Fresh Thoughts – Gnocchi di Ricotta

Cucina Fintastica is about to reach its 5th anniversary. Time certainly flies! My activity as a blogger has had its ups and downs (as have my kitchen adventures – not to mention baking). However, my passion and excitement for cooking has remained constant throughout this time and the number of Italian recipes I have tried during the past five years is probably at least two-fold compared to the number of posts on Cucina Fintastica.

A lot has happened also in the background since January 2014. My kitchen is bigger. A friend with a camera has been replaced by a husband with a camera. There are also some smaller mouths (and hopefully budding fans of Italian kitchen) to feed.

In addition, I have learned a lot! I have become acquainted with all sorts of Italian dishes, many Italian cheeses and even some vegetables. My Italian skills are ever improving (well, slowly but surely). There are also quite a few neat kitchen tricks that I have discovered from my Italian sources.

Kitchen ups and downs teach you about yourself too. I admit now that I will never be a brilliant baker (which never stops me from going for yet another – more or less ill-fated –  attempt to become one anyway). I have also become semi-addicted to fresh home-made pasta.

I think among my first posts, I stated that fresh pasta needs to be stuffed to be worth the effort. I have definitely changed my mind about that… Suddenly making gnocchi on a weekday doesn’t seem that bad and ridiculously time-consuming at all. Or you just can’t imagine eating your ragu without home-made tagliatelle.

For a weekday inspiration of fresh pasta, today’s recipe is a sensible choice. You don’t need to cook any potatoes or similar first but you only mix the ingredients of the gnocchi to create the dough, The result is definitely not any less delicious than a potato version but maybe even more. The gnocchi are supersoft and tasty! I have used this recipe for the gnocchi and this for the basic tomato sauce (although today I added some fresh tomatoes for extra flavour).

Ricotta Gnocchi

Serves 4

For the gnocchi

250 g ricotta

150 g (00) flour

1 egg

50 g parmesan (grated)

Nutmeg

Salt

For the tomato sauce

500 g tomato sauce (passata di pomodoro)

3 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove

Salt

6 basil leaves

If you are not in a hurry, start with the tomato sauce. In a pan, heat the olive oil. Add the entire garlic clove (i.e. not crushed not chopped) and gently fry for a few minutes. Pour in the tomato sauce and season with salt. Cover the pan with the lid and cook on a low hear for at least 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, prepare the gnocchi. Mix all ingredients together to make a dough. Divide the dough into 2-3 parts. On a floured surface, roll each part to a “tube” about 2-3 cm thick. Cut each tube into small pieces that are about 2 cm wide. Use a fork and your thumb to create gnocchi of each piece (you can find some good pictures how to do this e.g. here. In a kettle, bring several liters of water to a boil. Add some salt. Cook the gnocchi for 2-3 minutes in the water. The gnocchi float on water when they are cooked.

Season your tomato sauce with the basil leaves and serve with the gnocchi.

Advertisements

A Gnocchout Dish – Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina

If I need to name my strengths, perseverance and persistence are definitely among the top ones.

They are quite useful qualities also in the worlds of blogging and cooking.

They enable me to write yet another post to Cucina Fintastica after a …er… lengthy break.

They also make me re-try recipes even if the first experiment resulted in a kitchen disaster of some sort. As you may remember, I have had my fair share of them. Like this. Or some of these.

Today’s dish is another example of a dish gone unfriendly at the first attempt. When I had mixed all the ingredients of the gnocchi together, I had a pasta dough so wet and sticky that you could have probably very successfully used it for hanging a wallpaper. However, for making  fresh pasta it was completely useless. So I added flour. And more flour. And more and more. I ended up with something not so useful for decorating your walls anymore and managed to make the pieces of pasta out of the dough. Unfortunately after all the extra rounds of flour, the gnocchi tasted of – not too surprisingly – flour and were very hard.

Apparently I am not the only one who has miserably failed in the art of gnocchi-making. According to this article by La Cucina Italiana, there are several errors that you can make. You have to pick the right kind of potatoes, not peel them before cooking, avoid using too much flour and so on.

