Basic: Tomato Sauce for Spaghetti

We had the pleasure to teach a dear friend who was starting to cook. We started with a basic recipe – spaghetti with tomato sauce, garlic and cheese. Your pasta should come out creamy – simple and delicious! Everyone at the table (including my lovely but picky wife) took a second serving so we took that as a success. 😉

This recipe is common all over Italy, of course. It originated however in Naples in the 1700s.

Time

20 minutes

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 4 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cans of peeled tomatoes
  • 500g of spaghetti (bronze pulled)
  • 100g pecorino cheese
  • basil leaves (optional)
  • salt (to taste)
  • coarse salt for pasta pot

  1. Pour the canned tomatoes into a bowl. Pinch off and remove the hard tips of peeled tomatoes.
  1. On a medium-low flame, add a generous amount of olive oil in a pan. Start to boil a pot of water on a separate stove.
  1. Cut off the base of garlic cloves, and cut them into halves. Add to the pan and leave to cook for 1-2 minutes (still on low-medium flame) so that they release their flavours into the oil.
  1. Add tomato sauce, allow it to warm (still on low-medium flame). Add salt to taste. Stir occasionally. Remember that you will be adding cheese at the end which will add to the final dish’s saltiness.

    At this point, the sauce should remain “wet” and not thickening or drying up. There will be some bubbling of the sauce but not too much.

    If you have basil leaves, you may add them to add a layer of sweet notes.
  1. While the sauce is warming, grate the pecorino cheese. We grated about a quarter of a wedge, which filled half a medium-sized bowl.
  1. When the pot of water boils, add 2 handfuls of salt (preferably coarse salt). Add the spaghetti. Set a timer to the time indicated on the packaging minus 2 minutes. Your pasta will finish cooking in the pan with the sauce later on, so that it exudes its starch to add creaminess to the sauce.

    It may seem like a lot of salt but do not worry. You need it to season the pasta. Most of that salt is going to remain in the big pot of water.
  1. After the timer rings, use a pasta ladle to transfer your spaghetti to the pan. With a ladle, add “starchy” water (a little at a time) from the pot where the pasta was cooked in if the sauce is not “wet” enough. When you move your spatula along the side of the pan, you should see a layer of liquid over the tomato sauce.
  1. After 2 minutes, check that the sauce is “wet”. This is to make sure that there is sufficient water in the sauce to mix with the cheese.
  1. Switch the flame off and allow the pan to cool slightly for a few minutes. Add the grated pecorino cheese, distributing it over the surface of the pan.
  1. Start working the cheese into the spaghetti by stirring from the top to allow the cheese to melt, before mixing it thoroughly. Once mixed, you are ready to serve!

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Canned peel tomatoes (La Corvinia, 400g net weight per can) – Foodies Market. Alternatively, buy canned tomatoes which are made either in (SA) Salerno or (CA) Cagliari, Sardinia.
  • Pecorino cheese – Foodies Market or Cold Storage
  • Coarse salt (Morton coarse kosher salt) – Cold Storage
  • Spaghetti (Academia Barilla, 500g) – Cold Storage

See other recipes

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Lentil & Sausage Soup

An earthy soup typically made during autumn and winter, which is very simple to make. We made it for lunch as a comfort food on a cool rainy day.

Time

15 minutes of preparation,
45 minutes of simmering

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • half a big red onion, chopped
  • 2 spiced sausages
  • 260g of lentils
  • salt to taste

  1. In a pot, add a generous amount of olive oil.
  1. On a medium-low flame, cook chopped onions and sausages, until the onions turn translucent. This takes about 7-8 minutes.
  1. Add lentils and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring gently every now and then.
  1. Add room-temperature water about 3-4 finger-high above the lentils. Increase the flame to high and allow the water to boil.
  1. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the flame to the lowest, cover the pot, and allow the soup to simmer for 45 minutes.
  1. Add salt to taste before serving the soup warm. Similar to beans, add salt only at the end, or you will harden the skins of the lentils and the insides will not cook.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Lentils (French lentils) – Scoop at Great World City
  • Chorizo sausage – Huber’s

See other recipes

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Cremina di Caffè (Cream of Coffee)

The cremina is a Neapolitan recipe that has spread throughout Italy. This fragrant and silky cream, made of sugar and the first drops of coffee, is commonly added to espresso to cut the bitterness and adds a delicious velvety texture. The secret is to use only the first drops of coffee that flows out into your Moka pot, as it is the thickest, most flavourful bit of the liquid.

