With the spring racing season upon us, we have assembled a fuss-free menu for your next Italian-style outdoor excursion, be it on the lawns of Flemington or a family outing. Buon appetito!
HERB BAKED RICOTTA
This classic yet elegant starter is a mainstay on many Italian al-fresco menus.
- 500g ricotta
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
- 100g grated Pecorino
- Zest of one lemon
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease four small ramekins with olive oil. Mix all ricotta with the herbs, lemon zest, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the mixture among the ramekins and smooth the surface. Bake for approx. 30 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Note: Can be made in one large baking dish rather than individual ramekins.
Recipe from Giovanni Pilu’s Summer Feast.
PRESSED ITALIAN SANDWICHES
These simple-to-make Italian sandwiches are an easy addition to any picnic and can be made several days in advance. Ingredients need to be chosen carefully to give a filling with a pleasant balance of relatively salty and relatively mild, and a moisture content that helps to hold the sandwich together.
- 1 part-baked ciabatta loaf
- 3-4 tablespoon pesto, such as Pesto Genovese
- 1 small handful of rocket leaves
- 100g Italian cooked ham with herbs, thinly sliced
- 100g Gorgonzola dolce, rind removed
Bake the ciabatta as instructed on the packet and leave to cool. Cut the loaf in half lengthways. Spread the cut sides with pesto. Distribute the rocket leaves over the base, followed by the ham.
Layer the cheese in slices over the ham, then put the top on the loaf and press lightly so that everything sticks together.
Wrap tightly in cling film, foil or greaseproof paper as snugly as possible. Put the whole thing in the fridge overnight, preferably between two boards or plates with a small weight on top such as a tin of tomatoes.
Next day, unwrap the sandwich, leaving it on top of the wrapping, and carefully cut it into eight diagonal slices. Rewrap tightly. Remember to take a few pieces of kitchen paper for greasy fingers and in case of spills.
The sandwiches can be made in individual ciabatta rolls instead of one long one. Wrap them separately, and tightly, in cling film. As long as this is done tightly, pressing is not essential. A baguette can be used instead of the ciabatta although it makes more crumbs and is harder to chew.
Recipe fromThe Picnic Cookbook by Laura Mason
Fresh ingredients are an essential element of Italian cookery and the humble frittata, once mastered is perfect picnic fare, and always better eaten cold.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon marjoram leaves
- 8 eggs
- 1 cup fresh sheep-milk ricotta cheese
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup spicy tomato sauce
Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat the bottom of a 12- to 14-inch cast-iron skillet with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the onion and marjoram and cook over moderate heat until the onion is translucent and very aromatic about 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano and season with salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and stir to incorporate the onion. Cook until the eggs begin to set. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the frittata is set.
Turn the frittata out onto a serving platter and let cool. Drizzle the frittata with olive oil and serve at room temperature, with the tomato sauce on the side.
Recipe from Mario Batali's book Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours
ALMOND AND LEMON BISCOTTI (tozzetti)
These delicate lemon-scented biscotti are delicious, especially when washed down with a glass of ice-cold Limoncello.
- 2 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 350 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 450 g self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- pinch of salt flakes
- finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- 200 g blanched almonds
- Cooling time 35 minutes
Preheat oven to 190°C (170°C fan-forced) and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the flour, butter, salt, and lemon zest and then the nuts. Shape the dough with floured hands to form two logs. Place the logs on the prepared tray, spaced well apart to allow for spreading, and bake for 25-30 minutes or until well-risen and pale golden.
Remove from the oven and cool at room temperature for 3-5 minutes, then cut them on an angle into 1-1.5°Cm thick slices. Make sure you use a very sharp serrated knife to ensure neat slices. You will notice that the inside of the biscuits are still a little wet - this is fine.
Arrange the slices on the lined tray and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Turn them over and toast for a further 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool at room temperature then serves with gelato, coffee or your favourite dessert wine. Any leftover tozzetti will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Note: For a rich twist on this classic, replace the almonds with hazelnuts and the lemon zest with chocolate chips.
Recipe from Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca