Creamy Radicchio Risotto

with Mascarpone

(or Not - Vegetarian &

Vegan versions)

Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake

‘You may not be able to change the world, but the world cannot change without you’

Vegetable Literacy is a new series to help you get more knowledge about seasonal vegetables and ways to cook them and help you implement more green into your diet, a long with a little thoughtful something about life and Inspiration and all that revolves around it. It will run for a month in the heart of every season of 2018, and now it’s all about that winter goodness.
Today: Cauliflower, & how I’m having a better social media experience.

Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural Cooking

I spent a couple hours doing a social media ‘cleanup’. I approached it just as I do my clothes, in a sort of Marie Kondo way, looking at each element I went through and asking myself wether that thing or person made my heart flutter. I unfollowed every person who uttered a complaint, overshared photos of their kids (they are truly, truly lovely, but there’s a limit to everything), complained about the system, school, jobs, and then all those pages that changed names without me realizing, all apps automatically installed on Facebook from third-party apps, and left all groups that I left lingering there and did not participate in anymore. Then I did the same with Instagram: I unfollowed all accounts that did not contribute to my inspiration anymore and found new, exciting accounts that produce content that make me dream and that I actually want to interact with.
May I say that my life is infinitely better? After all, we change and contexts change, and recognizing change is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
The opening sentence has a lot to do with this.
The rule that you should put out into the world the things that you would love to see and experience is very true, but I think that there is an important step prior to that: surround yourself with the things that you love, and pick out all the trash. This might seem obvious, but it is a more difficult thing to achieve than one could think. We keep complaining about people complaining on Facebook. We complain about sale prices being deceitful. We complain about Instagram’s algorithm changing. And so on. And it is all fair, because all of these systems are broken.
But we can simply unfollow all the content we don’t like to see on Facebook, and only keep that which inspires us and makes us happy (and let that be kittens or nail art videos – no one will judge you). Instead of complaining about how expensive organic lettuce is, we can choose to investigate the reasons why it is, avoid buying all things that we really don’t need and find ways to be smarter shoppers. Rather than complaining about our photos not being seen on Instagram, we can choose to ask ourselves if we can produce even better photos to post and people who resonate more with our vision to interact with.

And so on.
We cannot change Facebook, Instagram or the market as a whole. But we can change the way we look at all these things, and create a positive movement that will eventually shift behavior.

Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural CookingVegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural CookingSpyro 2 - Gateway to Glimmer (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es,It)

Someone’s eating the scraps! :)

Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural Cooking

It’s very simple, really.
So when someone comes to me and asks ‘have you seen Person X complaining about Y??’ I’m like ‘No’. I haven’t. Because it’s not relevant for my day, for my well-being, or for my person as a whole.

Using cauliflower is like using Facebook: everybody complains about it and, to those who don’t use it, it seems dull and strange and it stinks. But, just like Facebook, a cauliflower is just a neutral canvas that adapts to everything and it is your mission to make something great out of it. So if, say, you say you don’t like sun chokes, I’ll take it that you genuinely don’t like sun chokes. But if you say you don’t like cauliflower, there’s 90% chance you haven’t been preparing it well so far.

So here is a look at cauliflower and the reasons why it is amazing:

Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural Cooking~ It is very low in calories:  with just about 25 per 100g or 28 per cup, it definitely lends itself to being a delicious ingredient too keep in shape.

 ~ it contains glucosinolates: these particles cause the pungent smell, but are also a potent antioxidant. Cauliflower, along with other cruciferous vegetables, are known to have a high amount of antioxidants, which is a rather important set of nutrients to consider when choosing your veggies.

~ It is full of vitamins and potassium: especially vitamin C. It also contains Choline, which is not that common among foods and helps prevent liver and heart diseases.

~ It contains fiber: to keep your intestine in shape and helps you feel full.

~ It is cheap: cauliflower and cabbage a re some of the cheapest vegetables available: even in their organic version, they’re still so cheap and you get lots of it for the price (tip: you can trim and eat the leaves as well!

