London: amazing pasta at Sorella

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Some restaurants just has that little bit extra, that you can’t quite put your finger on, but that makes you like a place straight away. It’s a bit like clicking with someone on a first date; you can’t really pinpoint what you like about the person, but there’s something.

That’s the feeling I (and I think my dinner companion too) got when we walked into Sorella in Clapham. Something about the ambience felt nice, the staff was friendly and the food amazing.

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The menu consists of snacks and sharing plates as well as a few main courses, that are also perfect for sharing. To start off with we ordered some bread (much needed when you’re verging on hangry) and a starter to share.

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The restaurant made ricotta with the softest pea purée and a flavoursome oil was a delicious start. Smooth, soft and subtle but still with lots of flavour.

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Then we moved on to what we came here for; the pastas. The tagliatelle with a slow-cooked ragu was heavenly.

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But it was soon overshadowed by the dreamy linguine with morels cheese and heaps of truffle. IMG_6469.jpg

I still of dream of this dish, that’s how magnificently delicious it was. I hope this stays on the menu forever.

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After the pasta we had a little breather before getting started on the main course.

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We had perfectly cooked cod with Swiss chard and a lovely jus.

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And on the side the crispiest potatoes I’ve ever come across. Wonderful!

But what really stayed me were the pasta dishes. It’s hand to heart some of the best I’ve had.

Race you back?!

Sorella, 148 Clapham Manor St, London SW4 6BX

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Eating NYC: lovely Locanda Verde

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Our only celeb sighting in New York happened when Sinead and I, as usually starving because we missed breakfast at the hotel, arrived to the lovely Italian restaurant Locanda Verde, near our hotel in Tribeca. My friend Lama had recommended the place and as we sat down for lunch at the bar (with mainly business people in the room), we noticed that no other than Matthew McConaughey was sitting at the other end of the bar (!). At first we weren’t sure as he was just sitting there reading his paper, looking down. But when he looked up it was evident it actually was him.

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And although I think he’s a great actor and it was fun to see a celebrity (apparently he’s not the only celeb who’s taken a liking to this place), the brilliant food actually overshadowed him being there.

I was ravenous and started with the excellent lamb meatball sliders with caprino cheese and sharp cucumber. Not greasy at all and lovely flavours! Then I looked at my phone and noticed a message from Lama (who recommended the place) urging me to order the sheep’s ricotta. So of course I did.

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And it was MIND-BLOWING! Best ricotta I ever had, even better than the lovely one I had in Modena in Italy in the spring. It was thick and creamy, yet light and fluffy and super smooth. It was full of flavour, only further complemented by the herbs and charred bread.

This place is definitely a favourite of mine; I loved the food and can’t wait to eat my way through the entire menu, but I also like the efficient but relaxed vibe in here.

Locanda Verde, 377 Greenwich St, New York, NY 10013

Franceschetta 58, Modena

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We rented a car on our second day in Bologna and I got a crash course in how the Italians drive, i.e. a bit crazy, but it was fun too.

The car took us to Modena, the city most famous for balsamic vinegar and the second best restaurant in the world right now; Osteria Francescana.

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We were sadly not lucky enough to nab one of the twelve tables there, despite being waitlisted for every meal, so I guess we’ll just have to come back. I would sooo like to try Massimo Bottura’s iconic cooking.

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But when I researched restaurants in Modena I discovered that chef Bottura has another restaurant in town; the much more low key Franceschetta 58, so that’s where we had lunch. They only serve a buffet for lunch, but it was very very good. I would have liked to try the a’la carte as well though, so I need to come back here one evening.

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The buffet had both a cold and a warm section. The cold section (above) contained charcuterie, parmesan, bread, salads and cakes for pudding.

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I tried most things from the cold buffet and everything was excellent. The charcuterie was very nice, just like the aged Parmesan. I also got to try proper ricotta (light years away from what we can buy in a packet at Waitrose), and it was mild but salty and very fluffy in texture. The salads were also very good and I especially enjoyed the one with bitter leaves, pears and crutons but also liked the one with farro, feta and courgette.

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The hot dishes the staff plated for us. We had the pasta as primi and then came back for the main courses.

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Both pasta dishes were amazing! The spaghetti hoops to the left (does anyone know the proper name for this pasta shape?) with speck, walnuts and endive was very earthy in flavour and very nice. But the orecchiette with salsiccia and tomato sauce was out of this world. I still dream about it; it was that good.

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The main courses were great too. I absolutely loved the beef stew with cream and mustard (top right) and the sweet roasted vegetables. The potato purée was heavenly creamy and the pork stew with an undefined bitter vegetable was nice too.

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There were two types of cake for pudding, one with chocolate and nuts that was rather dry in texture and not really my thing, but Caroline liked it. I preferred the other one with apple and pears.

If you find yourself in Modena I urge you to go here. It’s one of the best buffets I’ve ever had. And although it’s simple cooking and not extravagant in any way it’s done very very well. It’s also very good value for money; all of this gorgeous food only cost €17!

Franceschetta 58, Via Vignolese, 58, 41124 Modena, Italy

Ricotta, peach and prosciutto crostini

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I know, I know, I could soon rename this blog The Crostini Blog, but I just love to start a dinner party with a crunchy little sandwich. Crostinis are so versatile, delicious and you can top them with just about anything. In August I made these with ricotta, prosciutto, peach and basil and they were just delicious. Remember to make these often when ripe peaches are in abundance!

