meatballs in tomato sauce

The first product I used from my Ciao Gusto hamper was a jar of passata sauce. This is a staple in my kitchen cupboard and can be used in so many recipes. Cirio Passata Rustica is one of the products from the very well known brand in Italy which has been going since 1856 when Cirio, a young boy born to an illiterate family in Sardinia, travelled to Turin and started preserving tomatoes in tin cans. Cirio is all about tomatoes, their brand includes tinned plum tomatoes, chopped plum tomatoes, a variety of passata sauces, a tomato puree and lots more.

I often use the tinned tomatoes as bases for casseroles, soups and pot roasts whereas the passatas are perfect for pasta sauces, like Arrabbiata, Amatriciana and a classical ragú. This time however I had some fresh meatballs and I wanted a recipe that was suitable for all of the family, that means tasty but not too spicy for the little ones.

Cirio vintage postcard

 

Linguine with meatballs in tomato and sweet pepper sauce

Linguine with meatballs in tomato and sweet pepper sauce
 
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A simple and delicious tomato and sweet pepper sauce to accompany tasty meatballs. Great for dinner, suitable for all of the family
Author:
Recipe type: Main meal
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 tray of 12 meatballs
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 peppers diced
  • 1 jar of Cirio Passata Rustica
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the meatballs until they are browed all over, scoop out the meatballs and place to one side.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and sweet peppers to the pan and gently fry until softened. Add the jar of Cirio Passata Rustica and stir the ingredients together.
  3. Return the meatballs to the pan, correct the seasoning, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
  4. In the meantime, bring to the boil a pan of salted water. Add the linguine and cook until al dente.
  5. Once cooked, drain and add to the meatballs sauce, mix well and serve.
  6. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and cracked black pepper
A simple recipe to prepare and ready to serve in no time at all. All of the family enjoyed this and dad added extra freshly ground black pepper to add a little kick to it.

We served a glass of Santa Margherita’s Pinto Grigio with our meal

meatballs in tomato and sweet pepper sauce

 

Macaroni cheese recipe

Growing up in our house focused heavily around meal times and when mum replied to the daily, ‘What’s for tea, mum?’ with ‘Macaroni Cheese’ I’m sure the whole street could hear the cheers that went up. It was the 80’s and pasta was already a family favourite, I can remember sitting at the table in the kitchen waiting for mum to finish grilling the top to a crispy cheesy for us and wishing she would hurry up.

Once on the table I would happily squirt some tomato ketchup on top because that’s what we did back then. If any Italians are reading this I can feel your shock and only after spending years in your country and learning how you cook and eat can I see now the error of my ways, however, it was so good!

Funnily enough when I lived in Italy no one had heard of Macaroni Cheese, they had Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi which everyone agreed was most likely where our Macaroni Cheese came from. A quick check on Wikipedia has it that Macaroni Cheese is an English dish made of short pasta and a cheese sauce.

I wanted to make it for the girls and see if they had the same reaction to me all those years ago. They did. The success of macaroni cheese continues!

If you are introducing no meat nights into the family diet then this one is very popular and will fill them up. It’s a very simple recipe that requires baking in the oven and of course, it can be pimped in so many ways. You could add fried bacon lardons, or a mixture of vegetables cut up small.

I served it up in it’s 1980’s glory but I did not offer the squirt of ketchup on top even if dad and I did have a good sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper though ;)

Macaroni Cheese | a family favourite revisited
 
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A quick and easy pasta to make that is perfect for lunches or evening meals.
Author:
Recipe type: pasta
Cuisine: British
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 300g macaroni
  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 600 full fat milk
  • 1 tbsp English mustard (optional)
  • 225g Cheddar cheese grated
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 200C Gas mark 6
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
  3. Melt 25g of the butter in a pan and add the flour, stir for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk whisk gently to remove any lumps that may form.
  4. Cook over a medium heat stirring continuously until thickened, season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mustard if using and two thirds of the grated Cheddar cheese, mix well together.
  5. Add the pasta and combine well, pour into a baking dish and scatter the remaining cheese on top.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden
  7. Spice it up with chopped chilli peppers added to the mix.
  8. Mix up the cheeses and go for a quattro (4) formaggi (cheese)
Please also see my Macaroni cheese with bacon and chives recipe

macaroni cheese recipe

 

mulled wine recipe

It’s Mulled Wine time of year and I cannot fail to remember the times we used to prepare cauldrons of it to hang on a tripod in the hotel courtyard and wait for our cold guests to return after a day skiing on the pistes. A recipe for mulled wine that goes back a century and is still as satisfying today.

