Thursday, March 31, 2011

Asparagus Risotto

I Love Asparagus

Here is an easy and classy risotto

Get a pot ready with 1.5 of vegetable stock (home made or organic)
Clean a bunch of asparagus and cut into 3-4 cm pieces (remove only the woodiest part, the rest of the spears are fine). Keep aside.

Finely chop a small onion (possibly white), put in a capable casserole or saucepan with 2 tbsp of olive oil and cook until the onion is translucent, but not brown yet.

Add the 500 g of arborio rice.
Stir, add one glass of white wine.
Stir, add one ladle of vegetable stock.
Stir, add the asparagus spear pieces, but not the tips!

Keep stirring and adding vegetable stock until the risotto is nearly cooked. It will take about 20 minutes. Add the asparagus tips only at the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Serve immediately.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Basmati Rice with Lenitils and Lemon

This is one of my favourite vegan recipes because it is so easy to make, inexpensive, and yet it taste like Delicatessen food!


500 g basmati rice
1 x 400 g can brown lentils
1 cup washed Italian parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves, peeled
salt to taste
1 lemon, plus one more for decoration
1 grated carrot
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
freshly ground black pepper.

Wash the rice and cook by absorption. Rinse the lentils, and add to the rice when is nearly cooked. In the meantime finely chop the parsley leaves with the garlic and some salt. Place in a bowl and add the juice of one lemon and the grated carrot. Remover the rice and lentils from the heat add the parsley and lemon mixture, the olive oil, and stir. Divide between 6 plates, and top each one with one slice of lemon and some freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt and olive oil if you like, and enjoy. This is a full, balanced and healthy meal!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bright and Vitamin Rich Salad

This very colourful combination of red/orange/pink makes a wonderful salad. I used veggies from my garden, Summer is coming to an end now, so I have to make the most of it, and stock up with vitamins!
I cooked the red beets in their skins, and the carrots too. I peeled them, sliced them, and added tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, salt, Ligurian basil and (yes again!) borage flowers.
Very yummy!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coconut agar agar pudding

This is a very simple pudding which I made just because I had some coconut cream to finish up.


1 x 400ml can coconut cream or coconut milk
2 tbsp sugar
half tsp agar agar
1 drop vanilla essence

Pour the coconut cream into a small pot, add the sugar and agar agar and bring to boil. Simmer for three minutes, add the vanilla essence and pour into 4 ramekins. Chill and serve, by itself or with fresh fruit and/or berries.

  Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nigella Potatoes

This is not a Nigella Lawson’s recipe, but a recipe using nigella seeds.
 I am not sure if this could be defined as Indian food, certainly it is Indian inspired, I served it with a Dahl and basmati rice, and it was a winner!!! Of course your comments are welcomed!

Nigella Potatoes

500 g potatoes (Agria or similar ‘floury’ potatoes)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp nigella seeds
half tsp ground coriander
half tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
one cup fresh coriander (or parsley) leaves

Peel the potatoes and cut into 4-5 cm cubes. In a large wok or frying pan with high borders heat the oil and add the garlic cloves and nigella seeds. When the seeds start to crackle add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and a little salt. Add the cubed potatoes and coat well with the spices. Stir constantly, and when the potatoes start to become too dry add a cup of water. Cover and simmer on low, stirring from time to time and adding water every time the mixture gets too dry. When all the potatoes are cooked, and most are almost pureed and creamy, remove from the heat. Finely chop a cup of washed fresh coriander or parsley (or a mixture of both) leaves, and add to the potatoes. Stir and serve.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vegan Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri is a traditional pasta from Valtellina, in the North of Italy, made with a percentage of buckwheat flour. The taste is similar to the Japanese buckwheat noodles (soba).
The traditional recipe for pizzoccheri, born in the village of Teglio, is to boil them together with pieces of potatoes and green cabbage (put the potatoes in the biling water first, then the cabbage and the pizzoccheri (which take about 15 minutes to cook). Pick up everything with a slotted spoon and mix with casera cheese and butter melted with garlic. Very filling! A vegan could stop at the cheese and butter steps, adding a little tamari sauce instead, and the stock from the pizzoccheri can also be recycled in real Zen style as it is full of proteins. But I didn’t feel like going for Asian flavours.
So I made mine with onion, potatoes, spinach and walnuts.

