Cookbook 150: Nigellissima

Nigellissima: Instant Itality Inspiration by Nigella Lawson was a Christmas gift from a very dear friend, and what an amazing book. My copy is second hand and so will differ from the relaunched version I’ve linked to above in font and photos and possibly layout, but that doesn’t really matter. This book is great and fully of very tasty food. Only one dish wasn’t to our taste, and that’s because it was WAY more spinach-y than we expected. Everything else was amazing.

The instructions are clear, the results tasty and I give this 4 out of 5 stars. (Though Nigella’s use of a 15ml tablespoon is annoying – I’ve corrected this in the recipes)

Shortcut Sausage Meatballs (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 450 – 500g of Italian sausages (we used continental sausages)
  • 30 ml olive oil (not quite 2 tbsp)
  • 4 – 6 spring onions
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 60ml white wine or vermouth
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomato, plus water to rinse (1/2 a can of water)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped fresh parsley to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Squeeze the sausage meat from the sausages and roll small cherry-tomato sized meatballs out of it, putting them onto a clingfilm lined baking tray as you go. Your finally tally should be around 40.
  2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole and add the meatballs, frying them until golden; as they become firmer nudge them up in the pan to make room for the rest, if you can’t fit them all in at first.
  3. When all the meatballs are in the pan and browned, add the spring onion and oregano, and stir about gently.
  4. Add the wine or vermouth and chopped tomatoes, then fill half of the one of the empty cans with cold water and tip it into the other empty can, then into the pan. The can-to-can technique means you get as much tomato as possible.
  5. Pop in the bay leaves and let the pan come to a fast-simmer. Leave to cook like this, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly and the meatballs are cooked through. Check the sauce for seasoning, adding some salt and pepper if you like.
  6. Serve with whatever you like

Notes on this recipe:

  • Very simple and very tasty meatballs. This dish could easily become a house-hold favourite (if we all ate meat), because it is simple and very quick to make.
  • You could really make this with any kind of sausage, so if you don’t like or don’t eat certain types of meat you can use others for this recipe.

Spinach baked with ricotta & nutmeg (serves 2 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

  • Butter for greasing
  • Not quite 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 300g baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 tbsp white wine or vermouth
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp ricotta
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and butter a small oven-proof dish (around 700ml capacity)
  2. In a wide, heavy-based pan, warm the olive oil with the garlic clove and cook until the garlic is bronze.
  3. Over a low heat, stir in the spinach, bearing in mind that, though it will look at first as if you cannot fit it all in, cooked spinach reduces to a fraction of its raw volume.
  4. Turn up the heat, add in the wine or vermouth, and toss gently until the spinach has wilted – which will take about 30 seconds.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and ricotta and season to taste, adding a good grating of nutmeg.
  6. Beat in the eggs and then transfer the eggy spinach to your buttered oven dish (you can remove the garlic clove at this point if you desire). Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until just set. Let it stand for at least 5, but no longer than 15 minutes before serving.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I was expecting more cheese and egg and less spinach in the taste of this. If I made this again, I would double the amount of cheese and add more more egg.
  • Again, another very quick and easy side-dish to make.

Gnocchi Gratin (serves 6 as a side dish)

Ingredients:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 60ml full-fat milk
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmet
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes or 1/2 tsp pouring salt (or to taste)
  • 2 x 400g packets gnocchi
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C and put a pan of water on for the gnocchi
  2. Whisk the mascarpone in a bowl with the milk, then warm it in a shallow, flame-proof casserole or gratin dish wide enough to fit the cooked gnocchi in later, in more or less a single layer.
  3. Once the mascarpone mixture starts bubbling, turn off the heat, stir 3 tablespoons of the grated parmesan into the sauce and then whisk till it melts. Add a good grinding of pepper and grate in some nutmeg, stir, then taste, and add salt only if you feel it needs it. Take the pan off the heat.
  4. Salt the boiling water for the gnocchi and cook them according to packet instructions.
  5. Drain the gnocchi and add tot he sauce, turning them well, but gently, to coat, and once they are in an even layer in the dish, mix the remaining Parmesan with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle this on top.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes by which time the gratin should be bubbling and golden on top.
  7. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 – 10 minutes, to cool a little before serving. Don’t let it stand for any longer than 15 minutes, or too much of the gooey sauce will be absorbed.

Notes on this recipe:

  • OMG this was so tasty. There were only 4 of us and we devoured the whole thing and would totally have gone back for more if the option was available.
  • It’s quick and not as complicated as it looks from the photo. I can’t wait to make this again.

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