Funghi Town – Cannelloni ai Funghi

Apparently (and admittedly), there are not many items in the Finnish food scene that Italians are jealous of. Yet there is at least one thing which should make the green-eyed monster surface in my Italian friends: mushrooms.

Yes, there are mushrooms also in the Italian forests but less and with strict quotas and limitations for their picking. We Finns – on the other hand – can pick and choose as many porcini, chanterelles and funnel chanterelles as we wish. Woods closer to Helsinki can sometimes get a bit crowded (which by the Finnish standards means that you don’t have the whole forest only for yourself) but if you know even slightly what you are doing, you never have to leave them empty-handed. The only exception to this rule is if you go to a forest which has been earlier visited by my husband’s mushroom-professional aunts. In that case, you may need to drop by a supermarket (or those aunts) on your way back to your kitchen to be able to prepare e.g. today’s dish.

My experiments in the Italian kitchen have made me appreciate the Finnish porcini in a whole new way. When you add an Italian touch to utilizing them, it brings the admiration to the next level.

On the other hand, I have discovered that quite a few Italian mushroom recipes work well with e.g. funnel chanterelles. Today’s recipe is a fine example of those. It is also a good example of an ingenious trait of Italian food: you have a fairly short and simple list of ingredients but one ingredient can be utilized in several ways. In this recipe, the mushrooms are used in the filling of the cannelloni but also to add flavour to the bechamel sauce.

Cannelloni as an oven pasta dish is quite handy and nice at times apart from one exception. Dry cannelloni are a bit like women’s tights: very annoying to fill. As a workaround, I often use fresh lasagna sheets. I add the filling of the dish in question to one end of a lasagna sheet and roll the sheet into a cannelloni kind of tube. I only wish one day someone will come up with a workaround for those annoying tights too…

Mushroom Cannelloni

Serves 4

500 ml bechamel/ white sauce

250 g cannelloni (or a pack of fresh lasagna sheets)

50 g grated parmesan

1 garlic clove

500 g mushrooms

350 g ricotta

2 sprigs of parsley

olive oil




Clean and slice the mushrooms into sufficiently small pieces. In a pan, heat some olive oil and add the garlic clove. Let it fry gently for a few minutes. Remove the clove from the pan and add the sliced mushrooms. Season with salt and fry them until the mushrooms are cooked. Season with pepper and chopped parsley.

Prepare the bechamel sauce with e.g. this recipe. Season it with 25 g of grated parmesan, a pinch of nutmeg and pepper. Add three tablespoons of the cooked mushrooms to the sauce. Move it to a blender and blend to obtain a smooth sauce.

Mix the remaining mushrooms with the ricotta and remaining parmesan to make the filling. Fill the dry cannelloni (or use the lasagne sheet workaround) with the mixture.

Take an oven dish and spread a thin layer of the mushroom bechamel sauce into it. Add the filled cannelloni. Pour the remaining bechamel sauce on top of the cannelloni. It is important to ensure all cannelloni are covered by the sauce to ensure they are properly cooked. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes (if you are using dry cannelloni; with the lasagne sheets, check the correct cooking time in the package of the sheets).



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


For the tomato sauce

600 g tomato paste

6 basil leaves

1 garlic clove

Olive oil


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.




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




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


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.


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



(Sardinian) pecorino

dry white wine

olive oil


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.

Season’s Eatings – Pasta Zucca e Ricotta

Christmas is approaching again, and as usual, Cucina Fintastica is full of ambitious culinary plans! The advantage of ambitious plans is that even if you don’t quite meet them (let’s say only 15%), you still achieve something. I hope.

Today’s recipe is not exactly a Christmas dish. In fact, I think the only Italian Christmas recipe I have posted so far was this one that I tested (very proactively) in May. Well, anyway, as far as I now know about the Italian kitchen, pumpkins are one of the seasonal favorites both for Christmas and autumn. So this dish should be at least a decent warm-up to get you in that Christmassy culinary mood!

Already earlier, I have learned that pumpkins are the BFFs of strong cheeses. This dish is another strong evidence of that. The end result is a lovely soft, hearty and flavourful pasta that is yet not overly heavy.

Pumpkin and ricotta pasta

Serves 2

160 g pasta

400 g pumpkin (peeled and cubed)

180 g ricotta

40 g pecorino cheese (grated)

1 garlic clove

olive oil

salt, pepper

In a pan, gently fry the garlic clove in some olive oil. Add the pumpkin cubes and a little bit of salt. Add a (smallish) cup of water, cover the pan with a lid and let the pumpkins cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes (until soft).

Cook the pasta in boiling and salted water until it is al dente, and drain it. Please note that the pasta will still get a bit softer in the oven in the next phases of this recipe.

Remove the garlic clove and mash the pumpkin cubes with a fork (or alternatively place the soft cubes in a blender to mash them). Stir in the ricotta cheese. Add the pasta into the sauce, and let the pumpkin pasta gain flavour for one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add one half of the grated pecorino and mix.

