Baked Ziti with Feta

I had recently made Jamie Oliver’s Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella, when I came across this similar recipe by Ottolenghi. The concept is the same – cheesey pasta in tomato sauce, baked until melty – the execution is different, with different pastas, different spices, cheeses and cooking methods. They are both great left-over-pasta-and-tomato-sauce dishes – layer with cheese and bake or grill – and hence they would make fabulous Sunday night supper meals.

I think Jamie’s recipe is a winner – easy to make and packed with flavour, and it has an honesty about its simplicity which shines through in the finished dish. Ottolenghi’s version layers the flavours with herbs and spices and uses the bite of feta and the umami of aged cheese and parmesan to add depth to the dish. It is different to Jamie’s in that the pasta is the focus and it is baked until the top layer is crispy and the cheese is golden brown. Delicious. Jamie’s recipe is pasta bathed in tomato sauce, Ottolenghi’s is pasta with a little tomato sauce.

I always preferred my father’s pasta the next day, when he’d put it in a hot oven with heaps of extra cheese. It would emerge slightly burned and very crisp on top.

This recipe serves a heap of people, up to 10, depending on how hungry the mob is. So don’t be afraid to halve it for a smaller family meal. Just note that the baking dish must be big enough to hold the pasta in a shallow layer. Or bake in separate dishes as I did.

I also have to mention that Ottolenghi grills this dish but I baked it. Partly because that is easier in our kitchen, but mostly because the recipe asks that the tomato sauce sits aside while the pasta is cooked, so it has lost heat. Baking heats the dish again beautifully.

As already mentioned, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area.

In fact, it is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella, Pasta Bake with Cabbage and Cheese, and Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomatoes.

Browse all of our Pasta dishes, our Baked dishes and our Italian recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.

We use Australian measurements: 1 tspn = 5ml; 1 Tblspn = 20ml; 1 cup = 250ml.

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Jamie’s Pasta al Forno con Pomodori e Mozzarella | Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

During a delightful week at my daughter’s place, running wild with the two kids, we had an informal Sunday lunch with friends and made this baked pasta dish from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy. Jamie describes it as a wonderful dish which is simple to make, and he is right on both points.

He first fell in love with this dish in Italy, then tried to reproduce it in his school’s program for 37p per serve. He tells how he fell out of love with it because he had to use cheap pasta and cheap cheese. Back in Italy, he realised that the Italian government mandates organic pasta for schools, the mozzarella was always local and fresh and the tomatoes the best available. It makes all the difference! He says that this was the recipe that was made for 1,000 kids at the Italian school he visited.

The dish is very common in Italy, and can be eaten hot, warm and room temperature. Use the best ingredients that you can, and make two – you won’t regret it.

Similar recipes include Baked Ziti with Feta, Orecchiette with Broad Beans, Pasta Bake with Cabbage and Cheese, and Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomatoes.

Browse all of our Pasta dishes, our Baked dishes and our Italian recipes. Or explore our Mid Summer dishes.

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The Little Italy Salad | Tomatoes with Mozzarella

Where would we be without tomatoes? Here is yet another version of a Tomato Salad, one that pairs them with Mozzarella. Fresh or traditional mozzarella can be used – both are great. Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and Boccancini balls go so well with tomatoes, but so does the traditional, drier Mozzarella. Normally associated with pizza, it is also nice eaten sliced or cubed as part of an antipasto plate or in a salad. That’s the one we use today, but you can choose either.

Are you after other Mozzarella Salads? Try Marinated Buffalo Mozzarella and Tomato, Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella, Marinated Zucchini Salad with Bocconcini, and Mozzarella and Eggplant Torte.

Or other Tomato Salads? Try Fennel, Potato and Tomato Salad with Garlicky Mayonnaise, Red Pepper and Tomato Salad with Crispy Flatbread, Chilli and Lime, and Cherry Tomatoes with a Soy Dressing.

Browse all of our Tomato Salads, our Mozzarella Salads, or indeed all of our many many Salads. Or take some time to explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Fava Bean Puree | Dried Broad Bean Puree

When your broad beans pass their peak and become older, white in colour and rather tough, the best thing is to cook the diggins out of them. Indeed, this also applies to dried broad beans – or Fava Beans as they are most likely called in your local Italian deli or Provodore.

The great thing about dried fava beans is that they bring the beautiful broad bean into your kitchen even in the depths of winter.

