Italian recipes

Bellarome has a passion for the Mediterranean diet and Italian cuisine and shares with you here some of our favourite recipes from Italy so you can create them at home. You can also check our blog, where we regularly post recipes.

If you would like to learn more about Italian cooking, why not book a cooking class in Italy?

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Almond biscotti

Biscotti are crunchy biscuits, typically flavoured with nuts, which are thought to originate from Prato in Tuscany. The secret to the crunch in Italian biscotti is that the biscuits are twice baked. These almond biscotti are great to dip into hot drinks and make a welcome accompaniment to after-dinner coffee. They also make a pretty, home-made gift!

Ingredients
110 g plain flour
¾ level tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
25 g ground almonds
50 g almonds, skins on
75 g golden caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
a few drops almond extract

Preparation method
Pre-heat the oven to 170 °C (gas mark 3) and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper. The follow these steps:

1. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl, then add the ground and whole almonds and sugar. Give it a good mix with a large spoon, then add the beaten egg and the almond extract. Mix again to combine the ingredients.

2. Once mixed, use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a smooth dough. For biscotti it is generally best to use a spoon and your hands rather than a food processor, which could end up crushing up the whole almonds.

3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and, using your hands, roll it into a log about 28 cm long. Put it on the baking tray and bake for 30 minutes.

4. Allow the biscuit log to cool completely on a cooling rack and reduce the oven temperature to 150 °C (gas mark 2).

5. Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut the biscotti into slightly diagonal slices (about 1 cm wide). Then place the cut bicuits back on the baking tray (use more lining paper if necessary) and bake for another 30 minutes until pale gold and crisp.

6. Transfer them to a cooling rack and see how long they last!

Never been to Tuscany, the home of biscotti, Chianti wine and the famous Tuscan bean soup? Check out our holidays to Tuscany now!
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Sicilian aubergine stew (Caponata)

Caponata originates from southern Italy, where it's eaten as a warm side dish or a cold antipasto. There are different methods of making it, but for the best caponata the quality of the ingredients is the most important thing - choose firm aubergines and ripe tomatoes (all-the-better if they are sourced from Italy)!

Ingredients
Olive oil
2 Large aubergines, cut into large chunks
1 tsp Dried oregano
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 Cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 Small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stalks finely chopped (keep the leaves and stalks separate)
2 tbsp Salted capers, rinsed and drained
1 Handful pitted green olives
2-3 tbsp Herb vinegar
5 Large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tbsp Slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Preparation method
To prepare the caponata, you will need a large pan. If you don't have a big enough pan they you can cook the aubergine in batches.

1. Add a couple of lugs of olive oil and heat (don't go overboard on the oil as it will be absorbed by the aubergine, which can give the dish a greasy feel).

2. Add your aubergine chunks and oregano, season with a little salt and toss around so the aubergine is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then.

3. When the aubergine is golden in colour, add the onion, garlic and parsley stalks and cook for another couple of minutes.

4. Add the capers, olives and herb vinegar and, when all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes.

5. Have a taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper and a little more vinegar. Finally, drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and almonds.

Feeling inspired? Why not enjoy a cooking class in Italy? We offer classes in Rome, Florence, Venice and other cities in Italy.
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Tomato sauce (Sugo al pomodoro)


Why is it that tomato sauce in Italy seems to taste so much more delicious than elsewhere?! Well, far from being a quick splash and dash with a can of chopped tomatoes and some dried basil, Italian tomato sauce is carefully prepared from fresh tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil. But don't worry, the recipe is still very simple and this creamy sugo al pomodoro will coat your pasta so perfectly that you'll be sure to make it time and time again!

Ingredients
1 kg Tomatoes
80 g (3 oz) Onion, finely chopped
80 mL (3 fl oz) Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbs Tomato purée (optional)
A few basil leaves, washed
Salt for seasoning

Preparation method
It is best to start by removing the "eye" from the top of each tomato as this will avoid any fibrous chunks in your sauce! After you've done this, fill a large pan with water and heat it to boiling. Whilst you're waiting for the water to boil, score a cross into the bottom of each tomato.

With the water boiling, plunge the tomatoes into the water for 15-20 seconds, or until you see cracks forming in the skin. Remove the tomatoes from the pan and allow them to cool a little before removing the skins (they should just peel off). Now quarter the tomatoes and remove the pips and cores (the inner parts will not be required for the recipe), and then dice the tomato flesh.

