Creamy Radicchio Risotto

with Mascarpone

(or Not - Vegetarian &

Vegan versions)

The Art of Ravioli Making {How to make Ravioli 3 Ways}

The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingOne Sunday, I can’t remember when, I was scouring through antiques and stalls full of old thingamabobs at our local antiques and brocante outdoor market, when an item in particular caught my eye.
It was the prettiest brass ravioli wheel, stuck in a pale wood handle, and bent by time and usage.
No sooner I picked it up to take a closer look at it that a scene painted in my head: a woman in a long azure dress – something that might have belonged to the early 1900s, wearing a long white apron, was in her home on a sunny day crafting ravioli out of this wheel, on a not-so-big pastel bright blue table with a marble top. There might have been a couple kids fretting around her, probably trying to dip a finger in the ravioli filling. The kitchen doors opened into a sunlit garden, the shades the same beautiful pale azure color of the table and her dress.
It was so serene.
I think I bought that wheel for no more than three euros.
I wasn’t the one driving that day and I held that wheel in my hand all the way home, and I kept looking at it several times for the following days. 

Silly as it may be, I have these theory that there are things – especially when we talk about rural countryside homes – that can never leave a house. Things that are forever bound to a life that acquires the traits of the never-ending, and that never seem to get unstuck from their original soul. Maybe it is karma. Maybe they are remainders of our past lives; signs trying to make their way back to us. [..]
You surely have seen this wheel multiple times throughout my photos, as it is my favorite prop. But, truth is, I never used it.
So I thought this would be the perfect chance.
I have a very talented acquaintance who sews historical costumes, and I asked her wether she could make me one of those romantic, Hepburn-style 50’s skirts. I was thinking of asking her for a high-waisted white apron to go with it…only I couldn’t decide which color I would like the skirt.
It just hit me now that it should be obviously azure.  The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural Cooking

The art of Ravioli Making

Ravioli is a kind of pasta that is as demanding as a posh lady. It is a fine-tuning of balance between thicknesses and ratios: the ricotta-to-greens ratio, the fat-to-lightness of the cheese ratio, and the dough, which must be rolled thin enough not to overshadow the filling but not so thin that it could break while cooking, or result slippery in the mouth. What fascinates me the most is that, while lots of people need to do research upon the subject to end up with the perfect ravioli, all these ravioli notions always seemed to come naturally to the women in my family.
Classic ravioli has always been a staple Sunday morning preparation in our home and at my grandma’s. I have seen them made in a plethora of ways: with the square metal cutter, with that special ‘box’ that looks like a sort of ravioli mold,  with the funny-looking ravioli rolling pin that my mom used more than any other method (‘it is the quickest,’ she would say. ‘and the pasta-to-filling ratio turns out perfectly!). It was the method that made the most sense, too: I  have never seen a pasta machine enter our household and the dough was always rolled out with the rolling pin method, producing a large, tablecloth-like circle that was overall easier to fold over in half than to cut into regular strips.

Then I presented my family with a third method, the ‘ravioli del plin’ one, and everybody fell in love with it. This method creates pockets that catch the sauce wonderfully, and it is much, much easier to show than to explain (click for video!).
In this guide I am going to show you 3 ways to fold and close your ravioli, starting from pasta strips, since most of you probably roll out pasta with a pasta machine.

For a full guide on how to make the pasta dough, click here.

TIPS FOR MAKING THE FILLING

~ Choose a mixture of young greens: I like to use a mix of young chard, young (not baby!) spinach, and a little bit of foraged, non-bitter wild greens. Make sure the greens you use are not bitter and do not have a strong taste, as beet greens might have, for example. You can also use just chard or just spinach. 

~ Cook the greens in a pot with very little water, as they will release tons of it and squeezing the water out can be quite a pain. It is important that the filling be as dry as possible.

~ Choose fresh, full fat ricotta of the best quality you can possibly find. if you can find it, use sheep’s milk ricotta. It is likely that your fresh ricotta will have a good deal of liquid: in this case, put it in a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel over a bowl in the fridge overnight, and let it drain.

~ Only use authentic Parmigiano Reggiano for these ravioli. Authentic parmigiano will bear the logo of the Consortium. If you can’t find it, it would be much better to use a nice and savory local aged cheese than go for the ‘fake’ stuff. I saw Parmigiano on sale at all Whole Foods.

~ Try not to skip the egg in the filling: it helps bind things together and will prevent your filling from falling apart after cooking.

