The other day I published my 60th post and realised how far I have come since that very first recipe I published a year ago. “La prima ricetta non si scorda mai“:-P (You never forget the very first recipe).
Then I started browsing the recipes I have published over the past months and it struck me how very few are starters – not to mention the lack of secondi piatti. Hence my choice, today, to share the recipe of rose di speck e ricotta – an elegant, impressive and yummy canapé or starter made with some of my favourite ingredients: speck, ham and ricotta!
Scrolling through the blog, thinking about what prompted me to choose one recipe over the other, took me on a short journey of reflection. It’s been a huge learning curve to blog and on occasions a lonely one, too, when the temptation to just drop everything has crossed my mind.
Blogging may come across as fashionable or really cool, but you may have guessed that there is lots and lots of hard work behind it and very few rewards, especially when you are right at the beginning. No matter how passionate you are about what you write about, how determined you feel about helping others and how worthwhile your cause is, people simply don’t even know you exist.
It’s been good to take part in the UK Blog Awards process so far, as I have already learnt a lot about other bloggers who share the same “struggles” as me and, despite that, don’t give up.
Most recently the words of a previous year’s winner really gave me a lot of strength:
“Everyone who perseveres with a blog is a bit of a Blog Hero. It’s not an easy job; if you’ve lasted beyond the one-year stage, you have done incredibly well, as I estimate 85% of bloggers throw in the towel before the first anniversary. Few traditional non bloggers really appreciate the tireless devotion it requires, so it can often seem a little thankless, but sticking with it, and giving it your all is the best way to really be heroic.“
Although the term heroic is a bit over the top, (mind you, it is obviously linked to the theme of the awards) I can really relate to her words.
However, what really helped me carry on was my husband George who once simply told me:
“Even if it is just one person who reads you and cooks with your recipes, it will have been worth all your efforts. So keep writing for those who are reading, no matter whether it’s one or 10,000. Equally, if it is just two people who may have signed up to become a stem cell donor after hearing about your fundraising project, you will have done a wonderful job.”
So these are the words I keep going back to when I am tired, when I’d rather read the addictive books by Elena Ferrante or just go out for drinks with my friends than spending a few hours writing up a blog post –not because I don’t enjoy it but because I am simply exhausted.
At the end of the day, though, I have a big project to follow through and that means more than anything else. To be fair, nothing big was ever achieved without hard work and sacrifices. So onwards and upwards!
If blogging can be hard, cooking is always delightful, no matter how exhausted I am. Guess why…? Because there is a MASSIVE reward after it: a damn good meal!
But let me tell you what else is hard: not to blog always about cakes, pizze, pasta and puddings. “Isn’t that what Italian food is all about?” you may be tempted to ask.
I promised to myself that I would show the wonderful variety of Neapolitan food – that there is so much more beyond the tasty world of pasta and pizza (hard to believe, I know…), so I’ll be sharing more recipes that show such diversity.
I feel a bit defeated when I realise that for many, Italian food is mainly just that. What a shame to miss out on the huge variety of secondi piatti, soups, contorni, torte salate and rustici that are part of an ancient culinary tradition.
I will rectify that and make sure that I share more of these fantastic dishes, too. At any rate, my heart is undeniably set on pasta dishes – but that’s no excuse.
What I love about these rose di speck e ricotta is the wonderful tastes and different textures that come together beautifully to impress both the eye and palate. They belong to the huge repertoire of starters and canapés that my mum and extended family have been preparing for years for all types of celebrations.
These rose di speck e ricotta are also one of the stuzzichini I made for Coochinando’s first supper club and I must admit that they went down a treat!
And it is so quick to make them, which is always a bonus. You may have noticed by now that ricotta is often present in my recipes. It is a very popular ingredient in Naples and is widely used both for savoury and sweet recipes. So versatile and damn good.
Give these roses a try for your next dinner party or Sunday lunch and tell me about how your guests fell in love with them!
Serves 6 (two per person as a canapé)
- 12 slices of speck ham (can use parma ham instead)
- 250g ricotta, well drained
- 50g grated parmesan
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- Rind of 1 and a half lemons
- 2-4 tablespoons of super-fine breadcrumbs (I always recommend the Italian ones)
- Small packet of rocket
- About 50g ground almonds or pistachios (if you don’t fancy the lemon rind sprinkled on top, you can wrap these balls in almond or pistachio crumbs instead, or any other nuts of your choice)
Ground the pistachios or the almonds (if you opt for this). Set aside.
Prepare the ricotta mixture. Drain the ricotta very well in a sieve. You could start in the morning and leave it for a couple of hours.
In a bowl add the ricotta, a pinch of salt, pepper, the rind from one lemon, grated parmesan and the breadcrumbs. Depending on how moist your ricotta is, you may need more or fewer breadcrumbs. Start with one tablespoon, then add as required. As soon as you reach a texture that allows you to handle easily the ricotta and shape them into balls, you are done.
Let the mixture rest in the fridge, covered with a lid.
Start preparing the muffin cases on a try. Lay a slice of speck in each one. Start from the bottom and then move it around the edges of the case as though it were a rose.
Add some rocket leaves.
To make the mini balls, get a full teaspoon of ricotta mixture. This again will depend on how small you want the mini balls to be. Usually the size of a Ferrero Rocher or Lindt ball should be fine.
Lay each mini ball in its case. Sprinkle some lemon rind or use the ground nuts you chose.
Place the tray in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving. They will catch everyone’s eye and surprise all your guests with an explosion of different wonderful tastes!
Rose di speck are little bites that are great for any occasion. If your crowd is vegetarian, you could replace the speck with some roasted courgettes, with the addition of a drizzle of oil and salt before serving. A rose is always a rose after all.