Grease an oven dish (~medium-sized) with some olive oil. Move the pumpkin pasta into the dish. Sprinkle the remaining pecorino cheese on top. Bake in the oven at 200C for about 10 minutes.


Cucina Spaintastica – Risotto al Limone e Gamberetti

It’s been quite a busy autumn.

But quite good too in many ways.

And I definitely haven’t forgotten about cooking and Italy.

Even when travelling to Spain this October, I scrolled my archives and Mr. Google for all sorts of Italian recipes. I thought cooking in Spain would be a fantastic opportunity to obtain all sorts of fresh ingredients that are difficult to find for Cucina Fintastica in Helsinki.

I was partially right. We were very intrigued by the wide range of fish and seafood. Maybe even a bit too much. We often ended up scratching our heads at our flat trying to figure out what we had actually bought and – assuming it was edible – how to prepare it. On the other hand, some ingredients were notably absent from the supermarkets. E.g. it was nearly impossible to find fresh chilli peppers and the assortment of herbs was very limited. I suppose that the absence of herbs is somewhat understandable when you think about the hot and dry terrain of Spain compared to many areas of Italy. I never did realise though that the Spaniards love their peppers red and sweet but not hot – unlike e.g. the Mexicans and Italians.

This Italian seafood risotto didn’t fortunately suffer from either of these supermarket limitations but instead flourished with the availability of fabulous fresh prawns. And you can certainly never go wrong with the culinary pairing of lemon and seafood!

Lemon and Prawn Risotto

Serves 4

juice of 1 lemon

zest of ½ lemon

1 onion

400 g shelled prawns

1 litre vegetable stock

350 g risotto rice (e.g. carnaroli)

40 g butter

½ glass white wine

salt, pepper, chives to your taste

Cook the prawns in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes and drain them. Peel and chop the onion. In a pan, melt 20 g butter and add the chopped onion. Gently fry it for some minutes until soft. Add the rice and toast it for a few minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and let it evaporate and be absorbed by the rice. Add the lemon juice. Start pouring the vegetable stock to the pan – one ladle at a time and (almost) continuously stirring the rice on a medium heat until the stock has been absorbed by the rice. Repeat until the rice is almost cooked. Add the lemon zest and the cooked prawns (a few minutes before the rice is completely cooked). Continue cooking with the vegetable stock until the rice is ready. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with chopped chives.

A Runner’s Delight – Pasta con Pesto di Zucchine Arrostite

As this is an Italian food blog, I have so far shared very little about my other passions in life. Well, at least, apart from hating the Finnish winter with a passion I suppose.

However, this time I can reveal that one of them is running. I love the endorfin rush, doses of fresh air and the feeling of just simply everything making more sense (and of being less grumpy about the most disastrous baking attempts) that you get by simply putting one shoe in front of the other.

I also participate in some half-marathon events every now and then, and even once went to a “running school” to prepare for them. In the school, I learned about this brilliant concept of “carb loading”: in the day or days before your running event, you try to stock up on carbohydrates to increase your body’s reserves for the long endurance work-out. It really is an Italian food lover’s dream, isn’t it? An order to eat as much pasta as you like. Ingenious. Well, ok, I do know that carb loading is a lot more relevant when getting ready for a full marathon. Yet I choose not to let that minor detail get in the way between me and my big bowl of pasta. And I still refuse to believe that pasta is bad for you. Just look at the nation full of happy Italians.

I completed one half-marathon just yesterday and hence dutifully did some serious carb loading the day before. I chose a recipe from a cook book called “Le ricette della prova del cuoco“. It turned out be at least as brilliant as the carb loading concept. You make a supertasty simple pesto sauce of roasted zucchini, pistachio, fresh mint and olive oil, and combine it with the pasta and parmesan. And naturalmente, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy it – just look at the nation full of happy Italians!

Pasta with Roasted Zucchini

Serves 6

480 g (farfalle) pasta

500 g zucchini

40 g parmesan

60 g pistachios

fresh mint (to your taste)

1 bayleaf

olive oil

salt, pepper

Clean and peel the zucchini, and then cut them in half (lengthways). Place the halves on an oven tray covered with a parchment paper, and season them with salt, pepper and some olive oil. Bake them in the oven at 175C for at least 30 minutes and cool down.

Grate the parmesan. Boil the pistachios in hot water for three minutes (I skipped this step as I was using roasted and saltes pistachios), and once cooled down, peel them. In a blender, mix the pistachios and 50 ml olive oil. Add the roasted zucchini and continue blending. Finally add the fresh mint and again continue blending until you have achieved a nice pesto paste. Put the pesto sauce into a bowl and season it with the grated parmesan and salt (if needed).

Cook the pasta in salted water with the bayleaf. Combine the ready pasta with the pesto sauce and serve.