Thursday 7 November 2013

AN ITALIAN SPRING MENU – the food dept.'s food story with Luca's recipes.

This month we take inspiration from Italy with some fresh new Spring recipes from Milanese chef and friend Luca Ciano.  Luca's enthusiasm for food and people is contagious and loves to share beautiful recipes, stories and tips for creating authentic Italian meals. If you have ever wanted to learn how to cook like an Italian, Luca often travels around Australia and Asia doing cooking classes and demonstrations. Contact Luca through his website for details. 

For now please enjoy the food dept.'s food story with Luca's recipes.

Orecchiette pasta with spicy n’duja with asparagus and fresh ricotta
This is an easy pasta to make mid week for your family. N’duja is a spicy, soft, spreadable salami available from good Italian delis. You can substitute this salami for any salami of your liking.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 spring onion, cut into 3cm lengths
3 garlic cloves, bruised with skin on
2 bunches of asparagus, cut into 1cm lengths (tips kept separate)
salt and pepper, for seasoning
350g Orecchiette pasta
1 punnet ripe, grape tomatoes, halved
100g n’duja (salami), broken into 1cm pieces
10 leaves, fresh oregano
150g fresh ricotta
50g dry salted ricotta

1. Bring plenty of salted water to the boil (about 7g salt to 1 Litre water)
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan, then add spring onions and cook for 3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, then add asparagus (not the tips) and cook for further 2 minutes, add salt and pepper.
3. Drop pasta in the water and cook accordingly to packet’s instruction and 2 minutes before draining add the asparagus tips into the pasta water.
4. Meanwhile, add tomatoes to the sauce and cook for 3 minutes, then add n’duja and cook for 2 minutes.
5. Drain pasta and asparagus tips when al dente, reserving ½ cup of cooking water, and toss with the sauce for 1 minute. Add a little cooking water if needed to loosen the pasta.
6. Remove from the heat and add oregano and fresh ricotta, stir to combine.
7. Serve with a sprinkle of salted ricotta, cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Steamed zucchini flower with ricotta, zucchini pesto and toasted almonds
Is there an Italian restaurant that doesn't serve zucchini flowers? Stay in and cook your own, this recipes is wonderfully light and delicious.

• 300g fresh ricotta
4 anchovies in oil, drained, finely chopped
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, for seasoning
12 small zucchini, flowers attached
10 large basil leaves
1 tablespoon pine nuts
½ garlic clove
½ cup grated grana Padano or other Parmigiano Reggiano
juice of ½ lemon
1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted

1. Mix together ricotta, anchovies and 1 tablespoon of oil until smooth. Season.
2. Remove flowers from zucchini. Split open one side of flowers and, using fingertips, gently remove stamens. Fill flowers with ricotta mixture and gently twist ends to enclose.
3. Chop zucchini and place in a food processor with basil, pine nuts and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. Add remaining oil and process until smooth. Add Grana Padano and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Season.
4. Lay filled zucchini flowers in a bamboo steamer. Steam, covered, over a pan of gently simmering water for 2-3 mins, until filling is firm.
5. Place 2-3 tablespoons of zucchini pesto onto each serving plate. Top with zucchini flowers and scatter with toasted almonds.

Tuscan panzanella with rosemary marinated prawns and pancetta
PREP 20min, plus overnight COOKING TIME 5min SERVES 4

16 medium green prawns, med size, peeled, leaving tails intact and de-veined
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
pepper, for seasoning
1 spring of rosemary
½ punnet cherry tomatoes, squashed to release juices
½ telegraph cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
¼ red onion, diced
1/3 cup black olives, torn in half and pitted
2 slices of stale bread, 1cm diced and ‘soaked’ in water for 1 second
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
extra, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, for seasoning
½ cup of white wine
100gr store bought Basil Pesto Genovese

1. Marinate the prawns with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pepper, and rosemary overnight.
2. In a large bowl combine tomatoes and the juices, cucumber, red onion, olives and bread. Add remaining oil and vinegar and season. Stir very well till all ingredients blend nicely together.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the butter and the extra 1 tablespoon of oil, cook the marinated prawns for 2-3 minutes, add salt then add wine and let evaporate.
Remove from heat.
4. Divide the panzanella into 4 plates, garnish with 4 prawns in each plate and drizzle a little Basil Pesto Genovese

Ricotta and saffron fritters with watercress and asparagus salad

• 400g fresh ricotta
• 100g plain flour
2 truss tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1/3 cup extra for dressing
0.5 gr saffron threads, soaked in 1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, for seasoning
2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed
1 bunch watercress, sprigs picked
finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 litre frying oil

1. Mix together ricotta, flour, tomato, egg, olive oil, saffron and water, baking powder and nutmeg. Season. Cover and chill for 15 mins.
2. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into ribbons. Place in a bowl with watercress. Whisk together lemon juice and extra olive oil and season. Add dressing to the salad and toss to combine.
3. Heat vegetable oil in a large shallow pan until 180C or until a cube of bread sizzles on contact. Spoon 3 heaped tablespoons of ricotta mixture around edge of pan. Shallow-fry for 3-4 mins, until cooked through. Drain. Repeat to make 18 fritters, reheating oil between batches.
4. Place the fritter on the watercress and asparagus salad, serve.

Thank you! We would like to thank Luca Ciano for his generosity and for creating these wonderful recipes for the food dept. Thanks for hanging out with us on the shoot day, you have been a dream to work with. We hope you love the pics!


  1. Beautiful as always. Drooling here.

  2. Gorgeous. I'd love to pull up a chair at your table.

  3. It's a nice information about the best italian foods.I really love those foods.Great information about italian spring menu..You really did a great job on posting.

  4. looks delicious Italian menu