Friday, 31 August 2007



Early this year my good blogger friend from Boston gave me Mario Batali's Molto Italiano a real gem of a cookbook. Stella must have known that we're a big fan of Italian cooking and what a great gift it is. Full of authentic Italian recipes, you know, the kind that Italian women traditionally cook at home for their families.

My son was nagging me to make this and since I have a batch of lasagna pasta to use up I decided to give it a go. Just a few modifications and alterations later I could say we've successfully adapted Mario's recipe. Actually my favourite of the whole lot is the basic tomato sauce which I like so much I froze the leftovers for use another day.

First you make the basic tomato sauce and beschamel sauce:


Basic Tomato Sauce

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion - diced
4 cloves garlic - sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
3 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 x 400 g  cans of plum tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
  1. In a big saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat.
  2. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent - about 6-7 minutes.
  3. Add carrot and thyme; cook for another 5 minutes or until carrot is soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.
  5. Lower heat and simmer until thick - about 20 minutes. Season with sea salt.
  6. This can be stored in the fridge up to 1 week or frozen up to 6 months.

Bechamel Sauce

1/4 cup plain flour
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp ground sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat then add butter to melt.
  2. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Continue cooking until light brown while stirring. This will take about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the milk 1 cup at a time. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly until smooth.
  4. Cook for about 10 minutes or until thick while still whisking constantly.
  5. Remove from heat and season with the salt and nutmeg.
  6. Let cool completely. You may transfer to another container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.


(Cannelloni al Forno)

1 Tbsp butter
250 g  minced pork
250 g  minced veal or beef
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp flour
1 large egg - beaten
1/2 tsp ground sea salt
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
black pepper
lasagne pasta sheets
1 1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup bechamel sauce
  1. Cook lasagne pasta sheets according to instructions. Drain and lay flat on kitchen towels.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter on high heat.
  3. Add the meats, cook stirring to break up any lumps until browned.
  4. Add salt and a little stock. Bring to boil then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. At the end of 20 minutes there should be very little juice left in the pan.
  5. Stir in the milk, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and flour. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and cover to simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  7. Add the egg, season with nutmeg and black pepper. Set aside.
  8. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C/fan 160°C.
  9. Put about 3 Tablespoonful of meat filling along the long side of a cooked lasagne sheet. Roll up the pasta around the filling to form a log or cylinder. Repeat with the rest of the pasta and fillings.
  10. Spread about 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a wide baking dish. Arrange the cannelloni 'logs' seam side down in the single layer in the baking dish.
  11. Top with the remaining tomato sauce and then with the bechamel sauce. Finally sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top.
  12. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the sauces are bubbly and the pasta edges are crisp and brown. Serve hot.


Sunday, 12 August 2007

Garlic-Black Beans Pork

I was wondering to do different with a slab of pork belly. I could always impose an adobo on it but where's the fun in that? So a quick scan among my posse of oriental cookbooks yielded this very easy stew. The ingredients are easy to source, too. Nothing exotic nothing out of the ordinary but resulted in a very good and tasty pork stew great with steamed rice. This is adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly's Chinese Cooking Class Cookbook.

Garlic-Black Beans Pork

750 g  pork belly - chopped in serving-size pieces
1 Tbsp fermented black beans - roughly chopped
1/2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 1/2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp grated ginger
2 Tbsp oil
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp cooking wine
2 Tbsp water
  1. (Optional) Heat the oil in a pot or wok and brown the pork pieces for a few minutes.
  2. Combine pork, black beans, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce in a pot.
  3. Pour enough water to cover the pork.
  4. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until meat is tender.
  5. Add a little hot water from time to time if it is drying up too much. But at the end of the cooking there should be only a little sauce left.
  6. Combine cornflour, wine and water. Stir into the pot and simmer until sauce thickens - about 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve.