Milanese Acquerello Risotto (Risotto alla Milanese), Ikura and Bone Marrow

Millanese Acquerello Risotto (Risotto alla Milanese), Ikura and Bone Marrow

Watermarked Risotto

Risotto alla Milanese is a rendition of risotto which is just flavoured with saffron, and is arguably the most famous dish that originates from the Lombardy region of Italy. The Lombardy region of Italy is the richest of the twenty administrative regions of Italy and encompasses Milan, the second biggest city in Italy. It was here in Milan, that the Risotto alla Milanese was invented. The exact origin of this dish is unknown and is surrounded by many stories, some which contradict each other. The first known recorded instances of this recipe started appearing in books around the 1800s. Prior to this, recipes for cooking rice in Italy usually consisted for the rice being boiled, compared to the risotto we know nowadays, where rice is first cooked in a soffritto of onions and butter in order to coat each grain in a film of fat (known as tostatura), before deglazing the pan with white wine. From the recipes from the 1800s, we know that Risotto alla Milanese back then was cooked with stock slowly being mixed in, with the gradual addition of cervellata (a beef and veal sausage stuffed with cheese), and coloured with saffron. The dish today however, is made without the traditional sausage and is instead enriched with bone marrow.

The widely told story of how Risotto alla Milanese was invented begins with the construction of the Milan cathedral, now the third biggest cathedral in the world. In the 1700s, the daughter of Valerio della Fiandraleads (the painter of the great glass windows of the Milan cathedral), was getting married. During that time, saffron was widely used to colour stained glass gold as a symbol of prosperity. The story goes on to attribute one of Valerio della Fiandraleads’ assistants decided to surprise him by adding saffron to the risotto served at his daughter’s wedding, and the rest is history. This story is likely to be a folklore than has been spread by word of mouth over many generations and is unlikely to be true as records of the dish only appeared during the 1800s.

Watermarked Collections flowers

Rice first entered Italian cuisine in the early 1200s when the Moors (the muslim inhabitants of southern Italy), settled in Sicily. From here, the cultivation of rice spread northwards to the Po Valley river, which provided enough water for semi-aquatic rice to grow all year around. This spread northwards was made possible by the strong political connections between the two powerful royal families that ruled at that time, the House of Sforza in Milan and the House of Trastámara (Aragon) in Naples. As rice dishes evolved into risotto as we know it today, risotto started to be served as a first course (il primo). Risotto alla millanese however, is usually served together with ossobuco alla milanese (a dish of braised cross-cut veal shank) as a second course (il secondo).  

As this dish is relatively plain, the quality of ingredients used in the dish matters even more in making a truly exceptional dish. The most common variety of rice used to cook risotto is Arborio rice, while Carnaroli rice on the other hand is usually considered more superior as it has a higher starch content which is vital in making a creamy risotto. Of all the different estates that produce Carnaroli rice, the most sought after Carnaroli rice is made by the Acquerello farm in the Piedmont region. The Acquerello rice farm was first started in 1935 by Cesare Rondolino and rose to fame due to its use of aging and heating techniques to produce rice of superior quality. During production, harvested grains are aged under temperature control for 1.5 years, with 1% of the grains being aged up to 7 years. This aging process allows the rice to develop a deeper and richer flavour similar to aging wine. After aging, the rice is unhusked and polished down in a process similar to polishing japanese rice for sake. In a process unique to Acquerello, the germ layer removed from the rice is not thrown away, but instead slowly heated up and gently mixed back into the rice grains, combining the nutrients contained inside the germ with the white rice. This produces a white rice that has the nutrition of brown rice, while also being enrobed with a layer of starch. This mean that when cooking Acquerello rice in risotto, one does not need to constantly stir while adding stock. The stock can actually be added all at once, with the vigorous mixing due to boiling motion of the stock being enough agitation to create a rich and creamy risotto.