Equipment

Time

5 minutes of preparing coffee,
1 minute of making cremina

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • 6 teaspoons of fine white sugar
  • Ground coffee powder to taste

I. The Moka

  1. Prepare the Moka pot:
    • Fill the bottom chamber of the moka pot with cold tap water up to the fill line or below the valve.
    • Place the funnel filter into the bottom chamber. With a tespoon, fill it with ground coffee.
    • Screw the top chamber onto the bottom chamber.
Fill cold tap water up to the fill line / below the valve
The amount of ground coffee powder depends on your preference
  1. Place the Moka pot on the stove on a low flame.

II. The cremina

  1. While the pot is heating on the stove, fill a tall glass with 6 teaspoons of sugar.

    The amount of sugar =
    (No. of persons + 1) x 2 teaspoons.
    Hence, for two persons, the amount of sugar = (2+1) x 2 = 6 teaspoons.
  1. Open the lid of the Moka pot and wait. Add 3 teaspoons of the first drops of coffee into the glass of sugar as soon as they flow out into the top chamber. Return the Moka pot to the stovetop to finish making the coffee.

    The amount of first drops of coffee =
    (No. of persons + 1) teaspoons.
    Hence, for two persons, the amount of first drops of coffee = 2 + 1 = 3 teaspoons.
  1. Whisk the mixture of sugar and coffee in the glass until it becomes creamy. The cremina is ready.

III. The coffee

  1. Wait for a boiling sound in your Moka pot, which indicates that the coffee is done. Switch off the flame.
  1. With a teaspoon, stir the coffee in the Moka pot and pour into 2 small cups. Add 1 full teaspoon of cremina into each cup, stir and serve while the coffee is still hot.

If you are feeling adventurous, add a splash of grappa or other liquor to make a “caffè corretto” or “corrected coffee”.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Ground coffee powder (Lavazza Qualità Rossa) – Cold Storage.
    Any ground coffee powder works, of course.

Moka Pot

The Moka pot was invented by a Turin engineer called Bialetti in the 1930s. Bialetti is still the best brand for Moka pots today. A few important points to note:-

  • The first 3-4 batches of coffee made in a new Moka pot are to be thrown away, they are going to taste bad as the pot is not yet “seasoned”.
  • Do not wash the Moka pot with soap. Wash it only with warm water. The metal of a good Moka pot absorbs and retains flavour, and you want it to retain coffee flavour (and certainly not soap flavour).

Whisking

My grandmother did not have an electric whisk, and she would whisk using just the teaspoon.

See other recipes

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Roasted Sweet Peppers (in Olive Oil & Garlic)

An absolute favourite all over the Mediterranean. The sweet peppers can be eaten on their own, or with bread. Dipping the bread into the extra virgin olive oil infused with garlic and roasted sweet peppers is a magical experience of its own. This vegan recipe is a bit laborious but is definitely worth it!

Time

1 minute of preparation,
20 minutes of roasting,
1 hour of waiting to cool,
15 minutes of peeling,
overnight of resting

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg red sweet pepper
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • salt to taste

I. Roast

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 240°C or 460F.
  1. Line a tray with baking sheet and arrange the whole peppers. Roast for 10 minutes until the skin blisters.
  1. With a protective glove, open the oven door and turn the peppers to the uncooked side. Roast for another 10 minutes until the skin shrivels and blisters.

II. Cool to room temperature

  1. Remove the tray from the oven and pour the peppers into a bowl along with any exuded liquid. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and allow to cool to room temperature for about 1 hour. Leave the baking sheet on the tray, to be used as a surface for cleaning the peppers later on.

III. Clean and infuse

  1. Peel the peppers and remove all the seeds. This is the tedious part! My grandmother will leave the seeds on, but I do not like their taste.
Pinch the peppers to peel the skin
Remove the tops, and tear open the peppers.
Remove the seeds with your fingers or with a spoon.
  1. Tear the peppers into smaller strips and put in a sealable container.
  1. To the container, add and mix thoroughly:
    • Crushed garlic cloves
    • Salt
    • Juice left in the bowl used to cool the peppers. This liquid is packed with flavours from the peppers.
    • Generous amount of olive oil until all the peppers are covered.
  1. Seal the container and allow to rest in the fridge for 1-2 days.
  1. Before serving, remove from the fridge a few hours before to “warm” to room temperature.

We served ours as fillings for homemade pita bread.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Peppers – Blu Kouzina

Red sweet pepper

The sweet pepper we commonly use in the South of Italy is not the bell pepper. It has a long shape, but is not at all spicy and is much bigger in size than peperoncini (hot chilli peppers). We found that at supermarkets in Singapore, the sweet peppers are referred to as “Palermo peppers”. Despite this name the sweet peppers are truly common all over the Mediterranean, not just in Sicily. We also used these peppers to make Calabrian “Sticky” Potatoes.

