Get those Meatballs rollin’

IMG_6121

Did you celebrate national meatball day this year? Read on to discover how Italians love their meatballs and get your fix with a simple recipe!

In Italy we call them polpette, a staple dish across the peninsula, cooked in different variations depending where you are. The two main categories are fritte (deep fried) or in umido (braised). Fritte are very common in the north, and are eaten as a fun finger food, tapas style during aperitivo. They are bite size delicacies hard to resist, perfect with a glass of bubbly. In umido are braised, either in a white wine sauce or in tomato salsa. This dish is served as a secondo, the course that comes after primo (usually pasta) and before dolce (dessert).

bellina_final_0046

Spaghetti meatballs as we know them in the US, are actually not that common in Italy. In the southern regions there are some pasta dishes with polpettine – very small meatballs and tomato sauce, but it is definitely not something Italians consider a staple dish. Its invention can be attributed to the fascinating cultural exchange that occurred between 1881 and 1901 when more than 2.400.000 Italians migrated to the USA. You have to imagine that in those days Italy was a very poor country; people were used to eating from the land and would barely have access to meat. Italian migrants in the new world found plentiful land and an abundance of meat. They basically re-invented their cuisine recalling that of festivities and celebrations – adding more meat, cheese and sauce to dishes. This is how we believe the iconic dish Spaghetti Meatballs was invented. A great example of how cultural exchange and immigrant communities can give birth to beautiful and delicious things 🙂

Polpette fritte recipe:
Ingredients
¼ pound ground beef
¼ pound ground pork
1 egg
2 slices stale bread
½ cup milk
1 bunch mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, sage, chives…)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup all purpose flour
1 bottle frying oil (peanut is the best)
coarse sea salt to taste

Method
Tear the bread and soak it in the milk. Once all milk is absorbed add all other ingredients except the flour, oil and coarse salt. Mix well to get a uniform mixture. Place the flour into a flat plate. Shape a tablespoon worth of mixture into a ball shape, roll into the flour and set aside. Repeat for all. Heat the oil, test it with a piece of meatball and make sure it sizzles, don’t let it smoke. Gently fry all meatballs, once ready place them onto an absorbent sheet of paper to drain any excess oil. Sprinkle with some coarse sea salt and serve.

Buon appetito!

IMG_6122

All the colors of Pasta

img_0939

Next time you make your own fresh pasta at home why not experiment with different natural colorants? Seasons have so many ingredients to pick from and eating seasonal is the best excuse to get creative and cook with what’s available. Right now during winter you can get plenty of vitamins, fibres and antioxidants from veggies such as beetroot, which will turn your pasta pink or purple, and fresh spinach if you want it to turn green. In summer try with tomatoes or basil! Squid ink – which can be sourced year-round – will turn your dough charcoal black, cocoa powder a nice earthy brown, while turmeric and saffron bright yellow. It’s fun, gets kids excited about a healthy meal and can be the next trick to impress your guests at a dinner party. Start out with your classic fresh pasta recipe and add the following proportions:

  • Beetroot, spinach, tomato: ½ ounce every 100g flour (For the vegetables boil until soft, squeeze out the extra water, blend and weigh)
  • Cocoa, turmeric: 0,2 ounce every 100g flour
  • Squid ink: if fresh, one bladder is more than enough every 200g of flour. You can also find it dehydrated in powder (use same proportions as cocoa)
  • Saffron: A pinch of pistils diluted in a few drops of warm water every 100g flour

img_0910

Need a refresh to our fresh pasta recipe?
Yield: 6 people

Ingredients
Unbleached, unenriched semolina flour, 200 g (approx. 7 ounces)
Unbleached, unenriched white wheat flour (cake flour), 0 type, 200 g (approx. 7 ounces)
Large pasture raised eggs (280 g) 4

Method
On a clean surface, make a pile out of flour and form a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well and add colorant. Whisk eggs very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading using your hands. If flour does not fully incorporate into the dough add one or two tablespoons of water. (Be careful not to add too much!) In the case of beetroot, spinach and tomato the opposite may occur, you can add a little semolina flour if the dough is too sticky.

