Wednesday, 15 May 2013

ricotta dumplings

There are few things that remind me more of how much I love Italian food than the perfectly complimenting aromas from gently frying garlic, cooking canned tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Representing the colours of the Italian flag, these ingredients are some of the key vertebrae that make up the backbone of this cuisine and once my senses have clocked their presence, the anticipation of what delights will follow is almost frantic.

Italian cuisine is generally very simple, allowing quality ingredients to steal the limelight rather than dulling their impact with too much fuss. Despite this simplicity, it’s incredible just how many restaurants manage to get it wrong. Notice my restaurant review page – there isn’t a single Italian venue on there. I am yet to eat at a really good quality Italian restaurant in London that can be compared to the pastas and pizzas I’ve been fortunate enough to savour in Naples (so the bar is set pretty high). It’s relatively easy to quickly tot-up a hit-list of quality French restaurants (often high-end), or really good and reasonably priced Asian venues, for example. But finding an authentic trattoria that stays true to the food and uses quality fresh ingredients with everything homemade (including the mozzarella – it’s best eaten the day it’s made and it only takes a few hours to make from scratch), seems to be an impossible task. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places – if anyone does have recommendations for excellent Italians in London, please share them

Genarro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio

In the meantime, it’s necessary to make Italian food at home. And that’s no bad thing. In my opinion there’s no better inspiration than the dishes cooked from The Two Greedy Italians series starring Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carluccio – two clearly very close friends and evangelists of the cuisine. The passion and love they have for their food, the humour they use and the genuine chemistry between them on the screen is both completely inspiring and heart-warming. I honestly don’t think there’s a better cookery show on the box, and I watch a lot of them. Consequently, I have the recipe books from each of the two series and for a quick and simple meal, I opted for the ricotta dumplings. The slightly sweet cheese and tangy tomatoes combined with the yielding plumpness of the light dumplings and aromas from the garlic and basil present to you a plate of nothing other than comfort and delight. Fight these grey May skies and open your home to the tastes from the Amalfi coast.

Ricotta Dumplings

‘These little dumplings, made from a few staple Italian larder ingredients, are traditionally made in my home village of Minori on the feast day of the town’s patron saint’ – Gennaro Contaldo

For the dumplings
200g 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
225g ricotta
3 free-range egg yolks
30g freshly grated parmesan
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and black pepper

00 flour is very fine flour and is typically used when making pasta. You shouldn't have a problem finding it in the supermarket.

For the sauce

6 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled, cut into thick slices
1 chilli, sliced
2 x 400g tinned plum tomatoes, each tomato chopped in half
Few basil leaves

Mix the flour, ricotta, egg yolks, Parmesan, nutmeg and seasoning together in a large bowl to form a soft, moist dough. Tip the mixture out onto a floured work surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. Roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then cut into dumplings about 2cm/1in long. Cook the dumplings for 3-4 minutes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water.

Meanwhile for the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic and chilli for one minute, then add the plum tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in some of the torn basil leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the dumplings from the pan with a slotted spoon and mix them in with the tomato sauce. To serve, spoon the dumplings onto a warmed serving plate and sprinkle over the remaining basil leaves.

Alfiyet olsun.

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