Roasted Roman broccoli

One of Rome’s most beautiful and distinctive winter vegetables is the broccolo romanesco. A cousin of broccoli and cauliflower, its bright green, pointy spiral florets are bound to catch your eye at local food markets, while the flavor is pleasingly sweet, nutty and delicate.

It is often served as a side dish by simply boiling it and dressing it in a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. But today I made it in the oven.

prep time 5 min     cook time 25 min
  • 1 broccolo romanesco
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • bread crumbs
  • grated Parmigiano or Grana

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with slightly oiled parchment paper.

2. Wash the romanesco, take off the leaves and cut into 1cm slices. Place on the the baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season with salt and black pepper and other herbs to your liking. Sprinkle bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese on top.

3.  Place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until tender.

Tip: feel free to use normal broccoli or cauliflower if you can’t find romanesco.


Braised lamb in red wine

When this succulent dish is in the making, the smell filling the house is incredible. The preparation is simple, and even if the cooking time is long,  it is so worth it.

prep time 15 min     cook time 3hrs
ingredients for 6
  • 1,3kg (3lbs) lamb shank, neck or shoulder cut into big chunks
  • 3-4 large carrots, cut into big rounds
  • 2 red onions, chopped
  • 1-2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 cloves
  • bay leaf
  • a few sprigs fresh rosemary and thyme, chopped
  • 500ml good red wine (Barolo, Chianti)
  • 1 can (400g) peeled or crushed tomatoes
  • 400 ml beef or vegetable stock (or water)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1.  Heat oil in a heavy large pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a plate.

2. Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic to the pot and sauté 5-6 min until golden.

3. Return shanks to the pot,  add wine, tomatoes, stock, herbs and spices.

4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer about 2 hrs.

5. Remove lid, check the salt and let simmer uncovered another hour or until the meat is falling-off-the-bone tender.

Tip: Be careful, at the end there might be tiny shards of bone left in the sauce.


Salmon zucchini lasagna

A different take on the classic lasagna. This smoked salmon and zucchini lasagna is quick and easy to make. Other benefits: it’s healthy but also rich and creamy and it has  salmon in it – one of the noblest of omega-rich ingredients.  This is the perfect dish to make in the evening and eat again the next day. The leftovers may be even tastier than freshly made lasagna.

prep time 15 min     cook time 35 min
ingredients for 6-8
  • 500g fresh or dry lasagne sheets
  • 1 l milk
  • 70 g flour
  • 70g butter
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 300g smoked salmon, diced
  • 2-3 zucchini, diced
  • 50g grated Parmigiano
  • handful of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1.  Turn on the oven at 180°C. Coat slightly a large shallow ovenproof dish with oil. I used a 25 x 35cm (10″x14″) glass dish.

2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Add zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes.

3. Make the white sauce/béchamel sauce: melt butter in a (heavy bottom) saucepan then add flour. Stir continuously until a paste forms – this is called a roux. Continue cooking for 2 mins until the roux starts to brown, but only slightly.

4. Add the milk to the roux gradually, whisking vigorously as you go, until you get a smooth sauce. Cook for 5-10 mins, stirring continuously, until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and nutmeg. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Mix zucchini and salmon to the white sauce.  Add chopped dill.

6.  Start layering the lasagna: spread a ladleful of the sauce over the bottom of your dish, then a layer of lasagna sheets, another of the sauce and then grated cheese. Continue layers, finishing with béchamel sauce and a good handful of grated Parmesan cheese.

I used fresh lasagna sheets which didn’t need to be cooked first. Choose pre-cooked lasagna sheets or follow the instructions on the package.

7. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the pasta is fully cooked and the top is golden. Remove from oven, then let stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving

Lasagne are tastier if allowed to stand at least 15 minutes before serving, so the pasta has the time to “relax” and absorb the sauce

Tip: you want to be careful with salt since the smoked salmon is usually quite savoury.

Tip: if the béchamel sauce thickens too much, add a little bit of milk to loosen it.


Stuffed pepper soup

Stuffed pepper soup is a delicious and inexpensive soup. It has a mixture of ground beef, onions, rice, and bell peppers. It’s simmered to perfection in a tomato based broth. It’s like eating a stuffed pepper without all the extra work – easy and delicious.

prep time  15 min     cook time 35 min
ingredients for 6-7
  • 500g lean ground beef
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small yellow peppers
  • 1 large or 2 small red peppers
  • 1 large or 2 small green peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 2 cans (400g each) crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (400g) or bottle tomato sauce
  • 300ml beef or vegetable stock
  • fresh basil, oregano, parsley
  • brown rice or couscous
  • salt and pepper

1. Chop peppers, onion, carrots and garlic.

2. In a large pan or Dutch oven heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and brown the beef on high heat adding a pinch of salt. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add the remaining oil and sauté veggies for 5-6 minutes. Transfer the beef back to the pan.

4. Add in tomatoes + water from rinsing the cans, tomato sauce, stock and season with salt and pepper.

I never ever use cans of tomatoes with added sugar or salt! Read the labels.

5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Add the chopped herbs in the end.

6. Ladle in soup plates, add cooked brown rice or couscous and serve. Or omit the rice/couscous and serve the soup with crusty bread.

Tip: You can cook the rice in the pot but if you plan on having it for leftovers the next day or freeze it, don’t add the rice to the pot of soup because it will turn mushy.


Sausage and lentil stew

Sausages and lentils are a combination made in heaven. This is a one-pot hearty stew to share with friends and family. You can make ahead and freeze it if you prefer.

prep time 15 min     cook time  35-45 min
ingredients for 6
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g good quality pork sausages
  • 125g cubed pancetta or bacon
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, cut into rounds
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, picked
  • 400g lentils
  • 750ml hot chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
  • 1 (200g) can crushed tomatoes
  • small bunch of flatleaf parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • peperoncino flakes/seeds (optional)

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large casserole or pan. Add pancetta and sausages and sizzle for 10 minutes, turning the sausages a few times until nicely browned. Scoop the sausages onto a plate.

2. Add the remaining oil and stir in the onions, carrots, pepper and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the onions start to soften. Add also the peperoncino at this time if using.

3. Return sausages to the pan and add lentils, stock, tomatoes and picked rosemary. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and let simmer for 30 min or until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Check the cooking time for your lentils as it varies a lot depending on the type of lentils you use.

4. Leave covered for 5 minutes before seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5. Scatter over the parsley and serve from the pan.


Banana pumpkin bread

This pumpkin banana bread is super moist because of the oil, eggs, mashed bananas and pumpkin puree. Together all these ingredients make the bread soft, tender and moist for the perfect texture that is never greasy or dry. These kind of quick bread recipes need to bake for a long time. If the top is getting too brown, you can tent a piece of aluminium foil and place it over the top of the loaf while it is still baking.

prep time  15 min     cook time 50-60 min
ingredients for 2 small loaves
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin spice or alternatively 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger & 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil (I use peanut oil)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 medium size ripe mashed bananas
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (I made my own)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F

2. Grease and flour two 10 x 22 cm/3,5 x 8 inch loaf pans.

3. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, spices except vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

4. In a large bowl beat together oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla extract until no lumps remain.

5. Stir in the mashed bananas and pumpkin puree.

6. Carefully stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. Then stir in the chopped nuts.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 50-60 min or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and the top feels firm to the touch. The loaf shouldn’t wobble if you nudge the pan.

The best way to keep the pumpkin bread at its best is to keep it at room temp for a day or two. Store in an airtight container after it has cooled. This banana pumpkin bread also freezes well.