Jennie Eats Italy

Jennie Eats Italy

Here’s my first ever Jennie Eats Italy video! Hope you like it x

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parma ham with pomegranate and Italian greens

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It’s been a gorgeous weekend full of sunshine, so today I decided to do something nice and light for lunch. Parma ham is so delicious and has always been a lunchtime favourite for me. And I started early - I remember having parma ham sandwiches for lunch at primary school while everyone else ate cheese slices between white bread. I think my mum drew the line at my request for parmesan shavings.

Today I just sliced up a pomegranate and scattered the juicy seeds over the parma ham. The fruit’s sweetness against the strong salt of the ham works really well. Of course you can use melon or even a drop of raspberry coulis if you prefer.

Next is Italian-style greens, which I absolutely love. My grandma has always done the best sautéed greens and I’m always fascinated to hear my dad tell stories of when she first moved to England in the ’40s and used to pick greens, even rocket which today is more than common, and how people thought she was like a witch picking weeds. How things have changed!

If you know and love Italian food, I’m sure you’ll agree that the way they cook vegetables is seriously tasty. And it’s not hard. All you really need is lots of olive oil and garlic. 

Today at the Sunday market in Wellington there were lots of lovely greens, so I picked a large bunch. You can use any greens that take your fancy for this recipe. All you need to do is cover the base of a frying pan or wok with olive oil, fry off three cloves of crushed garlic and the end green part of five spring onions, sliced, then add your greens and stir until they’ve wilted and fried for about 10 minutes. It really is as easy as that. Good hot or cold, these kind of greens can be part of a light lunch or a nice vegetable to accompany meat on an evening. 

As I keep cooking for Jennie Eats Italy, I’m really realising that a lot of Italian food is so much easier to make than people think, and I’m going to keep unearthing good recipes that look and taste impressive but don’t require lots of ingredients or time in the kitchen. Have a lovely Sunday x

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Penne pasticciate

I don’t know about you, but I live with someone who wants to add meat to every single meal. Whenever I cook something without meat he’ll be like, “this is lovely, but it would have been amazing with some chicken, sausage, bit of mince, ham, some lamb chops, a whole hog…” 

With this in mind, last week I decided to give the big man a break and cook something a bit more ‘meaty’ (ish). Penne pasticciate was one of my favourite pastas growing up and a big favourite from my family’s restaurant. It’s super simple to make and is just yum, yum yum. I’d say most of the ingredients would normally feature in your weekly shop too and the fact that it takes about 10 minutes to prepare makes it great for a quick but delicious dinner after work.

Penne pasticciate - serves two

Ingredients

One onion

One clove of garlic

One tin of chopped tomatoes

Pouring cream

Handful of mushrooms

Large handful of peas

Pancetta (or any ham you fancy)

Penne (between 100g and 150g per person)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Method

Firstly, finely chop your garlic and onion and sweat it down in a pan with some olive oil. Whilst that’s happening (it should take about five minutes on a low heat) finely slice your mushrooms and pancetta or ham. Pop these in the pan and stir well. 

While everything is frying off, boil your kettle and empty into a large pot for your pasta. Put it on a high heat and pour in a good dose of salt. Once that’s bubbling away, add your pasta. 

Back to your sauce, now add in a tin of chopped tomatoes and your peas. I tend to chuck mine in from frozen but if you’d prefer to defrost in some boiling water before - go right ahead. Give it another good stir, add a very small ladle of water and leave to bubble away.

Once your pasta is ready, drain and add to the sauce. Mix everything together thoroughly and then pour in your cream. I always just go with what I fancy - you can add a dash or lots depending on how ‘creamy’ you like your pasta. If you don’t do dairy, the cream can definitely be left out.

Outcome

I serve this dish in a lovely big bowl with nothing but a sprinkling of parmesan. I find it caters for everyone’s needs - ham for all of those meat-needing boys, fresh vegetables for our five-a-day and a bit of naughtiness if you’re in need of a treat.

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Roasted baby turnip crostini

I was in the supermarket this weekend and saw a bunch of baby turnips. They were so cute that I just put them in my trolly without any idea what I’d do with them. After much thought and deliberation, I decided they’d be tasty as a crostini topping - and by God was I right.

Like with any crostini, this is a really quick and simple recipe. When it comes to vegetables, I think anything of the ‘baby’ variety is quite avant garde so I think this is one of those impressive looking (and tasting) nibbles that you could have when friends come round or when you’re celebrating something special. 

All you need for this dish is a french stick (or any crusty bread you have at home) baby turnips, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, runny honey and a pinch of salt. I’ve used white balsamic vinegar here as it gives a lovely tang against the sweet honey but it’s clear in colour so you don’t end up with brown soaked bread.

All you have to do is pre-heat your oven to about 200 degrees, scrub and quarter your turnips then chuck them into a baking dish with lashings of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. I left a bit of the turnip stalk on as I thought it looked quite cool - but it’s totally up to you. You’ll need to roast the turnips for about one hour/ one hour 15 minutes until they’re nice and soft. 

When you have about 10 minutes to go on the turnips, slice your bread about 2cm thick and add to your baking dish. Cook for five minutes on each side or until golden and crusty.

Once everything is ready, take the baking dish out of the oven, lay out your crostini and top with the roasted baby turnips. Now in a jug or cup, mix white balsamic vinegar with runny honey - you want a 50/50 consistency. Finish by ladling a spoonful of the mixture over each crostini with a teaspoon. 

The combination of flavours from the dressing against the beautiful crunch of the bread and taste of roasted turnip is honestly gorgeous. Everything marries really well together and it’s a great way to kick-start your taste buds for something great for dinner. Give it a go!

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Pork belly with roast potatoes and chicory with green chilli, garlic and honey

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Ever since I was little we’ve had a roast on a Sunday. It’s a lovely tradition that I never really appreciated until I moved away from home.

This weekend I decided to cook my own version of a Sunday roast - pork belly with potatoes and baked chicory. 

Though I know chicory is an acquired taste it can be really gorgeous. Back home it’s easier to find in the supermarkets but you can still find it in New Zealand - though as I discovered in an interesting experience at the self check out - chicory is actually called ‘witloof’ in New Zealand. Interesting. 

I haven’t put strict measurements here as you can increase and decrease depending on your appetite and how many people there are. 

Jennie’s Sunday roast

Ingredients

Pork belly

One chicory bulb (or witloof) per person

One green chilli

One clove of garlic

Runny honey

Baby potatoes

Rosemary

Thyme

Olive oil

Salt

Method

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. 

Take your pork belly and cut the fat in 1cm lines until you reach the meat. Rub the fatty side with salt and olive oil and then pop into an oiled baking tray and cover with fresh thyme then put in the oven. It will need to be in there for about 90 minutes but do keep an eye on it as everyone’s oven is different.

Once you’ve got your pork in the oven you can wash and half your potatoes and put into a pot with cold salted water (I don’t bother peeling mine but of course you can if you prefer). Bring to the boil and keep on the hob for about 10 minutes. Drain and pour into a baking dish, smothering them in olive oil and adding rosemary. After 30 minutes of your pork being in the oven, add the dish of potatoes.

Finely chop a green chilli (removing the seeds and membrane) and add to a hot frying pan with one crushed clove of garlic and a large glug of olive oil. Stir until softened. 

Chop the hard end off your chicory bulbs and start peeling the leaves off in twos. Lie them tightly next to each other in a baking dish and pour your chilli, garlic and oil over the top. If you have room in the oven, add the chicory when your pork has 30 minutes to go. After 20 minutes, take the chicory out and lightly drizzle honey over the top, popping back in the oven for 10 minutes.

Everything should be ready at the same time if you follow this recipe. The last thing to do is to take your pork from the oven and put it fat side down into a dry frying pan for about five minutes just to crisp it off.

Lay out your meat, potatoes and chicory on a large platter and drizzle the meat infused oil from the baking dish back over the pork before serving.

Outcome

Even if I say so myself, this meal was really delicious. It’s certainly not your average old school Sunday roast but the Italian twist of the chilli garlic chicory really adds an interesting twist. 

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Mozzarella roulade

My parents have just come back from three weeks in Italy - taking my Grandma back to see the famiglia. Some mornings I would wake up with over 20 Whatsapp messages from my Dad purely of food (cheers, Den - rub it in why don’t you?) There was fettuccine, there was cannelloni (in fact there was fettuccine and cannelloni on one plate), there were deep fried pizza balls, deliciously juicy tomatoes from the garden, bottles of family wine, it just never ended. 

One dish I saw twice in the torture photos was a mozzarella roulade-looking invention. Though my parents had never seen it before this trip, they said it seemed to be the new craze over in the homeland. I wanted to try it because firstly it contains some of my favourite ingredients and secondly it looks beautiful.

Before I go on I have to say that fresh is best for this recipe. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can access really fresh mozzarella it will be so much easier to make. Unfortunately in Wellington it would be easier to go and milk a buffalo and make your own cheese than it is to find top notch fresh mozzarella. If it isn’t the freshest it will be a little bit hard and thus impossible to roll into a flat mozza-pancake. If this is the case, you can cheat like I did and melt your mozzarella. The end result won’t be as soft and creamy as the proper version but will still taste great.

Mozzarella roulade

Ingredients

One large, fresh mozzarella ball

One large handful of basil leaves

One large handful of rocket

A small pack of prosciutto

Cherry tomatoes

Method

As mentioned in my mozzarella monologue, if you have a really soft ball of mozzarella - use a rolling pin to get it completely flat like a thin pizza base. If you don’t you can chop your mozzarella up and lay it on the base of a large frying pan and turn the heat on. One the cheese melts take it off the heat (waiting a few minutes so you don’t burn your fingers) and then pop it into a ball and roll out the same way.

Now put a layer of basil leaves, a layer of rocket and then a layer of prosciutto over the flat mozzarella. Finally slice your cherry tomatoes into thirds and add a layer of those. Now gently roll as you would a roulade and firmly wrap in cling film, popping in the fridge for one to two hours.

When you’re ready to serve, slice your roulade about 2cm thick.

Outcome

You can serve this as part of an antipasto starter, with a balsamic rocket salad or just as wee appetisers when you have people round. The thing I like most about this recipe is that it looks really impressive with very little effort (unless you do decide to go and find that buffalo). Enjoy!

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Ricotta, mushroom and rosemary stuffed pasta shells

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Pasta is my favourite thing in the whole world - nothing else even comes close. So when I see pasta that’s super sized I have to say it excites me. Until tonight I’d never actually stuffed giant pasta shells myself, which may come as a shock, but it’s not something I ate growing up. I’m not sure if it’s a regional dish or if it’s a modern Italian trend (feel free to tell me the answer) but I’ve seen so many delicious photos of them on Instagram that I just had to give it a go. 

For my recipe I decided to use ricotta, button mushrooms and rosemary for the stuffing. The flavours work really well together, especially when the sharp tomato sauce cuts through that rich creaminess. I encourage everyone to give this dish a go and as with most of my recipes, you can change up the ingredients if you like. It’s also a really easy recipe and a good alternative to lasagne or cannelloni as there’s a lot less to do.

Stuffed pasta shells - serves four

Ingredients 

250g large pasta shells

300g ricotta cheese

20 button mushrooms

Two sprigs of rosemary

Two tins of tomatoes

One onion

Two cloves of garlic

One chicken or vegetable stock cube

Olive oil

Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees and pop a large saucepan of salted water on a hot hob.

Wash and finely slice your mushrooms. Throw them in a hot oiled frying pan with the leaves from two sprigs of rosemary. To remove the leaves just nip the stalk and run your fingers upwards against the direction of the leaves.

After about three minutes spoon the mixture into a bowl to rest.

Once your water is boiling, pop in your pasta and stir. Now onto your tomato sauce. Finely chop your onion and garlic and add to olive oil in a pan. Stir and after two minutes add two tins of chopped tomatoes and crumble in a stock cube. You can leave this to bubble away while you get on with the rest of the dish. 

When your pasta shells are al dente, drain and rinse with cold water. By this stage your mushroom mixture will have cooled down and you can pour it back onto your chopping board to finely chop it. Put it back into the bowl and mix thoroughly with your beautifully creamy ricotta. 

Your pasta sauce will no be ready to use. If you’d prefer to have it without any texture, pour into a blender or use a stick blender to blitz it. Take a casserole dish and spoon a thin layer of the tomato sauce into the bottom. Now start stuffing your shells. Take a teaspoon and fill each shell with the ricotta mixture and put into the dish. Finish with a lovely layer of tomato sauce and a generous grating of parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Outcome 

Yum, yum yum. I know it’s getting colder back in England and to be honest it’s not feeling that hot over here in New Zealand, so I think this is a universally perfect option for dinner at the moment. Add a lovely balsamic dressed salad with juice cherry tomatoes and avocado and you’ve got the perfect weekend indulgence.

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Rigatoni with breadcrumbs, pancetta and brocollini

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Not every pasta dish has to be laced with sauce to be scrumptious. This rigatoni recipe is really simple with big flavours topped off by the gorgeously light crunch of breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs work really well with pasta, especially with a salty accompaniment like anchovies. Pecorino certainly does the trick too and works beautifully with my favourite vegetable, long stemmed brocolli. It’s so good for you and tastes great in Italian cooking.

Rigatoni with pancetta and brocollini - serves two

Ingredients

200g rigatoni

Five thin slices of pancetta 

One garlic clove

One red chilli

A nice bunch of brocollini 

One small handful of breadcrumbs

One small handful of pecorino cheese

Olive oil

Black pepper

Method

Boil a saucepan of salted water and add your rigatoni until al dente. While your pasta is bubbling away, roughly chop your pancetta and throw into a hot, dry pan, allowing the fat to render down. Now finely chop your chilli (removing the seeds) and garlic, add a dash of olive oil to the pan and add everything along with your broccolini. Fry until the stalks are just cooked through. 

