Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

Puttanesca – it’s not what you think!

In Recipes on September 24, 2011 at 4:14 am

Not every meal has to be complicated, sometimes we are busy and a quick meal made with ingredients you have to hand is required.  This where Pasta Puttanesca comes in.  I have been making this fast and easy dish for years – whenever I am short on time or when I can’t be bothered going out to the shops.  Pasta Puttanesca, translated literally as whore’s pasta, is not so named because it is the favourite food of Italian prostitutes but because it is made from ingredients that most Italians (and Australians these days) have in their cupboard or pantry – they are whoring for ingredients in other words.  Pasta Puttanesca is not an ancient Italian dish.  It made its first appearance in the 1960s so it has been a relatively recent addition to the Italian cook’s repertoire.  The taste is salty from the olives and anchovies, piquant from the capers, and hot from the chilli flakes.

It's also pretty cheap

Pasta Puttanesca  


500g Italian dried spaghetti

425g tin Italian diced tomatoes

6 anchovy fillets (chopped)

1 tbs capers (chopped)

2 tbs black olives (chopped)

1 onion (finely diced)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli flakes

pinch oregano

2 tbs olive oil

freshly ground pepper (to taste)


Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan.  Add the onion, anchovies, garlic, chilli flakes and oregano and fry gently for 1 – 2 mins or until the anchovies have ‘melted’ and the onions are translucent.  Add olives and capers, fry gently for a further minute or two.  Add tinned tomatoes and 1/4 cup water.  Reduce gently for 15 – 20 mins.  Meanwhile, prepare the pasta by dropping it in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water, bring back to the boil and cook according to the directions on the packet or until al dente.  Drain the pasta well and toss in the pan with the sauce.  Garnish with chopped Italian parsley.  Serves 4

You gotta have ricotta continued…

In Recipes on September 11, 2011 at 12:39 am

I’m not even going to pretend that I’m being healthy with this recipe for Torta di Cioccolato e Ricotta or Chocolate and Ricotta Tart.  This tart is very rich so it is best to serve it in small portions.  I found the recipe in Toby Puttock’s Cook Like An Italian though there was a problem.  I don’t know if I had a faulty copy of the book or if some other library borrower had ripped it out but the page containing the recipe for the pastry was missing.  I substituted my own recipe so I’ll have to say this is Toby Puttock’s filling with my old recipe for sweet pastry.

Torta di Ciccolato e Ricotta or Chocolate and Ricotta Tart

Rich and delicious


For the pastry:

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 cup self-raising flour

1 cup flour

1 egg

a few drops of vanilla extract

For the filling:

320g fresh ricotta

70g caster sugar

3 free range eggs

60g blanched almonds, finely sliced

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 1 orange

120g dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated

1 tsp vanilla extract or the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla pod

icing sugar and cocoa to dust


For the pastry:  Rub butter into sifted flours until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add sugar and vanilla and mix to a dough with beaten egg – you may also need a tbs of water to bring the dough together.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 20 mins.

For the filling:  Combine ricotta and sugar in a large bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, add the eggs one at a time.  Add the almonds, citrus zest, chocolate and vanilla.  Mix well with the wooden spoon.  Cover and refrigerate 20 mins.

Grease a 25 cm loose-bottomed flan tin with butter.  Roll out the pastry to 3-4 mm thick between two pieces of cling film.  Lift the top layer of cling film off the rolled-out dough and flip the dough over to drape over the tin, using your fingers to push it into the corners and sides.  Peel off the cling film and refrigerate the case for a further 20 mins.  (I had some pastry left over, I stored this in the refrigerator to be used in the next day or two for something else).

Preheat the oven to 200c.  Blind bake the pastry case for 15 mins. or until lightly coloured.  Cool, then  fill the pastry case with the ricotta mixture, smoothing it with a spoon.  Reduce oven temperature to 180c and bake for 30-40 mins or until the pastry is golden.  Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool.  Dust with cocoa and icing sugar mixture.

Torta di Cioccolato e Ricotta

You gotta have ricotta!

In Recipes on September 2, 2011 at 4:31 am

Ricotta cheese is apparently not really a cheese.  It is a by product of cheese production, but it doesn’t contain the coagulant casein that is an essential ingredient of other cheeses.  Ricotta is made by coagulating other milk proteins (albumin, globulin etc.) contained in the whey that is left over from the cheese making process.  Because ricotta is made from the whey once most of the fatty solids have been removed, it is naturally low in fat.

A certain person I know has long refused to believe me when I tell her that cheesecakes can be made from ricotta cheese and not cream cheese or mascarpone.  She thinks I’m trying to pass some sort of diet or ‘lite’ cheesecake off on her.  Even when I swear on the grave of my departed grandmother that the Italians have been making delicious sweets with ricotta (including cheesecake) for centuries, she gives me a hurt look that seems to say you can’t fool me, in fact you insult my intelligence by even trying.  I was determined to prove her wrong so I made an Italian Ricotta Cheesecake.  When it was ready to eat I nervously carved her a small sliver in case she didn’t like it.  She ate some and declared it “nice but  not the same as real cheesecake.”  I acknowledged defeat and became absorbed in other kitchen tasks.  Ten minutes later I noticed her sneaking back to the refrigerator where she proceeded to cut herself a large wedge, her look was sheepish as she skulked back to the other room with her plate.

Italian Ricotta Cheesecake  

Tasty ingredients


3/4 cup ’00’ flour

1/3 cup butter

2 tbs sugar

pinch salt

1 tbs water

For the filling:

750g fresh ricotta cheese

2/3 cup sugar

3 tbs ’00’ flour

4 eggs

1 tsp grated orange zest

1 tsp grated lemon zest

1 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbs sultanas

3 tbs candied citron (mixed peel)

3 tbs blanched almonds (chopped)

2 tbs icing sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


For the pastry:

Rub butter into flour until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add water and bring the mixture together into a ball.  Wrap in cling film and rest in the refrigerator for 20 mins.  Press evenly into the bottom of a 20cm non-stick spring form pan.  Bake in a 220c oven for five mins.

For the filling:

Beat ricotta, sugar, flour, eggs, orange zest, lemon zest and lemon juice in a large mixer bowl (or with hand held beaters) on high until the mixture is smooth and creamy – about 4 mins.  Fold in sultanas, citron and almonds.  Pour into pastry lined tin.  Bake in a 180c oven until the center is set and the top is golden brown – 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  Cool.  Refrigerate 12 -24 hours.  Remove outer rim of pan.  Mix icing sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over cheesecake.  Serve with mixed berries or cream (optional).

Delicious ricotta cheesecake


You can soak the sultanas in amaretto or brandy before adding them to the cake.  If you want a richer cake you can substitute 250g mascarpone for the same amount of ricotta.