Next, heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion. Sweat the onion gently until it starts to colour and then add your diced tomatoes. Stir briefly and then pop on the pan lid, lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for around 10 minutes. After this time, you can add your sugar and tomato purée, and then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

After cooking, you should have an indulgent, thick sauce, which you can season with salt according to taste and then stir in your fresh basil leaves. For an extra creamy sauce, you can add a splash more olive oil!

Sicilian tomatoes are particularly renowned in Italy for their juicy ripeness so, if you want to taste the real thing, check out of package deals to Sicily - we even offer cooking classes in Palermo!
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Fresh egg pasta

Serves: 6

Ingredients
600 g Tipo '00' flour
6 large eggs, beaten

Tip: Tipo '00' flour is a very finely sieved flour that is typically used in Italy for making egg pasta. Most UK supermarkets now stock it and it will give your pasta a better texture.

Preparation method
Making pasta can get a little messy and it's best to clear some space on a clean kitchen table or large work surface so you can work the pasta on a flat surface. If you don't have the space to work the pasta on a flat surface, you can use a bowl.

First off, mound the flour on a board, flat surface or in a bowl and then make a well in the centre. Place the beaten eggs in the well and then, using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour. It's best to do this by drawing small amounts of flour into the central well until everything is combined.

Now knead the pieces of dough together until you obtain a smooth lump of dough. At this point, you need to continue to work the dough to stretch out the gluten fibres - you want to get a smooth and silky dough. This will take a little time but will give you a firmer pasta that isn't soggy when cooked. When your dough is ready, wrap it in clingfilm and rest it in the fridge for around 30 minutes before rolling.

Rolling the pasta is much easier if you have a pasta machine. However, you can still obtain excellent pasta if all you have is a rolling pin and determination.

With a pasta machine:
Be sure to firmly clamp your machine to the work surface (they normally come supplied with a clamp) and dust your space with some flour to prevent the rolled pasta from sticking. Separate the dough into lumps around the size of a large orange and press it flat between your hands. Dust the dough lightly with flour and, with the machine at the widest setting, roll it through the rollers. Click the machine down a setting and roll the dough through the machine again. Next, fold the dough in half and roll the pasta through the machine on the widest setting again and then at the next setting down. Repeat this process another three times to achieve a smooth and silky pasta.

With the dough fully worked you can start to roll it out thinly. To do this, simply lightly dust the dough with flour and roll it through the machine through all the settings. Then fold it to obtain a rectangle and run it through the machine again from the widest setting down to your desired thickness (typically the thickness of a beer mat for lasagna and down to the thinnest setting for ravioli).

Without a pasta machine:
There's no easy way to do this - it simply involves you manually rolling the dough with a rolling pin until you achieve the desired thickness. It is usually easier to work with slightly smaller lumps of dough and you will need a large surface (e.g., a table) so that you can roll the strip out. Remember to fold and roll the dough a few times when you initially start to roll the pasta out so that you achieve a silky texture.

Rolled pasta, whether hand- or machine-rolled, dries quite quickly so it's best to cut it straight away for your recipe, e.g., into ribbons, ravioli squares, lasagna sheets, etc.

If you want to learn how to make pasta from the pros, check out our cooking classes in Rome.
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Watermelon granita

With the summer coming, why not make like the Italians and enjoy a refreshing granita, which is a Sicilian crushed-ice drink/dessert usually infused with fruit. Better still, why not enjoy our "adults only" take on the granita, which adds a dash of vodka?!

Ingredients
6 cups watermelon
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 tbsp lime juice
1 cup vodka (optional)
Chopped mint leaves (optional)

Preparation method
The method is reasonably simple but you will need a blender. Here's what to do:

1.  Blend the watermelon in a blender until smooth.
2.  In a saucepan, combine the water and sugar over a medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once this happens, remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool a little.
3.  In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, syrup, lime juice and vodka (if desired).  Pour the mixture into a baking dish and freeze for 2 hours.
4. Remove the pan from the freezer and, using a fork, scrape the mixture to form chunks. It is then best to return it to the freezer for another 1-2 hours to get a slushy texture.
5. Serve on a hot day, topped with chopped mint leaves.

Want to try a granita in its birthplace? We have packages to Sicily to suit a range of budgets. See our website for more information.
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Chocolate orange trifles with ricotta

The trifle used to be the staple of classic dinner parties and thanks to the imagination of top chefs, the humble trifle is enjoying somewhat of a revival, albeit with a modern twist!

These individual layered, Italian-inspired desserts combine the flavours of tiramisu and cannoli, with decadent chocolate, creamy ricotta, coffee-soaked cake, pistachios and candied orange peel. Perfect for any modern dinner party!