Watermarked Aquarello rice
Acquerello Rice aged for 7 years

Saffron, which is the key ingredient in Risotto alla Milanese, is the world’s most expensive spice, costing up to 7000 British Pounds per kilo, with Vanilla coming in as the second most expensive spice, costing up to 500 British Pounds per kilo. This can be explained by the amount of labour required to obtain saffron combined with its extremely low yield. Saffron is derived from the stigma (female part) and styles (male part) in the flower of Crocus sativus. The stigmas and styles are carefully removed from the flower and dried before being sold. As each flower contains 3 stigmas or styles, it takes as much as 300000 in order to produce a kilo of saffron. Thus making an extremely labour intensive spice to produce. This in turn has generated an underground industry of fake-saffron, using strands from turmeric flowers or bits of hay in an attempt to dilute genuine saffron in an attempt to increase yield. This is especially common in Iran, which is responsible for 90% of the world’s saffron production. Saffron production in Iran is made possible due to the low-cost of mainly female labourers, combined with a suitable sunny climate. Saffron itself grows best in the sun, with flowers grown in the sun producing lower quality saffron. However, saffron needs to be harvested in the early morning in order to protect the harvest from the heat and therefore workers start their days as early as 3 or 4 in the morning. 

The taste of saffron is like hay-ish iodine caused by its two main chemical compounds, picrocrocin and safranal. Some people describe it as floral and honey like but in my opinion the flavour of saffron is hard to describe, with nothing that taste close to it. If you want to taste true authenticity in your Risotto alla Milanese, there really isn’t a substitute. Saffron of course, is more famous for the bright yellowish-gold colour that it impart in food due to the high concentration of the carotenoid pigment, crocin, it contains. Not all saffron is of the same quality, with the highest quality saffron being grown in the Navelli Valley in Italy’s Abruzzo region, near L’Aquila, as it as the high concentration of safranal and crocin. To get the most out of your saffron, it should not be added directly to a dish, but instead soaked in luke warm water in order to extract the flavour and colour from the strains before adding it to the dish.

My take on Risotto alla Milanese is the same base recipe you find everywhere, including the addition of bone marrow into the risotto itself, with the difference being the addition of additional bone marrow served as it is (not mixed into the risotto). This allows you to enjoy the flavour of bone marrow on its own and makes the dish more substantial to eat on its own without other dishes such as osso bucco. I also add some ikura (salmon eggs) on the side, as the burst of salty acidicness from the ikura helps balance out the bone marrow.

Watermarked Saffron
Spanish Saffron sold in 1g packets

Millanese Acquerello Risotto (Risotto alla Milanese), Ikura and Bone Marrow

  • Ikura
  • 50g Grated Parmasan Cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • 700ml Chicken Stock/Vegetable Stock
  • 1 medium sized shallot
  • 250g 7 Years aged Acquerello Rice (or normal Carnoli/Arborio Rice)
  • 30g Unsalted Butter
  • A dash of olive oil
  • 100ml White wine
  • 2 pinches Saffron
  • Bone marrow still in bone (beef or veal)
  • Red Amaranth as garnish
  1. First, add the saffron to warm chicken stock to infuse for 10 minutes.
  2. While the saffron is steeping, Mince the shallots as finely and evenly as possible, as evenly cut pieces will cook uniformly, preventing bits of the shallots browning faster than others.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the bone marrow in a tray and salt with salt and pepper before covering each bone marrow with tin foil. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Reserve some bone marrow in bone for plating the dish.
  4. To start the risotto, scoop out the bone marrow from the bones and add this to the butter in some olive oil, heat the mixture before adding the minced shallots to sweat.
  5. Once fragrant, add in the Acquerello Rice and toss in the butter for around a minute until well coated. (A process known as tostatura)
  6. Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan and continue to cook until all the alcohol has evaporated (when you can no longer smell alcohol).
  7. If using Acquerello rice, pour in 600ml of stock (including saffron strands) into the pot and set to a rolling boil. Once most of the stock has evaporated, use a spatula to stir the rice to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Taste the risotto and add more stock if it is not cooked enough for your taste.
  8. If using any other rice, add in the stock (including saffron strands) one ladle at a time, only adding another ladle once the previous ladle has been absorbed into the rice. Remember to always stir the rice constantly. You do not have to add all the stock into the pot.
  9. Taste the risotto once in a while to see if it is cooked to you’re taste. If not, continue to add stock to the pot and cook until soft enough for your taste.
  10. The risotto is done when the rice grains are translucent and you can see a white centre inside each individual rice grain. This means the rice is al dente, and still has a bite to it. 
  11. Just before the risotto is done, add in the parmesan cheese in 3 separate stages and mix till melted.
  12. Plate and serve the risotto with a tablespoon of ikura and a bone marrow still in bone at the centre. Garnish with red amaranth.