~ If not cooking straight away, freeze the ravioli: unlike other kinds of fresh pasta, which can be left in the fridge for a couple of days, stuffed pasta will produce moisture from the filling, turn mushy and break. Therefore, if not cooking immediately, line in a tray and freeze them. You can dump them in the boiling water straight out of the freezer, and they will still cook in about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how thick your dough is.

Note that my filling is quite rich with greens compared to the traditional recipe that I am presenting you below. I love to load them with greens, but I agree that a prevalence of cheese is better in many ways. This recipe was a mix of trying to weigh the ingredients as my mom cooked, and research of very old cookbooks found around the Emilia region.

And now on to the recipe! (scroll down the photos)

The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural CookingThe Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural Cooking

How to Make Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli
 
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
FOR THE DOUGH
  • 4 eggs
  • 200 g (7 oz) organic semolina flour
  • 200 g (7 oz) organic whole wheat flour
FOR THE FILLING
  • 300 g (10.5) Full fat, fresh ricotta (preferably sheep's milk)
  • 450 g (1 lb) young chard and/or young spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 125 g (4.4 oz) freshly grated Parmigiano
  • Pinch salt
  • Dash grated nutmeg
Instructions
MAKE THE DOUGH
  1. To make the dough, knead the flour with the eggs for a few minutes, until you have a smooth ball of dough. Let it rest in the fridge, covered in clingfilm, for at least an hour. You can also make it the night before. For a full guide on making pasta dough, check out the guide linked above.
MAKE THE FILLING
  1. To make the filling, make sure your ricotta is dry enough first. Add it to a colander lined with cheesecloth and leave it to drip for a few hours or overnight. If your ricotta in not very creamy, you can pass it through a sieve for better results.
  2. Wash the greens and cook them. You can either steam them, or toss them damp in a pot and let them steam on a very low flame by adding just about ¼ cup water. Cook until soft, about 10-15 minutes, then drain. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop finely.
  3. In a bowl, mix together well the ricotta, chopped greens, egg, Parmigiano, salt and nutmeg. Just like the pasta dough, you can prepare this the day before and leave it in the fridge covered with clingfilm.
MAKE THE RAVIOLI
  1. Roll out the pasta dough until you end up with thin strips. In a bowl, briefly whisk an egg with a fork.
  2. METHOD1 (classic squares): Mentally divide the strip in half lengthwise: you will be adding the filling on the lower half. Brush the whole strip with beaten egg, and distribute 1 teaspoonfuls of filling distancing them a little over ½ inch apart. Fold the strip over and press well to seal all around the filling. Using a ravioli wheel, cut squares around the filling to obtain ravioli. Line them without overlapping on a well floured tray.
  3. METHOD 2 (ravioli pockets): Proceed like above until you fold over the dough, but only seal the lower edge. Using the thumb and index, pinch the dough on the sides of the filling, as shown in the photos. Then, using a ravioli wheel, cut across the pinches towards you. Refer to the video to get a visual of how it is done.
  4. METHOD 2 (triangles): on the lower half of your strips, draw triangles using the back of a knife, but do not cut. Brush with egg wash, add a teaspoonful of filling in the center of each triangle, and proceed just like the 1st method, but cut triangles instead of squares.
  5. If not using straight away, lay them on a floured tray and freeze them. Once frozen, transfer to a bag.

Then, about a month ago I visited my favorite thrift store. It is a large warehouse run by father and son, who collect all sorts of unthinkable junk and pile it there in big heaps – which I love to no end.
Stuck in a corner there was a table [with the most interesting pattern on the top]. It was all beaten, scrapped, and scraggly, and it was missing half a leg. I could tell it was used for pasta making, as it still had its original drawer for the tools and a hole for sticking in the rolling pin.
‘Why does the surface look like this?’ I asked.
‘This was once tiled, or covered with a marble top, I assume. it’s yours if you want it. Let me just find the missing leg…’
Its sides had the most faint remainders of a pastel color.
‘What color do you reckon it could have been?’
‘Not sure, but probably something blueish? you know…you should paint it something like pale blue. Azure, I’d say.’

