Has Italian food lost its traditional ways?
Being from Italian background I love food and especially traditional Italian food. To some peoples surprise Italian food is much lighter and cleaner than people think, here in Australia it has been slowly changing and in my opinion somehow has lost some of its traditional techniques and flavours making it heavy, fatty and over the top.
Traditional homemade Italian cooking is simple with minimal ingredients, made with the freshest and best quality ingredients which is what makes the food taste so delicious. Ripe juicy tomatoes, fresh herbs, and homegrown vegetables makes all the difference. Put together simply with just a little olive oil or sauce. Its all about the produce and making that stand out. Yes pasta is delicious especially homemade, but when put with a fresh tomato sauce, or homemade basil pesto or fresh seafood that is when it shines and makes the dish, don’t you agree? Less is more and couldn’t be more true in this respect.
There is more to Italian food than pasta believe it or not and some of the best are homemade recipes that you don’t get on your local Italian Pizza and Pasta restaurant menu.
If you have a small space outside I encourage you to grow a veggie patch. Doesn’t have to be big just enough to grow a few seasonal vegetables and of course fresh herbs which I for one can not live without. It’s not too difficult and needs little attention. Good soil, sunlight and water and you have the freshest, organic vegetables right outside your doorstep. Its well worth it and the taste is so much more intense and flavoursome not to mention lasts a lot longer in your fridge than store bought. Start with the basics, leafy greens like lettuce, kale, baby spinach, asian greens are all easy to grow. Zucchinis, cucumbers and tomatoes are great staples too. I have grown different vegetables as they come in season, capsicums (bell peppers), chillies, cabbage, corn but depending on your space choose vegetables that you use most of.
Fresh herbs are amazing the flavour that it brings to your food and cooking makes all the difference. They also contain so many healthy properties which are so beneficial and should be eating more of. I use herbs a lot in my cooking gives the plainest food an extra fresh hit and jazzes up the most basic of dishes. Add to salads, soups, stir fries and well pretty much anything.
I always have growing in my garden continental parsley, basil, rosemary, mint, coriander, thyme and oregano. If the plants grow to quickly you can always pick them, bunch them and hang out to dry it out especially the oregano. Once dried gently scrunch it and it will crumble into small pieces, place in a air tight jar in the pantry and you have yourself dried herbs on hand.
This is one of my favourite recipes, nothing beats good quality fresh ricotta adding some simply fresh herbs and lemon, rolling in between some eggplant and finishing with a little fresh tomato sauce yummy! Still light and serve it with a side salad for a delicious healthy Italian dinner. Bon Appetit!
Baked Ricotta Filled Eggplant Involtinis
1 large eggplant
250g fresh ricotta cheese
rind of 1 lemon
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1 garlic crushed
salt and pepper
2 cups tomato passata/puree
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 200’c
- Slice eggplant longways into strips about 1 cm thick, salt them and leave for 10mins to extract the bitterness out of them.
- Meanwhile place ricotta, lemon rind, pecorino, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine all ingredients, set aside
- Rinse eggplant and pat dry with paper towel. Steam, grill or microwave eggplant till tender but not cooked all the way through just enough to be able to roll.
- On one end of eggplant place 1 heaped tablespoon of ricotta mixture then gently roll to enclose, repeat with all of the eggplant.
- In a oven proof baking dish add a little of the tomato sauce spreading over the base of the the dish, place eggplant rolls in dish, top with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil
- Bake in the oven for 20mins then remove foil and cook for further 10mins or until eggplant is soft to touch