Crostini with ricotta, prosciutto and peach, serves 4

8-12 baguette slices

olive oil

ricotta

1-2 ripe peaches

4-6 prosciutto slices, cut in half

basil leaves

olive oil

black pepper

Place the baguette slices (slightly stale bread works well here) on a parchment covered baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in 180-200C for 10 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely. 

To serve: Remove the pips from the peaches and cut into wedges. Spread ricotta on the crostinis and top with ham and a peach wedge. Add a basil leaf, black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Spinach and ricotta omelette

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Omelette is one of my trusty suppers for days when I’m short of time or low on energy when it is time for supper. Usually I make quite a runny one with cheese on but sometimes I make it a bit more interesting like this version with spinach and ricotta.

Spinach and ricotta is a classic flavour combination in filled pastas but it works really well in an omelette too, especially with the addition of parmesan. Yum!

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Spinach and ricotta omelette, makes 1 large omelette

2-3 eggs

3 tbsp milk

ca 100 g ricotta

60 g fresh baby spinach

grated nutmeg

salt, white pepper

grated parmesan

Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the spinach and put the lid on. Cook until wilted, then drain very well. Chop the spinach. 

Beat eggs and milk, add ricotta, spinach and nutmeg. Season and add some grated parmesan (1-2 tbsp).  

Melt a knob of butter on medium-high heat in a frying pan. Add the batter and lower the heat to medium-low. Fry until it has the consistency you like. Serve. 

It is customary to fold the omelette in the pan before serving but if you, like me, prefer a runny omelette this can prove tricky and that is why I didn’t even attempt it this time. 

Mushroom ravioli with trumpet mushrooms, girolles and sage butter

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It was a while ago I made pasta but last Saturday I had a whole day to potter around the kitchen so out came the pasta maker.

I’m still quite amazed at how easy it is to actually make the pasta. Making ravioli out of said pasta is a little fiddly but not difficult at all. And it is so very delicious!

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The filling with shallots, garlic, mini portobello mushrooms, dried ceps, parsley and ricotta is simply divine and easy to make. Served with fried shallots, trumpet mushrooms and girolles as well as sage butter this is such a satisfying autumn dish. Ideal for dinner parties (you can make it ahead) or a romantic evening at home with a significant other.

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Hanna’s mushrooms ravioli, serves 2-3

double batch of pasta dough

polenta

3 tbsp butter, for frying

3 small shallots, finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, grated

300 g mini portobello mushrooms or other flavourful fresh ‘shrooms 

2 tbsp dried ceps (porcini) covered with hot water and drained 

2 tbsp chopped parsley

salt, black pepper

75 g ricotta

To serve:

1 handful dried trumpet mushrooms and girolles, covered with hot water and drained 

1/2 shallots, finely chopped

50 g salted butter

5 sage

parmesan, finely grated

Melt the butter in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and fry until translucent for about five minutes (be careful not to brown it). Add the mushrooms (both dried and fresh) and fry until nice and golden and all the juices have evaporated from the pan. Add the parsley and season generously. Leave to cool completely. In a food processor pulse the mixture until it is finely chopped (but not a mush). Mix with the ricotta and adjust the seasoning. Keep in the fridge until needed. 

Make the pasta dough according to the instructions. After it has rested divide it into 3-4 pieces. Flatten each piece out and run it through the pasta maker, twice on the 0 setting and once on every setting up to 5. Sprinkle your work surface with polenta (for the pasta not to stick) and place the pasta sheets on top. Measure with your ravioli stamp how close you can place the dollops of filling on one pasta sheet and place teaspoon sized dollops of the mushroom ricotta mixture on that sheet. Dip two fingers in water and ‘brush’ the surface of the pasta, all around the dollops, with your fingers. The water will act as glue between the pasta sheets. Carefully place another pasta sheet on top of the one with the filling (brush off the polenta first). Start at one end and carefully encase the filling in the pasta, making sure there are no air bubbles and that the pasta sheets stick in between the filling. Use your ravioli stamp to cut out the ravioli. Place on a plate or baking sheet sprinkled with polenta. Cover with clingfilm until needed.

Repeat the process using up all the pasta dough, including the scraps left from cutting out the ravioli.   

To cook; bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the ravioli (if a lot cook in batches) and let it cook for 2-3 minutes (they should rise to the surface). Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer straight to the deep serving plates.

While the pasta is cooking, fry the shallots and mushrooms in some butter. Season. Place the rest of the butter in a small saucepan and let it melt. Add the sage.

Spoon the sage butter on top of the ravioli, scatter the mushrooms around and top with plenty of grated parmesan. Serve immediately. 

 

Broad bean toast with ricotta and mint

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Preparing broad beans is quite time consuming but is, in my opinion, completely worth it. Sometimes I even enjoy such menial tasks and was stood quite happily by the kitchen window preparing these little treasures.

I prefer a simple approach to fresh new produce but at the same time want the finished dish to be exciting rather than boring and pairing these little goodies with ricotta, lemon and mint really worked.

I had the toast for supper but the toppings would work just as well on crostinis as a nibble before dinner.

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Broad bean toast with ricotta and mint, serves 1

1 slice proper crusty bread 

3 tbsp ricotta

1/2 tsp lemon zest

3 tsp rapeseed oil

100 ml (or so) podded broad beans

1 tbsp chopped mint

salt and pepper

Toast the bread in a toaster. Leave to cool. Cook the broadbeans in water for about 5 minutes (until they look almost white). Drain and remove the white outer shells. 

Mix the ricotta with 1 tsp rapeseed oil and the lemon zest. Season well. Mix the beans with mint and the remaining oil, salt and pepper. 

Spread the ricotta on to the bread, top with the broad beans and drizzle with some extra oil before serving.