My first failed attempt did put me off potato gnocchi for quite some time though. Then I dared to test a version of them with pumpkins (no potatoes) which worked out quite perfectly. Another success was gnocchi of ricotta (still no potatoes). Finally I tried gnocchi alla sorrentina with a shortcut of using ready-made gnocchi.

In fact, I was going to take the same shortcut today but my not-so-well-equipped supermarket didn’t have any ready gnocchi available. Hence I was forced to bravely crawl out of my gnocchi comfort zone. And I’m glad that I did.

This time I selected the right potatoes, tapped the potatoes dry with papertowel and didn’t add the entire egg when my dough started to show signs of stickiness. And voila, the gnocchi had proper taste and consistency! Another culinary lesson learned.

Gnocchi alla sorrentina

Serves 4

For the gnocchi

1 kg red potatoes

300 g (00) flour

1 medium-sized egg

Salt

For the tomato sauce

600 g tomato paste

6 basil leaves

1 garlic clove

Olive oil

Salt

For the final dish

250 g mozzarella

70 g parmesan cheese

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until soft (depending on their size for about 30-40 minutes).

In the meantime, prepare the tomato sauce. In a pan, heat some olive oil and add the garlic clove and tomato paste and season with some salt. Add the basil leaves and cover the pan with a lid. Cook on a low – medium heat for at least 30 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked, drain them very well. Put the flour on a board. Peel the still warm potatoes and manually mash/ puree them. Combine them with the flour. Add the egg and a pinch of salt. Start kneading the mixture until you have a homogenous, soft (not too sticky nor too hard) dough.

Boil some water in a kettle to cook the gnocchi. Add some salt.

Make the gnocchi out of the dough. Form long “sticks” of the dough on the board. They need to be 2-3 cm thick. With a knife, cut small chunks (1-2 cm wide) of the stick and form a gnoccho of each with a fork. In the original recipe, there are some good pictures how to do this in practice! Use some extra flour all the time in case the dough or the gnocchi get stuck.

Cook the gnocchi in several parts (to ensure the won’t break) in the boiling water for about 2-3 minutes.

Take an oven dish and spread a small amount of the tomato sauce and sprinkle of olive oil at the bottom. Mix the remaining tomato sauce with the cooked gnocchi (again careful not to break them).

Slice the mozzarella and grate the parmesan. Add one half of the gnocchi in tomato sauce to the oven dish. Put one half of the cheeses on top. Add the remaining gnocchi and finally the remaining cheese.

Bake in the oven at 250C for about 5 minutes.

 

 

 

Just Give Me a Season: Secondo – Zucchini Ripiene di Carne

As promised in my previous post, Cucina Fintastica’s special season series now continues with a superb secondo!

Today’s season star is zucchini. In Finland zucchini is quite underrated. According to Wikipedia, Finns eat about 0.5 kg of it every year. In Italy, it is indeed a very different story. It is an integral part of the Italian kitchen and according to some study in difficultish Italian, it is their second favourite (vegetable I presume) right after tomatoes.

So if you are a Finn, this recipe of stuffed zucchini (from the Cookaround site) is a very deserving candidate to eat your annual quota of zucchini! Who knows – you may actually even like it enough to increase it to 0.7 kg…

Zucchini Stuffed with Meat

Serves 4

4 zucchinis

200 g minced meat (pork in the receipe but I have used beef)

100 g parmesan, grated

1 egg

150 g mortadella

50 g prosciutto cotto (boiled ham)

2 pc (stale) bread

milk

4 tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper

Wash the zucchinis and cook them in boiling, lightly salted water for 5 minutes to soften them gently. Remove them from the water and cut each of them into half lengthways.

With a spoon, scoop out enough zucchini flesh to create some space for the stuffing.

Prepare the stuffing. Soak the dry bread in some milk to soften it. Cut the mortadella and prosciutto into small pieces. In a bowl, combine the minced meat, egg, parmesan, mortadella, soaked bread, salt and pepper. Stir well to obtain a homogeneous mixture.

