Cookbook 152: Simply Italian: Cooking at home with the Chiappa Sisters

I bought Simply Italian: Cooking at home with the Chiappa Sisters by Michela, Emanuela and Romina Chiappa at the start of the pandemic, and because I had seen their show, well Michela Chiappa’s show Simply Italian. And that show really really annoys me, because Michela keeps talking about how she and at least one of her sisters is getting married, so they’re travelling Northern Italy to find recipes for the wedding, and that was cute for about 5 seconds, not an entire TV series. That said they are good cooks, love good Italian food, and write a great cookbook. Oh and they dry their pasta by hanging it outside, which might work in Wales, but is a really bad idea in Australia. Lots of little annoying things.

The online reviews for this cookbook were a bit mixed, which concerned me to start with, but it was an unnecessary concern. The recipes are mostly clear, there are dishes we want to cook again (and modify for fun), and other dishes we want to try. I do recommend the cookbook, though you have to order it from outside Australia. Lots of family recipes, great photos, and instructions on how to make your own pasta (useful if you have never done it before). All the dishes were appreciated and rated highly by the household. Overall I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

Baked Gnocchi from Lugano (serves 6 – 8 as a starter or side dish, 4 as a main course)

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre of milk
  • fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300g instant polenta or semolina
  • 2 medium egg yolks, beaten
  • 100g salted butter
  • 150g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. In a heavy-based pan, bring the milk almost to the boil over a medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Slowly poor in the polenta, whisking for about 3 minutes, until you have a smooth, thick mixture. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks, half the butter and half the Parmesan
  2. “Grease” a large baking tray (about 35cm x 25cm) with a little water, then tip the polenta into the tray. Press the mixture flat with the palms of your hand or a spoon, to a thickness of 1.5cm Leave to cool in the fridge for 30 mins.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C
  4. When completely cool and set, turn out the polenta onto a flat surface and cut out circles with a biscuit cutter or glass. Lay the pieces in an overlapping layer on the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Dot the polenta with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown with a light crust.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Even though I missed a step in this recipe (I forgot to add the parmesan cheese to the polenta, and just covered it in all the parmesan instead), this was delicious. Adding the cheese would have given it a bit more structural integrity, and it would not have been as crumbly.
  • This was voted the second best dish of the night, if people had to absolutely rate them. Cheese and corn, what could go wrong?
  • It is a nice, gluten free (if you use polenta), side dish for a main meal.

Hunters’ Hotpot (serves 4 – 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 chicken thighs (chicken chops) or drumsticks – skin left on
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
  • fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped (or just chuck the sprigs in, it’ll be fine)
  • a wine glass of red or white wine
  • 1 x 400g tin, chopped or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • fresh parsley to garnish (if you like that kind of thing)

Method:

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy-based pan and cook the chicken pieces skin-side down to begin with, for approximately 10 minutes, turning to brown them all over. You may have to do this in batches. When the skin is a lovely golden colour, add the chopped vegetables to the pan with all the chicken. Season with a little salt and pepper, stir in the rosemary and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook for about 2 minutes. The aim is to burn off the alcohol, leaving just a hint of the lovely wine flavour.
  2. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir, and then cover with a lid and simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. If the sauce starts to dry out (hah), add a ladleful of water or stock. Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley (if you like that).

Notes on this recipe:

  • It was really tasty and I quite enjoyed this dish. As the three meat eaters were also eating other dishes, I had enough left over to freeze for another meat eater dinner.
  • This dish was voted equal third as best dish on the table, and only that low because the polenta (above) and the leeks (below) were just so amazing.

Cheesy Leeks (serves 3 – 4 people as a side dish, 2 as a light main)

Ingredients:

  • 500g leeks, trimmed, halved and sliced lengthways
  • 40g salted butter, plus extra to grease
  • 60g freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 – 4 medium eggs
  • fine salt

Method:

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the leeks for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Remove from the heat, drain and leave to cool (you can speed up the cooling process by running cold water over the leeks – make sure you drain them thoroughly – this is actually the right thing to do otherwise the leeks will continue to cook)
  2. Grease the base of a large, lidded frying pan with a little butter. Arrange a third of the leeks in an even layer over the bottom of the pan. Dot with a third of the butter and sprinkle with a third of the parmesan. Repeat these layers twice more.
  3. Cook the leeks over a low heat for 20 – 30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the base is starting to turn crispy.
  4. Crack the eggs on top of the leeks and sprinkle the yolks with a little salt. Cook with the lid on for 5 minutes or until the eggs are cooked to your liking.

Notes on this recipe:

  • It is not the most attractive looking dish, but it smells and tastes amazing. I couldn’t wait for this to be ready so I could eat it, it was just SO good.
  • I ended up cooking the leeks over a medium heat when they were in my cast iron frying pan as they were not getting hot enough otherwise. Check on your pan and the heat to find the one that will work best for you.
  • This dish was voted best dish of the evening by everyone at the table.

Nonna’s Lentil Pasta Stew (serves 3 – 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 200g dried Puy lentils
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
  • fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g dried pasta (recommended conchiglie or fusilli)
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion for about 4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the lentils and garlic and stir to coat in the oil Pour in the wine and keep stirring for 2 minutes. The aim is to burn off the alcohol, leaving just a hint of the lovely wine flavour.
  2. Cover with 1.5 litres of cold water, and add the crumbled stock cube, tomato paste and chilli powder (if using). Season with salt and pepper and stir for 1 minute. Bring the boil and then simmer for 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender but firm to the bite.
  3. Add the pasta to the stew and cook until al dente. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve in bowls with a generous serving of fresh parmesan.

Notes on this recipe

  • I’d put more chilli in next time, I used chilli flakes (because it was going to take too long to find the chilli powder), but it wasn’t noticeable at the table.
  • This dish was tasty, a completely different taste to the chicken thanks to the lentils. Again there was plenty left because we were all sharing, so left overs for later.
  • This dish was voted equal third with the chicken. It was such a good collection of food, it was hard to rate them.

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