~ It can be made into many great recipes: cauliflower on its own is quite adaptable and can be made into salads, veggie balls, soups, veloutés, roasts, and on and on. It is also used to make low-carb versions of many carb-y things, like flatbread, pizza crust, tortillas…
(I added my favorite recipes in this week’s newsletter! Subscribe here to get them!)

Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural CookingSpyro 2 - Gateway to Glimmer (Europe) (En,Fr,De,Es,It)Vegetable Literacy #1: Onion-y, Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Bake #vegan #vegetarian | Hortus Natural Cooking

The recipe I chose to honor this vegetable is this wonderful baked pasta, which, I have to admit, I am surprised about myself. It turned out so good, and it is all perfectly vegan (though I do add the option to add a little cheese if you want to). The vegan béchamel is one of my favorite things from my book, used in a  baked pasta with mushrooms that is my absolute favorite.

And now it’s about time to sort out my wardrobe, as well. Though that seems like an even more difficult task…

Cauliflower Pasta Bake #Vegan
  • 30g olive oil (you can use vegan butter or regular butter if you prefer)
  • 30g flour
  • 300 ml almond milk, warmed
  • A dash nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (or vegan butter or regular butter)
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup almond flour, or finely ground cashews
  • Pinch salt
  • cauliflower, washed and cut into florets
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • short pasta, your favorite kind (see above)
  • ½ cup grated cheese if not vegan
  1. Add the oil to a pot (or melt the butter if using butter, then turn off the fire). Add the flour a little by little as you whisk, so that lumps will not form. Once you obtain a smooth roux, turn on the heat to low and add the warm milk a little by little as you keep whisking. Add a dash of nutmeg and a little salt and pepper. Turn on the heat to medium and keep whisking until the bechamel starts to thicken, which might take about 5 minutes or less. As it gets thicker, whisk more vigorously. Once the bechamel is thickened enough (it should have the consistency of pudding) turn off the heat.
  1. Combine all the ingredients and toss them together well, then add to a hot pan and toast the mix for a minute, or until golden brown. Set aside for later.
  1. Boil the cauliflower in slightly salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside and reserve the pan with the boiling water, we'll need it for the pasta.
  2. Add the oil and onions to a pan and cook on medium, stirring every now and then, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add a splash of water to avoid sticking, cover and cook the onions for at least 10 minutes. Check every now and then to make sure they do not stick.
  3. Add the cauliflower to the pan, along with salt and pepper, and sauté until the cauliflower is coated in oil and flavorful. Break it to smaller pieces and sauté until all moisture is gone. Adjust salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer ⅓ of this mix to a blender and blend with a splash of almond milk. You should obtain a rather thick cream, so do not add too much liquid.
  5. In the meantime, boil the pasta until ¾ done - cook it to a little before al dente.
  6. It's time to combine everything! Preheat the oven to 200 C˚.
  7. Get a baking pan and oil it generously, then spread about 3 loaded tablespoons of bechamel on top. In a bow, combine the pasta, the cooked onion and cauliflower, the cauliflower cream, the cheese if using and an extra pinch of salt and pepper. Spread everything evenly in the baking pan and top with the topping, and some extra grated cheese if using. (At this stage, you can freeze or refrigerate this tray as is and bake at a later time).
  8. Bake until the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.


I’d love to hear about your experience with social media and cauliflower of course. Thanks to all those who suggested all the wonderful recipes on Instagram!

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Creamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not – Vegetarian & Vegan versions)

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The 2018 Workshop calendar is OUT! See it HERE.

Listening to: Tarantela de Ribayaz, Arianna Savall

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adventurer.
It started with me reading way too many books, and actually believing that there could be some truth in all those stories. I used to pull out my personal notebook on all occasions to jot down ideas and random thoughts, to the point of being almost bullied at school for being a little too peculiar. I could not wait to be old enough to see all the things I could see and discover foods and see people and crowds and music and noises. Though I probably couldn’t have sailed on a pirate ship, I still had a whole world to visit.