Fill the zucchini halves with the stuffing. Place the zucchinis on an oven tray covered with a parchment paper (or oiled gently) and sprinkle with some additional grated parmesan.

Bake in the oven at 180C for about 30 minutes. The zucchinis are ready once the stuffing is cooked. Serve hot or warm.

 

Just Give Me a Season: Primo – Conchiglioni Raffinati con le Fragole

One could definitely sound like a broken record when praising the impact of different seasons on the possibilities of the Italian kitchen. Actually, on second thought, “a broken record” is probably soon an expression that millenials do not actually understand (not that I expect Cucina Fintastica to be the “it blog” of millenial hipsters though).

Anyway. Sometimes I do not let the seasonality of Italian recipes restrict my culinary adventures too much – like in this case of Christmas food in June. But more often, especially during the warm half of the year, the availability of fresh European and Finnish veggies, fruit and berries does make cooking even more exciting.

I have been collecting quite a backlog of recipes for Cucina Fintastica recently so in the seasonal spirit of early summer, I’m now publishing a series of three fab recipes: a primo, a secondo and a dolce.

This fantastic pasta dish is by my old friend Giorgione. I have successfully tested quite a few of his recipes (like this great chicken with mulberries) from his first book and was recently delighted to get the second book “Giorgione – le origini“. In this pasta from the le origini book, one of the main ingredients is quite surprisingly strawberries. I already appreciated adding strawberries to a salad e.g. with goat cheese but strawberries with pasta sounded… interesting. I suppose this combination is also unusual for Italians as Giorgione writes in his book that “you won’t believe it but it is really worth a try”. I can confirm that it definitely is!

Pasta Refined with Strawberries

300 g strawberries (preferably not too ripe to be slightly less sweet and soft)

½ (Cannara) onion (I used a shallot)

100 g butter

olive oil

salt, pepper

1 mozzarella

200 g ricotta

parmesan cheese

basil

250 g conchiglioni pasta (shell pasta)

(optional: bread crumbs, milk)

Chop the onion and cut the strawberries into slices.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil, season with salt and add the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, in a pan, heat some olive oil and butter. Add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes. Add the strawberries, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking.

While the strawberries are also gently cooking, prepare the filling. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces and mix it with the ricotta, some salt and pepper, and a heaped tablespoon of parmesan.

Once the pasta is cooked (al dente), let it cool down a bit. After that, fill the pasta shells with the mozzarella ricotta mixture. If you prefer to eat the warm version of this dish, you can add a drop of milk into the cheese mixture and sprinkle some bread crumbs on top of the pasta shells and put them in a hot oven for a few minutes (Giorgione didn’t specify how hot but mine was about 200C). If you prefer the colder version, you skip the milk, bread crumbs and oven. Finally, place the strawberries onto the filled pasta shells, sprinkle with the sauce from the pan and add some basil leaves to garnish.

Dinner Dare – Ravioli Verdi al Salmerino

A paradox of life is that as a child you dream of being an adult and can’t wait to grow up, and as an adult you end up fondly reminiscing those carefree, fun days of your childhood. I suppose the big thing about adulthood for kids is the liberty to do whatever you want. No bed times, no dietary restictions, no compulsory hats and scarves when going out. Then as an adult, you realize that you actually want to go to bed early enough, your teeth get rotten and your tummy will ache with a diet of candies and chocolate, and – at least in a climate like Finland’s – you are willing to do everything in your power to insulate yourself from the terrible cold winter.

But every now and then it is good to forget about your pragmatic middle-aged self and channel your inner Pippi Longstocking and do something less sensible to fully enjoy the benefits of your liberty. You owe it to your dreaming 10-year-old self.

One of my (and my spouse’s) ways to enjoy this freedom is to start too ambitious cooking projects at very insensible times – e.g.  starting to make fresh stuffed pasta at 9 o’clock in the evening on a week night. (Well ok, my 10-year-old self might not have been very impressed with this kind of “rebellism” but I am middle-aged after all.) Making fresh stuff pasta is always an impossibly long project so you will then end up eating totally exhausted at a time that most adults consider to be closer to a proper breakfast hour than dinner time. But it is still a very enjoyable meal!