Serves: 6
Calories per serving: 280 kcal

Ingredients
For the coffee syrup
1-1/2 tbsp espresso
1-1/2 tbsp brandy or dark rum
1-1/2 tbsp sugar

For the filling
1 cup ricotta
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp (plus more for garnish) chopped candied orange peel (use zest if you can't find candied peel)
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate sauce
2 oz 60-64% cacao chopped chocolate
1/4 cup double cream

For assembly
1 sponge cake (shop bought or homemade)
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, finely chopped

You'll also need some glasses to present your trifles in.

Preparation method
The trifles can be prepared in stages as follows:

1. Make the coffee syrup by combining the espresso, brandy and sugar in a small bowl or glass and stir until the sugar dissolves.

2. Make the filling in a small bowl by mixing the ricotta, sugar, candied orange peel and vanilla.

3. Make the chocolate sauce. Put the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and in a small saucepan, bring the cream with 2 tbsp of water to a simmer before pouring it over the chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate melts and the sauce is smooth. If it looks curdled or too thick to drizzle, stir in drops of water or extra cream until you have a smooth sauce.

4. Assembly time! Cut three 1/2-inch-thick strips of the cake and brush them with the syrup you made in step 1. Turn them over and brush the other side. Continue until you have used all your syrup and them cut the soaked cake into into 1/2-inch cubes.

Now pour about 1/3 of the chocolate sauce in the bottoms of the presentation glasses. Sprinkle with about 1/3 of the pistachios and top with half of the cake cubes (press them down so they form a layer). Spoon about 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the cake and then repeat with another layer of chocolate, pistachios, cake and ricotta. Finally, drizzle with the remaining chocolate and sprinkle with the remaining pistachios and candied orange peel.

5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 36 hours; it's best to cover them with clingfilm) before serving to your guests.
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Sicilian fish soup

With swimsuit weather on the horizon, many of us are looking for light meals that are still packed full of flavour. This filling yet light Sicilan fish soup is rich in protein and a serving contains only around 300 calories.

Serves: 6

Ingredients
1 red onion
2 sticks celery
½ small bulb fennel
2 cloves garlic
1 red chilli, deseeded
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 glass dry white wine
800 g chopped plum tomatoes or passata
½ butternut squash, peeled and grated
500 mL fish stock
200 g salmon fillet, skinned
300 g halibut fillet, skinned
12 raw peeled prawns
½ lemon
1 large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation method
First, finely chop the onion, celery, fennel, garlic and chilli, and add them to a pan with heated oil. Sweat gently until soft and then add the wine, tomatoes, butternut squash and stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes (give it a mix every-so-often to break up the tomatoes).

Next, roughly chop the salmon and halibut and add to the pan, along with the prawns. Season to taste, then cover and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, ensuring the fish is cooked.

Add some freshness with a squeeze of lemon juice and then serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with the chopped parsley.

Love Sicilian cuisine? Taste it for real with one of our Sicily packages!
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Spinach and White Bean Salad with Tuna

Spring in Italy brings colour - not just to the parks and gardens but also to the dinner table! Fresh greens, vibrant vegetables and fresh fruits come back into season and this nourishing salad uses one of our favourite greens: baby leaf spinach!

Serves: 4

Ingredients
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
1 medium clove garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (we admit that this ingredient is not Italian!)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cans (5 oz) albacore tuna, drained
1 can (15 oz) cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
6 packed cups baby leaf spinach
2 heads red or white Belgian endive, coarsely chopped

Preparation method
Roughly mash the capers with a chef's knife and place them in a bowl. Add crushed garlic and salt (about 1 tsp) and pepper (about 1/4 tsp). Whisk in lemon juice and the mustard to obtain a thick sauce. Whilst still whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil to create your dressing.

Flake in the tuna and then add the beans, sliced onion, spinach and endive. Gently mix so everything gets coated in creamy dressing and then serve immediately with a little cracked black pepper over the top.
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Italian Pizza Bases

There is no doubt that the best pizza is found only in Italy, and Naples, being the birthplace of this national (and international) favourite, is the city to head for is your want to delight your tastebuds with the best pizza! However, that shouldn't stop you having a go at creating your own at home.

Follow our simple recipe for the pizza base below and then get creative by adding your own toppings! A Bellarome favourite is a Marinara, which has a simple tomato topping with oregano and garlic.