Today, broad beans are cooked almost a la Grecque style, with water and olive oil, for a couple of hours for dried beans and a little less for fresh beans. They are then pureed with herbs to make a great spread, dip or accompaniment to your main dish. It makes a great Greek style salad topped with red onions.

Are you looking for other Fava Bean recipes? Try Koukofava, Dried Fava Bean Soup with Turmeric and Herbs and Fava Bean Puree with Dill and Olive Oil.

You might like to browse our other Broad Bean recipes, and other dried Broad Bean dishes. There are other Broad Bean Dips and Spreads. Our Italian recipes are here.  Or simply explore, at your leisure, our Early Winter dishes.

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Spaghetti con Pomodori Freshchi | Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes

It’s Friday night, Pasta night, and we are all home late and tired from a long week. There is no time for a cooked sauce, we are starving. So we turn to one of our simple but delicious pasta dishes, a salad and some crusty bread.

This recipe is simple, just tomatoes, cheese and basil, so very Italian in its composition. It takes no longer than it takes to cook the pasta. Enjoy!

Why not make your own Pasta? How to Make Eggless Pasta.

Are you looking for Pasta recipes? Try Pasta with Zucchini and Parsley Pesto, Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce, and Pasta with Chilli and Olive Oil.

You can browse all of our Pasta dishes and all of our Italian recipes. Or simply browse our Mid Autumn dishes.

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Farinata, Socca, Pudla, Cheela – Making Chickpea Flour Pancakes

Many parts of the world have pancakes, fritters, or thicker, baked “pan” cakes that are made from chickpea flour and water. In these variations, an infinite array of flavourings are added to the base – spices and herbs; thinly sliced vegetables such as onion, tomatoes, and zucchini, beans sprouts; coriander leaves to give a fresh crisp punch; basil or parsley oil is a terrific addition.

The various versions of the chickpea pancake – farinata in Italy, socca in France, pudla or cheela in India – are often found in the streets of cities and at roadside stalls in the rural areas. They are served on parchment paper or piece of banana leaf, and devoured hot on the spot.

The batter can be made several days before using, so plan ahead and use spare moments to mix the batter, ready for a quick snack or a mezze dish.  Mix up a double amount, and make pancakes one day, and baked chickpea pizza a day or two later. Divine.

See below for a range of pancake recipes made from chickpea flour batter. Or browse all of our Farinata and Pudla. Alternatively, explore our other Late Autumn dishes.

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Caponata Siciliana | Eggplant, Olive, and Celery Appetizer

This is a beautiful dish with Roman origins, from Sicily. There is something  beautifully different about some of the taste combinations you’ll find in Sicily, especially the tendency to combine sweet and sour – a legacy, they say, of ancient Roman days when sweet dates were used instead of tomatoes and sugar.

La caponata, one of the most famous Sicilian dishes, is a good example. It’s a cousin to the ratatouille of Provence. Caponata features eggplant, with celery, tomato and onions along with capers and olives. These are typical Southern Italian flavours. And it has that sweet-and-sour touch that perfectly balances out the flavours. It layers different flavours one upon the other, and, if you care to cook it for 30 mins or more, the flavours are deep and glorious and the consistency almost jam-like.

Serve Caponata on its own, hot or room temperature, on a Sunday afternoon (with a glass of wine, of course), or in the traditional manner as an antipasto. Caponata can be served on bruschetta, with flatbread or with salad leaves, and it’s also perfect as a side dish or even as a relish.

Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray note warily in the River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook that “there are as many ways to make caponata as there are cooks in Sicily”, a fact confirmed by Giorgio Locatelli, who claims that “in every house and in every restaurant you will find a different version and opinion.”

There are many versions of Caponata on Sicily – apparently 37 official versions, depending on local customs. The differences lie in the addition of different vegetables, for example potatoes, bell peppers, zucchini.

Are you looking for other Eggplant dishes? Try Babaganoush, Grilled Eggplant Salad, Baingan ka Bharta and Eggplant Fry.

We have other Celery recipes too. Try Celery Yoghurt Salad, Spicy Celery Salad, and Chickpea, Celery and Carrot Salad with a Curry Dressing.

Or perhaps some other Italian dishes. Try Farinata, Marinated Zucchini Salad, Wet Polenta and Tomato Layers, and Grilled Sweet Peppers and Eggplants.