Removing the seeds

An easy way to remove the seeds is by halving the peppers and removing the seeds before roasting in the oven. However, I think that this way the peppers lose too much liquid and flavour.

See other recipes

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Calabria “Sticky” Pan-Fried Potatoes (with Onions & Sweet Peppers)

In Calabria, this vegan dish is called patane mpacchiuse, literally “sticky potatoes” referring to the potatoes made to “stick” at the bottom of the pan as flavours from the onions seep in from the top. Traditionally made with just onions, it is now common to see a red pepper or two being added (By “red pepper”, I refer to the long sweet pepper). The potato slices of this dish will have absorbed the beautiful flavours and fragrances of the olive oil, onions and peppers. Bits of the potatoes also have a most delightful crunch when you bite into them. Ah…

In the neighbouring Basilicata, instead of onions, only red peppers are used to flavour the potatoes. This Basilicata version is more common in the village where I come from. Unfortunately, I find peppers harder to digest as I get older.

Time

5 minutes of preparation
35 minutes of cooking

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 big red onion
  • 1 red sweet pepper
  • salt to taste

I. Prepare the ingredients

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into thin slices.
  2. Cut the red onion into thin slices.
  3. Cut the red sweet pepper length-wise and remove the seeds.

II. Pan fry

  1. Add olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil on the lowest flame. Arrange the ingredients in the following order:
    • Bottom: potato slices, and sprinkle salt on them immediately
    • Middle: red peppers
    • Top: onion slices
  1. Increase the flame to medium, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle some salt, and allow to cook for 5-10 minutes uncovered.
  1. Cover the pan and allow to cook covered for 20 minutes on the lowest flame. Every 10 minutes or so, lightly shake the pan sideways to prevent the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  1. After 20 minutes, toss the ingredients with a spatula. Cover the pan again and allow to cook for another 10 minutes.
  1. After 10 minutes, open the cover and increase the flame to high. Allow to cook uncovered for another 5 minutes, tossing lightly every now and then.
  1. Pour onto a dish and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Potatoes, onion and peppers – Blu Kouzina

A simple recipe like this absolutely depends on the quality of the ingredients, so use the freshest ones you can find. My wife, for example, did not like potatoes as she found them rather bland, until she realised that good potatoes are actually full of flavour!

Red sweet pepper

The sweet pepper we commonly use in the South of Italy is not the bell pepper. It has a long shape, but is not at all spicy and is much bigger in size than peperoncini (hot chilli peppers). We found that at supermarkets in Singapore, the sweet peppers are referred to as “Palermo peppers”. Despite this name the sweet peppers are truly common all over the Mediterranean, not just in Sicily. We also used these peppers to make roasted peppers infused in olive oil and garlic.

See other recipes

Loading…

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Peaches in Wine

Perhaps this is too simple to be called a recipe! But it is a most refreshing dessert, and a good way not to waste peaches which turn out to be too tart or not sweet enough. The longer you let it rest in the fridge, the better it will taste as the peaches will absorb more wine and sugar.

Time

5 minutes of preparation
2 hours of refrigeration, or overnight

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for 2 persons.

  • 2-3 peaches
  • half a bottle of red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  1. Peel your peaches and cut into chunks.
  1. Mix the peaches, wine and sugar in a bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar, and leave it to rest in the fridge.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Peaches – Blu Kouzina

See other recipes

Pan-Fried Meatballs

The juicy meatball is a versatile recipe, with many ingredients that can be added and substituted. We list our variations below. This is an excellent way to use old bread, and leftover milk or wine.

When we were young children, we called our grandmother a “meatball cannon”. During Sunday lunch when all the cousins were gathered, after the first servings (never in small portions, of course) she would go around the children’s table with a huge bowl of meatballs, asking who would like to have seconds. If you lowered your head and avoided eye contact, she would give you 2 or 3. If you made the mistake of making eye contact… she would raise her eyebrows and with a nod of her head, shot 5-7 meatballs with her spatula (and the quickest hand movement) onto your dish. Needless to say, the meatballs were heavenly, but still…! She made all kinds of meatballs, pan-fried like these ones, and others which were deep-fried, with or without sauces… those recipes for next time!