Mulled wine dolomites

The sight alone of the tripod with it’s log fire under the cauldron is enough to make you smile and as the guests arrived they’d gather around and accept a small cup of mulled wine allowing it to warm them up from head to toes.

mulled wine

Chatter would commence, stories of the day’s skiing, funny things that happened, achievements that were made, who had mastered the snowplough and who had attempted a black run for the first time.

Laughter could be heard as people relayed how their partner had ended up skiing backwards or completely misunderstood the ski instructor with embarrassing consequences

These were the moments of the holiday that sealed our guest’s love for our hotel, Club Hotel Alpino and our resort Folgaria, after a few glasses of mulled wine they’d head up to their rooms to get changed and later the conversation would flow easily as a bond had been made.

So when I see bottles of Mulled Wine for sale in the supermarkets, these are the memories I am filled with, good times.

mulled wine tripod

Lindeman’s Shiraz

However, we used to make our own and it is so simple. Lindeman’s have a delicious Shiraz that suits this recipe perfectly and seeing as the grapes are grown in the hot Australian sun you are adding good health and sunshine to your mulled wine too. Throw a couple of steaks on the barbie!

It’s good for you!

In case you needed an excuse to treat yourself to a delicious glass of mulled wine then please take note of the medicinal qualities of some of the ingredients…

Lindeman’s Shiraz – adds sunshine to your drink

Cinnamon stick – Antiflu properties

Cloves – antibacterial

lemon – antiseptical and good for the respiratory system

Orange – vitamin C

Apple – 1 a day keeps the doctor away

As if you needed that excuse! Cin Cin! as they say in the Dolomites.

 

Recipe for Mulled Wine from the Dolomites
 
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A recipe for Mulled Wine direct from the Dolomites to warm you from head to toe.
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Lindeman's Shiraz
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 100g sugar
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 apple, sliced
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a pan and heat slowly until it is warm but not too hot.
  2. Serve in small cups or mugs.
All photos of vin brulé in Folgaria at Club Hotel Alpino with the kind permission of my daughter in law Oana Dascalul

Find more information on Club Hotel Alpino, the perfect family friendly hotel in the Dolomites.

Find more information on Folgaria

Fusilli with smoked trout

Trout is very good for you, it is low in saturated fats but high in essential proteins and omega-3 fatty acids, it’s also high in vitamin D – aka the sunshine vitamin – which so many of us are deficient in.

 

British Trout is very easy to cook with and it’s economical too – plus all the healthy bits mentioned above. All this together makes it ideal for a family meal. So British Trout sent me all the ingredients to try their recipe for Fusilli with Smoked Trout. 

If you’d like to introduce some fish to your weekly menu take a look a the British Trout recipe page here where you’ll find loads of delicious ideas to inspire you. In the meantime –

Fusilli with smoked trout

Ingredients for 4 – 6

2 carrots cut into matchsticks
1 leek cut into matchsticks’2 celery sticks cut into matchsticks
150ml vegetable stock
225g smoked trout fillets skinned and cut into strips
200g cream cheese
150ml white wine or fish stock
15ml Chopped fresh dill or fennel
225g fusilli or other dried pasta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh dill sprigs to garnish

Method

  1. Put the carrot, leek and celery matchsticks into a pan and add the stock. Bring to the boil and cook quickly for 4 -5 minutes until most of the stock has evaporated. Remove from the heat and add the smoked trout.
  2. Put the cream cheese and wine or fish stock into a pan over a medium heat and whisk until smooth, add the dill or fennel and slat and pepper.
  3. Cook the fusilli in boiling salted water, when the pasta is tender or al dente drain it thoroughly and return to the pan.
  4. Add the sauce and toss lightly, transfer to a serving bowl. top with the cooked vegetables and trout.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with sprigs of dill.

fusilli with smoked trout

 

Verdict: 10/10

A delicious pasta dish that is easy to prepare and the children loved it too. My only thoughts on this one is the faffing around with matchsticks which is time consuming and if you’re not precise with a knife your matchsticks may look like boulders as mine do! I think chopping into a small dice would work too – an extra time saver.

marinade for steaks

I’ve been sent a George Foreman 5 portion removable plates grill, it’s a fat reducing grill apparently and the latest model has plates that can be removed making the cleaning process a doddle, plus it has a drip tray.