Serves: 6

Ingredients
800 g strong white bread flour or Tipo '00' flour, plus 200 g finely ground semolina flour
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
7 g dried yeast
1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
325 mL lukewarm water

Preparation method
Sieve the flour and add it to the semolina and salt in a large bowl. Give it a brief mix and then make a central well. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. To make the dough, draw flour from the edges into the liquid well and mix it around (it is best to do this with your hands - even though it gets a little messy)! Keep repeating this process, drawing larger amounts of flour in to the centre. You will see that the dough starts to come together.

Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough, which you may find easier to do on a clean, dusted work surface if you don't have a large enough mixing bowl.

Next, the dough needs to rise. To do this, simply place the dough ball in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

After rising, turn the dough out onto a flour-dusted surface and knock it back with your hands (this essentially means kneading the dough again to push the air out). Now divide the dough into 3 to 4 little balls, each of which will be one pizza. Dust your work surface with a little more flour, if necessary, and then roll out each ball with a floured rolling pin. The thinner you roll the dough, the crispier the base will be so roll it to your desired thickness.

For the best pizza, it's best to roll the dough out about 15-20 min before you bake it and you can use this time to prepare your toppings.

Want to learn how to make pizza from a true pizzaiolo? We offer cooking classes in Italy, where you can learn to make pizza, bread, pasta and much more!

Tip: Your don't have to use all the dough immediately. To save you time, simply store the knocked-back dough in the freezer in pizza-sized balls.
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Chocolate and Chestnut Cake (Torta Morbida di Castagne e Cioccolato)

During the autumn and winter months, Italy's streets are filled with the scent of roasting chestnuts thanks to the street vendors that sell these delicious treats to passer-bys. Unlike other nuts and seeds, chestnuts are relatively low in calories as they contain less fat, but they are still rich in minerals, vitamins and phyto-nutrients, as well as fibre. Find out more about the health benefits of chestnuts on our Health Tips from the Mediterranean page.

They combine perfectly with chocolate in this cake, which is decadent, moist and oh-so-hard to resist!

Serves: 12

Ingredients
1 cup roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts
1½ cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
11¼ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Salt

Preparation method
First of all, you need to roast the chestnuts. This is easy! Simply follow these steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 °F/220 °C.
2. Make a large X through the shell in each chestnut with a sharp knife or a sharp paring knife, cutting through shell.
3. Place the chestnuts in a bowl and cover with cold water.
4. Soak for 10 minutes, then drain.
5. Spread the chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast, stirring occasionally, until the skins have pulled back and the nuts are tender (approx. 15-25 minutes).
6. Allow the chestnuts to cool a little and then remove their shells and the crispy skin.

And now for the cake! Preheat the oven to 350 °F/180 °C (or allow your oven to cool to this temperature if you already had it preheated for roasting the chestnuts) and butter a 9½-inch springform pan or deep fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.

Place your chestnuts, ¾ cup sugar, the vanilla bean (seeds and pod) and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan and cover by 2 inches with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let the chestnuts cool in the syrup before draining.

Melt the chocolate slightly in a bain marie and add the remaining ¾ cup sugar and butter. Warm the creamy mix, whilst stirring, until smooth. Once melted and combined, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the mixture a litle until it cools (it should be lukewarm or you risk scambling your eggs)! Add the egg yolks and flour and whisk again to form a batter.

Separately, beat the egg whites until stiff (not dry) and then gently fold them into the batter. Try to keep as much of the air in as you can. Pour the combined batter into your buttered pan and press the chestnuts into the top gently.

Bake in the oven until the top of the cake forms a thin crust (45 minutes or so) and then allow the cake to cool on a rack and in the pan for 5 minutes. You should then easily be able to remove the cake from the pan so that it can cool completely (if you can wait that long before delving in)!

Why not try street-roasted chestnuts during your next trip to Italy?
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Italian-style pesto

Pesto goes amazingly well with pasta and is also lovely lightly drizzled over fresh, sun-ripened tomatoes. It is quick and easy to make, with simple ingredients, and your homemade version will get your tastebuds tingling much more than the store-bought stuff.

Ingredients
½ clove garlic, chopped
3 handfuls fresh basil, leaves picked and chopped
1 handful pine nuts, very lightly toasted
1 handful Parmesan cheese, grated
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 small squeeze lemon juice (optional)

Preparation method
There are two ways that you can go about making this pesto: with a food processor or with a pestle and mortar. Either way, the method is simple and you will have a fresh, delicious pesto in minutes that beats the socks off any store-bought jar.

