Spring is the season that brings fresh ingredients and simple, delicious foods to the table. That is precisely why we decided to cook Italian food, which provides brilliance in simplicity.

There is nothing more simple, flavorsome and versatile than toasted bread. It is the key starter at any good party between close friends or relatives. Char-grilled to toasty perfection, rubbed with raw garlic cloves, seasoned with salt flakes and drenched in a rather lavish amount of extra virgin olive oil. When done properly with good, thick, green olive oil and just the right amount of garlic, it is perhaps one of the most satisfying dishes on the planet. We used this beautifully prepared bread as an appetizing bruschetta antipasto and for a gently garnished crostino, all  topped with grilled eggplant, milky mozzarella and pesto sauce. In less than twenty minutes we had a delicious and healthy starter that captures the smells of a breezy Tuscan spring.

Pasta is the dish that defines the Italian cuisine. Making fresh pasta is less about complicated ingredients, but more about technique, love and attention. Two simple ingredients—eggs and flour—are all that’s needed to form this adored Italian staple. The pasta dough comes together quickly and the pasta machine creates thin, almost translucent sheets that can be cut into your favorite shapes. Our choice for the day were spinach-filled homemade cannelloni with a creamy béchamel sauce and parmesan topping. Rich, smooth and mouth-watering.

The perfect way to end this ‘al fresco’ meal was with an affogato, a coffee-based beverage made up of hot espresso and icy cold gelato.

Amidst this dining experience we served food that led to gasps and laughter, serious discussions and demands for more of that, please, now…

 

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Proofread by: Simona Veselinska

 

recipes

 

Ingredients

Fresh pasta dough
Ricotta cheese   350 g

Egg  1
Spinach  500 g 
Parmesan cheese  100 g 
Garlic  1 glove 
Butter  2 Tbsp
Béchamel sauce  700 ml 
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Instructions

Clean the spinach, making sure to eliminate all the stems and rinse well under cold running water. Place in a large saucepan with the butter and garlic and cook covered with only the water from the leaves. Add salt and remove garlic. Squeeze and remove remaining water, then chop finely. Mix the spinach, ricotta and grated Parmesan cheese in a bowl.

Use your pasta machine to prepare thin pasta strips. Cut them into about 10 cm squares. Put two to three tablespoons of the mixture along one edge of the pasta and then roll it up to the opposite side, pressing and evening out as you roll.

Butter an oven dish large enough to contain all the cannelloni in a single layer. Spread a ladleful of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the oven dish and arrange the cannelloni in the dish. Cover with the rest of the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and bake in 180°C preheated oven. Turn on the grill and bake for a few more minutes to brown.

 

Ingredients

Tomatoes  2 handful
Fresh basil 1 spring
Good quality rustic bread   6 – 8 thick slices
Garlic  1 clove
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Instructions

Wash the tomatoes, remove the skin and finely chop them. Place in a bowl, tear in the basil, season with salt and pepper, then toss in with olive oil and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Using a pastry brush, coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Place slices on a large baking sheet and bake until golden, for about 5 – 10 min.

Lightly rub the baked bread with a cut clove of garlic and top with the tomato mixture. Serve immediately.

 

Ingredients

Mozzarella  250 g
Eggplants  2, cut into diagonal slices 5mm thick
Tomatoes   3 medium, cut into thick slices.
Pesto
Good quality rustic bread   6 – 8 thick slices
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

Using a pastry brush, coat one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Place slices on a large baking sheet and bake until golden, for about 5 – 10 min.

Place the eggplant slices in a bowl with a good amount of olive oil, add a pinch of salt and black pepper.
Heat a griddle pan until very hot and (in batches) add the eggplant slices in a single layer. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side until slightly softened and striped on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside until all the eggplant slices are cooked.

When everything is ready, spread the bread with the pesto, top with tomato and eggplant slices and garnish with fresh mozzarella. Serve immediately.

 

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