Tag Archives: italian cooking

Italian Pasta Recipes: Spaghetti alla Pescatora

As you would expect from a country which is surrounded by the sea, Italian cuisine offers some of the most delicious seafood dishes imaginable, and Spaghetti alla Pescatora is no exception.

The food is prepared simply, with the spaghetti boiled in salted water, chopped tomatoes with garlic cooked together in a pan and the seafood added on top of this. Many people add some lemon on the fish and it can be served spicy with the addition of an Italian favourite, spicy oil with cayenne pepper.

It’s not hard to see why this is one of the most popular Italian pasta recipes around the World. The dish is simple, yet delicious, mixing a nice tomato sauce with plenty of seafood. There is no specific recipe to follow and many variations can be found, specifically in terms of the seafood used, as it often depends on what has been caught that day. Possibilities include mussels, scallops and shrimp or prawns; yet this is not an exhaustive list, as many people include squid and other types of seafood. So feel free to change this recipe to suit your tastes as well as your “catch”!


20 clams and 20 mussels, cleaned (note: some people prefer taking the shells off)

40 rings of squid, cleaned

16 king prawns, peeled and cleaned

extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup of good white wine

4 chopped tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

parsley, basil, salt and red pepper to taste

100 grams spaghetti per person

To cook:

Saute the garlic and chopped tomatoes on the olive oil for 30 seconds. Then add the seafood and parsley and cook for 3-4 minutes or until all seafood is cooked. Add basil, salt, pepper and wine. Let some of the liquid evaporate and add to your drained spaghetti – cooked al dente, of course!


Spaghetti ready to eat!

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Polpette (pasta with meatballs)

Preparing the meatballs for this classic Italian dish might be a little time consuming but well worth it when you discover how delicious it is!
polpetteIngredients (serves 6):

For the meat balls:

  • 400g minced beef
  • 60g fresh mature tomatoes
  • 150g breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 70g Grana or Parmesan finely grated
  • salt
  • bunch of finely chopped parsley

For the sauce:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • half an onion finely chopped
  • 500g fresh tomatoes with pips removed and finely chopped
  • half teaspoon of sugar
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • 80g Pecorino cheese, grated widely
  • olive oil
  • salt

For the pasta:

  • Large pasta such as Paccheri or Tortiglioni – 80g per person

For the meatballs:

In a bowl put all the ingredients listed above and mix well. Your hands are best for doing this.  Roll the mixture into small balls, then roll them in the flour and put them on a tray.  In a large frying pan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and butter in 50/50 quantities and fry the meatballs until they are golden brown. Once fried, place on a tray covered in kitchen towel.

For the sauce:

In a frying pan cover the base in oil, add the garlic cloves whole and the onion and fry on a medium heat until the onion is transparent. Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and basil.  Cook on a low heat until the sauce has condensed down.


Cook the pasta ‘al dente.’ Mix the sauce with the pasta once cooked.  Serve with the meatballs and grated Pecorino cheese on top.

Buon appetito!


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Semifreddo al Torrone (chilled nougat)

nougatIf you are not watching the calories, then this recipe ‘Semifreddo al Torrone’ is easy to prepare and great for a hot summer’s evening after a barbecue!

Ingredients (serves 6):

  • 300g nougat
  • 3 eggs
  • 60g sugar
  • 300ml cream
  • half small glass of rum

Whip the egg yolks with the sugar into a cream.  Stir in the finely chopped (in the mixer) nougat and rum.  Whip the egg whites until stiff. Whip the cream.  Gently mix all of the ingredients together and pour into individual molds, covering them with cling film.  Put in the freezer overnight.  Remove half an hour before serving and garnish with finely chopped almonds and caramel sauce.


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This is another great recipe for the summertime:


Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 800g beef (25% fat)
  • Juice from a half lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt
  • fresh rosemary
  • scewers

Dice the beef and scewer enough to cover half the scewer.  Lay the scewers on a dish leaving space between each one.  Dress with extra virgin olive oil making sure all sides are covered. Season with salt and pepper.  Marinate by rubbing all sides with fresh rosemary and squeezing the lemon juice over them.  Leave to marinate for 10-15 minutes. Cook over a charcoal grill at medium heat basting every now and then using the rosemary sprig and the left over juices.




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A great summer recipe – Panna Cotta with fruit topping

Pannacotta1This recipe is so simple, quick and one to impress!  Unlike those sometimes served in restaurants outside Italy, Panna Cotta should be of firm consistency.