First off, pound the garlic with a little salt and the basil leaves in your pestle and mortar or pulse them in your food processor. The idea is to bruise the leaves to release the flavour, rather than chop them up. Now add the pine nuts and pound/pulse again.

Pop your pulp into a bowl and add half the cheese. Stir it in gently and then add olive oil bit by bit until you get a nice sauce consistency. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and then add the remaining cheese and a little more oil to keep the sauce consistency.

That's it - you're done! As an optional extra, you can try adding a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little zesty buzz.

Variations: try rocket, parsley or even nettle (careful - blanch the the leaves first!) instead of basil for a twist on the classic, or perhaps add some chilli for an extra zing!
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Italian bean casserole


The Italians are renowned for their healthy diets and beans feature highly on the Italian menu thanks to their health-giving benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and improving digestion. This recipe for an Italian bean casserole is hearty and warming - perfect for chilly nights! Plus, it's only around 175 kcal per serving!

Ingredients
3 tbsp olive oil
4 celery sticks (diced)
4 medium carrots (diced)
3 leeks (trimmed and sliced)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
100 mL white wine
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
About 700 mL vegetable stock
410g can borlotti beans (drained and rinsed)
410g can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)

Preparation method
Choose a large casserole or saucepan and heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the celery and carrots and cook, whilst stirring, for about 7-8 minutes. Add the leeks and cook briefly before adding the garlic and wine. Let the wine cook out and reduce for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes and lemon zest.

Now add the hot stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time, the liquid should reduce, the veggies should become soft and the sauce should thicken.

Next, stir in the beans and cook for 5 minutes. You don't want things to dry out, so add a little water if necessary. Now, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and some fresh herbs, such as oregano.

All that's left is to spoon this healthy soup into dishes and serve piping hot!
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Pumpkin lasagne

The month of October is synonymous with pumpkins and, if you're looking for something to do with the scrapings from your Halloween pumpkin, then we have the perfect autumnal warmer for you that plays around with the classic Italian dish: lasagne.

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 lb Swiss chard (tough stems removed and leaves chopped)
Salt and black pepper
1 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
3 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups cream or yogurt
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cups milk
Ready to use lasagne sheets

Preparation method
First off, preheat the oven to 400 °F/205 °C. Next, heat the oil in a large pan over a moderately low heat on the stove and add the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes and then increase the heat to moderately high and add the chard, salt and pepper, as well as half of the sage and nutmeg. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, whilst stirring, until the chard wilts.

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups of the pumpkin puree (you may be able to buy this canned, or you can simply blitz steamed pumpkin with a little water in a blender), half the cream, Parmesan cheese and the remaining sage and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the milk into a separate baking dish (around 8 inch x 12 inch) and then layer the lasagne sheets over the milk so the base of the dish is covered with an even layer of pasta sheets. Next, carefully spread half the pumpkin mixture over the pasta, followed by half the Swiss chard mixture. Add a second layer of pasta sheets, followed by a second layer of pumpkin and Swiss chard, and finally top with a final layer of lasagne sheets.

Now blend the remaining 1 cup of pumpkin puree with the remaining cream and spread this creamy mixture over the top layer of pasta sheets and then sprinkle with Parmesan.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes in the hot oven, then uncover and bake until golden (15 minutes or so).

This can be enjoyed hot or cold and makes a lovely meat-free alternative to the classic lasagne!

Did you know..?
Italians love celebrations and festivals and they celebrate all manner of things, from Saints to pistachio nuts. They even celebrate the humble pumpkin with festivals during the month of October, when they cook pumpkin-inspired dishes (pumpkin pizza!), have street parades and even create art from the vibrant orange vegetable. 
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Tuscan bean soup

As the weather is turning wet and cold, we thought we'd warm you up with a hearty recipe for Tuscan bean soup, which is perfect food for an autumnal day. We've used cannellini and flageolet beans in this recipe but you can substitute these for another type of bean if you prefer.

Serve with warm crusty bread for extra yum!

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
2 large onions, roughly chopped
4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
5 fresh thyme sprigs (use just the leaves)
4 fresh rosemary sprigs (use just the leaves)
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 litres vegetable stock
400g tin cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
2 x 400g tins flageolet beans (drained and rinsed)
1 small savoy cabbage, thick stem removed, finely sliced

Preparation method
Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and then add the onions and celery. Sauté gently for 5 min until soft, then add the carrots, garlic, rosemary and thyme, and paprika. Cook for 10 min until the carrots begin to soften and make sure you stir often to prevent anything from over-browning.

