Minestrone alla Genovese | Genoese Minestrone with Pesto

How most excellent is pesto and its cousin pistou swirled into vegetable soups! We do it in our 13 Treasure Happiness Soup, so called because it brings a sense of joy and happiness to anyone who eats it. More correctly it is a Provencale Vegetable Soup.

Our soup today is one of the Italian ones that combines pasta and dried beans, a classic soup pairing, with vegetables. The pasta used can be Vermicelli or Maltagliati – the irregular shapes of pasta designed to go into soups. A hand made pesto crowns the soup and is swirled through the soup before eating – a process that adds to the joy of hot soup on a cold day.

Similar Soups include 13 Treasure Happiness Soup, and Chickpea and Butterbean Noodle Soup.

Browse our Minestrone Soups and all of our Soups. Our Italian dishes are here. Or explore our Late Autumn dishes.

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Insalata di Peperoni e Capperi | Sweet Capsicum Salad with Tomato Dressing and Capers

Bugialli died recently. He was instrumental in bringing Italian regional food to the US – beginning with his first book in 1977, Food of Italy. Surprisingly, he didn’t become as well known in other parts of the world, but that might have been by design.

When French cuisine was being celebrated in the 1970s, Bugialli argued that Italian cooking also deserved to be taken seriously, beginning with the understanding that it varies by region. This fundamental fact, true of any great cuisine, is so often bypassed as we delve into foreign foods – and today the great internet machine condenses ancient and complex cuisines into a few popular dishes. Bugialli, with his love of his own heritage, scoured Italy for regional dishes and published authoritative books on many sub-cuisines of Italy. When we think about the handful of people who have been instrumental in exciting other countries about the cuisine of their own country, excited enough to alter the supply-and-demand chain of ingredients, it is difficult to more than a couple. Roden, Child, David, Thompson – can I include Oliver in this list? – all English speaking passionate foodies who fell in love with the food and food philosophy of a different country. Bugialli and Jaffrey are two of the few who have successfully translated their own cuisine in a way that not only is acceptable to others but has also driven culinary change.

You might expect there to be more people who have achieved notoriety in this way. The difficulty is, of course, that one needs to be able to view the food – ingredients, processes, techniques, history, associated stories – through the eyes of the intended audience. This is easiest if you are yourself a member of your target audience, and incredibly difficult if you are not. The advantage that Jaffrey and Bugialli had was that they both lived and worked in the UK and/or the US for some time before adopting their culinary careers of writing and teaching.

When I returned home from my shortish working sojourn in the North East of France with its amazing foods, wines and cheeses, I scoured the local bookshops for French cookbooks. In the process I also discovered a number seminal cookbooks from other European cuisines. Not that I knew they were seminal at the time but I did have a nose for great cookbooks. That is why I happen to have a much loved Bugialli, but it was a long time before I came to realise how influential he had been and how classic his books are.  This wonderful eggplant dish is one of his.

So today I am making another simple but wonderful dish from his book – a simple salad of capsicums with capers. I learnt a great technique from this recipe. When roasting capsicums in the oven, include a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. The steam from the water begins to lift the skins from the capsicums without over-charring them, so that the flesh is protected. They are more steamed than grilled, leading to a very delicate flavour.

This colourful salad of silky,sweet capsicums, tangy capers and fresh herbs can be a salad or side dish, appetiser, part of a mezze spread, or an addition to a sandwich or wrap. It can also be layered onto other tossed or composed salads. The combination of tomato, garlic, mint and capers is an amazing pairing with the sweet capsicums. Yum!

Similar recipes include Salad of Pasta and Capsicums with Walnuts, Radiant Autumn Salad of Peppers, and Roasted Red Pepper Salad.

Browse all of our Capsicum Salads and our Italian dishes. Or explore our Late Autumn dishes.

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Minestra di Pasta e Fagioli Borlotti | Italian Borlotti Bean and Pasta Soup

What is a Minestra? Minestra predates zuppa (another type of Italian soup) by a few centuries. Derived from the Latin ministrare, meaning to administer, the word reflects how minestra was served from a large bowl or pot by the figurehead in the household. Minestra was traditionally the principal – and often the only – dish served in a meal.

Today it is a rather umbrella term referring to a first course of vegetables, legumes, pasta or rice cooked in a stock.  Minestrone is one of many minestra soups. Regional variations abound but a minestrone always includes a vegetable that will thicken the soup, such as fresh or dried beans, potatoes or pumpkin. It must also include pasta or rice. Our soup today is a type of Minestrone (Minestrone di Fagioli or Minestrone di Pasta e Fagioli), one that does not include a large variety of vegetables. You will find similar soups under many different names as your browse the internet.

Similar dishes include Greek White Bean Soup, Dried Fava Bean Soup, and Turtle Bean Soup.

Browse all of our Soups and all of our Italian dishes. Or explore our Late Autumn recipes.

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Baked Fennel Stuffed with Feta, Rosemary and Honey | Gratinéed Fennel with Feta

A long time ago I fell in love with Gratin dishes when I was working in Nancy in France. There was an art theatre there that often showed films in English, so I was a regular visitor. Close by, maybe even next door, was a little cafe that served only gratin style dishes. It was very convenient to have a meal and then pop next door to the theatre, so it became routine for me to visit. It was so good, I still remember it fondly, especially its Poire Belle Helene Dessert.

We have a number of gratin dishes here as a result of that little cafe, and today it is a Fennel Gratin made utterly delicious with feta and honey. The recipe comes from Ilva Berreta, food photographer and former food blogger. I miss her blog, it was full of the most delightful stories and recipes.

