Pasta with pesto alla Genovese
Niklas Ekstedt, owner of Ekstedt, Stockholm
Pasta with pesto alla Genovese is definitely one of my favorite dishes. I really enjoy the simplicity of using only a few ingredients, but it is still very tasty and has a deep flavor. Start by boiling potatoes and green beans in salted water while simultaneously cooking the pasta; spaghetti or linguini work best. You can make your own pesto by mixing garlic, fresh basil, and pine nuts with Parmesan cheese and olive oil. At home, I make a Swedish version with a variety of herbs from my garden, including chickweed, nettles, hazelnuts, local aged cheese, and cold-pressed rapeseed oil. Once the pasta and vegetables are cooked, drain and combine with the pesto before serving.
Bigoli in sauce (bigoli with anchovies and onion)
Russell Norman, owner of Polpo, London and Brighton
Photography: Getty Images/iStockphoto
The first time I tried this dish was in a tiny bacaro, a Venetian wine bar, probably the size of a standard suburban bathroom, with no seats. Now, it’s my family’s favorite pasta dish. It’s very specifically Venetian and something I always try to eat when I’m there, even though it’s incredibly simple to make. It’s like an exciting taste of the sea.
Bigoli is a type of spaghetti made with buckwheat, but you can also use regular spaghetti. For two people, chop two large onions and gently sauté in a couple of dashes of olive oil for 25 minutes. You want them to get very shiny and lose their structure. Then take a can or two of the anchovies and press them against the onions, almost disappearing, to create a wonderful pale sauce. You could add a splash of wine at this point. Separately, cook your pasta, then add it to the anchovy sauce along with a cup of pasta water. Mix well, add fresh parsley and serve with a dash of black pepper.
Spaghetti with prawns
Rachel Khoo, chef, writer and host of Simple Pleasures
Photograph: Fermate/Getty Images/iStockphoto
When I’m on vacation, the last thing I want to do is reach into a cookbook and try to follow a recipe – I just want to throw everything in a pan, toss, toss, toss, easy. I remember eating this dish on my first trip to Sweden: king prawns, cooked in butter with fresh parsley, with spaghetti, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. No Cheese: The Italians say you shouldn’t put cheese and seafood together anyway. How long you cook the prawns depends on their size, so I’m just looking at it. I love butter, so I used a nice generous, salty nut. If you don’t have fresh parsley you can use chives. Squeeze the lemon at the end, not at the beginning, because it evaporates.
I cook the prawns whole, in their shells, and then mix the spaghetti or linguine with the sauce you’ve made. It’s a bit messy, but that’s holiday food for you, you’re in no hurry. You can revel in the pleasure of eating with your fingers. The pairing with a nice cold and fresh glass of rosé is also always good.
Orecchiette with cime di rapan (turnip greens)
Masha Rener, Head Chef at Lina Stores, London
Photography: Panther Media GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo
My husband’s grandmother is from Puglia and she taught me how to make this Foggia-style orecchiette. This recipe calls for the cima di rapa vegetable, the top green part of a turnip, boiled, then sautéed in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and chilli flakes. If you want, you can also add chorizo or anchovies. This dish reminds me of being with my family, of the times when we would get together and harvest olives in November; we used to sit and eat this orecchiette in the evenings. This is still one of my favorite dishes when I visit Puglia.
Luca Conreno, chef and co-owner of La Lanterna, Glasgow
Photography: Luigi Morbidelli/Getty Images/iStockphoto
The dish that I remember most when I ate in Italy with my grandmother is the bolognese with fresh tagliatelle. The pasta can be made with 1 kg of 00 flour, eight eggs and a little salt. You mix them in a large bowl until you have a nice dough, then roll it out and cut it into strips. To make the Bolognese sauce, I would use half minced pork and half minced meat (about 500g total). Add chopped onions, carrots and celery to the meat and fry in olive oil. After about 10 minutes, add a small glass of red wine and allow it to evaporate. Then add chopped tomatoes or passata. Then cook for another 30 minutes. What really reminds me of Italy is tying a sprig of rosemary and three bay leaves with string and adding them to the simmering Bolognese sauce. My grandmother used to tie the end of the rope to the pot lid so she could pull it out like a fisherman. Fresh tagliatelle cooks very quickly, so after one minute of cooking in salted water, drain the pasta and add it to the cooked sauce. Then, add two tablespoons of grated Parmesan, this glues it all together.
Pasta e fagioli con le cozze (pasta with beans and mussels)
Simona Di Dio, Co-Owner and Chef at Bottega Caruso, Margate
Photography: Elena Fabbrili/Getty Images/iStockphoto
This is something we ate on our first vacation together as a family, in Castellabate, on the Cilento coast. It was a very hot day and I had my doubts about eating pasta. I wanted something light and fresh, but I actually loved this dish. In southern Italy it is quite common to have pasta and legumes for lunch. It is satiating and nutritious, but economical. In Campania, it is also traditional to add mussels.
