Amatriciana pasta sauce – tomato with a kick

amatriciana sauce for pasta

This is a great pasta sauce for this time of year, it’s made with tomatoes so if you are harvesting this could be a perfect solution for them and it is also flavoured with chilli so has that kick that an autumn evening needs to warm up the cockles.

A little research tells me this sauce originates from the town of Amatrice in the region of Lazio and to do it properly you would use guanciale which is the cheek of the pig, I can’t find guanciale locally so substituted with pancetta instead. Bacon is also a great substitute.

The second traditional ingredient to use is pecorino a hard cheese made from goat’s milk with a lovely distinct taste, sadly I couldn’t find any of that either and so I used good old Parmesan which does just as well.

Allow about half an hour to cook your sauce and buon appetito.

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San Daniele puff slice

proscuitto san daniele sliceI had a Ready, Steady, Cook challenge land in my inbox recently and the ingredients to use were Italian and two of my very favourite products, Prosciutto San Daniele and Grana Padano.

I was to invent a recipe using these products and I would be in a competition up against others, the winner will receive £450 worth of cookery lessons at La Cucina Caldesi which would be a dream come true for me.

But what to do? Make a pasta with them? Use them in a risotto? Wrap scallops or mozzarellas in them or something completely wild? I’m sure there will be some entries much more creative than mine but…

One thing I did learn in Italy was that some ingredients like Prosciutto San Daniele are so unique and so delicious that tampering with them too much can actually take away from the end dish so I decided I wanted to keep them as untouched as possible. After much thought I went for a very simple recipe but one that would allow each product to shine. We were also staying in the caravan the weekend I decided to try the recipe out which proves that excellent recipes can be made in the tiniest of spaces

[yumprint-recipe id=’4′]A couple of photos I took during the making – scoring the pastry

scoring the puff pastry

Just out of the oven and ready to serve – please note I covered only one side of the tomatoes with rocket as I knew my 5 year olds wouldn’t eat it, as it is they ate every scrap of their rocket free half.

san daniele puff slice

Summer salads – Italian style


Following on from my recent chat about Trentino and with summer literally knocking at the door, it is isn’t it? I thought I’d give you a couple of the best Italian salads you can find on the penisular.

The two mentioned below take minutes to prepare, they are incredibly wholesome, nutritious and low calorie too. Both of these recipes can also be used as starters which is worth keeping in mind if you need something swanky that only takes minutes.

Prosciutto e Melone

1/4 melon cut into two pieces
8 slices of Parma ham placed over the melon
wild rocket to decorate
prosciutto melone

Quite simply prosciutto crudo or Parma Ham is a dry-cured ham which is eaten thinly sliced.

There is an art to slicing the crudo as I discovered today at my local Morrisons. I asked for 100g of thinly sliced, any photo you search for will show wafer thin slices sometimes twirled into beautiful roses. The lady working on the Deli took the leg of ham over to the slicer and proceeded to slice thinly as I had requested imagining she knew how to serve it. This photo is enough to send the toughest Italian Stallion to his knees

parma ham badly cut

I got her to stop at 30g which was just enough to show you in the photo above how it is most likely to be found served in Italy. The salty ham against the fresh melon is scrumptious. This is how it should be sliced …

prosciutto crudo parma ham

Insalata Caprese – Mozzarella and tomato salad

1 mozzarella
sliced tomatoes – I used a beef tomato, some baby plum tomatoes and a salad tomato
fresh basil leaves
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

insalata capreseAnother really easy salad to prepare and again low calorie too, the Italians also call this one tri-colore as it has the colours of their national flag.

Roughly chop the mozzarella into bite sized pieces, chop your tomatoes up and place both main ingredients on serving plate. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over, drizzle with a little olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. It’s ready! Can be served with fresh bread

In Italy you will most likely find it served like this

caprese insalata

Spaghetti with mussels

spaghetti with musselsHere is a recipe that is very easy, quick and delicious, just how we like them here in Mari’s world! It’s for lovers of seafood and in particular mussels, it’s not expensive and it’s impressive too, ideal for a quiet night in or for entertaining.