500 g pizzoccheri
1 small white onion
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 big boiled potato, peeled
1 bunch spinach leaves, washed
1 handful freshly shelled walnut kernels
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pizzoccheri in plenty of salted boiling water according to packet instructions. Finely chop a white onion and sauté with two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the boiled potato, cubed, and after a few minutes the spinach leaves and the walnut kernels. Add a couple of ladles of the water from the pizzoccheri and cook until the potato pieces start to mush. Add salt and pepper to taste. By this time your pizzoccheri should also be ready, drain them (keep the water if you like for later use as a stock), and place in the pot with the potatoes. Add two more tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, stir and serve.
Serve 4 as a complete meal, very filling!!!

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stewed Borlotti Beans with Smoked Paprika

Soak the borlotti in water for 10 hours, changing often the water and washing them at the same time. Then cook them with plenty of water, removing any scam that forms at the top with a slotted spoon.
They should cook in one hour, taste to see. I add salt when they are nearly ready, and when I stopped removing excess scum from the top. Your beans are ready for any recipe now! Keep the stock, it can be used for soups, or as stock when a recipe requires it.

Stewed Borlotti Beans with Smoked Paprika

Here I chopped a small white onion, a small carrot and a celery stalk with leaves. I sautéd the vegetables with some extra virgin olive oil, and then I added the beans, and some of their sock, which is already salty.

I cooked the beans, adding stock little by little, until they started to mush lightly. I added some smoked paprika, stirred, and served with some crusty bread on the side.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pistachio pesto

I decided to try to make pesto with pistachio nuts (usually it is made with pine nuts): in a mortar I put a little garlic (peeled), some pistachio nuts (also peeled), and some leaves of Genovese basil (Genovese basil is the one with very small leaves). I worked the pesto with a pestle and added more leaves little by little, and at the end a little salt and olive oil. You need patience with a mortar and pestle, but the results are great. Also, basil should never be cut with a metal blade (knife or blender), don't ask me why, but the flavour changes!!!

Use to dress pasta or potatoes, to top pizza, and on your favourite grilled vegetables.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blood Red Orange Juice

This is not a recipe, sorry, but I wanted to show you how beautiful and red are the Sicilian red oranges! I made a juice and it was so sweet that the children asked me if I added sugar to it: no, no sugar, just fresh red orange juice, lovely and sweet. 

Drink it quickly as vitamin C tends to 'evaporate' in the air...apparently! 

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rice, Barley, Spelt and Vegetable Italian Soup

For this soup I used a packet of 3 parboiled cereals: rice, barley and spelt. The brand is Gallo – a mainstream Italian rice brand. Traditionally Gallo brand had rice only, so I was happy to discover this 3-cereals combo, which is easy to use.


1 carrot
¼ green cabbage
1 leek
1 celery stalk, with leaves
100 g fresh or frozen borlotti beans
a few parsley leaves, chopped
2 l water
rock salt to taste
black pepper
200 g Gallo brand mixed rice, barley and spelt
1 tbsp tomato puree
Extra virgin olive oil

Cut the vegetables and place in a large pot with the water. Bring to the boil, remove the scum that may form at the top, add salt and pepper and then simmer slowly, for 10 minutes. When the beans look cooked add the cereals (they are parboiled so they will take about 15 minutes, but cook them for at least 20 to get the flavour through). Add the tomato puree, and then remove from the heat. Serve hot or warm, drizzled with olive oil. It tastes better the day after.

 Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Making Fregola Sarda step by step

Making Fregola

I dug out these photos for my friend Tiziana, who was here with me making fregola (or fregula), and she is now a vegetarian! Fregola is something between cous cous and pasta, thicker than the former, and smaller than the latter.

Start with a blend of fine and coarse semolina and a little salted water.
You just need to sprinkle some water on you semolina mix.

Mix mix mix

collect the pellets

pass them through a sieve, keep only the big one and let them dry for 24 hours.
Start over with the smaller ones to make them as big as you like.

We cooked the fregola like a risotto. First chop and saute some fresh vegetables,

slowly add vegetable stock and, finally, saffron.


Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©