However, in case you are feeling less daring about your evening schedules, you can also split the workload into two evenings as I did with this recipe. I prepared the dough and the filling in one evening and then turned them into ravioli the next.

Green Raviolis with Salmon

Serves 6

400 g flour

50 g durum wheat flour

400 g fillet of salmon (boned)

100 g spinach

4 eggs

300 g ricotta cheese (soft)

2 shallots

dry white wine

sage

parsley

butter

olive oil

salt, pepper

Cook the spinach in boiling water (for some minutes) and after that, drain and squeeze the water out of them as much as possible. Chop the spinach.

Make the pasta dough by combining the two types of flour with the eggs, spinach and a pinch of salt. Knead until you have obtained a homogeneous dough. Wrap the dough in a foil and leave it to rest in a cool place (e.g. fridge) for at least 30 minutes.

Cut the shallots into small pieces. Chop the parsley. Cut the salmon into small(ish) slices. In a pan, heat some olive oil and cook the shallot on a low(ish) heat for 3 minutes. Add the salmon and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and a dash/ splash of white wine. Continue cooking for 3 more minutes. (Tip: In case you prefer your salmon not overly cooked, you can prepare the salmon in two batches. The first 250 g should be more well-done as it is used for the filling and it is then easier to mix. The second 150 g you can cook in a shorter time frame as it is used in the sauce).

Let the salmon cool down. Take 250 g of the salmon and mix it together with the ricotta and parsley to prepare the filling. Season it with salt and pepper.

Roll out the dough into a sheet that is 1 mm thick. Take one half of the sheet and add small (walnut size) portions of the filling at equal distances (at least several centimeters apart). Place the other half of the sheet on top and gently press it around the edges of the filling. Using a ravioli cutter or a pastry wheel, cut squares around each filling to make the ravioli. Finally press the sides of each ravioli tight with a fork to ensure the filling will not leak out of it during cooking. You can find a good example of how to do this process exactly for example here.

In a pan, melt 60-70 g butter on a low heat with some leaves of sage. Cook the ravioli in salted, boiling for a 2-3 minutes (they float when they are ready but you can always also check the right time by cooking one piece before the others). Serve the ravioli with the sage butter and the remaining pieces of salmon.

 

Couple of Pairs – Risotto con Vino Rosso, Rosmarino e Cipolla Caramellata

As it was Valentine’s Day just about a week ago, maybe it is appropriate to talk about pairs in this post. I’m not actually sure if Italians really celebrate Valentine’s Day or whether it is one of those American things that was imported to all Europeans by romantic Hollywood movies and clever marketing people. Commercial, imported, Italian or not – I don’t really care though. As a more or less hopeless romantic, I welcome every opportunity in life to celebrate love and loved ones anyway!

Although Italians have the stereotypical reputation of being quite romantic, the Italian kitchen is traditionally less welcoming for pairing. You have your antipasto, primo and secondo all to be enjoyed as separate dishes. The only exception to this rule are contorni i.e. the side dishes. However, for proper Italian kitchen, pasta and risotto never qualify as contorni.

So maybe we shouldn’t tell this to any Italians, but when combining this risotto with our secondo of deer, we considered ourselves quite successful match-makers! In a risotto, a typical pair with the rice is white wine but also red wine can work fantastically well as in today’s recipe. As a result, the colour of this risotto also corresponds nicely with a loving mood.

Finally a third type of coupling worth mentioning is adding a nice little twist to a relatively simple dish such as this: the caramelized onions definitely take it to the next level of culinary love ❤

Risotto with Red Wine, Rosemary and Caramelized Onion

Serves 4

320 g Carnaroli rice (80 g per person)

1 onion (red or yellow)

15 g butter

2 small glasses of red wine

2 l of meat stock

2-3 tbsp parmesan

1 sprig of rosemary

salt, pepper

For the caramelized onion

½ middle-sized onion

1 knob of butter

1 tbsp cane sugar

1 small glass of red wine (the same as for the risotto obviously)

 

Peel and cut the onion into thin slices. In a pan, melt the butter (on a low heat) and the onion. Stir and cover the pan with a lid. Let the onion cook for several minutes until it is soft and transparent.

Add the rice and increase the heat. Toast the rice for a few minutes and stir continuously. Pour the wine into the pan and let it evaporate.

Lower the heat and add the rosemary and a few scoops of the meat stock, stir and cover the pan again with a lid. Repeat the steps of adding the stock and mixing the risotto until the rice is cooked. This takes about 18 minutes.

In the mean time, prepare the caramelized onion. Slice the onion thinly. Take another pan and melt some butter in it. Keep the heat low, add the onion, cover the pan with a lid and again let the onion cook for several minutes until soft. Add the wine and let it boil gently (thus reducing the amount of liquid). After a few minutes when the amount of wine has been reduced to about a half, add the cane sugar and mix well. Continue cooking for some additional minutes while ensuring that the onion doesn’t get too dry (you can add some wine in case it does).

Once the rice of the risotto is cooked (it should be a little bit  al dente) remove the sprig of rosemary, add one more scoop of the meat stock, the parmesan and a little bit more butter (to your taste). Stir well. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a lid and let it rest very shortly. Serve the risotto with the caramelized onion sprinkled on top.

Mamma Mia Moments – Tagliatelle Verdi con Sugo al Limone

There are many reasons for love of cooking and Italian food. One is pure necessity: we have to eat anyway so why not make the most of it? As you gradually learn new skills, the task of preparing enjoyable food also becomes easier and (nothing short of a miracle) even your baking skills improve to the level of mere occasional disasters.

Another source of motivation for me is what I like to call mamma mia moments. They are those occasions when you just happen to find such a perfect recipe that so brilliantly strikes a chord that all you can do is utter a satisfied “mamma mia”. These mamma mia moments do not occur every week nor every month but when you come across one, you certainly appreciate it!

Some of my mamma mia moments are definitely linked with Italian pizza. However, the most recent one I had when  we made this fantastic pasta dish from the July 2015 edition of La Cucina Italiana. In fact, my partner and I were so baffled by our success that we are afraid to try the recipe again in case it was just an unrepeatable stroke of pasta luck. But now after our second attempt of equal success, I am happy to share it with you as well!

The method to prepare the fresh pasta is quite interesting and relatively fast. You do not need a pasta maker at all. Instead the pasta paste/ dough is rolled out with a rolling pin. After that it is wrapped into a roll, the roll is cut into pieces and the pieces unrolled. In addition to the tasty pasta, the sauce combining lime, creme and white cheese is just superb.

Green Tagliatelle with Lime Sauce

Serves 4

400 g mangold (or 300 g fresh spinach)

300 g flour

125 g stracchino (I substituted this with mild brie cheese)

120 g cream

2 eggs

2 (organic) limes

60 g butter

olive oil

salt

If you use mangold, cook it in unsalted boiling water for 10-12 minutes. Drain, wring out the cook mangold (to remove as much of the cooking water as possible) and weigh it (not sure why this recipe is saying this but apparently it should weigh 100 g). Mix the mangold into small pieces/ paste in a blender. If you are using fresh spinach, a few minutes of cooking is sufficient and you don’t need as much fresh spinach as mangold.

Knead the flour with the eggs and blended mangold/ spinach until you have obtained a soft dough. Cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Grate the limes or cut the lime zest with a knife (don’t use the white part, only the green). Then squeeze out the lime juice. In a pan, melt the butter and a thread of olive oil. Add the grated/ cut lemon zest and let it gather flavour for 2 minutes. Add the lime juice and season with salt. Finally add the cream and the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, switch of the heat.

Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a sheet (not too thin, ~1 – 1.5 mm thick). Sprinkle a light layer of flour on the sheet. Then with your hands, carefully wrap the sheet (lenghtways) to a roll. Don’t make the roll too tight. Cut the roll with a knife into sices (about 1-2 cm thick). Finally unroll the slices and place each tagliatella next to each other on a floured surface.

tagliatelle

Carefully transfer the tagliatelle to a kettle with salted boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the tagliatelle and combine with the lime sauce. Serve immediately.

