I am a big fan of Antonio Carluccio. I love his passion for cooking and the way he brings a little bit of Italy into my home with his cooking shows. So I was very excited to learn after eating a lovely dinner at Dublin’s Carluccio’s that he would be doing a cooking demonstration and book signing of his new cookbook Simple Cooking.

There was a great buzz in the cafe and the top of Carluccio’s wooly head could be seen ahead of a crowd. He was demonstrating how to cook a recipe featured in the cookbook and also a regular item on the Carluccio menu called Penne Giardiniera. 50p from every dish sold donates to Action Against Hunger,where money is raised to help families feed their children and build a sustainable future. It’s a vegetarian pasta dish with lots of butter, fried spinach balls, chili, garlic, Parmesan and zucchini and it’s absolutely delicious, filling and cheap to make which is no surprise he
chose to put it in his new cookbook.

Simple Cooking is about just that. Being able to take basic ingredients and not a great deal of money to cook delicious and satisfying food. In the introduction of Simple Cooking Antonio explains how when he was a student in Vienna, some 50 years ago, he had to learn very quickly and on a low budget, how to stock a basic larder, how to buy fresh food, wisely, cheaply and often and how to cook it simply. With everyone holding tighter to their purses, this couldn’t be a better time to learn some of those ‘secrets’ Carluccio from his culinary repertoire and prove that it doesn’t have to cost a lot to eat well.

The book is well designed, easy to read and understand for those who are novice cooks or just short for time. Some recipes are accompanied with beautiful photographs. The book features recipes for a complete meal and conveniently divided into sections; Starters & Salads, Soups, Pastas, Gnocchi, Polenta & Rice, Meat, Fish, Vegetables, and Desserts. Some recipes feature a note ‘To make it more special’ if you want to spend a little more money and jazz up the dish for those special occasions. Other recipes contain tips on leftovers and how to use the dish in other ways. All the ingredients in the book are easy to source and most produce can be found in your local markets.

A nice cookbook just in time for Christmas!

taken from http://www.carluccios.com/our-food/blog/pasta/my-first-blog-item

Serves 4

Spinach balls:
700g raw spinach (about 250g when cooked)
half a clove of garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
a tiny pinch of nutmeg
45g Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, freshly grated
70g dry breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil for shallow frying

500g Carluccio’s Penne Regine (large artisan penne from Puglia)
80g butter
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
20g red chillies, finely chopped
2 medium courgettes, coarsely grated
240g Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated

To make 28 spinach balls (7 per person):
Boil, but don’t overcook, the spinach in lightly salted water. Press it dry, break
open the leaves and tear apart roughly. In a bowl, mix together the torn spinach,
garlic, egg, nutmeg and Parmesan. Add about half of the breadcrumbs, to balance the
moisture of the mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Roll one ball and fry it, to
test for consistency and taste. (If the mixture is too wet, the ball will fall apart
during cooking, but too much bread content will lessen the spinach flavour.) Add
some more breadcrumbs or seasoning if needed. Fry until golden. Set aside.

To make the pasta:
In abundant salted water, boil the pasta until it’s al dente, perhaps 10-15
minutes. Drain and keep warm. In a pan, melt the butter and heat the garlic and
chillies. Add the grated courgettes and fry for a minute or two. Add the cooked
pasta and toss in most of the grated cheese (leave some for serving). Season with
salt and pepper.

To serve:
In a deep plate or shallow bowl, serve the pasta sprinkled with spinach balls and
the remaining Parmesan.

Buon Appetito!

Rose Ciotoli
Originally from Windsor, Rose is currently living in Dublin, Ireland. She is a graphic designer who is passionate about food. Her dog, Winnie, shares the same passion and supports Rose in all her cooking adventures….just as long as she gets 10%.