Anne Kennedy: Rewrite the rules
Don’t accept imitations — Anne Kennedy has simple yet stunning Italian recipes
If you think that battered cod and chips or a pasta dish with chicken and mushrooms bathed in cream is Italian food, then think again. I run Greatfood.ie, one of the country's largest food and wine websites and, last year, I teamed up with award-winning chef Marco Roccasalvo from Campo de' Fiori restaurant in Bray, Co Wicklow, to collaborate on a book with 40 authentic Italian recipes.
"We would never use chicken in a pasta dish in Italy," says Marco, who comes from just outside Rome. In fact, he had never seen fish and chips, that Italian-Irish staple, until he came to live here in Ireland.
Our mission in writing the book, 'Inside the Italian Kitchen', was to show people how to cook authentic dishes that rely on easily found ingredients, and are simple and quick to cook.
"Because you use so few ingredients, the main thing is that you use the best olive oil, the finest tinned tomato, an excellent cured meat or a good steak," says Marco.
For 'Weekend' magazine, I chose a simple meal of Caprese salad. It's so easy to make and the tastes will lift even the most jaded palate.
The pasta is fiery and uses the simplest of ingredients with lots of flavour bursting through. If you don't fancy a full plate, why not serve a half-portion for lunch, or at dinner before the main course, just as they would do in Italy (pasta is never served as a main course)?
Keep the rest for lunch in the office tomorrow.
'Inside the Italian Kitchen', €20, on sale at Greatfood.ie and from leading bookshops countrywide
SPAGHETTI AL FUOCO
‘Fuoco' means ‘at the fire', so this dish has to be hot and spicy. You need to find the ripest, juiciest tomatoes. It's important that you cut each cherry tomato into eight pieces so they are the right size for this dish. Serves four.
YOU WILL NEED
500g ripe cherry tomatoes
20 leaves basil, torn
100g ricotta salata (salted ricotta)
100g Pecorino Romano, grated
1 tsp chilli flakes
30g fresh parsley, chopped finely
1 tsp dried oregano
150ml extra virgin olive oil
A good grinding of black pepper
½ tsp caster sugar
Salt (7g for each litre of pasta boiling
Cut each cherry tomato into quarters, and cut each quarter in half again. Mix with the rest of the ingredients, except the spaghetti and salt (leave some ricotta aside also to put on top of the dish). Leave to marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan, add the salt and the pasta and cook until al dente (nine to 12 minutes). Drain the pasta well and add to the bowl with all the ingredients and toss. Top each dish with some ricotta and a drizzle of olive oil.
Caprese is one of the classic starters of Italian cuisine. In Italy, it is eaten when the weather is hot, and fresh, light dishes are needed. Caprese is more common abroad than in Italy, but very often what is called Caprese in restaurants is a shadow of the dish eaten in Italy.
To get a perfect result, you really need fresh Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (a good cow mozzarella is also fine), really ripe red tomatoes and fresh basil. Serves four.
YOU WILL NEED
4 ripe tomatoes (vine tomatoes are
good for this dish)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (if
you like it)
20 small leaves fresh basil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Remove the mozzarella from the fridge one hour before serving and leave it sitting in the whey. Mozzarella and tomatoes are better when they are served at room temperature. The basil should be stored in cold water with ice cubes to keep it alive and to hold its deep-green colour.
If you have guests, you could prepare one shared plate and leave everybody to serve themselves, or you can prepare individual plates. Remove the mozzarella from the whey and cut into slices or tear into pieces. Lay on a serving plate.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with a pinch of salt and add these and the basil to the plate. Drizzle the dish with a little extra-virgin olive oil and, if you wish, some black pepper.
Serve some bread on the table to soak up the juices. You can also alternate slices of tomato with mozzarella and basil leaves.
TORTA RICOTTA E CIOCCOLATO
YOU WILL NEED
For the dough
1 tsp orange zest
A tiny pinch of seeds from a vanilla pod
(just a hint)
2 yolks from medium eggs
250g plain flour (00 for pizza works
For the filling
250g fresh ricotta
35g icing sugar
2 pinches cinnamon
120g dark chocolate, cut into small
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Mix the butter, sugar, salt, orange zest and vanilla at a medium speed in a food processor until well combined.
Add the egg yolks and increase the speed. Reduce the speed to medium and add the flour all together. Mix until the flour is combined. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill.
Grease a round baking tin with butter and dust with flour. Divide the dough into two. Roll out one portion to cover the base including the sides of the tin. Roll the second piece to fit the top. Lay the large piece of pastry in the tin and prick with a fork. Bake blind for 10 minutes.
Put the ricotta in a bowl and mix with the sugar, cinnamon and chocolate. Pour into the blind-baked pastry case. Cover with the pastry lid. Bake for another eight minutes. Remove from the oven, and dust with some icing sugar. Serve cold.