 

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Street Performer, Milan

Notes:

  • Making your own stock at home can be incredibly time-consuming so feel free to use stock cubes at home. Some of the best chefs I know use stock cubes at home themselves.
  • If you’re in Asia and can’t find risotto rice, sushi rice is a possible substitute for risotto rice.
  • The point of stirring the stock constantly is to allow the friction between the rice grains to release their starch, causing the risotto to take on its classic creamy character.
  • You do not have to stir the rice constantly if you’re using Acquerello rice as the agitation from the boiling is enough to cause the rice to release its starch.
  • We cover each piece of bone marrow in tin foil the prevent the bone marrow from burning.
  • The goal of cooking the shallots in the fat is to reduce the water content in the shallots and concentrate its flavour. We are not trying to caramalise the shallots so try not to brown them.

 

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Elio Altare’s Barolo

Wine Pairing:

As Risotto alla Milanese is quite a rich and fatty dish, I would pair this dish with wines of high acidity that are lighter in style in order to balance out the weight of the dish. Wines without new oak would also be preferable to not drown out the taste of saffron. Sticking with regional wine pairings, for white wines I would suggest a Pinot Bianco with the not overtly fruity nature but high enough acidity to match the dish and bring out the flavour of the saffron. 

For red wines, I would suggest a good Nebbiolo from Piedmont. Nebbiolo tends to be in a very light style similar to Pinot Noir from burgundy, with similiar notes of undergrowth and red cherries. The main difference however is that Pinot Noir has relatively low tannins while the tannins in Nebbiolo tend to be overpowering. However, with such a rich dish full of cheese, the tannins in the Nebbiolo would definitely pair well. When considering a Barolo vs a Barbaresco, I would go for the Barbaresco, which is typically harvested a fortnight earlier and thus would be slightly lighter in style. Old style producers of Barolo would also be recommended over new style producers who tend to use new french oak barrels compared to the traditional large oak botti which impart less oak flavour over many years of use. The strong oak flavour will overpower the taste of saffron. A Valpolicella from the Veneto region might just work with this dish as it can be light and fruity but I would advise against choosing a Ripasso or Amarone to pair with this dish. 

Lapin à la Moutarde

Rabbit with a Mustard Cream Sauce

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This dish is a classic provincial French dish that consists of a rabbit leg and loin served with a vibrant mustard cream sauce. The rabbit can be done two ways, the first using a sous vide machine and the second by simply pan frying it and finishing it in an oven. As the main component of the dish is the delicate taste of rabbit combined with a fresh mustard sauce, it is important to use an excellent mustard when making the sauce, preferably one from Dijon. Furthermore, the mustard should be added to the cream base just before serving as to preserve the volatile compounds in mustard that gives it its classic spicy bite. A fine balance needs to be achieved between the amount of mustard in the sauce and the creaminess of the sauce to ensure the acidity and spiciness of the mustard is able to cut through the cream without being overpowering.

In terms of choosing a rabbit, a trade-off needs to be made between using wild rabbit or farmed rabbit for this dish. Farmed rabbit is easier to obtain and larger in size, but it is considerably less complex in flavour and can sometimes be so lacking in flavour that it can “taste like chicken”. On the upside, farmed rabbit is more tender and is available all year round. Conversely, wild rabbit, also known as lapin de garenne, has very low natural fats and can tend to be on the tough and chewy side if not cooked properly. The flavour of wild rabbit is more gamey but is still light enough to be considered a white meat. Because of this, I prefer to sous vide wild rabbit for long periods of time, which not only preserves the tenderness of the meat by trapping moisture inside it, but also slowly breaks down the meat proteins.

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Rabbit stock in the making

Rabbit with a Mustard Cream Sauce:

  • 1 Whole Rabbit which will yield 4 Legs, Loin, Innards and Bones
  • Rabbit Stock:
    • Dried Bay Leaves
    • Fresh Thyme
    • Salt
    • Whole black and red peppercorns
    • Rabbit Bones
  • Sauce:
    • Cream
    • A small amount of Dijon mustard
    • White Wine
    • Garlic
    • Butter
    • Shallots
    • Rabbit Stock
  • Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. To start off, we need to breakdown the rabbit into its individual components. Reach into the cavity of the rabbit and pull out the liver and 2 kidneys which are usually left behind by the butcher when you buy rabbit. Reserve on one side.
  2. Remove the hind legs and front arms of the rabbit by first cutting around the base of the joints connecting the legs and arms to the body, following the muscle all the way round. Use one hand to hold the body and another to hold the arm/leg.
  3. Bend the joint against its natural movement direction to break the joint, allowing a clean removal.
  4. Once complete, cut through the meat between the second and third rib of the rabbit on both sides before snapping the backbone in half to break the body in two. Reserve the ribcage for the rabbit stock.
  5. The remaining half of the rabbit is called the saddle, and it includes the rabbit loin, which can be removed from the bone by gently running a knife along one side of the backbone against the meat, and working downwards in long continuous slices, allowing the bones to guide you as you separate the meat from the bone.
  6. Repeat with the other side of the backbone.
  7. After removing the loins, reserve the bones for stock. Roll the loin up lengthwise before clingwrapping and refrigerating.

