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Fettuccine ai funghi porcini – Pasta with porcini mushrooms

This is one of those recipes that proves that it can be easy to put a fantastic dish on the table with minimum effort.  Key to the success is, as often, the quality of the ingredients, in this case fresh porcini mushrooms, and home made egg pasta.  If you do not want to make your own pasta then buy the best quality you can find – either fresh of dried.  Make sure to buy a ribbon shaped pasta, like fettuccine, tagliatelle or even pappardelle.

This dish does not need a sprinkling of cheese.


  • 300 g fettuccine or other ribbon shaped pasta
  • 300 g porcini mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 glass of dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • peperoncini (chili pepper flakes)
  • sea salt
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan.  Add the mushrooms, the garlic, the rosemary, the peperoncini and the salt.  Fry for 5 minutes, then add the white wine.  Let simmer for another 5 minutes so that the wine can evaporate.  In the mean time cook the pasta al dente, drain and add to the frying pan.  Toss to mix thoroughly, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve at once.

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Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Photo credits: rdpeyton

This pasta recipe is considered a classic, although it is fairly recent. Artusi does not mention it, and the first written referral dates from 1961. From then on, the recipe spreads quite quickly.

Puttana literally means whore, and so people have come up with interesting theories about the origin of the name: preparing the dish to lure in customers with the smell; the dish can be assembled quickly, between two clients, and so on. But just maybe, the name simply comes from another Italian word, puttanata, which translates as rubbish.

It certainly is a quick and easy recipe, with the added bonus that it can be made without any fresh ingredients.


  • 400g dried spaghetti
  • 2 cloves of garlic,
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tomatoes, diced, or a 400g can peeled tomatoes, with their juice
  • 50g anchovy fillets, without the oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 100g black olives


Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the garlic and the anchovies and fry gently till the anchovies have ‘melted’. Don’t let the garlic turn brown. Add the tomatoes, bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add the other ingredients (capers, oregano and olives) and let simmer for another 5 minutes.

In the mean time, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta al dente. Drain, and mix with the sauce. Serve immediately.

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Spinaci saltati – Sauteed spinach with garlic

Whether spinach is as healthy as people told me when I was a child – I don’t know, but it surely has become a favourite. The Italian way with spinach is quite simple. The biggest job is properly cleaning and rinsing the spinach. Do use fresh spinach for this dish.


  • 1 kilo fresh spinach, cleaned and rinsed with cold water
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Heat a big pot over medium heat. Throw in the spinach with the water that clings to it. Cover the pot and steam till the spinach has wilted. Drain in a colander. Heat the olive oil in the pot, add the garlic cloves and let infuse for a few minutes (don’t let the garlic get brown). In the mean time you can chop the spinach coarsely if the leaves are too big. Then add to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and stir. Serve at once.

Try this alternative: add 2 anchovies fillets to the oil with the garlic, and let them melt completely. Do not add any salt. Serve on crostini or bruscbette.

Italians like to add some fresh lemon juice at the table, which is very nice indeed. Try it.

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Minestrone d’inverno – Winter minestrone

This is one of those Italian words that doesn’t need a translation: it has become standard vocabulary. Translated it means “big soup”: minestra becomes minestrone, just like cucina becomes cucinone: big kitchen.

So, why is this called a big soup then? Quite simply because so much ingredients go into it that it is actually a meal in itself. Therefore minestrone is usually served as the main course in the evening, and never as a primo: the soup just is too big for that!

There is no definitive recipe for minestrone: everybody has a secret, or adds her own touch, recipes vary from region to region, and from season to season. Minestrone should always be made with fresh, seasonal vegetables. So do not try to make the recipe for minestrone from your favorite cookbook in the winter when it calls for ripe tomatoes and zucchini. Stick to the season!

These are the basics: stick to them and you will get your minestrone right each time, whatever the ingredients or season.

  • sauté the vegetables and herbs in olive oil untill soft
  • add the water or broth and let simmer for 45 minutes
  • the more different vegetables you use, less will be the need for broth
  • pancetta adds extra depth and taste to the soup
  • if you have some Parmigiano-Reggiano rind at hand, then add this to your soup
  • a short type of pasta is usually added to the soup; sometimes rice is used
  • minestrone usually gets a finishing touch at the table; this can be pesto in summer (Liguarian habit), olive oil or some grated cheese, black pepper. Avoid using both olive oil and cheese.
  • you can add a slice of toasted bread if you want
Here is the recipe for a simple, basic winter minestrone, using easily availble ingredients. Don’t be put of by the long list of ingredients: you can get almost all of them at your greengrocer: one stop shopping!
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 big branches of celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 branch rosemary
  • 150 gr pancetta,diced
  • 250 gr dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked
  • 2 big potatoes, diced
  • 500 gr leaves, preferably cavolo nero, (otherwise use spinach, or the outer leaves of savoy cabbage) shredded
  • broccoli, cut up in florets
  • 100 gr rind of parmigiano-reggiano (optional)
  • 150 gr short pasta, such as ditalini, stelle, orzo
  • sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a big soup pot. Add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic, the herbs and the pancetta and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and black pepper. Add the cooking water of the white beans. Bring to the boil and add the leaves, broccoli, potatoes and the cheese rind. Top up with water or broth so that all the vegatables are covered. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for another 15 minutes or untill the pasta is al dente. Finally, add the cooked beans and let them heat through in the soup.
Serve the soup with extra virgin olive oil of the new season, OR (not and) grated parmigiano-reggiano
The minestrone will even taste better next day, and heated up, you can tell your guests they’re having ribollita.

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Ognissanti – All Saint’s day

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