Similar dishes include Goat’s Milk Feta with Pine Nuts and Preserved Lemon, Potatoes and Cheddar Gratin, Gratinéed Sweet Potato, and Pasta Bake with Cheddar and Cheese.

Similar Fennel dishes include Slow Baked Fennel with Garlic and Orange, Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella, and Fennel a la Grecque.

Browse all of our Fennel dishes, our Gratin Collection, and all of our Gratin recipes.  Our Italian dishes are here. Or explore our Early Spring recipes.

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Pasta with Minty Broad Bean Puree and Crispy Garlic Chips

Broad Beans make great purees. You can use young pods, tender beans or dried fava beans, and we have some of those recipes here on the blog. One of the ways that you can use the puree is as a pasta sauce! That is what we are going today.

First we make a puree with broad beans, mint, garlic and pecorino. It is called Salsa Marò or simply Marò, from Liguria in Italy. It is often compared to a pesto, but it does not include nuts. Perhaps it more closely resembles the Nicois pistou which is similar to pesto without nuts.

Marò can be used as a dip or spread. Try the puree on a toasted piece of crunchy bread, perhaps with some soft cheese. But it also works well with pasta, as we do here. Use spaghetti, bucatini or penne – really it will work well with many different pastas, even oricchette.

Similar recipes include Spring Pasta with Broad Beans and Mint, Broad Beans with Crispy Garlic, and Pan Fried Broad Beans with Chilli, Lime and Garlic.

You can browse all of our Broad Bean dishes, all of our Pasta dishes, and our Purees of various forms. See just our Broad Bean Purees. Our Italian dishes are here. Or explore our Mid Spring recipes.

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Slow Braised Red Peppers in Olive Oil

When you are on your own (or not), and you have some left over red peppers in the fridge, and you are thinking, quick and easy eating for supper, take the red pepper (or two) and slow cook it in olive oil with some thyme (oh the aroma!).

Similar recipes include Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Mozzarella and White Beans, Grilled Sweet Peppers and Eggplant Salad, and Roasted Red Peppers Salad.

Browse all of our Capsicum recipes and all of our Italian dishes. Or simply browse our Mid Spring collection of dishes.

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Chickpea and Orzo Pasta Soup

Chickpeas combined with orzo (rice shaped pasta), other pasta or rice is quite common in Italy, Spain and Greece. The dishes are usually simply cooked, perhaps with one herb or spice addition. Garlic, saffron, rosemary and hot peppers are quite common choices.

Today we have a soup with chickpeas and orzo, flavoured with rosemary. It is a simple, rustic and delicate soup, meditative to eat and quiet in its flavour profile. But bang full of nutrition and so very enjoyable. It can be a meal in itself, perhaps with a green salad and crusty bread to follow.

Similar recipes include Chickpea and Carrot Salad, Falafel, and Rice and Orzo.

Browse all of our Orzo dishes, and all of our Pasta recipes. Our Chickpea dishes are here and Greek recipes here. Or browse our Early Spring collection of recipes.

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Florentine Fennel with Parmesan

Elizabeth David has a lovely recipe for gratineed fennel that is a simple and refreshing dish. It’s a dish that bakes fennel with cheese, and of course, butter. This dish can also be cooked in a covered BBQ.

We adore fennel, as you can tell by our recipes. It can be eaten raw, steamed, sauteed, grilled, BBQ’d, baked and gratineed. It can be cooked on it’s own, or combined with other ingredients. You can make soups, salads and sides. One of the easiest salads to make is to shave a fennel bulb and dress with olive oil and lemon juice. I dare you to make this and not eat the whole bowl by yourself, it is so delicious.

Similar recipes include Baked Fennel Stuffed with Feta, Slow Baked Fennel with Chilli and Garlic, Fennel a la Grecque, and Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella.

Browse all of our Fennel dishes, and all of our Italian dishes. Or explore our Early Spring dishes.

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Green Beans with Tomatoes | Fagiolini in Umido

Green Beans are versatile and delicious. They are common in many parts of the world, so common in fact that we take them for granted. The humble green bean is always there, forming part of our meals without hogging the lime light and without us paying too much attention to them.

But I have some recipes that will change that view. This recipe is Italian, a simple dish but delicious in that the flavours of the beans shine against the tomatoes. It is rustic, a farm dish indeed, but worthy of any table.

Similar dishes include Salty Fried Beans, Green Beans Braised in Tomatoes and Olive Oil, Gujarati Green Beans, Green Beans with Freekeh, Green Beans with Lentil Crumble, and Italian Flat Beans with Blue Cheese.

Browse all of our Green Bean recipes and all of our Italian dishes. Or feel free to browse our Early Spring recipes.

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Baked Feta with Tomatoes and Red Capsicum

Baked Feta is a perfect mezza dish, served with crackers or flatbread. Flavoursome, soft, mouth watering, the baked feta is aromatic and elicits sounds of approval from your friends at your shared table. It is the sort of dish that you can make at the last minute – your friends arrive unexpectedly at meal time, as they do.

Or it is a great snack, mid afternoon, with a pot of mint tea. And it goes really well on Summery days when the BBQ is lit and people are milling around, nibbling, while the salads are made and the vegetable kebabs are cooking. We have also had it on a Winter’s day as we sit around the fire, reading, writing and chatting. Best of all, it is a perfect Summer Holidays dish, when no-one wants to cook much at all.

This recipe is a mish-mash of Italian and Greek. Definitely Mediterranean.

Similar recipes include Slow Braised Peppers in Olive Oil, Parsley and Barley Salad with Feta, Du Puy Lentils with Feta, and Baked Eggplant with Feta.

Browse all of our other Feta dishes, our Italian recipes and our Greek dishes. Or explore our Late Winter recipes.

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