Now add the tinned tomatoes and stock, bring to a simmer and then add the beans and cabbage. Simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. If you're using good quality stock, you may find that you don't need to add salt and pepper but do taste the soup and season to your preference.

That's it! Simply spoon the soup into bowls and enjoy!

Tip: this soup freezes well and can be made ahead of time and frozen until required.

Want to try the real thing? Check out our package deals to Tuscany.
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Spicy Italian-style kale chips

If you're looking for a tasty alternative to potato crisps, but don't want to feel like you're missing out, try our spicy Italian-style kale chips. They're pack with nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, K and B6, as well as fibre, iron, copper, manganese and calcium. Even better, they are baked on a low heat and not fried in oil.

They're also a sneeky way of getting little ones to eat more greens!

Ingredients
1 cup cashews (pre-soaked for 2 hours)
½ cup filtered water
1 dessertspoon apple cider vinegar
2 dessertspoons lemon juice
2 cherry tomatoes
1 dessert spoon Italian-style spice mix (see below)
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp chilli flakes
Around 100 g chopped curly kale

Spice mix
1 dessertspoon dried basil
1 dessertspoon dried oregano
1 dessertspoon dried parsley
½ dessertspoon dried rosemary
½ dessertspoon dried thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp chilli flakes
¼ tsp onion salt

Preparation method
Blend the drained cashew nuts with the water, vinegar and lemon juice until smooth and then add the cherry tomatoes and blend again. If you prefer, or have them to hand, sundried tomatoes also taste great here instead of fresh tomatoes.
Add the spice mix, additional oregano and chilli flakes and blend again to obtain an even sauce.

Place your kale in a large bowl, pour over the sauce and then massage it in to the kale using your hands (this is messy but by far the best way to get evenly-coated kale).

Spread your coated kale on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 110 °C for around 10 hours or until crispy, turning midway through. If you don't have a dehydrator, simply pop the kale chips in the oven and bake on the lowest heat possible for around 5 hours (turning midway) and check them frequently to ensure they're not burning.
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Tuna meatballs (Le migliori polpette di tonno)

Meatballs are an Italian classic but they don't always have to be made with minced beef. Try experimenting with our recipe for tuna meatballs, which have a fresh, light flavour. A Sicilian alternative would be to mix fresh swordfish and tuna.

Serves: 4

Ingredients
For the tomato sauce
olive oil
1 small onion (peeled and finely chopped)
4 cloves of garlic (peeled and finely sliced)
1 tsp dried oregano
2 x 400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
red wine vinegar (optional)
1 small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley (roughly chopped)

For the meatballs
400 g tuna (it's best to use fresh fish rather than tinned)
olive oil
55 g pine nuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
100 g breadcrumbs
25 g grated Parmesan
2 eggs
1 lemon

Preparation method
First off, let's make the tuna meat balls. To do this, dice the tuna into 1 inch cubes and fry them on all sides in a hot pan with the pine nuts and cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper and then put the mixture in a bowl to cool.

Once cool (after 5 min or so), add the oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs and the lemon zest and juice to the tuna and mix well (it's best to use your hands for this). Squeeze small handfuls of mixture to form meatballs (around a ping pong ball or so in size) and then place the balls on an oiled tray and leave them to rest in the fridge for around 1 hour.

Now let's make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a pan and slowly fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the oregano, tomatoes, salt and pepper and then bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for 15 min. Add a glug or two of red wine if desired.

While your tomato sauce is simmering, fry the refrigerated balls in olive oil until they are golden brown all over. When the balls are cooked and the tomato sauce is bubbling, combine them and sprinkle with chopped parsley and, if you like, a drizzle of olive oil.

This recipes is quite versatile and the tuna meatballs can be served with a salad, pasta (spaghetti works really well) or creamy mashed potatoes!
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Tiramisu

This decadent dessert is so synonymous with Italian cuisine that I think if you were to ask a group of people to name an Italian dessert it would definitely come out on top! However, in spite of that, it has not really been around that long and may have first appeared around only 1969 (although its origins are disputed).

It combines quintessentially Italian espresso coffee with creamy mascarpone cheese in a layered loveliness that would tempt you no matter how full you feel.

Makes: 12 large pieces

Ingredients
625 mL strong espresso, cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs (separated)
4 tbsp sugar
500 g mascarpone cheese
200-250 g Savoiardi or Pavesini biscuits (a good substitute in the UK is sponge fingers)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
A few squares of chocolate

Preparation method
OK, let's get the magic started by beating the egg whites until they form stiff, but not dry, peaks. In another bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar to form a creamy batter (takes about 1 min) and then add the mascarpone cheese and mix until well combined. Now, gently fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture with a spatula.

Pop your cool espresso* in a bowl and dip the biscuits in one by one and lay them in your glass tray (about 9 x 14 inches and rectangular works best). I think it is best to lay the biscuits close together to provide more structure but you can leave a 1/4 inch gap between them if you prefer.

Next, with the help of a spatula, pour half the mascarpone mixture across the biscuit layer and spread it evenly. Now you're ready to start again with a new layer of coffee-soaked biscuits. However, this time, lay them in the opposite direction so they are perpendicular to the layer below. Spread the remaining half of mascarpone mixture over the second layer and spread it evenly.

For the best results, it is best to refrigerate the tiramisu overnight but you can get away with 4-5 hours if needs must. Before serving, use a sieve to lightly dust the top with cocoa and then grate thick curls of chocolate to decorate.

*Why not try adding your favourite tipple, such as rum, brandy or whiskey, to the espresso for an adult version of this dessert? If you would like to add a cream liquer, it is best to add it to the mascarpone to avoid curdling with the coffee!

Still lost? Why not find an excuse to head to Italy and attend one of our popular Italian cooking classes?
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Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Melanzane is the Italian word for aubergines (or eggplant) and Italians seriously know how best to cook them - the Parmigiana being a classic example.

This dish originates from northern Italy and, to me, it conjures up memories of fresh-baked lasagna, with one major difference: in a parmigiana the pasta sheets are replaced by layers of invitingly soft aubergine (making it perfect for those following a gluten- or wheat-free diet). There is a slight twist in this recipe, which dips the fried aubergine slices in egg before baking.

It can be enjoyed as a side dish, starter, or as a main meal next to a heap of crisp salad leaves drizzled with olive oil!

Serves: 6

Ingredients
3 large aubergines
2 eggs
A few lugs of olive oil (of course!)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 heaped tsp dried oregano
800 g plum tomatoes (canned is fine)
A splash of white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 large handful of fresh basil
Grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsps dried breadcrumbs
A little fresh oregano, leaves chopped
150 g mozzarella (optional - for extra decadence!)

Preparation method
Long gone are the days when you had to salt aubergines and press them for hours to extract the bitter juices as, fortunately, the aubergines you commonly find in the supermarket these days have been specially bred to avoid this step. That said, I do think the aubergine benefits from "resting" as it makes it, in my opinion, more tender.

So, first off, slice the top and bottom off your aubergines and then use a peeler to remove a strip of skin on four sides of each aubergine. Next, slice the aubergines lengthways so each slice is around 1/2 cm thick. Layer the aubergines on a plate and sprinkle each layer with a little salt, cover with a segment of kitchen towel and pop a plate on top with a heavy weight. While the aubergines are resting, fry your onion, garlic and oregano in some olive oil for about 10 min and then add the tomatoes. Mix the sauce well and simmer on a low heat for about 15 min.

While your tomatoes are mingling with the onion, garlic and oregano, heat a griddle as hot as you dare to fry the aubergines. Give the aubergines a quick rinse to remove the juices/salt and pat them dry between two pieces of kitchen towel. When the griddle is hot enough, fry the aubergine slices in batches on each side so they look charred. Transfer the slices to a tray to cool and beat the eggs in a bowl.

Season your tomato sauce with salt and pepper and add a swig of white wine vinegar and the basil. Now, in an oven-safe dish, put a thin layer of your tomato sauce followed by a thin layer of grated parmesan. Dip the slices of aubergine in egg and build a layer of them on the tomato sauce (if you're using mozzarella, tear up a few pieces and dot it on the auberine layer). Simply repeat this layering until you run out of aubergine but try to reserve some sauce and parmesan for the top layer.

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and fresh oregano to give a fragrant and crunchy herby crust, and bake at 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 for 30 min. It should be golden, crisp and smell amazing!

Try to let it cool a little before digging in!

Can't be bothered to go to all this effort in the kitchen? Taste the real thing with Sicilian aubergines on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Catania.
 
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Olive bread with sun-dried tomatoes

Inspired by the health benefits of olives, it seemed only right to start with a recipe involving these oily fruits. Most of us perhaps only think to eat marinaded olives as part of a salad, but these little gems are versatile! They can spruce up the simplest of dishes so pop a few on your pizza, slice some into your spaghetti and even munch some with your Martini!

Sun-dried tomatoes and olives are the best of friends and this heavenly loaf combines both. It is great served with rocket leaves or just eaten warm from the oven!