The Art of Ravioli Making | How to make Ravioli 3 Ways | Hortus Natural Cooking

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side Salads

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsListening to: I Vespri Siciliani, Giuseppe Verdi – Ballet of the Four Seasons: Spring

When Ottavio, my grandfather, was a kid, he was put to work as soon as he was tall enough to hold a plow.
Still today, while I have testimony of my grandma’s scribbled recipes laden with macroscopic grammar mistakes, I have never seen him write a single word. I never thought of asking him wether he knew how to write. I learned from him to speak the local dialect with which we still communicate today (some words unintelligible by the average Italian speaker, like ‘rass‘ to say ‘uccelli‘ (birds), or ‘da pett‘ to say ‘vicino‘ (near), so I can safely say I can speak 4 languages rather than 3), and to live according to moon phases, which he calculated without thinking.
What fascinates me the most about him is that he never considered the vegetable garden as the work that was forced upon him when he was a kid. He kept doing it all his life, even when he didn’t have to, and even when he became a master builder and got another, better-paying, still back-breaking job. He tended the garden all his life, with the dedication you would direct to those things you cling to for solace when life seems to be drowning you.
His garden always produced wonders: plump, seedless zucchini; the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes; the most fragrant, inebriating bushes of basil; as well as glowing eggplants without the slightest hint of bitterness, usually turned into melanzane sott’olio by my mother’s wise hands. Sure, he had his troubles with vegetables he was not accustomed to growing – like that time he picked all the Delicata squashes I had planted when they were still unripe because he thought they were round zucchini and were not supposed to grow too big, hence ruining half my harvest. But for the most part he was a magic-maker.
This year, at the dawn of his 89th birthday, he started lamenting a throbbing pain at his shoulder. Though it took an incredibly long time, all his work finally presented its bill.
After 80 years – 80 years! of honored service, he hung up his plow and rake and gave up on the garden.

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsRoasted Beet & Radicchio Salad with Smoked or Blue Cheese, Honey & Citrus Oil

I am finally home for a couple days after a long stretch of working travel and before a second stretch begins, and I used this time to catch up on photography, and to collect some thoughts.
This year I set off determined to take over my grandpa’s work and start a little garden of my own. I bought several varieties of ancient heirloom fruit and veg and a plethora of flowers – ornamental and wild, and decided to grow them into something.
I have been thinking of the reasons why I decided to do it aside photography purposes, and ended my thinking with quite a loot of soulful musings.

What I think I like the most about gardening is that it is sort of becoming my own way of meditating. Assuming that meditating means emptying the mind from all sorts of prejudice and root your feet in the here and now, then meditation also means taking care of the person you are in every moment you live. It is like a date during a relationship that never gets old, a relationship which can renew itself second after second.
I, contrary to my relatives whose work was forced upon, can choose to plow the soil as a way to meditate, and I associate the sprouting of a seed with the sproutlings of a soul who is perfectly at peace.
Here, in this sort of state of mind devoid of vanity, I am learning to distinguish who I ‘wish I was’ from who I inevitably am.
And, for the person that I am and that is doing the gardening, some feelings have started to lose their meaning. The feeling of competition, for example. Or the feeling of judgement, both towards one’s self and towards others. The feeling of expecting things. Here, in the garden there is nothing to complain about and there is nothing to wish for. All just is, and that is it. All that I can wish is for my deeds to grow nice and healthy. There’s no wishful thinking, and it beautifully feels like having both wings and roots, if you know what I mean.
So I am going to pick up his shovel – laying there, where his working shirt still hangs on a nail hammered to a plank in the greenhouse, and take over.

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side Salads

In the meantime, somewhere else in Italy, in the countryside right outside of Parma, there is a farm I had the luck to visit recently, called Podere Stuard: they have a vast collection of heirloom vegetable seeds and fruit trees, ancient varieties that have been forgotten by large producers and that they are bringing back to life in their shop and to the markets they attend weekly. I saw the most beautiful pink, gem-like radicchios, flaming red chard, amethyst-purple Venetian garlic, and the sweetest, pink-and-red apples the size of the fist of a kid – all ancient varieties naturally found growing spontaneously in fields throughout the region.

I was so inspired by their effort to preserve biodiversity, that I couldn’t help but buy some ancient and heirloom varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruit myself. I bought some varieties dating back to the middle ages: purple carrots, yellow cherry tomatoes, white ‘peach’ tomatoes, lovage, marigolds, bear garlic, wild vineyard garlic. Then I bought three heirloom fruit trees: ‘Cocomerina’ pear, small pears the flesh a deep pink; ‘Abbondanza’ apples, tiny round red fruits with pinkish hues in the flesh; and ‘Sanguinella’ peach, a variety of a deep red and white flesh. all indigenous varieties of Emilia Romagna, which are currently sitting in their vases waiting till after the new moon to be transplanted.
I also bought a plethora of flowers: Chamomile, a variety of poppies, purple tansy, blue bells, buttercups, and windflowers.
If everything goes well, photos will be gorgeous this summer.