Time

5-10 minutes of preparation
10-15 minutes of cooking

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 3 persons.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g of old bread
  • Enough milk to soak bread
  • 500g minced pork, preferably fatty
  • 150g minced pancetta (optional). We minced leftover pancetta in a food processor.
  • 300g mix of grated cheese: pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano
  • 2-3 cloves of grated garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 500g bread crumbs
  1. Remove the crusts of the old bread. In a bowl, soak the soft inner part with milk until soft. A soft white bread will take half a minute to soften, and sourdough bread about 5 minutes. We used sourdough.
  1. In a large metal bowl, use your hands to combine into a mixture:
    • minced pancetta
    • minced pork
    • bread white (squeeze excessive milk with your hands before adding)
    • grated cheese
    • grated garlic
    • black pepper
    • salt. Be careful that the pancetta is already salty.
  1. Have a feel of how your mixture sticks together. If the mixture feels very firm on its own, skip this step. Otherwise, crack an egg and combine it into the mixture with your hands. If you feel the mixture is too “runny” and breaks apart easily, add another egg.
  1. On medium-high flame, heat a generous amount of oil in your pan.
  1. As the oil is heating up, fill a tray with bread crumbs. Either with your hands, or with spoons, shape a handful of meatball mixture into a ¾” (2cm)-thick, 1½” (3-4cm)-wide disk, and cover it with bread crumbs on all sides. Add your disks to the pan of heated oil.
  1. Allow each side to cook until golden for 4-5 minutes. Cut a piece to check if the meat has cooked thoroughly (without any pinkness).
  1. Remove from the pan, allow to cool slightly, and serve. We ate this with a very simple side dish of sliced potatoes baked with roughly chopped onions and tomatoes, capers and olives. It baked in the oven while we were making the meatballs.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Pancetta – Huber’s. We did not buy it specially for this recipe, as we had leftovers after making Ragù alla Bolognese and Pasta e Fagioli.
  • Cage-free eggs (Farmer Brown, New Zealand Free Range Eggs) – Cold Storage

Variations

Our typical variations for this recipe:

Substitutions

  • Meat: Any other fatty meat, really. Beef, mutton, you name it.
  • Milk to soak bread: Red wine. This is an excellent way to use that extra bit of wine from last night’s dinner. My wife prefers red wine to milk in the meatballs.
  • Cheese: Pick a grated cheese of your choice.

Additions

Remember that any additional ingredient should be added before the egg. The egg should be the last thing you add to the mix, as it determines the consistency of your mixture. My grandmother, for one, never had the need to add any egg to her mixture and she made the juiciest meatballs.

  • Flavours: Chopped spring onions. My wife loves the extra kick of flavour.

See other recipes

Cime di Rape con Salsiccia (Chye Sim/Broccoli Rabe with Sausages)

A typical ingredient of the South of Italy, “cime di rape (read: ra-peh)” is a cousin of the chinese vegetable “chye sim”, with similar flavours, perhaps more bitter than the latter. I was very glad to find it at the local markets, as it is one of my favourites. It can be eaten on its own as a side to the main courses or with bread, or to season pasta. For this recipe, we are preparing it as a side.

Chye Sim
Rapa (singular)
Rape (plural)

Watch the video to see how we prepared the dish, and for all the important tips on this cooking technique.

Time

5 minutes of preparation,
5 minutes of cooking,
20-40 minutes of simmering.

Simmering time greatly varies depending on the toughness of the chye sim you have.

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 4 persons.

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1kg (6 packets) of chye sim
  • 800g sausage
    (At room temperature. Leave out of the fridge for about 1 hour before cooking.)
    We used chorizo sausage which is similar to Southern Italian sausages which are spiced.
  • coarse salt to taste
    Be careful with the amount of salt if your sausages are already salted.

I. Clean the vegetable

  1. With your fingers, pluck the tender leafy parts of the chye sim and rinse them. Discard the tough stalks.

II. Cook the sausage

  1. In a large pan or wok and on a low flame, add a generous amount of olive oil and garlic. Wait for the oil to heat up for about 2-3 minutes.
  1. While waiting for the oil to become hot, use a fork to make holes on the sausages. The holes will help the sausages to cook more thoroughly and exude more flavours into the oil.
  1. When the oil is hot, raise the flame to medium and add the sausages one by one to cover the base of your pan. When the sausages are lightly browned on the bottom, turn them to cook the other side. If your sausages are cold, raise to a higher flame to maintain the oil temperature.

III. Cook the leaves

  1. When the sausages are lightly browned on both sides, add the leaves, sprinkle coarse salt and olive oil, and cover the pan. Lower the flame to a medium-low and leave to simmer. The leaves will cook in their own steam.
  1. After 5 minutes, stir the leaves gently. Do not disturb the sausages at the bottom.
  1. When the leaves have started to lose colour and wilted in 10-15 minutes, stir the leaves and sausages. Time may vary depending on the toughness of your chye sim. If they are quite tough, increase the flame slightly.
  1. When the leaves have lost colour and wilted, the dish is ready. Make a final adjustment to the preferred saltiness and serve warm.

