Bring the flavours of Italy into your own kitchen with renowned River Café chef Joe Trivelli’s debut cookbook, The Modern Italian Cook. Providing a contemporary and practical approach to the much-loved cuisine, Joe shows us how easy it now is to access the right ingredients. From crafting your own pasta (orecchiette, cavatelli and pici, to name a few) to sourcing the most mouth-watering produce, these recipes are simply a feast for the senses and a must-have for family meals, dinner parties and beyond.
1. What inspired you to create this new cookbook?
The Modern Italian Cook is about how the cooking typical of my Italian-family history relates to life back in London. I was mostly inspired by watching my grandmother work.
2. How did you learn to cook and what does it mean to you?
Professionally, I have worked in a mere handful of kitchens, starting, as so many others, as a teenager washing up. Throughout the last 20 years, I have always cooked maniacally at home, as well. I have learnt to cook fishing for praise from the eaters and chefs I have worked with. For example, in Australia, as a young chef on the line, I rushed home to cook for my aunt and uncle, and was much spurred on by their enthusiasm.
3. What is your favourite recipe in the book and why?
My favourite recipe in the book is Cavatelli With Salt Cod And Crunchy Peppers, because it communicates the flavours my Nonna typically used in a slightly different way. It is current, yet it is nostalgic, too.
4. Where do you source the produce for your dishes?
Although I use plenty of Italian ingredients – stocking up whenever I can – I try to rely on fresh British produce at home. A Riverford vegetable box is the cornerstone of our weekly shop, and I top up at markets, such as Spa Terminus in Bermondsey, at the weekend. I am more than happy to cross town for a good loaf of bread.
5. What are your favourite Autumnal ingredients?
Porcini, pumpkins, apples, late tomatoes, green fennel, chestnuts and walnuts.
6. What is your fail-safe supper recipe?
It has to be Pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans). It is far more than the sum of its parts and even more so if you use the best-quality ingredients. It can be made in infinite ways, lighter or heavier, red or white, using fresh or dried pasta…
7. What five ingredients do you think everyone should have in their store cupboard?
It’s hard to keep to five! Capers, dried oregano, olives, garlic, chilli, salted anchovies and dried pulses.
RECIPE: Pasta Verde e Fagioli
Arguably the most ubiquitous of all Italian food, there are infinite recipes for pasta e fagioli. Here it is with fresh pasta, but for a starchier, creamier result, replace with 300g short dried pasta and cook for longer.
150g dried cannellini or other white beans, soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
6 garlic cloves
100g spinach, chard or nettles
100g semola flour
100g ‘o’ flour
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 dried chilli, crushed
Parmesan or other hard cheese, grated (optional)
Sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil
- Drain the beans, rinse and put in a large pan. Cover with fresh water and add four of the garlic cloves and the parsley. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour until the beans are cooked. Purée roughly one-quarter of the beans in a food processor, before returning to the others.
- For the pasta, boil the greens for five minutes and run them under the tap to cool. Squeeze out the moisture and blitz finely. Add the semola flour to your mixer and blend. Add the other flour to the mixer and the water and pulse before moving to a board and kneading with your hands for eight minutes, turning the pasta through 90 degrees regularly. When smooth, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- Cut a small walnut-sized – very roughly 50g – chunk of pasta. Place on a large wooden board or directly on the work surface. Roll into a sausage, just under 1cm in diameter. Cut this into roughly bean-sized cylinders.
- Place a finger on the top part of a cylinder, press down and roll towards you at the same time. This should make a cavatello that curls around your finger which you can flick away to the back of your immediate work space before attempting the next. The centre will have been hollowed out but the edges should still be quite thick, and potentially nicely chewy. Transfer them to a floured and tea-towel-lined board and allow to dry for at least an hour.
- Chop the remaining garlic cloves and sweat with the onion, celery and chilli in two tablespoons of oil. Do this carefully over a low heat, so that the end result is as pale as possible.
- Add the puréed beans to the soffritto (vegetable base) with the basil leaves and the rest of the beans, and top up with water. I prefer this thicker, so err on the side of caution and don’t add too much water at first, but keep the kettle boiled and add more when necessary. If you use dried pasta, it takes a lot more liquid.
- Boil everything for five minutes before adding the pasta and cooking for eight minutes more.
- Serve with olio buono (good oil) and cheese if you must.
Joe’s White edit
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