Restauranteurs Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi have collected together Rome’s greatest gastronomic hits in a new collection of honest and simple recipes. Here are our favourites…
Gnocchi alla Romana
This is a particularly Roman way of making gnocchi without a potato in sight. It is a rediscovery in our house since writing the recipe for this book. I have to say I thought it was going to be heavy and rather dismissed it. Giancarlo and the boys loved it, but when we made it for the book photoshoot it was the girls in our crew who succumbed to the dark side. Now I am a convert and very happy to spread the word about the warm, crispy, cheesy delights of semolina gnocchi.
- 150 g (5 oz) salted butter
- 1 litre (34 fl oz) milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 250 g (9 oz/2 cups) fine semolina, sieved
- 100 g (3½ oz) Parmesan, finely grated
- 2 egg yolks, beaten
Heat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 6). Butter a baking tray measuring around 40 x 30 cm (16 x 12 in) and at least 2 cm (¾ in) deep and have it ready at your side – you will need to pour the semolina into it quickly before it starts to set. In a large saucepan, bring the milk to the boil with the salt, then slowly sprinkle in the sieved semolina stirring constantly with a whisk.
When it starts to thicken remove the pan from the heat. Keep whisking the semolina off the heat to stop it becoming lumpy; add 100 g (3½ oz) of the butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add half of the Parmesan, both the beaten egg yolks and whisk again.
Remember to work quickly as you don’t want it to set in the pan. Pour into the buttered oven tray. Put a layer of baking parchment over the top of the semolina and smooth it down into a flat layer around 2 cm (¾ in) deep. Leave to cool and set. It will take around 1 hour in a cool room.
Meanwhile, generously butter an oven dish measuring around 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 in) big. When the semolina has cooled and set firm use a 6 cm (2½ in) cutter (or wine glass) to cut out circles. The trimmings can be compacted together and cut out too so nothing is wasted. Lay the circles into the buttered dish and top with flecks of the remaining butter. Scatter over the rest of the cheese. Cook in the oven for around 20 minutes until browned and bubbling hot. Serve on its own.
Slow-cooked Lamb with Garlic, Anchovies and Rosemary
Abbacchio alla Cacciatora
Traditionally this is made with a milk-fed lamb between 20 days and 1 month old. This ensures soft and tender meat. However, as milk-fed lamb is difficult to get hold of unless you own your own livestock, we follow the same flavours but use a shoulder of lamb, or cheaper cuts like knuckle and shank. With a good bottle of red wine it feels like a proper Roman feast. Italians enjoy the juices from the pan rather than a gravy but we’ve written a recipe for one as half of our family are English and like our gravy!
Any leftover cooked lamb can be used to make meatballs.
- 1 medium shoulder of lamb (around 2 kg /4 lb 6 oz)
- 2 sprigs rosemary (approx. 20 cm/8 in long)
- 40 g (1½ oz) anchovy fillets in oil
- 2 fat garlic cloves
- 3 celery sticks, halved widthways
- 2 carrots, halved lengthways
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) white or red wine vinegar
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) water
For the gravy
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) red wine
- 300–500 ml (10–17 fl oz) hot water
- 25 g (1 oz) butter
- 20 g (¾ oz) ‘00’ or plain (all-purpose) flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Allow the lamb to come to room temperature; this should take around 30 minutes and will ensure the lamb cooks evenly. Cut away any really tough skin from the top; waxy fat is good so you can leave that. Heat the oven to 220°C (430°F/Gas 9).
Pull the leaves off the rosemary and discard the stem. Put the anchovies, garlic and rosemary together on a board and chop together until you have a rough paste. Use a sharp knife to make around 20 incisions in the lamb and push a pinch of the paste into each small cut. Lay the celery and carrots into the centre of a roasting tray to form a trivet for the lamb to sit on; this will keep it out of the water and vinegar in the dish. Rub the lamb all over with salt and place it on top of the vegetables. Pour the vinegar and water into the tray. Wrap the tray tightly in 2 layers of foil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170°C (340°F/Gas 5) and roast for another 3 hours. After this time, remove the foil (carefully as the steam rushes out) and pull the shoulder bone away slightly. The meat around it should give easily, be tender and about to fall off the bone. If it is not done to your liking replace the foil and put the lamb back into the oven (this can happen if the shoulder is large). Remove the lamb from the roasting tray and set aside on a plate to rest covered in foil and a cloth.
To make the gravy, strain the juices from the cooking pan into a medium saucepan through a fine sieve. Let the juices settle and scoop off the fat from the surface with a ladle and discard. Add the red wine and hot water to the juices and stir through – how much water you will need to add depends on how much liquid you already have from the lamb juices and how much gravy you want to make. Thicken the sauce by mixing the butter and flour together in a separate small saucepan over a gentle heat. Whisk a little of this mixture, the roux, into the gravy and cook over a medium heat until thickened. If it doesn’t get thick enough after a few minutes, add a little more roux. Season to taste and pour into a warm gravy boat or jug. Put the lamb into a warm serving dish with the gravy on the side.
Whipped Ricotta with Rum and Fresh Berry Compote
Ricotta Montata con Rum e Composta di Bacche
This glorious marriage of flavours has been around for centuries in Italy. It soothes with its cuddle of creamy sweetened ricotta. Add crushed Amaretti and preserved cherries; our favourite are the amarena cherries made by Fabbri and sold in pretty blue and white patterned jars. If you can’t find those, raspberries and strawberries when in season are also a suitable companion.
- 350 g (12 oz) ricotta
- 150 g (5 oz) whipping cream
- 80 g (3 oz/2/3 cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
- 50 ml (2 fl oz) dark rum
- To serve (optional)
- 1 jar preserved cherries or other soft fruit
- handful of Amaretti biscuits
Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together by hand or with a hand-held blender until smooth. Adjust the sugar and rum to your taste. Serve chilled in either 6 wine glasses or 12 shot glasses on its own or with a few cherries and some crushed Amaretti biscuits.
Recipes taken from ‘Rome’, by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. (Hardie Grant Books, £25.00) Photography by Helen Cathcart.