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Ventimiglia’s healthy pasta with courgette, tuna, tomatoes, basil and capers

10 Jan

New Years resolution: To carry on eating as healthy as possible. And to drink less wine. The French price of wine has my student self constantly stocking up on cheap, decent wine (good rosé is in abundance down here in the Cote d’Azur!)and having oh too casual glasses of it in the evening. Therefore, a healthy, balanced meal with no wine is what we had tonight. Using wheat pasta bought from the market in Ventimiglia, Italy just before Christmas, made this dish a little bit more special.
Easy and super tasty! Plus tinned tuna for protein keeps the cost low.
Serves 2.

Ingredients:
120g tinned tuna in olive oil (way less ‘fishy’ tasting and more ‘tuna steak’ tasting that tinned tuna in brine)
1 dessertspoon capers

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1 tablespoon roughly torn basil
125g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 courgette, thinly sliced lengthways
1 clove garlic, chopped
140g Maccheroni al ferro or anything like wholewheat penne
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
Good olive oil, salt and pepper

Method:
1. Place your strips of courgette on a piece of foil on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season and pop under the grill to colour.
2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta. Whilst the pasta is cooking, fry your chopped garlic in a large frying pan until lightly brown. Turn to a low heat and add the halved tomatoes, you don’t want them to go mushy – just slightly. Add the tinned tuna. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the saucepan, coating with the sauce.
3. Your courgette will be cooked by now so add these to the saucepan along with the capers. Serve, and top with Parmesan and the basil. Enjoy with a glass of rosé if feeling naughty.

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Asparagus ravioli

21 Nov

From our trip to Ventimiglia we also brought back a packet of asparagus and ricotta ravioli.

Suspecting it to have a more subtle than the mushroom one, I opted to use fresh, light ingredients that wouldn’t mask the delicate filling.
I added some cold courgette that I had already roasted – adds to your 1 a day and the understated flavour of the courgette goes perfectly with the pasta!
Again, this is simple yet SO SO tasty – It was a perfect fresh lunch ready in less than 10 minutes (that is if your courgette is cooked already however…)

Serves 2:

Ingredients:
I packet asparagus ravioli (approx 250g)
1 small courgette
2 handfuls rocket
Half a lemon – zest and a squeeze of juice
Parmesan – as much as you like
Really good olive oil
Salt & pepper

Method:
1. Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius (fan).
2. Wash your courgette and chop into small circles, add a few glugs of olive oil (I use the cheapest type for cooking and save good stuff for drizzling!) to a roasting tray, season and toss your sliced courgette in the oil until completely covered. Place in the oven and wait around 30mins for your courgette is soft and beginning to brown around the edges!
An alternative, quicker method would be to cook your chopped courgette on a griddle pan. However, beware cooking them too much as the smokiness could mask the ravioli filling flavour.
3. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add your pasta with a splash or olive oil. Fresh pasta only needs around 5 minutes.
4. Whilst your pasta is cooking, grate some lemon zest and Parmesan and prepare to assemble your dish!
5. Drain the pasta and place onto plates. Scatter your rocket, Parmesan  sliced courgette, lemon zest and a squeeze of juice onto the pasta. Season to your taste and drizzle some good quality olive oil over.
6. Enjoy!

Porcini Mushroom ravioli with sage and lemon butter

10 Nov

After yesterday’s purchases in Ventimiglia market (fresh pasta heaveeeeeeeeen) we were itching to try the mushroom ravioli for lunch. With ravioli or any filled pasta, I always think it’s easy to mask any flavour inside the pasta with overpowering flavours and heavy sauces. I really wanted to taste the delicate mushroom flavour inside the pasta, so opted for an ever so simple yet complimenting sauce of butter, garlic, lemon and sage. 

With such good pasta, you really don’t need any more flavours. Butter makes for a more luxurious sauce if you are only cooking with a few flavours. It was a perfect easy Saturday lunch, definitely had a cheeky glass of rose to go with it too! 

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Serves 2:

2 portions mushroom ravioli (about 350g)
Rind of half a lemon.
Good squeeze lemon juice.1 clove of garlic (we had a monster of a clove, looked like a giant’s thumb – so only used half)
1 dessert spoon dried sage
50g butter
Salt & pepper to season
Handful of rocket to garnish

We served out pasta with an avocado, tomato and rocket side salad drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and ground pepper – get your 5 a day 😀

Method:

1.Cook your pasta in simmering water with a splash of olive oil (about 5-6 minutes for fresh ravioli, you don’t want to overcook them as the filling will start to leak out of the parcels.)