Serve with a crisp cold white wine

Spaghetti with mussels


1 tray of fresh mussels (I found mine in Asda)
1 clove of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Flat leaf parsley – chopped
1 glass of wine – optional but nice
Pepper (or hot chilli pepper if you want a kick!)
Spaghetti (I used linguine a flatter kind of spaghetti)


I bought a tray of mussels that were already cleaned and had had their shells removed. If you’re using shelled mussels they will need cleaning properly.

Asda mussels

Put on a large pan of water, add about a dessert spoon of rock salt ‘un pugno’ and bring to the boil. Add the spaghetti or linguine and cook until al dente.

un pugno di sale

In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the chopped garlic to fry lightly, add the mussels and keep on a low heat, add a glass of wine and allow the liquid to evaporate but keeping the mussels ‘wet’. Add a ladle of salted water from your spaghetti pan if necessary.

spaghetti with mussels

Add the chopped parsley at the end so as not to overcook it.

spaghetti and mussels cooking

Drain the pasta from the pan and add it to the mussels, toss the lot if you’re clever enough (I’m not) or stir with a wooden spoon to amalgamate well. Grind some fresh pepper over the top or if you want a little heat to your mussels add some hot chilli flakes and mix well.

Spaghetti with mussels

Serve with fresh bread to be broken at the table and to soak up the juice

spaghetti with mussels



This recipe can also be made ‘al rosso’ by adding a tin of chopped tomatoes to the fried garlic

Minestra d’orzo – Barley soup

Minestra d'Orzo

Another classic recipe I learnt from my late mother in law, Daria in Italy is Minestra d’Orzo translated Pearl Barley Soup. It’s a typical recipe from the region of Trentino Alto Adige and there are a hundred and one versions of it out there all equally delicious but I have stuck to her true rustic housewife’s version, simple and tasty. A warming vegetable broth perfect for the cold winter days we’re suffering at the moment, it’s cheap, wholesome and easy to prepare plus the family will love it.

Now here’s the funny bit, I ate all the minestra and forgot to take a photo, oops! Soooo I got onto Facebook and called on my good friend Max who runs a fabulous restaurant Malga Millegrobbe which sits at the top of a beautiful mountain and serves up good, wholesome, fresh food to the walkers, skiers, photographers, families and visitors who come by.

‘Have you got some Pearl barley soup on the menu right now?’


‘Can you serve one up and take a photo for me for my blog post tomorrow?

Five minutes later the photo there popped into my inbox and phew! Max saved the day for me ;)

He’s bound to notice the recipe below is slightly different to his and maybe he’ll let me know so I can add his alteration too. Please check out his Facebook page and Like it, write on his wall that I sent you and should you ever be in the area go eat there, you’ll be thanking me after for a long long time.

Here’s a photo taken in the area around the restaurant – stunning

Minestra d’Orzo – Pearl Barley Soup

Ingredients for 4 people

1 onion finely chopped
1 carrot peeled and cut into small pieces
1 medium potato peeled and cut into small pieces
1 stick of celery cut into small pieces
1 courgette, cut into small pieces
100g pancetta cubed
100g pearl barley
1 -litre of meat stock
a knob of butter


  1. Melt the butter and fry the onion until it is soft and golden. Add the carrot, celery, potato and courgette and soften together.
  2. Add the pancetta (my mother in law would sometimes use a couple of pork ribs if she didn’t have pancetta)
  3. Add the washed pearl barley and stir together. My MIL would leave the barley in water overnight but today the barley sold in the supermarkets is ready to use.
  4. Add the stock to cover and simmer until the pearl barley is cooked (about an hour) stirring occasionally and adding more stock if it starts to look too thick. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Once cooked it’s ready to eat, dribble a little extra virgin olive oil over the top and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

Other versions of Minestra d’Orzo

  • adding fagioli – borlotti beans along with the pearl barley
  • not adding the courgette
  • adding ‘il culetto del speck’ instead of pancetta

And of course it’s Foodie Friday when I invite all bloggers to add a recipe to the link up below and we make a weekly recipe book for the internet world to be inspired by. If you’re looking for a tea time treat January’s prompt was Sweet pastries and breads so head over to Lavender and Lovage to drool over the 25+ versions on the theme, you’ll spot my Mele in Camicia there too :)