Garden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsGarden Diaries #1: Preamble + 2 Easy Radicchio Side SaladsPere Cocomerine

Parma, where Podere Stuard is, in the Emilia side of the Emilia-Romagna region, is homeland to some of the most delicious Italian food: not only to Parma ham for example, but to the ‘Parmigiano’ side of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the undisputed king of Italian cheeses. The vast Padan plains are home to freely grazing cows of all races – mostly ancient ones, like Vacca Rossa, red cow, of which the milk makes the most incredible looking brownish cheese, or the white, majestic Romagnola cow.
But here in cow-less Romagna (in spite of the fact that there’s a race bearing this part of the region’s name), the green, orchard-lined hills are more often dotted with the white and brownish mantles of sheep and goats, and famers set out to produce small-batch cheeses and yogurts made from their milk when the season is right. I love goat’s milk cheeses (which are also said to be much better for women suffering from hormonal problems than cow’s milk cheese) and I think they complement bitter-ish greens like radicchios and chicory absolutely wonderfully. I got this incredible goat blue cheese, goat milk’s spread, as well as a good chunk of hearty Parmigiano Reggiano.
These cheeses are, to me, literally gold: the farmers only make them when the animals naturally go ‘in season’ and produce milk without being forced to, so they are not available year-round. The unusually warm weather anticipated things a bit and all animals seem in a particularly good mood these days.

So, when I came home to find a bag of vegetables I had lying around prior to leaving, I decided to use them up along my new purchases of radicchios and local cheeses. So here are two comforting, hearty recipes using leftover beets, the cheeses I bought and one of my favorite winter vegetables.
These super easy recipes involve a technique I learned from Marco, who has a Phd in Gastronomy and is the Chef at Podere Stuard, who in turn learned it from a chef he worked under. I hope you do not fear the microwave, because I never had such perfect results with radicchio! if you don’t have one, steaming will work just fine.
I used a mix of beautiful pink radicchios I found in Parma, some curly Trevigiano, and the more classic oblong red radicchio. If you can find them, pick several different kinds! The curly Trevigiano and the pink ones are the sweetest, less bitter, most delicious and unfortunately most expensive, but absolutely worth it. Both recipes, I think, are best enjoyed immediately, as the vegetables will lose their crispy edge if left to cool and reheated, but they are so little work it is worth making them for immediate consumption.
They are 100% real Italian fare, one all northerners have on their tables in the winter, and one that calls to my mind the pearly mists of Veneto and of the plain…


Grilled Radicchio with Cheese Fondue and Toasted Walnuts

GRILLED RADICCHIO WITH FONDUE AND WALNUTS

8 radicchio heads of different varieties, preferably Trevigiano & Rosa
Olive oil, salt and pepper
100 g mixed cheeses like aged Montasio (grated), Parmigiano (grated) and gorgonzola or taleggio (cut into pieces)
50 ml milk
A generous handful toasted pine nuts or walnuts.

Wash the radicchios, cut them in half (or in quarters if they’re bulky) well and leave them damp. Line on a plate without overlapping them too much, cover them with cling film and microwave at high for 3 minutes, or until soft.
In the meantime, heat up a grill or cast iron pan until very hot. Dress the radicchios with a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
Add the cheeses to a pot with the milk and melt them over a low flame, stirring often. keep them nice and warm.
Cook the radicchios on the hot grill/pan, turning them each time one side turns nice and crispy brown. Serve on a plate with the fondue and the toasted nuts. 

MORE IDEAS:
~ Finish them under the broiler to turn the cheese gold and bubbly.
~ Chop and toss with cooked pasta, then broil with extra cheese to form a nice crust and make a pasta bake of sorts. 


Roasted Beet & Radicchio Salad with Smoked or Blue Cheese, Honey & Citrus Oil

ROAST BEET & RADICCHIO SALAD WITH CHEESE & CITRUS OIL

2 medium radicchio heads, or 4 small ones, quartered lengthwise
4 small beets, cut into 1 inch slices
Olive oil, salt and pepper
A handful sage leaves (at least 8)

To top
Your favorite cheese: I suggest blue goat’s, smoked ricotta or good ol’ Parmigiano
Toasted pine nuts or walnuts
Citrus extra virgin olive oil, like orange or lemon
A good drizzle of runny honey

Preheat the oven to 200 C˚ / 390 F˚.
Steam the beets for 5 minutes, then add the radicchio and steam for 2 more minutes. You can use the same microwave technique from the recipe above, but make sure to add a little water to the plate and microwave the beets alone for 5 minutes, then add the radicchio and microwave for 2 more minutes – always covering with clingfilm.
When done, toss well with olive oil, salt and pepper and the torn sage leaves and coat well.
Spread on a tray lined with baking paper and bake until slightly crispy and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Do not cook for too long or the vegetables might turn dry.
Serve immediately with crumbled cheese, nuts, and a drizzle of citrus olive oil

MAKING CITRUS OLIVE OIL
If you cannot buy it, making your own is super easy.
Heat a cup of oil over a bain-marie with the peel of half an organic lemon or half an organic orange, making sure none of the white part is attached to the peel. Heat, very gently, for about 20 minutes. Ideally, the oil should never heat above 40 – 50 C˚, but as long as it is being heated over a bain marie it will never fry up.
Done! Wait until completely cool before removing the peel and storing in a jar.

FOR CHEESELESS VERSIONS:
If you do not want to use the cheese, you can make these recipes delicious with ‘vegan parm’, of which you can find many recipes online, or a mix of toasted and crushed seeds, and extra sage and rosemary. It will still be delicious!

 

Winter Vegetables Smoky, Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingListening: Antonin Dvorak, Romance for Piano and Violin Op. 11

After 26 winters, I am finally starting to see how charming the light is in January and February.
Here in the countryside, sunny winters are blessed with a warm light that is pink and beautiful, and the ice glistening on the grass against that light gleams and glitters like the wings of a faery. Every sunset looks like descending divinity amongst the bare branches of the trees, on which, if you look close, you can see the new buds, and I see spring in them as if I were dreaming a dream the moment before waking.
How could I fail to see winter’s beauty up until now?
Now, my personal hour of freedom away from the craziness of work and news are walks in the countryside, bathed in the beautiful pink light of winter. No music, no phone: it is just me, here and now. It is the closest I could ever get to meditation.
And I think ok those who walked these lands before me.
My great grandfather, who was an illiterate man but lived in sync with all natural phenomena, lived in sync with the light – be it of the sun or the moon: They knew that garlic, carrots and roots should be planted during the new moon, while lettuces and greens shall grow better on a crescent moon. I am more and more drawn towards this sync with the Earth, and recognize how blessed I am. 

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingWinter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian Cooking
I realized that, as I walk, I remember this knowledge that was passed down to me – along with pasta making and many other things – and take mental note of where all the edible herbs and greens are, so I’ll be able to come back and forage them when the time is ripe. Each kind leaves hints around them: burnt stems, or browned leaves, or even flowers. Without even thinking, I learned to recognize each root, leaf, petal and seed.
Many of the various edible herbs and greens – I could name at least 20 I could harvest during my walks – are, incredibly, all flowering right now. According to the rhythms of nature, no green should be eaten while flowering – always before. The pretty white flowers you see in the photos belong to a plant called sheperd’s purse, or Capsella Bursa Pastoris. many of their names I just managed to figure out by research, as I learned to know them following my mom’s wise eyes. But I can now identify those tasty greens: Barbarea Vulgaris, Malva Sylvestris, Chichorium Inthybus, Papaver Rhoea, Picris Echoides, Portulaca Oleracea, Sonchus Asper, Taraxacum Officinale, Urtica Dioica, Calamintha Nepeta, Mentha Suaveolens, and many more. I find myself calling out their beautiful names as I see them, remembering their name in dialect, never sure what their name in Italian is, save for some. Their names express their properties: when a plant is called officinalis, it means it was used in medicine. Suaveolens means it is sweet-smelling. On the contrary, graveolens means strong-smelling. I love to let my imagination revel in those names and think of all the possible recipes that could come out of them.

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian Cooking

This pretty flower here is a wild green that is called Sheperd’s bag, or Capsella Bursa Pastoris. It is a delicious wild greens I usually forage to cook with other greens to use as a filling for piadina or ravioli. But, as it is flowering, I will need to wait until the spring to forage it.

