About the recipes

Simple, traditional and authentic southern Italian family recipes

All southern Italian recipes I am going to share come mainly from my mum Mariolina who inherited them from my two grannies, Maria and Cristina.

Mamma Mariolina and a filled roast chicken on the table
Mamma Mariolina’s super filled roast chicken. Ready!

 Ah, now you also know where my name comes from! When my mum got married, nonna Maria, my dad’s mummy, taught her how to prepare the staples of Neapolitan and Puteolan (from Pozzuoli) cuisine. Nonna Cristina was known for making the best pizze in Pozzuoli…

Nonna Cristina loved spoiling us with amazing food.
Nonna Cristina loved spoiling us with amazing food.

Few recipes will come from my aunts or, even if rarely, from friends. As a result each recipe is linked to a memory: from days spent with my nonne (grannies), my mummy and my daddy, learning how to make gnocchi and pizza dough, to those when cooking helped me cope with some really tough moments in my life, such as my gorgeous dad passing away recently, or my husband’s recovery from his bone marrow transplant less than two years ago.

Mariacristina and her daddy Salvatore who used to bring corstata alla frutta
Daddy’s girl.

Recipes that reflect the Mediterranean diet

Having spent over six years in London, I get the impression (you may all disagree, of course) that British people are more familiar with Italian food from the north of Italy and not so much with food from the south. As a food lover, I am crazy about all the different Italian regional cuisines, but having grown up in Naples, my heart is set on recipes from the south of Italy, and especially from Campania, the region where Naples is located.

Italian tomatoes
Spoilt by my auntie Carla with juicy tomatoes from her farm

Southern Italian food has the reputation of being the soul of Italy. You may wonder why and you may argue that I am only highlighting the historic divide between north and south of Italy. But nope, not on this occasion. Let me explain why.

Neapolitan food – and recipes from southern Italy in general – are a strong example of Mediterranean cuisine, renowned for its health benefits, and that is reflected in the ingredients I have used and the recipes you will find on this blog. It is simple food as opposed to the sophistication of flavours and ingredients of other cuisines.

Think of MasterChef – and then forget about it, as there is none of that on this blog.

Instead…

If simple, fresh, healthy, very tasty and straightforward are your cup of tea, then you will love these recipes. During my life I have learnt (and was lucky enough) to appreciate the beauty and goodness of simple things. I love the unpretentious and the humble. And Neapolitan food is just that.

Baby Italian aubergines in a field
Nothing better than looking after your own vegetables.

It is a good mix of dishes that were influenced both by aristocratic cuisine and popular tradition, which share the use of nutritious ingredients in sumptuous recipes such as sartù di riso or in pasta-based recipes such as pasta e fagioli and pasta e piselli, just to mention a few among my favourites.

Slice of sartu' di riso on a plate
Welcome to rice heaven…
Dish of pasta e piselli
Poor but yummy. Peace be with you all…!

Sourcing ingredients

I made sure that all recipes I share could be prepared with ingredients sourced in the UK. You may be surprised to know how many shops now sell obscure Italian products and ingredients that I personally would have never thought I could find! 

Where the original ingredients were hard to find, I ensured the result would not change when using more available alternatives. 

Vegetarian?
Quite a few of the recipes are suitable for vegetarians. Many pasta sauces and sides, as well as pizza variations and mains, are meat-free! And where not, you really just need to take the meat out and the result will be equally scrumptious.

Broccoli cooking in a frying pan
Getting ready for pasta orecchiette e broccoli
Fiori di zucca ripieni di ricotta and scamorza affumicata
Dreamy finger food
Involtini di melanzane with basil leaves on top
Delightly mini bites known as Timvoltini (in honour of George’s donor Tim)

Writing style

You might find the occasional Italian word in the instructions.

Don’t panic. I always provide a translation, but the Italian word will always be the most suitable one to describe a certain process, and if you are embracing Italian cooking, it is only fair to learn some vocabulary!

Hand written recipes
Whose psychopath is this writing? I dunno…

Who tasted and tested the recipes

Testing the firmness of egg whites by pouring bowl on husband's head
I take testing very seriously. Best way to check whether the egg whites are seriously firm…

My gorgeous husband George has been a star in forcing down all the food I made over the past 12 months. A real act of love! Joking apart, I would have not managed to test all 150 recipes without him. He did lots of chopping and grating and cleaning and often shopping. And he was never allowed to start eating any meal before having helped take the perfect photo of the dish first (which would usually happen after about 45,788 attempts!) An angel, I hear you say!

I also had a few friends testing some of the recipes. And so far no complaints! Some very determined ones came over to learn how to make specific dish and that was lots of fun. I love it when I can share a bit of knowledge with those who are keen to learn. I never take things for granted when I write down a recipe. Every step is mentioned, even those that could sound a bit obvious.

Helen and George making homemade tagliatelle
Because making pasta is fun!
...makes it taste better!
…makes it taste better!
Frying Italian aubergines
Becca’s concentrating hard on melanzane….
Geoff and Mariacristina in the kitchen before making chiacchiere
Baking with friends is the best thing int he world

Photos

Photos were taken with both my nearly dead iPhone 4 and my husband’s Galaxy S3/S5. No Photoshopping is applied, so what you see in the pictures is what you will get when your dish will be ready:-)

George taking pictures of food
Want a bite? Picture first please!

Many images won’t be as bright as we did not take them during daytime, because I would do the cooking after work in the evenings, and only occasionally at the weekend. And guess what? Even when that happened during daytime, it was so grey and dark that it did not make any difference… You’ve got to love the British weather!

Excited to get started