2. While your pasta is cooking, in a frying pan on a medium heat, melt the butter and add the garlic so it slowly fries, then add the sage, lemon zest and lemon juice. You may need to add some more butter if it reduces too much. It should smell lovely and rich when you are cooking it! (I got way too excited for lunch!). Season with salt and pepper.

3. Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan. Gently coat the pasta with the sauce.

4. Divide onto plates and sprinkle with a handful of rocket.

5. Serve with a side salad and parmesan if you like!

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Ventimiglia, Italy (just about!)

9 Nov

This afternoon, a 45 minute train journey along the Riviera (worth a trip just for the scenery to be honest) had taken me through two countries (Monaco, then back into France!) and finally into Ventimiglia, a  coastal town just across the border in Italy. 

I had decided to visit Ventimiglia because A) I wanted to say oh so casually that I had been to Italy for the afternoon and B) I wanted to visit the food/goods market to see if the alleged rock-bottom prices for pasta and parmesan was true!

The ‘bit of a mess’ that Italy is in economically and politically is evident as soon as you cross the border. It’s a little more shabby and run down than the French Riviera. But as I sat with Ollie, we mused that it actually had an honest, relaxing charm about it.  The beach was a little rough compared to the manicured beaches of the Cote d’Azur, but as it is not a tourist destination, it was a breath of fresh air compared to any of the nearby bustling French towns.

We didn’t actually need to stock up on any food, but in the future it would be well worth a train ticket to do your pasta/cheese/vegetable/fish/meat shopping in the undercover market. There are tens of fruit and veg stalls, selling bargain priced goods from aubergines to star fruits. And, only in Italy will you find mounds of sundried tomatoes and olives for about half the price as in the UK. Also, if you are a mushroom lover, then are stalls selling different varieties of porcini and truffles.

The cheese. I love cheese! The variety available in France (even the smallest supermarket will have a huge selection of cheese, even if it takes up half the shop!) has slowly seduced me into buying multiple varieties  so I have ended up with about 7 different cheeses in the fridge at any one time. Italian cheese such as mozzarella and parmesan is about the same price in France as it is in the UK. Over the border however, there were huge cliff-like triangles of parmesan being sold at a mere 11 euros per kg (in a UK supermarket, the average price is around £18 per kg). Fresh mozzarella is available by the ball, you won’t find any pre-packed mozzarella here!

My favourite find however was the fresh pasta stalls. As well as having a take away service for any pasta variety and home made sauce, about 15 different types of fresh gnocchi, tortellini and ravioli were available to buy in any quantity desired.  After much deliberation (we could have happily bought a portion of each – basil, truffle, salmon, Gorgonzola ..) we opted for the porcini mushroom ravioli, and a portion of the  asparagus and parmesan ravioli. Cannot wait to try them! Prices were above your average packet of supermarket ravioli, but compared to British delis, 500g at 5.50 euros is not bad at all! We will most definitely be returning. 

After wandering around the food market, we made our way to the seafront, where rows and rows of stalls sell leather goods and clothes. To be quite honest most of the clothes were incredibly chavvy. Yes, even though Italians have their stylish stereotype, i’m not so sure if it comes down to coastal border towns (sorry any Italians out there!)

Initially attracted by tack-shop smell of leather (such a bad vegetarian), I came across some high quality leather weekend bags that I found in one stall that I would have loved to buy. Although alas, my purse couldn’t answer my request.

I hadn’t been aware of it, but Italy’s tax on alcohol is even smaller than the one imposed in France. As a result there are a few shops catering for the cross-border shoppers selling cheap as chips vodka, rum, whiskey  pastis and so forth. So cheap that we just had to buy a litre each of Bombay Sapphire, Captain Morgan’s and Jim Bean’s, all for under 40 euros. As a UK student, used to paying £10 for 70cl of Tesco Value’s finest vodka, it was well worth a trip. We now have a little bar in our apartment to last us the year (we say optimistically…)

It was about 3.30 before we headed to find somewhere to eat (fault of the student mealtime pattern, most unhelpful!) however most restaurants were closed. We did manage to find a little place on the market street and after a late lunch of a pizza siciliana (bargain at a mere 6euros, yay for Italian prices once again!) we headed back to Nice as the sun slowly descended into the sea. I’m still not used to complete darkness by 6pm when you can still wear a t-shirt and jumper quite comfortably in the day. So weird. I’m already mentally preparing myself for the cold of Exeter.  Hardly the coldest place on earth, but for a girl who in the UK, spends most of the time getting circulation back into hands and feet, I imagine it will be as if I have been dropped naked into the icy Artic Ocean.

Anyway, time to research what I can cook with my fabulous fresh pasta! I am so excited for tomorrows lunch already 😀