Meeting Meat – Malloreddus alla Campidanese

Sometimes life surprises you. Even more than a baking project of mine gone successfully.

There were very few things about which I was more certain than golf definitely not being my cup of tea or even cappuccino.

Sixteen and a half years of my culinary life I spent very contently not eating red meat.

And then someone just asked me nicely.

As a result, I am now a baffled owner of a green card and am posting the first red meat recipe on Cucina Fintastica today. (Slightly overconfident about his abilities to change a stubborn Finnish lady, this someone even tried to replace my morning Earl Grey tea with a cup of coffee but one does have to draw the line somewhere…)

Anyway, after getting over the initial shock of these very unlikely changes in my life, I started to embrace the opportunities they bring about. I already specialize in sipping fellow golfers’ hole-in-one champagnes. And obviously the red meat opens up quite a few new possibilities for my adventures in the Italian kitchen!

In addition to tasting things like prosciutto di Parma, I have already successfully tested a couple of Italian meat recipes. The first one I tried was this pasta from La Cucina Italiana. It is a traditional dish from Sardinia in which you use fresh sausages. However, as the sausages are opened up and their contents cut into smaller pieces, the very tasty end result bears more resemblance to a spaghetti alle bolognese or meatballs rather than a hot dog!

Malloreddus alla Campidanese (sorry – couldn’t think of an English translation for this this time)

Serves 6

800 g tomatoes

500 g fresh sausages (e.g. salsiccia sarda)

500 g (malloreddus) pasta

1 onion

1 bayleaf

saffron

basil

(Sardinian) pecorino

dry white wine

olive oil

salt

Peel the tomatoes, remove their seeds and slice them. Peel and chop the onion. Remove the contents of the sausages from their casings (don’t try to keep the shape of the sausages when doing this but the contents can break into pieces).

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and gently fry the chopped onion in it for 1-2 minutes. Add the sausages and the bayleaf. Cook for about 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Cover the pan with a lid and let the sauce cook for 20 minutes. Season with some basil leaves and continue cooking for another 20-25 minutes.

Cook the pasta in boiling and salted water. Drain the pasta and combine it with the sausage sauce. Add some grated pecorino on top and serve warm.

 

Saucy Observations – Pasta agli Asparagi e Ricotta

As I have stated before, I am a big fan of pasta. Regardless of those trends of low-carbing, living like a cavewoman, and considering wheat a greater villain than Sherlock’s Moriarty, nothing stands between me and my bowl of pasta. Well, on second thought, this “piece of news” about myself may be somewhat obvious. Avoiding pasta whilst loving Italian food (and blogging about it ) would be kind of… pointless.

However, despite having made a reasonably impressive amount number of pastas to-date (impressive on a Finnish amateur scale that is – definitely not Italian), I still regularly struggle with the fine balance of pasta and its sauce. If there is too little of the sauce, a dish lacks flavour and can be a bit dry. On the other hand, if your pasta is of better quality, you do not want to overpower it by soaking it in the sauce or creating an unintentional macaroni soup.

It seems that Italian recipes do not often appreciate these struggles of a Finnish pasta lover who hasn’t had direct access to the culinary wisdom of nonnas. On the contrary. Recipes often lack precise quantities of oil and other ingredients leaving a Finnish cook with a feeling of participating in a pasta version of lottery.

Today’s pasta is partially a fine example of this phenomenon: In addition to the usual lack of the amount of olive oil, there is no advice on how to divide your ricotta into two portions (one is mixed directly with your pasta and the other added separately as part of an asparagus cream). However, fortunately  in this lottery case, you have slightly less to lose as you can adjust the amount of the asparagus cream while eating.

Prior to trying this recipe, I had already learned earlier that asparagus and ricotta work together wonderfully. And based on this dish, I can verify that they still definitely do!

Pasta with asparagus and ricotta

Serves 2

160 g pasta

500 g asparagus

200 g ricotta

1 onion

olive oil

salt, pepper

Clean the asparagus, remove their chalks and cook them in boiling water for some minutes (max ~5 minutes) until ready (soft enough for blending but not soggy and limp). After cooking, you can cool them with cold water or ice to prevent them from further cooking in their own heat.

