You can take The Single Gourmet Traveller out of Italy and return her to London … but you can’t take Italy out of The Single Gourmet Traveller. I arrived home from wonderful Bologna late Friday night and Saturday I was back eating Italian in a Carluccio Caffe near Russell Square with a friend; today I was lunching with my friend Lucia and some of her Italian friends, which meant speaking a little Italian … and yesterday … well, Sunday I just had to cook Italian. I especially had to cook Italian because I’d bought some tortellini in the fabulous Tamburini deli in Bologna just before I left for home on Friday and I wanted to cook them for Jonathan and Lyndsey who were coming round for supper.
And if we were starting Italian – especially with such very special Italian tortellini – then the theme would carry on. And an Italian meal just has to mean gelato and making the ice cream is where I started. I used my basic vanilla ice cream recipe (click here) but wanted to add an extra Italian flavour with some gianduia – a gorgeous hazelnut and chocolate praline. I had gianduia gelato in La Sorbetteria Castiglione – one of Bologna’s best gelaterias – on Thursday. I bought some from Carluccio’s in the morning.
I had the idea of melting some and stirring in a kind of gianduia ripple but the melting process didn’t go well. I therefore changed the plan and just cut slivers of gianduia into the rich vanilla ice cream.
The gianduia is soft and quite creamy and I thought that would freeze better in the ice cream than melted chocolate. It worked even better than I’d hoped. When it came to serving later – with some gorgeous little baci di dama biscuits (also from Carluccio’s) – everyone wanted seconds!
But first things first: the starter. To be authentically Bolognese with my very special tortellini, I had to cook them in broth. So I’d bought a chicken at the farmers’ market and jointed it, then gently cooked the carcass with salt, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and a bay leaf for a couple of hours to get a nice flavourful broth. When it came to suppertime I cooked the tortellini at the very last minute, dropping them into the boiling broth and checking them for al dente readiness after 2 minutes. They needed 3 minutes. I served them in a shallow soup dish (that I’d warmed so the food didn’t go cold quickly) and put the large lump of fantastic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese I’d also bought in Tamburini on the table so some could be finely grated over the top.
It looks a much meaner portion in my photo than it actually was! It was quite small as it was a starter but the main thing was the tortellini were fantastic. Their taste is out of this world. I always try to buy the best tortellini I can but I’ve never found any that have such a deep, gorgeous meaty flavour of these; all those fantastic Bolognese flavours from the inclusion of mortadella and local pork with the other ingredients. They are truly spectacular tortellini. My guests were pretty impressed too! Fortunately for me I have some more in my freezer for another couple of meals.
So, what to do with the chicken? I couldn’t find a typical Bolognese chicken dish but decided on Pollo all’Arrabbiata in my Antonio Carluccio’s Italia book. The chicken portions were browned in olive oil with a chopped onion, 8 cloves of garlic – whole but peeled – and then 150ml of red wine added. When that’s bubbled a bit, you add 600g ripe tomatoes chopped (all the bits, no bothering with skinning or taking out seeds). I had some gorgeous small vine tomatoes with a lovely deep, sweet flavour. In they went with a chopped red chilli (for the arrabbiata effect!), 2 tablespoons tomato puree and some seasoning.
You stir it all a bit, bring to a simmer and then put a tight-fitting lid on and cook gently for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Give it a stir a couple of times during the cooking. It had all cooked down into a wonderful sauce. At the last minute, add a big handful of chopped parsley and check seasoning.
I served it with new potatoes (though Carluccio suggests polenta is good) and some broccoli that I served Italian style with some olive oil and lemon juice drizzled over the top.
It was a brilliant dish: the sauce rich in flavour and you could see and taste how the chicken had taken up some of the red wine to add flavour too. It’s such a simple recipe but so good.
So, there was our Italian supper – drank with some prosecco as an aperitivo and some Primitivo red wine from Puglia with it. No we didn’t talk Italian but we did share our love of that country and memories of gelaterias, pizzerias and favourite towns and cities in our conversation. Tomorrow though, I’m going Cretan … watch this space!!