Ingredients
500 g strong flour
15 g salt
55 mL olive oil
20 g fresh yeast
275 mL water (it doesn't need to be warm)
170 g your choice of olives, pitted and chopped (black olives work well for this recipe)
55 g sun-dried tomatoes

Preparation method
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl but leave the olives and tomatoes to one side. Knead the dough well with your hands and knuckles. It may start off sticky but it will soon become elastic, smooth and shiny. A nonna from Sicily once told me that you aren't kneading the dough properly unless your bottom is shaking from side to side so see this preparation as a work out and knead away!

Cover the dough with a piece of cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place. Use this time to peruse the Bellarome website for your next holiday to Italy.

After an hour, you should find that the dough has approximately doubled in size. Divide the plumped-up dough into two equal pieces and, into each, add equal quantities of the olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

Mould the doughs into rough round shapes, or whatever shape you want your loaves to be, and press firmly down. Sprinkle white flour lightly over the top and mark them with a cross (this gives the loaves a lovely rustic look when they are baked).

Place them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, cover them with a clean tea towel and prove for another hour.

Now for the magic: bake at 220C/425F/Gas 7 for 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before enjoying!
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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a dish that you will typically find around Rome and it may come as a (I hope not too unpleasant) shock that Italian carbonara does not actually contain cream as it usually does in the UK. However, don't let that omission fool you! The dish is still wonderfully creamy and satisfying, as well as being lighter in calories.

Here is a basic recipe for Italian-style carbonara. If you're a vegetarian this dish works just as well with cubed tofu or aubergine that has been lightly fried or baked until golden and crispy.

Serves: 4

Ingredients
350 g spaghetti
200 g cubed pancetta
3 egg yolks
100 g grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
1/4 onion
Extra virgin olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

Preparation method
Start by dicing the onion and frying it in a pan with a little water and olive oil. Once golden, add the pancetta and cook for around 5 minutes.

Whilst the onions and pancetta are cooking, mix the egg yolks, cheese and some black pepper in a bowl and set to one side. Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water for around 7-10 minutes and strain, reserving the cooking water for later.

When the pasta is cooked and the pancetta is golden, add the spaghetti to the frying pan and mix it well with the pancetta and onions on a low heat. Quickly add the eggs, cheese and black pepper and combine so that the sauce becomes thick and creamy. At this point, to avoid the eggs scrambling, you can add a tablespoon or two of the pasta cooking water.

Once everything is well mixed, serve topped with a little grated cheese and cracked black pepper.

If you would like to try this fantastic dish in its native home of Rome, check out the Bellarome website for our suggested restaurants.
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Carciofi alla Romana

Artichokes are popular in and around Rome and they are typically served with garlic and fresh herbs, making them a great side dish or starter.

Artichoke leaves themselves are packed with antioxidants and have been credited with lowering cholesterol (great for dieters) and improving liver function (Speroni et al., 2003). An Italian study found that a diet rich in the flavanoids present in artichokes reduces the risk of breast cancer (Mileo et al., 2012). With all this, our recipe for Roman-style artichokes is definitely worth a try!


Ingredients
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp plus 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 artichokes
1/2 cup dry white wine (any excuse!)
3/4 cup boiling water


Preparation method
First, prepare the artichokes. Take the bulb, halve it and trim off the course outer leaves. Then remove the choke and pop the trimmed artichoke in lemon juice diluted with water. If you have never prepared artichokes before, you can either buy them pre-prepared or check out some videos online to guide you through their preparation.

In a small bowl, combine the chopped parsley, mint and garlic. Add the salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and give your herbs a mix. Where you removed the choke from your artichoke, there should now be a "hole". Place about a teaspoon of your mixed herbs in the hole of each artichoke.

Now place the artichokes in a deep pan packed close together so that they can't fall over. Carefully add the wine, a little boiling water, the remaining oil and a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for about an hour.

That's it! These Roman-style artichokes are great eaten hot or cold!

Variation: if you like spice, replace the mint with some chilli flakes or cayenne pepper

References:
Speroni E, Cervellati R, Govoni P, Guizzardi S, Renzulli C, Guerra MC., Efficacy of different Cynara scolymus preparations on liver complaints. J. Ethnopharmacol., 2003, 86(2-3):203-11.
Mileo AM, Di Venere D, Linsalata V, Fraioli R, Miccadei S., Artichoke polyphenols induce apoptosis and decrease the invasive potential of the human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB231. J. Cell Physiol., 2012, 227(9):3301-9.