I was very excited to put it to the test and for my first trial I wanted to do one of my favourite Italian dishes – a tagliata.

A tagliata di manzo is a good piece of beef steak grilled lightly, left pink in the middle (medium rare) and then sliced across the grain into thin strips. It can then be served in lots of different ways, sprinkled with rocket and Parmesan shavings, or with pink peppercorns, or with rosemary, olive oil and drizzled with a thick balsamic vinegar before serving.

I decided to go with rocket and baby tomatoes but first I wanted to marinade the meat.

It would be the perfect way to use the last bottle of my Lindeman’s Shiraz which is utterly delicious by the way. Here’s my marinade recipe

Steak Marinade

Olive oil 50 cl
Balsamic vinegar 20 cl
Juice of one lemon
Rock salt
Peppercorns
1 spoon of spiced Dukkah (toasted nuts, seeds and spices) leftover from a previous recipe you can make your own spice mix
2 sirloin steaks
1 onion quartered
garlic cloves if desired
Lindeman’s Shiraz – enough to cover the steaks

Making the steak marinade

  • Take a plastic sealable food bag large enough to hold the two steaks and place in a jug whilst you pour in the liquid and ingredients.
  • Add the ingredients as listed above in the order you find them. My quantities are approximate, they are dashes and glugs but hold back on the vinegar and wine as they tend to dry the meat and act as stronger tastes.
  • On adding the meat, remove the bag from the jug and hold the opening whilst placing the steaks inside with the other hand.
  • Add the onion and garlic.
  • Add the wine to cover the steaks and then seal the bag tightly.
  • Lay the bag on the side and allow the steaks to absorb the different tastes.
  • Turn the bag occasionally to ensure all sides get covered.
  • Marinade for a maximum of 24 hours. I prepared my marinade at lunchtime for dinner.

The George Foreman grill

It is very simple to operate, you plug in and switch on with the lid down, once the green light shines it is hot enough to put the food on.

Place your steaks on the grill and shut the lid. Keep an eye on the times. The steak was perfect for husband who likes his well done but I should have taken mine off earlier. Use these guidelines as a rule of thumb – note there’s very little in it.

For a 2cm thick sirloin steak

  • Blue: About 1 min each side
  • Rare: About 1½ mins per side
  • Medium rare: About 2 mins per side
  • Medium: About 2¼ mins per side

For a well-done steak, cook for about 4-5 minutes each side, depending on thickness.

Top tip: I found with my marinaded meat that a lot of liquid was coming out of the steaks during cooking, for this reason I suggest setting your grill up close to the sink for easy emptying of the drip tray, I had to empty once during cooking.

george foreman grill

Tagliata alla rucola e pomodorini

Prepare some fresh rocket on the serving plate and chop some baby tomatoes up in quarters. Have some balsamic vinegar on hand to decorate.

Take the cooked steak and place on a chopping board, with a sharp knife slice the steak into thin strips.

Place the strips on the rocket, grind some fresh sea salt over and scatter the quartered baby tomatoes. Drizzle a line of balsamic vinegar over

I served mine with chips.

tagliata alla rucola

I also had a go at grilling vegetables on the George and was really pleased with the outcome.

veg on the grill

 

WIN your own George Foreman 5 portion removable plates grill

The lovely people at George Foreman are giving Mari’s World 1 x 5 portion removable plates grill, like the one you see used here, for one lucky reader to win, please follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below. The winner will be picked at random from all the entries.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I have been given a George Foreman 5 portion Removable Plates Grill (RRP of £64.99) for the purpose of this post.