So on I went: I boarded my first plane at 16 and was hungry for exploring the world ever since.  Still, as I traveled and explored the world, I realized that the adventures I was after mostly lied in the stories. When I realized that one of the parts of the experience was the part where I could tell about it – via photos and written stories – I felt my life changing.
Being an adventurer, I realized later, meant to me that I wanted to tell – and listen to – stories.

Creamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural CookingCreamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural CookingCreamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural Cooking

There is so much I didn’t share on the blog: all my travels to Europe, my US experiences prior to this blog, my living in a 30m apartment with two other people and a dog and all the things that happened and were really difficult and I am glad they happened.
If adventuring is experiencing and telling things and stories that excite you, now that I’m past 25 I understand how things that are exciting to us shift, and change, and ebb and flow, and sceneries broaden and narrow.

I understand that the world is vast and the more of it you see the more it seems to broaden. And, when your world broadens, you inevitably start picking out your favorite spots – those parts and places of you that feel as cozy as a soft armchair and a cup of tea. If life were a big room, you’d still have a favorite chair, a favorite corner, a favorite window. Therefore no matter how big the room is: it will always be as big as your favorite spot.
After all, what is being adventurers, if not staying constantly surprised with life, independently of the size you choose your world to be?

As my favorite spots are taking shape, one is among the dearest to my heart (aside one very special place by the sea, but that is another story): that corner on the northeast of Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a beautiful land of mountains and sea and rivers and vineyards, all grouped in a  relatively tiny region. Within this place, one of my favorite spots is a town called Faedis and, with this tiny town made of stone houses, my favorite light shines through a house that once belonged to a lady called Ophelia, of which I already talked in this post.
I like to think that life always brings us to where our karma left a trace, like thieves back on the crime scene.
We cooked and shot one of my favorite recipes: risotto with Radicchio Tardivo di Treviso – a recipe that is more of the Veneto side, but the radicchio which grows so plentiful here tempted us to try it out all the same.

To me, exploring Ophelia’s house for the first time was definitely quite the adventure. On those crackling, still beautiful wooden floors, I wandered through the ghosts left from a time past and re-live a different life every time I go through that door.
Even though some of us are probably meant to stick to our favorite chair and peacefully watch all the other people sit on the others.

Creamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural CookingCreamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural CookingCreamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural CookingCreamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural Cooking

This risotto is light enough to be a perfect post-holiday meal – especially if you skip the mascarpone, and it’s a silly easy recipe with a short ingredient list. It is surprisingly tasty for a risotto that lacks both butter and cheese – the base consists of only olive oil and shallot. The mascarpone gives it a nice roundness, but I find by no means necessary. I added instructions for both the vegan and lighter version and the more traditional one: choose your risotto adventure yourself.