Dough is very sticky at the beginning and becomes more elastic and smooth after around 4 minutes of kneading. Once the dough is formed, continue kneading for 3 more minutes to allow the dough to reach its maximum elasticity and firmness. Long kneading is important in order to develop the gluten in the flour and to prevent dough from tearing apart later on. Dust work surface with flour if needed to keep dough from becoming sticky. Roll dough into a ball shape and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

The traditional way of rolling out the pasta is by using a simple wood rolling pin, so even if you don’t have a pasta machine don’t be intimidated to make fresh pasta at home. Dust working surface with flour and start rolling dough one piece at a time. After every roll, make a quarter turn and repeat the same movement until you have achieved the desired thickness. (Approximately the thickness of a playing card). After achieving the desired thickness of the dough, start cutting the pasta into desired shape. Make sure to dust dough on both sides so it doesn’t stick to itself.

Buon appetito!

img_0959img_0966-2

Back to school Italian lunch box

In need of some inspiration for creating balanced, healthy  yet tasty meals for your kids? Here are some quick Italian inspired recipes.

Mozzarella lollipop

IMG_5775.jpg

Ingredients

4 mozzarella ovoline
4 cherry tomatoes
4 cocktail sticks
2 tablespoons of basil pesto (check our blog to learn how to make your own at home or find it already made at Bellina’s Market)

Method

Roll the mozzarella in the pesto.
Carefully thread the tomato half way through the cocktail stick and top with the mozzarella.

IMG_5819.jpg

Zucchini pancakes

IMG_5824.jpg

Ingredients
1 large zucchini, trimmed and shredded
2 tablespoons of flour
4 tablespoon grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 egg
2 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Shred zucchini , and squeeze excess water with your hands, Mix with flour in a medium size ball. Mix in the cheese. Add egg, salt and pepper.
Heat oil of choice in frying pan over medium heat. Using a spoon scoop a spoon of the batter into the hot oil.
Using a spatula, flip the pancakes after the first side has browned.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Great to serve with a scoop of Greek yogurt as a snack or light lunch.

IMG_5868.jpg

Indulge in the flavors of Summer – Pasta al Pesto

IMG_5795.jpg

Pasta al pesto is a classic summertime Italian recipe. It is originally from Genova in the Liguria region of northern Italy but is nowadays widespread throughout the country. The name pesto comes from the Italian word pestare (to crush) traditionally the ingredients were blended using a marble mortar and a wooden pestle. The good news is that it’s actually incredibly easy to make. The simplicity of this recipe does requires the use of high quality tasty ingredients. Any pasta shape will work but a classic traditional Trofie or Garganelli do the trick.

Recipe for 4

Ingredients
1 pound Trofie Pasta
For the Pesto:
10-12 Sprigs of Fresh Basil, Leaves only
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1/3 cup Premium Pine Nuts
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove, peeled
Salt and Pepper
For assembling the dish:
½ cup Heirloom or cherry tomatoes, coarsely diced
Utensils needed
Large Bowl
Large pot
Electric blender
Strainer
Method
 Mix all pesto ingredients in a blender until a smooth paste has formed. If Pesto is too dry, slowly add some more olive oil. Pesto can be kept refrigerated for up to 4 days in a closed jar. To prevent it from turning brown pour a little extra virgin olive oil in the jar and cover the pesto so that it is sealed and not in contact with air.
Cook pasta in salted boiling water, according to recommended cooking time written on the box.
When pasta is Al-Dente cooked, drain and transfer directly into a large mixing bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of Pesto sauce, 2 tablespoons of pasta cooking water and diced tomatoes. Toss the pasta gently to evenly cover with the sauce.
Place pasta in individual serving bowls, drizzle olive oil on top. Garnish with shaved Parmesan Cheese and fresh basil leaves and if desired tomatoes.

Buon apettito!

Focaccia made easy

Focaccia is an Italian flat bread that comes in many variations throughout the country. Try this easy traditional recipe from the northwestern region Liguria. All you need is a little time.. plan to make it when you are at home for a few hours, like on a Sunday afternoon. We choose to use a whole grain unrefined, unenriched and unbleached flour, stone ground made from only Italian wheat. Whole flours are rich in nutrients and taste and will make a darker and more flavourful bread. Usually local farmer’s markets will offer local good quality, possibly organic wholewheat flours. We also love natural fermentations and love keeping a sour dough starter.. it’s a great excuse to have to make bread, pizza and focaccia at home every week or so. It sounds scary but once you get into the habit, it’s a piece of cake. If this is one step to far for you, fresh yeast will work just as well.