Since then, I have often recreated this dish at home. For two people, that’s 100g dry cannellini beans, soaked overnight. Then, they are cooked in abundant water with a stalk of celery, carrots, some cherry tomatoes and a clove of garlic, for an hour or so. In a frying pan, fry a clove of garlic in oil for five minutes before adding the mussels, already cleaned. Put the lid on and cook over high heat for 5-10 minutes until they just split open, then let them cool and peel them (leaving some in their shells for garnish). Keep the liquid in the pan. In another pan, fry the garlic, a celery stalk and parsley with a large handful of cherry tomatoes. Remove the celery, garlic and parsley before adding the beans and mussel broth, then cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Halfway through the time, add the mussels, salt and pepper, and the chopped parsley. Meanwhile, cook the pasta (preferably a short pasta) al dente, add it to the sauce and serve.
Tortellini in brodo (broth)
Chris Leach, chef and founder of Manteca, London
Photograph: The Picture Pantry/Getty Images/Alloy
This is a classic Bologna dish with small meat-filled pastas. Tortellini are very small (you can get 8-10 on a spoon) and there are little pasta shops all over town that specialize in making them. Each is assumed to weigh 2 g. I had tried this dish at restaurants I had been working at over the years, but had them properly, in Bologna, more recently and it was truly special. I like it when the broth is quite rich and the nutmeg and bologna in the pasta are very noticeable. To make this yourself, you can simply roast sausages in the oven, then puree them with a little Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and black pepper. If you were making fresh pasta, this would be your filling. The pasta is then served in a chicken broth (which you can make with leftover chicken bones, seasoned with salt and garlic).
Orecchiette with braciole (veal rolls)
Alex De Martiis, co-owner of Sugo Pasta Kitchen, Manchester
Photography: Fabio Boccuzzi/Alamy Stock Photo
This dish is quintessential Apulia. I have family there and I have many memories, it is a very evocative dish. You’ll find it eaten in homes in every rustic town like Ceglie Messapica. Braciole is rolled beef, so it is essential that you use the correct cut. I tend to choose skirt steak as it will have some fat in it and is perfect for slow cooking. You have to flatten it fine and then fill it; the classic filling is breadcrumbs soaked in milk, with parsley and garlic. Spread the flank steak and place a cured meat, such as ham, on top. Then you add some stuffing to it, roll it up and tie it with string. Then brown the meat in a hot skillet. The sauce is basically a ragu: onion, garlic, celery, carrot. Return the braciole to the pan with a load of red wine, let it bubble, and add the tomatoes. You want it to simmer for 2-3 hours. Then you cook your pasta, fresh orecchiette is the best. Remove the braciole from the pan, stir the pasta through the sauce, then serve with the braciole on top or on the side with some Parmesan cheese.
Zucchini (courgette) carbonara
Lara Boglione, Managing Director of Petersham Nurseries, London
Photography: Claudio Caridi/Alamy Stock Photo
Zucchini is such a summery vegetable and this dish always transports me to the sun. You want the cute little zucchini, with their flowers if possible. Cut them finely, and fry together with the flowers and garlic -I like to add a lot- in olive oil. They will soften and the edges will start to brown. Simultaneously add the pasta to the salted water and bring to a boil. I think this recipe works best with spaghetti. Take a full cup of the pasta water and add it to the bowl you will be serving the pasta from and add a generous amount of Parmesan, some black pepper and olive oil. Mix so that it becomes a spicy paste. Add the pasta and zucchini to the bowl and mix. You can serve it like this, which is very delicious, or if you want to be ultra indulgent you can mix it with an egg yolk. Is very good.
Date prawn paste
Nicholas Balfe, Founder and Chef Director of Salon, Levan and Larry’s
Photography: Tomas Jivanda Lucky Pilgrim
The prawn linguine reminds me of evenings dining by the sea in southern Italy. This one is good for date night as the prawns make it feel a little fancier, but it’s quick and easy to make so you don’t have to spend all your time cooking and cleaning. Put a frying pan or skillet over medium heat with plenty of olive oil. If you are using dry pasta, bring it to a boil now. Add some shallots and garlic and sauté with a pinch of salt for about three minutes. Add the shelled prawns, season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes, stir to combine and allow to sizzle for another couple of minutes before flipping the prawns, which should have turned pink.
Add the cherry tomatoes and leave for another minute. If you are using homemade or fresh pasta, bring it to a boil now and cook until al dente, which will only take 1-2 minutes. Add white wine, turn up the heat, and let everything bubble for at least another minute while you grate the lemon zest. When the pasta is cooked, remove it from the water and place it in the pan with the prawns etc. Add a knob of butter and some lemon and stir everything together to combine. Add some of the pasta water if you want the sauce to be moister, before folding in the torn basil leaves. Serve immediately with the rest of the white wine.
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