The first time that I ever visited Italy was when I was nine years old in the mid-eighties. We stayed in Riccione for a week, and most of my memories include tons of swimming. In addition, I remember being deeply disappointed when we went for a day trip to Venice and I discovered that the city wasn’t at all like in the Donald Duck comics!
This vacation also marked my first experiences of real Italian food. Our hotel included a half pension and we would have proper Italian three- and four-course meals every night. Today’s recipe reminds me of those broth-based pastas that our waiter would expertly serve us back then.
“Pasta e fagioli” is apparently a very typical Italian dish with lots of different versions of different regions, and this one comes from Naples. I have no idea how it differs from the similar dishes of the other regions though as I was quite hungry when Googling for something to eat so I didn’t have the patience for proper research… Anyway, the list of its ingredients is quite simple, healthy and affordable – yet the end result is super tasty. It is also very easy and quick to prepare even after a busy day in the office when you are so hungry that you don’t have the patience for proper food blog research!
Neapolitan Pasta with Beans
350 g cooked borlotti beans
250 g pasta (of your choice)
1 garlic clove
1 stalk of celery
6 cherry tomatoes
Prepare the vegetables: clean the celery (and cut it into a few big chunks if needed for your kettle), tomatoes and basil, and peel the garlic clove. Place the beans in a kettle and cover them with water. Add the vegetables and some olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the pasta and some salt to the kettle and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Season with pepper to your taste.
When traveling in Italy this summer, I discovered the very pleasant Italian version of aperitifs. Unlike in Finland (and in many other countries where I have traveled) an aperitif in Italy often includes a nice little – or sometimes not so little – buffet of food to accompany your drink. And it can be quite reasonably priced too. E.g. in a trendy bar in Bologna, I only needed to pay 1 € extra in addition to my drink to get a plate for the buffet table. So in short, this aperitif concept certainly is one more thing to love about Italy!
Inspired my fond summer memories I put together a little aperitivo of my own for four people last weekend. Admittedly, a street-credible blogger would have included a picture of the actual drinks in her post. However, in this case of a thirsty blogger, it will suffice to say that I made some Aperol Spritzes to all of us (and if you don’t know them yet for some reason, google them…).
Foodwise my interpretation of an aperitivo consisted of:
- Nice green olives (marinated by my supermarket, not me)
- Focaccia alla genovese: I am very proud to report that this time I managed to make this bread record thick (at least 0.5 cm thicker than ever before!). Yet I found it a bit too oily so I won’t share the recipe I used. But maybe the next time I’ll nail it at even another 0.5 cm thicker…
- “Mini caprese”: I got the idea for this originally from Italian Elle. It is a fool proof combination of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil with a nice aperitif style presentation!
- Insalata di avocado con gamberetti: I think shrimp cocktails were the epitome of elegance in the Finnish dinner parties in the 1980s and this dish reminded me of them in a nice retro kind of way. I found it also surprising how well walnuts worked with shrimps, avocado and celery. The recipe suggested that you utilise the avocado shells for presentation but I preferred to use some Finnish design instead!
Shrimp and Avocado Salad
200 – 300 g frozen and peeled shrimp
4 celery ribs
10 g ketchup
20 g mayonnaise
4 lettuce leaves
Unfreeze the shrimp and cut them into 2-3 pieces each. Halve the avocados, remove the pits and carve out the avocado flesh. Cut the avocado flesh into smallish cubes and sprinkle them with some lemon juice. Clean the celery ribs and slice them into cubes. Chop the walnuts and mix them together with the shrimp, avocados and celery.
Combine the mayonnaise with the ketchup to create a dressing. Stir it into the mixture of shrimp and vegetables. Divide the salad into four portions for serving. Take one lettuce leaf for each portion, place it in a dish of your choice (or an empty avocado shell if you prefer) and add a portion of the salad on top of it.