Having an Italian boyfriend means a lot of pasta dishes are prepared in my kitchen. If I give him the choice, we would have pasta almost everyday. Don’t take me wrong, I love pasta, but I also love other foods and to try new recipes. During one of these moments when I really wanted to try something different, I saw a photo for rigatoni pie. It’s pasta, meat and tomato sauce but served in a very different way 🙂 just what I needed!
What for me was something new seemed to be quite a common thing around the internet world. When I searched for the recipe online I got hundreds of results! Well I guess I’m a bit late then 🙂 And now, which one to choose? The dish is always the same but there’s small differences in all recipes! So I ended up checking through a few of the options available and try to find the best combination for me.
After a few days of research (yes, days!!) I came up with this recipe and method which I will share with you. I found this extensive research very useful. I had quite a few question in my head: how will I get the rigatoni to stay up on the tin, what size of rigatoni to get, how thick should I get the sauce to be, etc, etc, etc… And I think I managed to get all my answers, at least for a first try. What can I tell you? Try to get the largest rigatoni you find, this will allow the sauce to easily get inside them. Leave the cheese mixture and the meat sauce a bit runny so it easier to slide inside the pasta. The recipe below is actually a mixture of steps from several ones I found around the net. Ans I must say: it came out really nice and the boyfriend was happy 🙂
So I decided to celebrate the official end of Summer with a nice and fresh octopus salad. We call it salad mainly because it’s a cold dish but in reality there’s no greens or tomatoes or any vegetables in this salad 🙂 But it’s really delicious. Back home we usually serve this dish as a starter or as a party dish and everyone just digs in. But if you serve it with boiled potatoes coated in butter and dill, then it becomes a really nice main course dish.
I find octopus salad to be a really easy dish to put together. Since I found a fool proof way of cooking octopus (check it out here) I don’t think twice about using it on a more frequent basis then before. I know that there’s lots of tips and tricks around on how to make octopus tender but I’m sticking to mine 🙂 Because you don’t need to babysit the cooking I find it very practical and I have time to do other things meanwhile!
In my house in Portugal, octopus was actually a dish served during feast days such as Christmas, New Year or Easter. Don’t know why! Recently I remember my aunt cooking it more often but not when I was young. So I always considered octopus salad to be something you eat when out and about. Just like our neighbours in Spain, we love to seat around a table full of dishes to share with a nice bottle of wine. And this is one of those dishes always present. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do 🙂
And I’m keeping with the Italian theme, this time with saffron arancini with mozzarella. These beautiful rice balls are a favourite of my boyfriend and every so often he asks for it. I know that it’s quite easy to find them ready madealmost everywhere here but I still think that what we make at home tastes so much better!
Basically, for those not familiar with the word “arancini”, these are small stuffed rice balls which are coated in bread crumbs and then deep fried. Usually they are stuffed with ragu (meat & tomato sauce), mozzarella and peas.
They say Arancini was created in Sicily in the 10th century during the Arab rule. In Palermo and Trapani, arancini are the traditional food for the Feast of Sta Lucia (13th December) when you can’t eat bread and pasta. Today, arancini are found all year around as a snack and a good way to use left-over risotto.
On my first attempt to make arancini,things didn’t turn out that well. I didn’t research before starting and I though that it was just rice with some stuffing. And because the recipe was all wrong, when I tried to stuff it the rice wouldn’t stay together and when I tried to fry them, the balls just kept opening. So this time, I’ve done my home work: some research and I found out that it’s best to make it with risotto. This way the rice is sticky and will stay together. Then I read that saffron risotto is the best option. And because I had some mozarella at home almost reaching the “use by date” I decided to keep it simple and just use it for the stuffing instead of ragu. Guess what? It turned out perfect: the rice was nice and sticky so it was easy to make the stuffed balls and it stayed together when I fried it 🙂 Result: a nice dinner of arancini and green salad and a very happy boyfriend 🙂
I couldn’t go through summer without cooking this pasta with swordfish and cherry tomatoes sauce… it’s such a simple yet delicious dish 🙂
Swordfish is very easy to find here in Malta and you don’t need to visit the frozen section of the supermarket. All you need is to pop into any fish shop and you will see this enormous fish in the counter. The fishmonger will then cut the steaks to your liking and you go home all happy with a beautiful fish to prepare for your meal 🙂 At least this is what happens to me…
Back in Portugal, we also find swordfish quite easily but it isn’t a popular fish at my mum’s table. We’ve always enjoyed smaller fish and not so much in steaks or fillets. Only recently, with the introduction of fish counter in all the major supermarkets, we started to appreciate this kind of fish. A bit like fresh tuna. I don’t think I ever had fresh tuna at my mum’s. When I was young, we would still go to the fish market near the beach or sometimes directly to the boats arriving from the sea. So, of course, the fish would be different: smaller like sea bream, mackerel, sardines, seabass among others. And totally fresh. Nowadays, with several changes in the Health & Safety Laws, fisherman are not allowed to sell the fish directly from the boats. Even when taken to the fish markets, there’s lots of rules and regulations and we won’t see the full catch brought from the sea. With all these changes, the fish markets are decreasing and the prices of the fish are increasing. So it became easier and cheaper for us to visit the fish counters of the supermarkets.
Here in Malta, there are really good fish shops, some more commercial, other more home business. This gives an opportunity to find a good diversity of fish from line caught, to frozen, to farmed, etc. It’s good to have the choice and be able to put together dishes as nice as this one 🙂
This ricotta cake is inspired in a very popular cake we make in Portugal. We don’t use ricotta but have a similar product called “requeijao” – from what I’ve read, it looks like we can actually say it’s the same think: they have a very similar texture, similar taste and are made from the same product i.e the milk solids that remain in the whey after the production of cheese.
So i decided that I could try our recipe and use ricotta instead. Because of the similarities between these two cheese products, it was easy to adapt the recipe. And I was very happy with the result. I haven’t had this cake in a long time and it made think of home, of course 🙂 There’s quite a lot of desserts around that are made with ricotta but this one is different. You can’t really tell is made of cheese, it just seems like a cake but more compact, not as soft as you would expect. We love it with coffee or tea in the morning, not so much as a dessert to have after dinner. Each slice can be quite filling so better to have it as breakfast or afternoon snack.
When making this cake, you will realize that the dough is quite thick. Don’t worry, it’s normal. In my case, it gave me the opportunity to use my silicone cake mold. I always struggle to use it: most of the time the dough’s too liquid and the whole mold wobbles 🙂 And I get the feeling everything is going to end up on my kitchen floor 🙂 I hope you are better them me at this!