Cut the tips of the asparagus and keep them for futher use. In a blender, mix the remaining parts of the asparagus with 100 g ricotta, some olive oil, salt and pepper until you have obtained a nice and smooth cream. If the cream is very thick (the target consistency is about the same as of the bechamel sauce), you can add a little bit of water.

Peel and chop the onion and gently fry it in a pan with some olive oil. Add the tips of the asparagus and let them gather flavour shortly.

Cook the pasta. Once ready, combine it with the onion and asparagus tips in the pan. Add 100 g ricotta and some cooking water of the pasta if needed. Mix well and let it warm up until creamy.

Put some asparagus ricotta cream onto each plate. Add the pasta with asparagus tips on top. Season with some additional pepper and serve.

Bruschetta Times (Two) – Bruschette alle Zucchine & Bruschetta con Crema di Zucca e Noci

I am a curious person by nature and love to experiment and experience new things in the world of food. However, I have noticed that in ethnic restaurants, I easily tend to order the same dish on each visit: red or green curry in the case of Thai food, kung-po chicken in Chinese restaurants, palak paneer in Indian places etc. The same pattern used to dominate my visits to Italian restaurants in Finland: bruschette with tomato and mozzarella or insalata di bufala for a starter and a seafood pasta for a main course.

This may not only be a question of my habits but also of the restaurants in Helsinki focusing their offer on the most internationally popular dishes. When visiting Italy on the other hand, I enjoy trying out as many new dishes as possible. And obviously also in Cucina Fintastica (more or less successfully).

I have already earlier broadened my understanding of potential bruschetta toppings with Giorgione’s help. Today I am sharing two other fabulous options: one with zucchini and another with pumpkin cream and cream cheese. The neat trick about the former recipe is that the bread slices are dipped in a mixture of eggs and cream before placing them in the oven. The slices are also baked there with the zucchini topping for a longer period than usual. Yet the outcome is quite fresh as after the oven, the bruschette are completed with herbs and chilli.

Zucchini Bruschette

8 slices of white bread (casereccio or other)

3 zucchinis (depending on their size 1-2 larger ones may suffice too)

3 eggs

2 dl double cream

fresh mint

fresh parsley

½ shallot

butter

1 red chilli pepper

salt

Clean the zucchinis and cut them into round slices about 0.5 cm thick. Clean a bunch of parsley and some mint leaves and chop them together with the shallot. Sprinkle the zucchini slices with the herb – shallot mixture.

Break the eggs into a bowl. Add the cream and a pinch of salt and mix well with a wooden fork.

Grease an oven dish with butter (I used an oven tray and a parchment paper instead). Dip the bread slices in the egg – cream mixture, and place them in the oven dish. Cover the bread slices with the zucchini slices.

Bake the bruschette in the oven at 200 C for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, clean the red chilli pepper and eliminate its seeds. Chop it with 20 leaves of parsley and 5-6 of mint. Switch the oven onto its grill mode and let the bruschette bake further for a few minutes. Remove them from the oven and sprinkle them with the chopped herbs and chilli. Let the bruschette cool down slightly and serve.

Bruschette with Pumpkin Cream and Walnuts

Serves 4

4 slices of white bread (casereccio or other)

200 g pumpkin

1 shallot

4 walnuts

3 tbsp olive oil

100 g cream cheese

salt

pepper

Peel the pumpkin, remove its seeds and cut it into cubes. Peel and chop the shallot.

In a pan, heat the olive oil with the chopped shallot and let them (gently) brown. Add the pumpkin cubes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with a lid, and cook for about 20 minutes (until the pumpkin is soft). Remove from the heat and move into a blender with 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese. Blend to obtain a nice pumpkin cream and let it cool down.

Divide the walnut kernels into ~4 pieces each. Toast the bread slices (in an oven on its grill mode). Prepare the bruschette by first adding the pumpkin cream on top of the grilled bread and then some walnut pieces and a few teaspoons of the cream cheese (for each bread slice).