Cookbook 180: Florentine

I saw Florentine by Emiko Davies while killing time in a bookshop a long while ago, and I flipped through it, partly because I love Florence and partly because I really liked the look of the cover. I loved the recipes inside, the photos of food and Florence, and the fact that there were vegetarian recipes inside as well, so I put it on my wishlist to buy. And then I eventually bought it.

I cooked two pasta dishes from the book, though the gnocchi and the sugo di pomodoro are separate recipes. I even got out my pasta maker and bought duck for the pappardelle all’Anatra, which was absolutely amazing. Highly recommend this book, 5 out of 5 stars.

Pappardelle all’Amatra (serves 4)

Ingredients:

Pappardelle

  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g semolina, plus extra for dusting
  • 4 eggs

Duck sauce

  • 4 duck legs, about 1kg, skin removed
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 80g pancetta (or prosciutto)
  • 500ml red wine
  • 400g tomato passata
  • grated parmesan, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. To make the papardelle, sift the flour and semolina onto a flat work surface (or a bowl) and create a well in the middle with your hands. Crack the eggs into the well. Gently beat the eggs with a fork in a circular motion until they become creamy. Begin to incorporate the flour and semolina little by little until it becomes too difficult to use the fork and then gather the dough with your hands. Knead for about 10 minutes or until it becomes elastic. Let the dough rest, covered so it does not dry out, for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Divide the dough in two or three portions. With a pasta rolling machine or a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll out the dough until about 1mm thick or until you can see your fingers through the other side. If rolling by hand, roll from the centre outwards.
  3. The noodles should be cut to about 2 – 2.5cm wide. Fold the dough lengthways over itself 3 or four times (dust with semolina between each fold so they do not stick) and then cut across the short side of the folded pasta. Use a sharp knife for a straight edge or a fluted pastry wheel cutter for a ruffled effect (good for catching sauce). Unroll the pasta, shaking it would, dust generously with semolina and shape into little nests of equal proportions – 100g is equal to one serving. Cover under a dish towel or plastic wrap until ready to use.
  4. To make the sauce, brown the duck legs in a large casserole pot with olive oil over a medium heat. This should take about 5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pot and set aside. Drain any excess fat and add the vegetables, garlic, herbs, fennel seeds and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture sweat over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally. When the vegetables are soft but not browned, add the wine and return the duck to the pan. Simmer, covered, for 1.5 – 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.
  5. Remove the duck legs from the pot and strip the meat from the bone. Discard the bones and chop or shred the meat. Return to the pot. Add the tomato passata and long 125ml of water. Bring to a simmer over low-medium heat and let the sauce reduce, uncovered, until thick. This should take about 25 – 30 minutes.
  6. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water, for about 3 – 5 minutes or until silky and cooked al dente. Drain and add tot he warm sauce. Toss until well coated and serve, if desired, with some grated parmesan.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Seriously good. We’ve already talked about making it again, when we have a free weekend to devote to pasta making.
  • The recipe is not kidding about dusting generously with semolina. Some of my pasta stuck together because I did not dust well enough. You cannot over dust this, use heaps.

Topini di Patate and Sugo di Pomodoro (serves 4)

Gnocchi Ingredients

  • 1kg potatoes of similar size (a starchy variety, such as King Edward, Idaho russet or Dutch creams)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250g plain flour

Gnocchi method:

  1. Rinse the potatoes and put them in a pot of cold water, skins on and whole. Bring to the boil and cook until a fork easily slips into them. Drain and peel the skins off while still hot (use a fork to hold the potato for you in one hand while you peel the skin with a sharp knife in the other hand). Immediately put them through a potato ricer or mash them, add the salt and spread out over a chopping board or a tray to allow the steam to escape as quickly as possible.
  2. When cool, add the egg and mix to combine. Add the flour, bit by bit, incorporating with each addition until no longer sticky (you may need more flour than the recipe calls for). The dough should be neither sticky nor crumbly and the mixture should not be worked too much.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into 4 portions. Work with one piece at a time (rest the other pieces under a tea towel), roll the dough into a long long about 1.5 – 2cm thick. Cut into pieces 1.5cm long and roll these pieces into small balls. Continue until the dough is finished.
  4. Cook the topini in a large saucepan of gently simmering, salted water over a low heat until they begin to float. Remove gently with a slotted spoon and serve with your preferred sauce.

Sugo di Pomodoro ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 700g tomato passata

Sugo di Pomodoro method:

  1. Gently saute the onions with the salt and olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat. When soft and translucent, add the garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the basil and then immediately pour over the tomato passata and 500ml water and let it simmer, uncovered, until reduced and thick. This should take 30 – 40 minutes at minimum and up to 2 hours, depending on how thick you like it. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes on these recipes:

  • I always find that gnocchi cooked this way requires more flour than the recipe calls for. Probably something to do with the variety of potatoes I have access to. So if it is still sticky, add more flour.
  • As the gnocchi is cooking in batches, just transfer the cooked gnocchi into the sugo. You need to make sure the sugo doesn’t dry out too much, and can add some of the pasta water if needed.
  • Very tasty, would cook again.

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