I made this quickly one lunch time for a friend. It was totally delicious but what was a very pleasant surprise, was that I was able to have it as leftovers for several days. Beautiful soft ricotta combined with raw courgette. And the addition of the zested lemon mixed with the chilli was just perfect.
What We’re Eating Again: Tomato & Mozzarella Gnocchi Bake
From: “Bill’s Italian Food” – June 2014 (I never got around to posting this during the month, but it seems that this dish has real staying power, given how much we love it.)
Why: We’ve made this twice already and I’ve only had the cookbook since June. He says in the introduction that his daughter would eat this every night, and I think that also would be true of my sons. They love it because of all of the cheesy pasta goodness, I love it because it tastes an awful lot like lasagna, but takes seconds to prepare. (Well, not seconds if we’re being technical, but it’s very, very quick.)
Top Tips: With two hungry boys– one a teenager– we have found that just one 500g bag of gnocchi isn’t enough to feed us all. We double it and then there’s plenty for everyone.
If you’d like to make it yourself: The recipe can be found by clicking through this sentence, courtesy of KIIS 1065.
Anna: I love this book.
Kirstin: I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I do. I know I will be using it lots in the future too. A total gem of a book.
Maureen: I completely agree. I didn’t think this book would be as great as it is. Maybe that’s damning it with faint praise, but everything we ate from it this month worked and was delicious. Total win.
Anna: I didn’t think I was going to have the opportunity to make much from it but I’ve ended up cooking loads and that’s testatament to how good it is. Simple, easy, everyday cooking. Italian cooking too. What’s not love.
Maureen: I can see returning to this book again and again.
“Bill’s Italian Food”
Overall Grade (A- F): Anna: B+. Kirstin A.
Best recipes: Anna: Salmon. Griddled squid. Kirstin: Roast chicken with chilli, sea bass. And the vanilla ice cream. A total winner. Maureen: Roasted monkfish.
Grade for Photography (A-F): A+.
Any disasters? None.
Bookshelf or Charity Shop Donation? High-rotation bookshelf.
Anna: Oh wow! Ok. This is my new favourite salmon dish. And given we have salmon at least once a week, I’ve been through a lot of recipes…
Peter: Yes it is very nice. Not a lot of it though. Where are the carbs?
Anna: There are no carbs. We haven’t been having many carbs recently. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed.
Peter: I have noticed.
Anna: This reminds me of old school Jamie. Jamie when the recipes were simple and worked and not accompanied by a load of waffle. He’d call it “Roasted salmon with pimped up mayo, my way” or something. The only thing I would change is to have more asparagus as it did shrink a lot when it was cooked. Yummy asparagus crisps. Yummy!
Peter: This vegetarian dish greatly benefits from the addition of sausage meat.
Anna: Not a grain of rice in sight! It’s all sausage with a couple of tomatoes and some yummy herbs mixed in. I liked the torn bread that you stick in at the end to soak up all the juices.
Peter: It was surprisingly filling. What’s not to like?
Anna: I appreciated the fact that they were really quick to prepare. I could do them ahead of time and leave you to stick them in the oven while I went for a run. For that reason we’ll be having them again, for sure.
Kirstin: I bought the wrong cut of pork for this (fillet instead of loin) so I’ve had to muck about with the timings in this recipe.
Tom: Well it made the house smell fantastic while it was cooking.
Kirstin: It would have been cooked for longer if I had bought the right cut of meat.
Tom: Then the onions would have gone crispy. But the onion/vinegar marmalade was very nice.
Kirstin: I think it’s an excuse to make this again.
Tom: That’s fine with me. Please do.
Kirstin: I couldn’t find the mostarda that he recommends.
Tom: But it was wonderful with just the onion marmalade.
Kirstin: It was perfect for a colder day. And the chilli added interest to several other similar pork recipes, in the best possible way.
Peter: I should have stuck to Bill’s recipe and only used the strong white bread flour rather than combining it with the ’00’ I’m trying to use up.
Anna: It all went a bit wrong didn’t it?
Peter: It just got too sticky. Which is why I should have followed the recipe. This one, in contrast to other recipes, uses honey to feed the yeast rather than sugar. Could you taste it in the dough, Wife?
Anna: I could actually. It was definitely sweeter than normal. I’m not sure if I’m that keen.
Peter: The quantities are a bit dubious. There’s not as much flour as there usually is. It’s supposed to be a recipe for four but we only got 3 pizzas out of it.
Anna: So will you use this recipe again?
Peter: I’ll give it a go with the right flour. But the recipe from Jamie’s Italy still gets my vote for now.
Kirstin: I found this recipe lurking in the “Party Food” section. We were supposed to do it with two chickens, so I halved it. Do you like it? And you tell what the magic ingredient is yet?
Kirstin: It’s the saffron. Subtle, but oh so yum!
Tom: This is epic. I love it. The chilli and yoghurt are fantastic. It’s probably not very authentically Italian, but if it tastes this good, who cares?
Kirstin: Yes, he says that in the introduction. That it probably very isn’t very Italian, but that Italians are magnanimous about other people messing with their cuisine. I bloody love this! This book is worth buying for this recipe alone. I can tell we’re going to cook it a lot. It’s a perfect entertaining recipe. A basic roast chicken but with delicious tweaks.
Tom: That’s fine with me. Move over, Gwyneth! Move over, Simon Hopkinson! We have a new champion roast chicken! Go Bill!
Anna: It’s very annoying, but I compare every recipe like this to sausage sauce. It is made with sausages after all, and I make sausage sauce every couple of weeks, so it’s inevitable.
Peter: What’s it called?
Anna: Umbrian sausage ragu.
Peter: It certainly tastes rustic.
Anna: That will be the chunky carrots and celery.
Peter: It’s good. It’s not sausage sauce.
Anna: I’d probably like it more if I had never had sausage sauce. But whilst it’s fine, I’m just finding it a bit…. unrefined? Rustic? Not as nice I guess. Plus I’m not a huge rigatoni fan. You shouldn’t need a knife and fork to eat pasta!
Anna: This is really quite delicious! I have failed so spectacularly with squid recently but this is a big success in my book. Was it filling enough for you?
Peter: Yes it was. And the chilli was quite warm.
Anna: It reminds me of the River Café griddled squid recipe I used to do in the last decade as a starter. You know, the one with rocket and the chilli dressing. But this is a slightly beefed up version, with the olives and herbs. I think it’s suggested as a starter here, but I added the rocket to make it more of a salad.
Peter: I would definitely have it again.
Anna: Oh good. So would I. Healthy, virtuous and punchy. Perfect.