We served ours with homemade pizza bianca romana (for me) and plain brown rice (for my wife).

Cime di Rape con Salsiccia (Chye Sim with Sausages)

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Chye sim – Tiong Bahru Market
    This is a common local vegetable which can be found in all wet markets and major supermarkets.
  • Chorizo sausage – Ryan’s Grocery next to Cold Storage at Great World City

Alternatives

Instead of sausages, you may use anchovies instead. Perhaps if you have leftover anchovies after making the Pasta, Butter and Anchovies dish.

See other recipes

Mashed Potatoes

The perfect side to accompany your meaty dishes. We served ours with Stracotto di Manzo.

mashed potatoes

Time

30-35 minutes to boil potatoes,
5 minutes to mash

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 4 persons.

  • 1kg yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 250g of butter
  • heavy cream
  • salt

  1. Boil the potatoes.
  2. After the potatoes have become soft, drain the pot. Put the potatoes back into the pot.
  3. Cut butter into chunks and add them into the pot.
  4. With a masher, mash the potatoes and butter roughly.
  1. Add 3-4 tablespoons of cream and mash the mixture. Repeat until preferred texture is achieved.
  1. Add salt to taste, mix, and serve.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Heavy cream – Foodies Market

Note: Heavy cream is not the same as whipping cream.

See other recipes

Stracotto di Manzo (Italian Roast Pot / Braised Beef)

“Stracotto di Manzo” means “extra cooked”, or “overcooked” beef. This delicious recipe from Tuscany requires a long time of cooking, but the preparation is simple and easy. It takes only 15-20 minutes to prepare in the morning, after which you can leave it to simmer for 6-8 hours the rest of the day.

It’s made with a piece of fatty beef which is usually used in English cuisine for roast beef. It must be a fatty piece of meat because the fat will melt slowly to give flavour to the final dish. We accompanied ours with homemade mashed potatoes.

Watch the video to see how we prepared the meat, and for all the important tips on this cooking technique.

Time

15-20 minutes of preparation, 5-8 hours of simmering.

Ingredients

This recipe was prepared for a dinner of 4 persons.

  • 1 kg of fatty beef
  • 4 carrots, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped into big chunks
  • 5-6 garlic cloves

Seasoning

  • 1 table spoon of coarse salt
  • 1 table spoon of whole black peppers

Liquids

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1L of water or beef broth
  • extra virgin olive oil

I. Season the meat

  1. Grind coarse salt and whole black peppers in a small food processor. You may also use ready-made ground black pepper but freshly ground whole black peppers are more fragrant.
  1. Generously coat all surfaces of your meat with the seasoning.

II. Seal the meat

  1. On a medium-high flame, add a generous amount of olive oil to cover the base of your pot. Wait for the olive oil to become hot.
  1. Starting from the fattiest part of the beef, cook each side of the meat for 2 minutes. After sealing, pick up the meat and set aside.

III. Deglaze the pot

  1. Add the carrots and onions into the pot for 2-3 minutes, and add a splash of water. The water and juices exuded from the vegetables will deglaze the beef fat at the bottom of the pot.

IV. Boil and simmer

  1. Add the garlic and rosemary, and put back the beef.
  1. Raise the flame to the highest, and add red wine. Use good red wine!
  1. Add water (or beef broth) up to half of the beef height. Wait for the water to boil.
  1. When the water starts boiling, lower the flame to its lowest, cover the pot completely and allow to simmer for 5-8 hours.

V. Prepare the sauce

  1. After 5-8 hours, use a strainer to remove the beef from the pot. Do this gently and carefully as the beef will be very soft and tender, and may fall apart.
  1. With a spoon, skim excessive fats on the surface of the sauce and discard them. You may also skim after blending the sauce in the next step.
  1. With an immersion mixer / hand blender, blend the remaining vegetables in the sauce. Thicken the sauce by raising the flame and allow some water to evaporate before serving.

We served our stracotto with homemade mashed potatoes.

Pantry Notes

Where we bought our ingredients in Singapore:

  • Beef – Foodies Market
  • Whole black pepper grains – Scoop

Be gentle to the meat

During the sealing, do not poke the meat with a fork or knife as you will lose the juices of the meat. It will not seal properly and become dry.

Alternative meats

This cooking technique can be used on any other fatty meat: mutton, lamb, or pork.

Alternative carbs

In the North of Italy, they serve the stracotto with polenta, which is also delicious.

You can also use the stracotto sauce to season pasta.

See other recipes