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingWinter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingWinter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingWinter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingWinter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian Cooking
Those greens are in sync with the light, too. And I am learning to be, as well, almost without thinking. The light, here in Romagna, is the color of our produce: the fruits like peaches, strawberries, plums, and the abundance of greens are all the result of our light, which hits us first from the East. How different is the light in other parts of Italy!
All farmers and winemakers say it: the secret is in the light

Still, it is no time for those wild greens now. For those, I will come back after the rains, and I will remember where they flowered and collect their new spawn. The light now – or lack thereof – tells me it is time for all those vegetables that grow under the earth, and it is time for the darkest of leaves – kale in all of its forms: purple, curly, lacinato. Grandmas in Tuscany, where kale is one of the most common vegetables, say that it is at its best after the frost. I love the meaty, licorice-y, intense, soft cooked winter vegetables, probably more than I love summer vegetables. I embrace all the foul smell of cruciferous vegetables as they cook, and I delight in the pale, almost timid hues of greens, whites and purples of beets, romanescos and apples. I love the warmth of spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and pungent flavors smoke and cheese molds: all additions that smell like a fireplace, and are equally warm and cozy.
This recipe was born from the love of those flavors, and from the inspiration that light bestowed upon me and after my daily walk of meditation.

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian CookingWinter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian Cooking

This breakfast bake is quick, easy to make, and a really good way to wake up in the morning. I started making it when I realized how much better my body works if I stick to savory breakfasts, and it has become a staple for me – even without cheese. Sometimes I sub pumpkin for celeriac, following exactly the same process. In this case, I do not use cardoons and add more pumpkin (just substitute the 3.5 oz cardoons with the same weight in pumpkin). Because it is something I like to have for breakfast, I want there to be fat and protein, but I do not want to overdo it with the fat – hence the egg whites and the relatively small amount of cheese. Adjust the cheese to taste – 1/4 cup is really very little cheese, so go ahead and use at least 1/2 cup if you want more of a full bodied dish.

VARIATIONS
My favorite version of this casserole always has something smoky, and I always make it differently: Last time I made this, I did not use the cardoons and cheese, but added some smoky diced speck to the initial stir-fry (so it ended up being speck, celeriac and kale). Another time I made it with Pumpkin, chestnut flour and smoked scamorza. You could use blue cheese instead of the scamorza, or any cheese you can easily find. You could use sweet potatoes or boiled romanesco or boiled broccoli instead of the celeriac. Or whatever you fancy. I know it will be delicious anyways!

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole
 
Serves 4
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or coconut oil, or more olive oil)
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 200 g kale (7 oz - a small bunch) (lacinato or curly), chopped
  • 100 g (3.5 oz) cardoons, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 300 g (10.5 oz - about half a small one) Celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch grated nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons chickpea or buckwheat or regular flour
  • ¼ cup to ½ cup smoked scamorza (or other smoked cheese), grated
  • Parmigiano to top
Instructions
  1. Add the fats to a large pan, and add the onion. Stir-fry until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cardoons and sauté for a couple minutes, then add the kale and cook until wilted, about 2 more minutes. Finally, add the cubed celeriac along with a scant ½ cup water. Add salt (about a scant teaspoon), a pinch of pepper, and the nutmeg. Cover, and let cook until the celeriac easily gives in to the pressure about 25 minutes, adding water if the vegetables stick. When done, uncover and let all the water evaporate. Turn off the heat and keep covered.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F˚ / 200 C˚
  4. Separate the egg white from the yolk, and add the egg white to a large bowl along with the other whites. Add the yolk into a large bowl that will eventually contain all the ingredients, and mix it with the flour. Add the cooked vegetables and the cheese, and stir to coat (there will be a large amount of vegetables compared to the yolk and flour). Whip the whites until nice and stiff, adding a pinch of salt, and fold them into the vegetables.
  5. Line a baking dish with baking paper and pour the mix into it. Cover with a nice grating of parmigiano and, if you fancy, add slivered almonds or breadcrumbs toasted in olive oil. Bake until the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. It is best served hot, but it is also delicious cold. It reheats wonderfully in the oven. You can also portion it and freeze it, then reheat it straight in the oven in the morning.

NOTE: If you’re interested in adhering to #immigrantfoodstories, an initiative to share recipes from countries tortured by war, or from any kind of American immigrant, the date to publish seems to be February 7th. Wether you post sooner or later (or at all), It will be a nice collection of recipes!

Winter Vegetables Cheesy Breakfast Casserole, & a Walk in the Countryside | Hortus Italian Cooking

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