Ingredients (serves 8):

  • 1 litre single cream
  • 5 desertspoons caster sugar
  • rind of an unwaxed lemon
  • 6 sheets of gelatine (in Italy they are called Colla di Pesce)
  • berries of your choice
  • juice of a lemon
  • sugar to sweeten as you like

Place the cream, sugar, gelatine stips and lemon rind into a saucepan. Place on a medium low heat and continually stir with a whisk until it is one consistency and just about to come to the boil. Leave to stand for 30 minutes to allow the lemon to infuse well with the cream.  Place in individual pots or a large dish and place in the fridge. Leave for at least 7 hours before serving.

For the topping liquidize the berries, sugar and lemon juice then place in the fridge to be served with the panna cotta.

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An Italian classic – Tiramisu

tiramisuTiramisu is the classic Italian dessert, ideal for preparing in advance to enjoy after a summer barbecue.

Ingredients (serves 8-10):

  • 500g mascarpone
  • 6 large free range eggs
  • 4 desertspoons sugar
  • sponge fingers
  • espresso coffee (approx 1 pint)
  •  grated dark chocolate

Cover an oven dish with sponge fingers and pour over the espresso coffee – they need to be soaked but without there being any excess liquid. Separate the egg whites and yolks. With a wooden spoon cream the sugar and egg yolks together.  Stir in the mascarpone well – do not use an electric whisk or it will become too watery.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff – fold into the mixture until one consistency.  Pour the mixture over the sponge fingers.  Cover with grated chocolate and refridgerate for 5 hours before serving.

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Cooking Holidays in Italy

Perfect your cooking skills: book an Italian cooking holiday

It seems that in the last few years cooking has become more popular as a hobby. Everywhere you look there is a cooking program or a celebrity chef telling you how to season your lamb or make your own pasta. Some of them always use butter, some only use olive oil, and then there’s the odd one that mixes both on the same pan. But what is the right thing to do when cooking authentic Italian meals? Who can teach you to cook like a real mamma?

Now Cottages to Castles has the answer to your questions! We have teamed with a group of skilled cooks to offer you cooking activities during your holidays in Italy. Our carefully selected cooks will come to visit you in your villa this summer and teach you how to make a proper Italian meal with the freshest local ingredients (in some cases, if you are lucky, you might even be able to pick your own herbs or vegetables from the garden just outside your door!). Whether you’ve always dreamed of making your own ravioli from scratch or surprising everybody with a serving of tiramisù that leaves your guests speechless, there’s not a more enjoyable way to learn the secrets of genuine Italian cooking. Traditional cooking and recipes are passed on from one generation to another, as an indivisible part of their culture and national feeling. In our opinion, there is undoubtedly no better way to learn than from someone who has learnt to cook as part of their cultural heritage.  Just book one of our villas offering Italian cooking activities for your holidays, open the door of your villa and take in all the tips and advice from the experts!

Click here to take a look at the properties offering cooking classes in Italy!

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Italian Cuisine – Not Just Pizza and Pasta

Although it’s understandable that pizza, pasta or lasagna come first to mind when it comes to Italian cuisine, there is much more to be said to the subject. In Italy, the best food is considered to be homemade
Italian Seafoodby a mamma and it usually happens that people prefer to go home during their lunch break and enjoy a home-cooked meal instead of settling for a packed or canteen lunch. You might also be surprised when travelling to Italy by the size of the portions – they are smaller than what you would expect, but miraculously you will feel full after a meal. This might also have to do with the number of dishes you will be served – you will get antipasti, maybe a soup, a main meal and a dessert. Keep in mind that an Italian meal is like a symphony in the manner and order each dish is put forward, in the way the flavours follow and complement each other and in the overall experience that your taste buds will undergo.

Two features of Italian food go into explaining why it has rItalian Food Displayeached a probably unmatched level of appreciation all around the globe. The first relates to the quality of ingredients, of the production process and, not in the least, of display. There is an art going into the processing of the simple ingredients that make up an Italian dish and in the way it is laid on the table and plates, with sprinkles of basil, thin lines of olive oil, cherry tomatoes or dollops of mozzarella. The second feature of Italian cuisine, despite its sheer diversity, is simplicity. Made with good quality ingredients, the food often lets them speak for themselves. The famous bruschettas are nothing more than bread seasoned with garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. The traditional southern Italian caprese salad, again, contains only mozzarella, basil, oregano and tomatoes.

To be fair, there is no such thing as the Italian cuisine, for one can travel all over Italy Italian Food Plate and not experience the same taste twice. Curiosity will lead you to discover that different type of pasta are used in different regions, that pecorino doesn’t taste the same in Rome as in Sardinia, or that balsamic vinegar is less used outside Emilia-Romagna.

We want to discover together with you this amazing variety and the surprises that Italian cuisine presents. We’ll lure you in with recipes, tips and suggestions on how to choose ingredients, wine and desserts. And if you feel inspired, come and learn how to cook in Italy itself. We have some of the most beautiful properties that now offer Italian cooking holidays – in the comfort of your own holiday home.

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