Or you can browse all of our Eggplant recipes, all of our Celery recipes, or all of our Italian recipes. Alternatively, take some time to explore our Mid Autumn dishes.

This is a recipe from our first blog which ran from 1995 – 2006. You can browse all of the vegetarian recipes from that blog in our Retro Recipes series.

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Mograbieh (Giant Couscous) and Artichoke Pilaf

Fregola, Mograbieh, Israeli Couscous, Moftoul, Ptitim, Jerusalem Couscous, Pearl Couscous, Ben-Gurion rice, Lebanese Couscous, Giant Couscous, Kabyle Abazine – no wonder you are confused. These are all variations of couscous used through the Middle East, around the coast to Sardinia, and into Israel. They vary in size and shape, construction and ingredients but are generally larger couscous/pasta with either a round-ish or rice-like shape.

Although the different types can generally be used interchangeably, technically speaking, there are some differences between the products of different countries. Some are an extruded pasta, similar to Italian orzo, made with semolina and flour which is toasted to dry. These have a nuttier flavour than normal couscous. Another type is Ptitim, or Israeli Couscous, a type of toasted pasta and shaped either like rice-grains or little balls. It was developed in Israel in the 1950s when rice was scarce.

Others, like Mograbieh (Lebanese) and Maftoul (Palestinian), are rolled and dried large couscous pearls about the size of tapioca pearls. When cooked they have a chewy buttery flavour and are larger than Israeli Couscous. These starchy pasta balls swell and become soft and chewy as they cook, and are excellent at absorbing the flavours of the dish they are cooked in.

Sadly, the globalisation of food has meant that differences get smoothed over, and names get mixed, or all the variations merge into one product. Locally, for a long time I was only able to find the extruded pasta type (labelled Israeli Couscous!), but more recently a local Afghan shop stocks the best Mograbieh.

While Ottolenghi uses Fregola for this dish, I suggest using any of the above large couscous types that you have at hand or that are easy for you to purchase. It will still be excellent!

Yes, this is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More. In fact, it is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often slightly massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.

This dish is an unusual one – hearty yet fresh. It is best served just warm or at room temperature.

Similar recipes include Burnt Eggplant and Mograbieh Soup, Artichoke and Potato Salad with Preserved Lemon Mayonnaise, Artichoke Hearts with Mozzarella and Candied Citrus, Saffron Mograbieh Pilaf with Broad Beans, Barley Pilaf with Mushrooms, and Rice and Cauliflower Pilaf.

Browse all of our Large Couscous dishes, and all of our Pilafs. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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So Easy Tomato Risotto

We know that we are slipping into Autumn when we begin to cook more rice dishes. Rice puddings and risotto begin to feature at the table, just as long sleeves and light jackets begin to feature in our wardrobe.

Risotto is so easy to make – about 10 mins max prep time, and 20 mins to cook. One pot, little action, just stirring stirring stirring. It is relaxing and meditative. Heaven. Autumn. The pace of life is slower this month.

Similar recipes include Radicchio Risotto, Risotto with Mushrooms, and Parsnip Risotto with Rosemary.

Browse all of our Risotto recipes and all of our Tomato dishes. Our Italian recipes are here. Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Bucatini con Zucchini | Bucatini with Zucchini

Bucatini are the long hollow pasta noodles, like slightly thicker spaghetti but with a hole though the middle that helps it cook in reasonable time. They are really delicious. I grabbed some zucchini from the garden and char grilled them to make this simple but delicious pasta dish for a week day lunch with a friend. It is a simple recipe that allows the taste of the cheeses to shine through. Gorgeous.

Similar recipes include Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes, Bucatini with a Raw Tomato Sauce, Marinated Zucchini Gratin, and Pasta with Zucchini and Pesto.

Browse all of our pasta dishes and all of our Zucchini recipes. Our Italian dishes are here.  Or explore our Early Autumn dishes.

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Baked Figs with Cheese and Honey

As Autumn arrives, even before, my Italian-owned green grocery is full of figs – green, black and in between. What a gorgeous time it is – the last of the summer stone fruits, grapes, plums – one of my 4 favourite seasons of the year!

I must admit to liking my fruit, any fruit, fresh. You will see that we don’t have a lot of fruit recipes in our collection because of that. But once in a while, we will bake, grill or roast, maybe poach, something sweet.

Figs are so wonderful in their natural state, and we have several salads that attest to that. They pair well with cheese, honey, and even almonds and pinenuts! Figs are simply gorgeous this way.