Once your pasta is ready, drain and add to your frying pan. Add another drizzle of olive oil along with the pecorino and breadcrumbs. Continue to stir under the heat until the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted. Finish with a twist of black pepper.

Outcome

This is the perfect Italian example of fast and easy comfort food. Very little effort is required and you can use anything you like. If you’re not in the mood for sauce, breadcrumbs can be a really nice alternative and for me the salty taste of the pancetta and pecorino cheese alongside the fresh flavour of the brocollini is a heavenly match.

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Stuffed chillis

Chilli is a staple in Italian cooking. I wish I had a picture to show you of my uncle Ettore who is now in his late 80s and still has a little dish of tiny scorching red chillis by every meal and just picks them up and eats them whole. It’s unreal.

This recipe isn’t quite so hardcore. I remove all of the seeds and membrane so no one’s mouth will explode. The red part of the chilli is very similar to pepper (or capsicum as the Kiwis seem to call it) but with a lovely undertone of heat to it. 

I wanted to do a stuffed chilli to show that anyone can enjoy it, even those afraid of spicy food. It’s a seriously simple side dish and certainly works with red peppers too if you’d like to stick to something a bit more sweet.

In terms of ingredients - all you need are a bunch of large red chillis, pecorino cheese, breadcrumbs and olive oil.  You need large chillis for this dish because firstly, you’d only get half a mouthful if you stuffed the little ones, and secondly, the larger the chilli, the milder it is.

The first step is to prep your chillis. Using a small sharp knife draw a line down the centre of your chilli, length ways, and then commit to it by slicing through gently. If you want to be decorative, follow all the way through the stalk.

Now using your knife, draw a line round the outside of the white membrane and pull it out along with all of the seeds. Wash the chilli to get rid of any remaining seeds.

Glug some olive oil around the base of a baking dish and lie your chilli halves in a line, skin side down. Pop under a hot grill for 15 minutes.

While your chillis are grilling, mix pecorino cheese with breadcrumbs. You want a half and half consistency here so you can really taste that strong, salty cheese but also get the crunch of the crumbs when they go back under the grill.

Take your chillis out of the oven and start to stuff them with your mixture, using a teaspoon. Pop back under the grill until browned.

Do be careful as chilli skin does blacken quickly and though the edges will char ever-so-slightly, you want to avoid serving up little canoes of coal.

These simple stuffed chillis go really well with a lovely wine vinegar tossed salad and bread, as a lovely accompaniment to a meat dish. You could also lie them over your favourite creamy pasta dish as tasty decoration. 

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pork & polenta

Polenta is an Italian classic and can be used in so many ways, even cake. Tonight I made polenta to form a creamy base for pork that’s lightly fried with onion, garlic and chilli and then cooked in a rich tomato sauce with wine. It’s a really easy dish to do if you have people coming over and is perfectly cosy for the colder weather.

Pork & polenta - serves four

Ingredients

One cup of polenta

One cup of milk

Three cups of water

Parmesan cheese

One tin of chopped tomatoes

One punnet of cherry tomatoes

Two small onions

400g of diced pork

One red chilli

Two cloves of garlic

White wine

Olive oil

Salt and pepper 

Method

First things first, do all of your chopping. Finely chop your onions, chilli and garlic and chop up your porn into tiny pieces. Half your cherry tomatoes and pop them in a bowl.

Heat a frying pan with a good glug of olive oil and add your onion, chilli and garlic and stir. Once soft, add your pork to the pan. Add a sizeable splash of wine and your cherry tomatoes and leave to simmer.

Now for the polenta. Add your milk and water to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a low heat and start to pour your cup of polenta into the pan, using a whisk to quickly mix. The mixture will thicken really quickly and as soon as it does you can leave it on a low heat and stir occasionally. I add a small handful of parmesan cheese and a big pinch of salt to my polenta, too.

Give your pork a big stir and add your tin of chopped tomatoes. Put the heat up a bit so it bubbles away and all the yummy flavours concentrate.

After your polenta has been on the heat for 25-30 minutes everything will be ready. Spoon your polenta out onto a platter and top with your pork mixture. Finish with a nice big sprinkle of parmesan. 

Outcome

This dish is really delicious and comforting. It’s a great sharing platter for when you have friends over and looks really impressive. The polenta put with the subtle heat and sweetness of the pork’s rich tomato sauce is just scrumptious.

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