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    Autumn in University Parks, Oxford
  8. As the loin is very tender and easy to overcook, sear it on a frying pan for a few minutes before allowing it to rest. It is not necessary to finish it in the oven which would risk overcooking it. If you intend to sous vide the legs, sous vide-ing the loin as well would be a waste of time.
  9. The liver and kidneys can be poached and eaten along with the dish in the cream sauce, or just pan-fried with a little salt and eaten by itself.
  10. To make the stock, start by boiling the rabbit bones for several minutes before pouring out the water and cleaning the bones thoroughly under running water. This helps remove all the blood and dirt from the bones, saving you the trouble from constantly needing to skim the stock.
  11. Return the cleaned bones to the pot, add the fresh thyme and bay leaves to the pot, along with some whole peppercorns, before filling with water until the bones are just covered. Bring the stock up to a gentle simmer and leave for 3 hours, removing any impurities that rise to the surface.
  12. Because we intend to use the stock as a base for the sauce, it is important to keep it as clear as possible. Thus bringing the stock to a boil while the bones are still in the pot will agitate the contents, making the stock cloudy. For the same reason, we use whole peppercorns and entire sprigs of thyme to ensure that when we have finished cooking the stock, we can pass it through a fine mesh strainer to remove all the herbs and bones.
  13. Once we have strained the stock, bring it up to a boil and reduce it down to around a cup of stock.
  14. To make the sauce, start off by melting the butter in a saucepan before sweating the minced shallots and garlic in it. At this point we don’t want to brown the garlic or shallots as we want to preserve the lightness of the sauce as remember, the taste of rabbit meat is light and we want to accentuate that.
  15. Add in a splash of white wine and cook off the alcohol before pouring in the stock. When the stock has reduced to a slightly salty taste, whisk in the cream and set aside.
  16. Do not bring the cream to a boil as there is a chance of the cream curdling and the sauce becoming lumpy. The chances of this happening increases if the cream you are using is below 30% fat, or if the sauce is fairly acidic, which is this case the sauce is slightly acidic due to the addition of wine. Do not add the mustard to the sauce yet.37934954172_381da3dbe3_o
  17. To cook the rabbit loin, remove the rabbit loin from the clingwrap and season well with salt and pepper. Sear briefly all around on a cast iron pan before allowing to rest.
  18. For the rabbit legs, season well with salt and pepper before also searing in a cast iron pan. At this point, a little butter may be added to the pan with the remaining oil before inserting the pan along with the rabbit legs into the oven for around 10 minutes at 180°C.
  19. Once cooked, plate the dish by placing the rabbit loin first, followed by the rabbit leg.
  20. Whisk in the mustard into the warm reheated cream sauce before pouring over the rabbit.

To cook the rabbit leg sous vide, season the rabbit legs with salt and pepper before vacuum packing the legs and sous vide-ing for 12 hours at 75°C. I do not recommend adding oil to the bag as it dilutes the flavour of the rabbit. While seasoning the rabbit before sous vide-ing it does draw out the moisture from the rabbit, 12 hours is long enough for the moisture to be absorbed back in. There is also the option to add herbs to the sous vide bag, but I prefer the taste of the rabbit up front and forward. To finish off the rabbit legs, remove from sous vide back, pat dry with paper towels before searing on a cast iron pan with a knob of butter. Serve the same way as before.

It is understandable that rabbit can be hard to find in many countries, so a viable alternative to rabbit legs is chicken thighs- but of course it won’t taste the same.