MB_Food 160209 1 (14)

Yield: Makes a large tray
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking and leavening time: 3 hours

Ingredients
Mother yeast starter, 3 ounce (6 tablespoons)
or fresh yeast from store, if so 2 ounces are enough
Whole grain flour, 1 pack (1 kg)
Luke warm water, 2 ½ cups
Sea salt, 2 tablespoons –
Sugar, 1 tablespoon
Extra virgin olive oil, 9 tablespoons–

Utensils Needed
Oven, oven tray, electric mixer or bowl, tea towel, rimmed baking sheet

Method
Place all ingredients but the oil in the electric mixer or in a bowl and mix or knead until smooth and uniform. Add 4 tablespoons of oil and mix. Cover the bowl with a damp clean tea towel and let sit for about 2 hours, or until the dough has roughly doubled. Preheat oven to 390 F. Grease the tray with a little oil (1 tablespoon). Now knead lightly and gently press into the baking tray, flatten to fill whole tray and obtain a sheet no higher than 1 inch. If the dough is too sticky use some flour on your hands. Drizzle the whole surface with the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of water. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crust looks crispy and light brown.
Enjoy with some delicious spreads, cheeses and salumi (cured meats).

MB_Food 160209 2 (24)

Making your own pasta is easy

Making fresh pasta is one of our favourite activities, a way to fill up a cold winter afternoon cooking with friends and family. Get your hands dirty and try this simple recipe. All you need is a little time and the eagerness to enjoy a home cooked meal, that will take you all the way back to your Italian memories and fantasies.

IMG_6077-2

Recipe                                                                                                                                 Yield: 6 people

Ingredients

  • Unbleached, unenriched semolina flour, 200g (approx 7 ounces)
  • Unbleached, unenriched white wheat flour, 200g (approx 7 ounces)
  •  Large pasture raised eggs (70 g) 4

Method
On a clean surface, make a pile out of flour and form a deep well in center. Break the eggs into the well  and beat very gently with a fork, gradually incorporating flour from the sides of the well, trying not to make the egg spill out of the well. When mixture becomes too thick to mix with a fork, begin kneading using your hands. If flour does not fully incorporate into the dough add one or two tablespoons of water. (Be careful not to add too much!)

Dough is very sticky at the beginning and becomes more elastic and smooth after around 4 minutes of kneading. Once the dough is formed, continue kneading for 3 more minutes to allow the dough to reach its maximum elasticity and firmness. Long kneading is important in order to develop the gluten in the flour and to prevent dough from tearing apart later on. Dust work surface with flour if needed to keep dough from becoming sticky.

Roll dough into a ball shape and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes.

The traditional way of rolling out the pasta is by using a simple wood rolling pin, so even if you don’t have a pasta machine don’t be intimidated to make fresh pasta at home. Dust working surface with flour and start rolling dough one piece at a time. After every roll, make a quarter turn and repeat the same movement until you have achieved the desired thickness. (Approximately the thickness of a playing card).

If using a machine to roll out the pasta, make sure to firmly attach it to a clean working surface before you start. Then set the pasta machine at its widest setting – and roll one slice of pasta dough through. Fold the dough into thirds and pass through the machine again. Repeat this process 3 times. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through. After 3 times of rolling the dough in the widest setting, click the machine setting down, and pass the dough through several times, starting from the widest setting down to around the narrowest, until reaching the thickness of a playing card.

After achieving the desired thickness it’s time to cut the dough into the desired shape. Make sure to dust dough on both sides so it doesn’t stick to itself.

IMG_5785-2

For Lasagne – Cut into large sheets (can vary depending on baking dish)
For Tagliolini – Cut the sheets into strips the thickness of a quarter (2mm).
For Pappardelle – Cut the sheets into 0.7 inch (2cm) strips.

When pasta is ready to cook, boil water and add salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes (when the pasta is ready it will float to the top of the surface), drain and toss directly into sauce pan with desired sauce.

Cooking dried pasta, the Italian way

Pasta is Italian’s favourite fast ‘ready’ meal. All you need to do is cook it in boiling water and add it to a sauce, whether you cook your sauce from scratch or find it ready-made.

Good quality pasta takes a little longer to cook, but you will be rewarded with its great flavour and texture. Your attention in cooking this great product is crucial. The average serving of pasta per person is 100g (3 ½ ounces) and an average size pack has five servings.

bellina_food_0015

For perfect cooking:

  • Boil water in a large pot
  • Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of salt
  • Don’t add oil to water – it is a pointless myth
  • Pour pasta in boiling water (1 quart of water per 100g of pasta more or less)
  • Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick
  • Cook for the suggested time on pack, but our tip is to always try one before draining, you want to cook it ‘al dente’. Dente means “tooth” in Italian, the texture must be firm and have a bite to it. After you cook pasta regularly, you will just know when it is ready
  • Drain and add to sauce immediately and stir together
  • Eat straight away

Buon Appetito!