Thursday, 22 November 2007

Little Foodies Italy & Happy Thanksgiving

Until the end of the nineties (literally), I hadn't been to Italy. So I thank my lucky stars that we decided to visit Sorrento for the Millenium New Year. For a first visit it couldn't have been more perfect. Driving along the Amalfi Coast towards Sorrento was everything that you could have wished for the start of the celebrations. Italian people have a passion for life that is definitely infectious. It was cold but sunny and crisp and that seemed to add to the romance of it all. With the low light that comes with Winter the lighting was amazing, making all colours seem brighter and truly more beautiful. The food - I can't do justice with words alone. I have goosebumps just thinking about it all. I'm so SO glad that is how we spent such a momentous occasion and New Year's Eve has never been the same since.

I think most people now eat Italian food of some sort on a regular basis, or at the very least once in a while. Pasta has become a staple store cupboard ingredient for everybody with children (well maybe not everybody), and pizza is definitely another favourite.

I'm sure it wont be a surprise that a lot of our first meals here include spaghetti. Inspired by the penne alla senese recipe (penne with sausage, walntus and cream) from Twelve by Tessa Kiros and the Linguine alla carbonara di salsiccia recipe (sausage carbonara) by Jamie Oliver from Jamie's Italy, we made the following.

Creamy Sausage Meatball Pasta

Creamy Sausage Meatball Pasta
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2lb or 250g good sausagemeat
a large handful of cubed pancetta
2 tablespoons of olive oil
A glug of brandy (about an egg cup size amount)
1 carton of double cream (which equates to roughly just over 1 US size cup)

This is the method we used.
With wet hands make small meatballs (the size of large grapes).
Gently fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes until they start to colour.
Add the sausage meatballs and pancetta, fry for approximately 10 minutes. Shaking the pan regularly, and turning the meatballs if necessary to make sure they colour all over.
Turn the heat up as high as possible, wait for about 20 seconds and then add the brandy.
Cook for 1 minute and then add the cream. Cook for a couple of minutes and then serve over pasta of your choice. We chose spaghetti.

A Little and Small favourite - Spaghetti with Meatballs and Passata

I'd bought about 500g / 1lb of sausagemeat so with the rest I made more meatballs and did one of Little and Small's favourites. It's quick and so easy! Spaghetti with Meatballs and Passata. Make the meatballs in the same way as above, fry with a little onion and garlic. Throw some passata into the pan, heat through and serve with spaghetti.

Note: For recipes that require sausages all of these books suggest Italian sausages. I've never seen an Italian Sausage for sale in England - ever! Jamie Oliver does at least suggest good Cumberland Sausages if you can't get hold of Italian Sausages. I used decent sausagemeat from our local butcher.

Stracotto di manzo (beef braised in red wine)

I also made Stracotto di manzo (beef braised in red wine) from Twelve by Tessa Kiros. Which requires slow cooking beef and carrots in red wine and tomato puree for hours. The only thing I did differently was used chunks of braising steak instead of using a whole piece of meat and I didn't puree the carrots. It was delicious and loved by all. I just stopped for a break and had the leftovers for my lunch.

Garlic Mushrooms and Spaghetti

Another easy dish. Peel and slice some garlic, thinly slice some mushrooms, gently fry in olive oil and then serve with Spaghetti. If you have any, a sprinkling of parsley would be great.

Also for those in the UK, have you seen the website ? It's a website that has the details for all the major online shopping supermarkets. It compares the prices and tells you who will give you the best value for what you want. All you do is register, fill your trolley/select the products you want. It then checks and compares. You then send the trolley to the supermarket of your choice. Couldn't be simpler. They've also got a health checker which gives the nutritional information of most foods and suggest healthier swaps. Worth checking out if you'd like to save a few pennies or get healthier meal suggestions. They even have their own blog. My hubby used mysupermarket sometime last year and told me I should use it. Until recently I'd put it to the back of my mind but then I used it and it really is easy!

Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!


Freya and Paul said...

A delicious selection of Italian goodies! I have both Jamies and Tessas books and drool over the pictures often! I have even made the Meatball Carbonara using Wild Boar once. Paul loved it but I found the taste of the Boar a little strong. I think the original version was best!!

Aimée said...

My, you have been cooking up a storm! Every dish looks so good! I just picked up some Italian sausages and may have to try one of these recipes out.

Kelly-Jane said...

Happy Thanksgiving =)

Some great Italian cooking going on there, I've not used Twelve as much as I'd like yet, but her recipes are always fabulous! Sausage meatballs, mmmmm!

farmingfriends said...

These meals look delicious.I will be trying the first one.
Sara from farmingfriends

Nora B. said...

Hi Amanda,
Your first trip to Italy sounds so romantic. And look at all those delicious meals you've made. i would like to make stracotto di manzo.

Have a good weekend ahead!

x nora

Cynthia said...

Oh my goodness, I was here thinking that I should make up my mind which one I'd like to try but I can't just choose one. Love the spread hon. Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family too.

Marie said...

Oh boy Amanda, you have some seriously good looking food here today! You can get Italian sausages at good Italian Deli's sometimes and my boss sometimes brings some back from London when she has been in to town shopping. I think Harrods might even stock them. I have to say that all of Tessa Kiros' recipes are exceptional. I have never tried one yet that wasn't absolutely delicious!

Bellini Valli said...

Every New Years from now on will be anti-climatic. You and me both will wish we were in Italy driving along the Amalfi Coast. They have several cooking schools there...wink..wink...

veron said...

Oh my, what a feast. Love how lusciuos those meatballs look. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Freya, wild board sounds good. I've bought some venison sausages to do a sausage and lentil dish. I'm hoping they're nicer than the last venison sausages I had a few years ago.

Hi Aimee, I want to try an Italian Sausage to see what the difference is.

Hi Kelly-Jane, and to you too. I'd not cooked from it all until this week so quite glad we're doing Italy.

Hi Sara, I'm sure you'll have excellent sausagemeat from the farm.

Hi Nora, it really was. Made me feel all nostalgic thinking about it.

Hi Cynthia, and to you too.

Hi Marie, I think the nearest Italian deli to here would be in London. It's a bit of way to go just for sausage.

Hi Bellini, Wont we just. I'd love to go to a cookery school in another country.

Hi Veron, hope you had a good one too.

Thank you all for your comments.
Amanda x

Truffle said...

Oh Amanda, what fabulous recipes! The photos are just wonderful too!

Pat said...

Amanda, I love Italian foods!!! Especially pasta of all sorts. I have severaly Italian cookery books and our Favourite restaurant is Anacapri a little Italian place in London. I wrote about it on my blog. If you ever get to Marlybone area look them up. You will be glad you did. A little piece of Italy here in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving. they all look and sound deliciousl. I love pasta and you have just made me decide what I am going to cook for my lunch today - M not at home, so pasta it is.
Love you

Annemarie said...

I hadn't thought about how Italian food/pastas are often kids earliest and best loved meals, but it certainly speaks to how basic and instinctually tasty Italian ingredients are. Lovely memory you have of visiting Italy for the first time...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Ah, a bowl of that Garlic Mushroom for me please! Looks like heaven.

Cakespy said...

I can't decide which dish looks the yummiest. I love Italian sausage, so this is definitely going on the bookmarks!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Truffle, Thank you!

Hi Pat, Thanks for the heads up.

Hi Mum, I always forget that M doesn't really like pasta. I always think everybody likes pasta.

Hi Annemarie, thank you. You're right. The basic ingredients are so good that any meal is bound to be good.

Hi Tanna, You'd always be welcome at our table.

Hi Cakespy, Thanks for dropping by. I just checked out your lovely blog. Love the drawings.

Thank you for your comments.
Amanda x


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