NOTE: if you cannot find radicchio, try this same recipe with nettles, chicory greens, or even cabbage or rapini or more simply spinach. Any leafy green that tastes good cooked will work in this recipe.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Creamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not)
Cuisine: Italian
  • 2 heads radicchio 'tardivo di Treviso'
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot
  • 150g risotto rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli or Vialone Nano (my favorite kind)
  • Hot vegetable stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese, or gorgonzola (skip or use cashew cream for a vegan version)
  • Some Grana to finish (skip if vegan)
  1. Cut one of the radicchio heads in 4 lengthwise, then finely chop the other head (get rid of the stem) and set aside. Add the radicchio cut lengthwise to a plate and cover with clingfilm. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes, until soft. Cut off most of the stem and toss them generously with olive oil.
  2. Heat a pan until quite hot and add the radicchio. Let it brown on all sides, until nicely cooked and until the tops are crispy. Set aside.
  3. Add the olive oil to a pot with sides about 4-5 inches (10 - 13 cm) tall. Add the shallot and turn on the heat to medium-low, and start sautéing. Add the finely chopped radicchio the pot after a minute. Add a little stock to help the vegetables cook.
  4. After a couple minutes, add the rice, and stir for a minute on high to toast it.Then, add about a cup of stock, and let the rice cook on medium-low until absorbed. Keep an eye on it, as you will need to add another cup of stock once the first cup is absorbed. Keep an eye on it constantly and shake the pot often, to avoid sticking.
  5. RIsotto usually cooks in between 15 and 18 minutes - check the box for cooking times. the rice should feel soft under your teeth but with still some bite. If the rice seems cooked but there seems to be too much liquid, turn the heat to high and let it evaporate, shaking the pan. Once ready, remove from the heat, add the cheeses if using and shake the pan several times, as if you were sautéing it in a pan.
  6. Serve immediately with the pan-fried radicchio and a tiny quenelle of mascarpone or creamy gorgonzola.
  7. NOTE: this is the simplest process, but this way the radicchio won't preserve its color. If you want to keep it bright and purple, you will need to blanch it in salted water, pot uncovered, and purée it, then add it when cooking is almost done. I like adding the radicchio at the beginning of cooking though - it's easier and very flavorful.

Creamy Radicchio Risotto with Mascarpone (or Not - Vegetarian & Vegan versions) | Hortus Natural Cooking

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3 Creamy, Vegan Soups for a Pre-Christmas Cleanse

(scroll to the bottom to jump to recipes)

These soups are simple and essential, as I wish my new year to be.
And as I wish my Christmas and New Year’s celebrations to be, in fact. When I switched to a mostly plant-based diet I definitely started caring for big meals a lot less. And, ironically, I started enjoying ‘rich’ dishes, such as stuffed pastas or dessert, a lot more. If there is one big tip I can give to those who need to find a balance in their meals, all I would feel like suggesting would be behaving towards eating the Mari-Kon way: remove all that is not necessary, and enjoy the extras from time to time. In fact, I suggest getting Marie Kondo‘s books and applying her philosophy to your diet in general. Beth Kirby has been talking about the same thing and it’s definitely inspirational.
I love soup because it’s simple: it tastes delicious even when only needs barely 3-4 ingredients and it’s quick to make. It can be loaded with vegetables and is as healthy and light as you want to make it. It’s just a perfect everyday food. After all, we are always drawn to the things we understand and relate to, and it’s impossible not to relate to a hot bowl of soup when it’s cold and icy outside (and, in case you want to splurge and follow with hot chocolate, here is the (giftable) recipe for that as well.)

3 Soups for a Pre-Christmas Cleanse | Hortus Natural Cooking3 Soups for a Pre-Christmas Cleanse | Hortus Natural Cooking

3 Soups for a Pre-Christmas Cleanse | Hortus Natural Cooking3 Soups for a Pre-Christmas Cleanse | Hortus Natural Cooking3 Soups for a Pre-Christmas Cleanse | Hortus Natural Cooking

So I’ll be sitting here sipping tea and soup, and planning how to make my 2018 less cluttered than my 2017. I have many plans and I’m working to make them all happen. In fact, in case you feel like spending some time here in the Italian countryside this spring or summer, I’ll probably need a collaborator…

Straight to these soups! All are vegan, but definitely benefit by the addition of a little grated cheese if you so fancy. All are super simple to make – literally throw all ingredients in a pot and blend afterwards. I used all sorts of brassicas / broccolis / cabbages and alliums, for max health benefits. If you have leaves, veggies scraps, stalks etc, throw them in as well – if you have a good blender, they’ll end up blended as well – just cook them thoroughly.
I did not add specific amounts of salt as they are very easy to customize as you please. I suggest using stock, but water with some organic veg bouillon will also do. All these soups are low in calories and I sometimes drink them as a snack as well. If you want to turn them into a complete meal, eat with cooked legumes or grains (or any other protein of choice), or with a nice slice of sourdough bread (heaven).

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