered, for 10-12 minutes
4. Remove from frypan and place in a serving bowl and allow to cool

 

Vegetable terrine

Got a vegetarian coming over? They will love this. You could also use some semi dried tomatoes chopped through it. Slices of baked salted ricotta instead of bocconcini would work well, or no cheeses at all if you prefer dairy free. Prepare the day before serving.

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Ingredients
2 large eggplants
3 zucchini
3 red capsicum
Olive oil
Caramalised balsamic
Bunch of basil
5 large bocconcini thinly sliced
Salt

Making it
1. Slice the eggplants lengthways in 7mm slices, brush liberally with olive oil and chargrill (a mandolin and George Foreman makes short work of this!). Season the slices as you take them off the grill.

2. Similarly slice the zucchini, brush with olive oil, and chargrill. Season.

3. Meanwhile, char the capsicum under the grill, turning gradually so all blackened. Remove from grill and once cool enough, peel off the skin, remove seeds and tear into strips. Season.

4. Spray a loaf pan with olive oil and line with glad wrap. Line with eggplant such that there is some eggplant hanging over the sides. (Set aside one slice of eggplant for the end, any remaining slices can be used throughout). Gradually layer the zucchini, capsicum, basil, bocconcini, and any remaining eggplant, with dots of caramelised balsamic as you go. Once all the layers are done, fold the eggplant over and place the last slice of eggplant on top. Seal with the glad wrap, place a plastic lid or tray that fits snugly inside the pan, and weigh down with some canned tomatoes or fruit and place in the refrigerator overnight. You may need to strain excess juices a couple of times.

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5. Once ready to serve, turn out onto a platter and garnish with basil and slice.

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