But roasting brings in another dimension. It is a different taste – just as fig jam tastes different to fresh figs. Roasted figs are soft, warm and sticky, and they shine with either savoury flavours, sweet flavours, or a mix of both. They can be mashed onto bruschetta and topped with pesto, without the honey they can be used with pasta, or top a green salad with them. Serve them for breakfast, lunch, dessert, a snack or supper.

Are you looking for Fig recipes? Try Boozy Baked Figs, Figs with Rosewater and Almonds, Fig Salad with Almond Butter Dressing, and Figs with Pecorino.

Browse all of our Fig recipes here, all of our Italian recipes, and all of our Dessert recipes. Or take some time to browse our Late Summer dishes.

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Radicchio Risotto | Risotto al Radicchio

Oh goodness! The vibrant colour of the bitter leaves of radicchio! I love them in my kitchen, but they are not the cheapest of vegetables to buy so they are not a weekly visitor. However, radicchio is so versatile, and incredibly good.

Today we make a risotto with this glorious vegetable. It is added at the beginning of the cooking process, and thus becomes very tender during the 20 mins of stirring that makes a risotto.

Do be careful about the rice that you use for risotto. You will get the best results using a risotto rice. You can read more about that here. My favourite at the moment, and the one that I used for this dish, is Carnaroli.

Are you looking for Radicchio recipes? Read more about this incredible vegetable here. Try Grilled Radicchio with Shallots and Dill, and Red Rice Congee topped with Radicchio.

Try other risottos too – So Easy Tomato Risotto, Beetroot Risotto, Caramelised Pumpkin Risotto, Mushroom Risotto, and Asparagus Risotto are some of our favourites. You can see how to make a basic risotto here.

Check out all of our Risotto recipes, and all of our Italian recipes. We have some other Radicchio recipes too – check them out here. You might like to browse our easy Late Summer recipes here.

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Green Olive Tapenade

There are a great number of recipes around for a spread made from green olives, but this is the easiest. Made with ingredients straight from your kitchen, no special purchases required, it is made in seconds, and your family or gang of friends will devour it in minutes.

This tapenade is salty, spicy (from the chilli) and pungent (from the garlic). Just perfect for a cool Early Summer day’ snacks on the verandah with some aniseed tea.

Similar recipes include Fava, Tapenade Bread Salad with Tomatoes and Mozzarella, Tomato Salad with Green Olives, and Olive and Orange Salad with Mint and Basil.

Browse all of our Olive recipes and all of our Spreads. Or explore our Early Summer recipes.

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Capunti Pasta with Basil and Tomato

Capunti Pasta is a country pasta from Puglia in the Southern part of Italy – one of the several open pasta shapes that originate in that area. It is great for holding robust sauces, but also for very simple accompaniments that highlight the flavours of the pasta and other ingredients.

Today, the basil is looking beautiful, and I do love pasta with tomatoes in summer, so we brought them together for a great dish for a light summery lunch.

You might like to have a look at similar dishes. Try Tagliatelle with Walnuts and Lemon, Pasta with a Cauliflower Sauce, Pasta Sauce with Aubergine, Red Peppers and Tomato, and Elegant Orzo Pasta with Wilted Spinach and Pine Nuts.

All of our Pasta recipes are here, or browse our Italian recipes. Read about different pastas, including Capunt. Perhaps we have other Capunti recipes. Or take some time to browse our Early Summer recipes.

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Schiacciata with Cheese Topping

If Focaccia is half way between pizza and bread, then Schiacciata is half way between Focaccia and Pizza. It is flat and usually infused beautifully with olive oil.

Originally cooked in the ashes of the hearth, schiacciata, meaning squashed, is flat and 2 – 3 cm thick (but can be thinner). Variations of the bread are made throughout Italy. In Tuscany, it is simply brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Herbs such as rosemary can be added. A sweet version with grapes and sugar is also made.

This recipe with onion and cheese is great weekday lunch-at-home fare, even for Sunday night supper. It is great with a hearty soup. Maybe Onion Soup would be fabulous. In late Summer, pair it with ripe, bursting figs and celebrate the end of summer.

You might also liked our Focaccia recipes. Our pizza recipes are here. If you need pizza dough, the recipes are here. Feel free to browse other recipes from our Retro Recipes series. Or explore our Late Spring dishes.

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