When in Rome
Aussie chef Bill Granger gives ever-popular Italian recipes a new twist and shares some of his trademark simple, yet always flavoursome, dishes
Bill Granger is an Australian restaurateur and self-taught cook whose relaxed and joyful approach to food is an essential element of his enduring popularity.
In his new book, the best-selling TV cook brings his trademark fresh flavours and easy-going recipes to the much-loved food of Italy.
The cornerstone of Bill's cooking is also the cornerstone of the best of Italian cuisine: simple, flavoursome dishes with short ingredient lists and uncomplicated methods, centred on produce that is easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
Better still, those ingredients don't have to just be tomato, mozzarella and basil, the usual suspects of Italian cooking, but neither do they need to be deli-sourced truffles or champagne-priced olive oil. Bill offers a bold new twist on this hugely popular cuisine.
There's a Roman saying along the lines of "the more you pay, the less well you eat"; Bill shows you how to take common ingredients from your supermarket and achieve healthy and satisfying Italian-inspired dishes.
"These people really know how to live," says Bill who remarks that every time he visits Italy "the Italians look as if they're thoroughly enjoying life as stylish extras on the set of 'Roman Holiday'.
"They don't suck coffee from disposable sippy cups on the bus; they lean against marble bars and drink tiny grown-up espressos. They don't dash down takeaway burgers over computer keyboards and sitting down to eat well with family and friends takes high priority."
None of the recipes in Bill's 'Italian Food' are complicated, but they will lift any meal from basic to bellissimo.
Artichoke and ham lasagne
By the time that I've bolognesed, bechameled and layered, I find that a traditional lasagne takes a whole Sunday afternoon to complete. I love the whole process when I'm in the mood, but I'm also a fan of the shortcut – and this is a shortcut that, I think, surpasses the original.
The flavours are inspired by ham and artichoke pizza. You could use thin slices of prosciutto crudo here (such as Parma ham or San Daniele), but I prefer cooked ham (sold as prosciutto cotto in Italy).
YOU WILL NEED
680ml bottle passata
315g fresh lasagne sheets
220g sliced good-quality cooked ham
3 x 125g balls mozzarella cheese, torn
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
430g jar artichokes in olive oil, drained and halved
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ gas mark 7. To start assembling the lasagne, season the passata with sea salt and spoon a small amount into the base of a 20cm x 30cm ovenproof dish.
Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets, quickly dipping the sheets in a bowl of cold water before using them.
Spoon over one-third of the remaining passata, then half the ham slices, 1 of the mozzarellas and 1 tablespoon of parmesan. Cover with another layer of dipped lasagne sheets, then top the sheets with half the remaining passata, all the ham, 1 mozzarella and 1 tablespoon of parmesan. Add the final layer of lasagne sheets.
Scatter the artichokes over the top of the final sheets and then spoon over the last of the passata, the mozzarella and the parmesan.
Bake this for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and golden.
Orecchiette, sprouting broccoli and chilli
YOU WILL NEED
350g dried orecchiette
350g sprouting broccoli, roughly chopped
5 tbsp olive oil
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
90g fine fresh breadcrumbs
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
Tip in the orecchiette and broccoli and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente. Drain.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and starts sizzling, stir in the chilli flakes and half the garlic.
Tip in the breadcrumbs and fry, stirring, until golden. Transfer to a plate and return the pan to the heat.
Heat the remaining oil and garlic over high heat.
Stir for a few seconds, then add the drained pasta and toss until well coated, breaking up the broccoli.
Serve scattered with the golden breadcrumbs and parmesan.
Mozzarella, roasted pepper and caper pizza
YOU WILL NEED
Polenta, for dusting
Plain flour, for dusting
Basic pizza dough (see below)
4 tbsp passata
4 roasted red peppers in olive oil, drained and cut into wide strips
2 x 125g balls mozzarella cheese, sliced
2 tbsp capers, drained
Handful rocket leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil, to drizzle
Preheat the oven to 250°C/gas mark 9 and dust four 30cm pizza trays or two large oven trays with polenta. Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Turn out the pizza dough and knead for 1 minute to knock back, then divide into 4 pieces. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Flatten out one piece of dough into a rough circle with the palm of your hand. Gently roll out to a 30cm circle and transfer to a prepared tray.
Spread a tablespoon passata onto the pizza base with the back of a spoon and top with a quarter of each topping – the peppers, mozzarella and capers.
Bake for 8–10 minutes, until the base is coloured and crisp. Serve topped with rocket and a drizzle of olive oil.
Basic pizza dough
YOU WILL NEED
2 tsp dried instant yeast
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing and brushing
½ tbsp honey
375g strong white bread flour
1 tsp sea salt
Pour 250–300ml tepid water into a small bowl, sprinkle in the yeast, add the olive oil and honey, then whisk with a fork until dissolved. Set aside.
Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture. Bring together to form a soft dough, then turn out onto a dusted work surface and knead well for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly greased large bowl and brush the top with a little olive oil. Cover with oiled cling film and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes, or until doubled in size. Makes dough for 4 pizzas