In term of wine parings, I feel that rabbit meat is one of these dishes that is delicate enough to go with a white wine. Due to the spiciness of the mustard, along with the fat from the cream, I would recommend a dry to off dry riesling, with its floral notes and crisp acidity to cut the fat. Maybe one from the Mosel in Germany. For red wines, I would recommend a light red with not too much tannins such as Beaujolais Cru or if the you’re up for a splurge, a good red Burgundy. I would recommend against basic Beaujolais as the taste of bubblegum imparted on the wine from carbonic maceration would not match the dish. A light red with low acidity (such as a Southern Rhone Grenache) would also not pair well with the dish as the fatty feeling from the cream sauce would be overwhelming.

Morel Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto

Risotto ai funghi morel con scaglie di parmigiano

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Ask any mushroom lover what their favourite season is and they’ll tell you autumn. Autumn brings with it all the tastes of earthy and umami rich mushrooms. From Porcini mushrooms all the way to the extremely sought after white truffles of Alba. These truffles, also known as trifola d’Alba Madonna, are sometimes called white gold due to the price that accompanies them. This post however, is not about Chanterelles or Puff Balls, it’s about Morels. The sight of a morel’s pine cone-shaped head poking out of the forest detritus can bring joy even to the most seasoned mushroom foragers and it is a sure sign that spring has come.

Morel mushrooms are not only unique in the fact that they are in season during spring, they also possess a unique shape and taste. Like any other mushrooms, morel mushrooms are prone to rotting and have a short lifespan. Because of this, morel mushrooms are sometimes dried or preserved in oil. Some chefs even prize dried morels even more than fresh ones as they claim that dried morels have a more concentrated flavour. In a way I actually agree with them, dried mushrooms in general have so many more uses. For example, they can be reconstituted into mushroom stock or added to soup as an umami booster and even after that, you still can eat the mushroom itself!

Morels have a very uniquely earthy and soy sauce-like taste, with the best examples being so concentrated that it’s as if they have chocolate undertones accompanied by the scent of a damp forest floor. Putting your nose into a basket of dried morels makes you feel as though you’re back in the forest. Fresh morels also have a firm sponge-like texture, with their unique pine cone shape and lattice structure. Outside of the wild, they are impossible to cultivate, making their supply limited geographically to where they grow naturally. All these traits combine to give them an eye-watering price, with the largest and most prized morels costing as much as black truffles.33136451132_07afe43c62_k.jpg

If you aren’t able to go mushroom hunting, fresh morels are occasionally sold in high- end farmer’s markets, though at a very high price. Dried morels are also available from stores online, but are so expensive that they’re almost not worth buying. Because of this, if given the chance to buy dried morels at a reasonable price, I highly recommend stocking up on them. Because of their irregular shape, morel mushrooms are very hard to clean. Luckily enough, morel mushrooms in general do not require much cleaning. occasionally though, it is possible to see a white substance filling a pore of the morel mushroom, indicating that a worm is probably residing underneath. Fresh morel mushrooms should be firm and dry to the touch. If you find someone trying to sell you morels which are soft and damp at a cheaper price, walk away. If you’re going to pay so much for morels, you shouldn’t lower your standard and end up being disappointed in their taste due to the condition which the mushrooms are in.

When cleaning fresh morels, never ever soak or wash them in water. Most of the compounds which give morels their unique taste are water soluble, which explains why reconstituting dried morels make such fantastic stock. This however, has its downside. Due to their hydrophilic nature, even briefly soaking the mushrooms in water causes them to lose their flavour. They also easily absorb water, making them hard to sauté after washing as they release the water they absorbed when heated.

Morel Mushroom and Parmesan Risotto

  • Dried Morel Mushrooms (to make Vegetable Stock)
  • Grated Parmasan Cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Shallots
  • Risotto Rice (Carnoli or Arborio Rice, I use Arborio in this recipe)
  • Unsalted Butter + Olive Oil
  • White wine
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Fresh Morel Mushrooms (Optional)
  1. First, to make the morel stock, reconstitute the dried morel Mushrooms in hot vegetable stock for around 5 minutes, until the vegetable stock is fragrant and dark brown in colour.
  2. Reserve the rehydrated mushrooms to add into the risotto later.
  3. Mince the shallots as finely and evenly as possible, as evenly cut pieces will cook uniformly, preventing bits of the shallots browning faster than others.
  4. To start the risotto, melt the butter in some olive oil and before sweating the shallots.
  5. Once fragrant, add in the Arborio Rice and toss in the oil for around a minute until well coated.
  6. Pour in a dash of white wine to deglaze the pan before adding in ladle by ladle of morel stock, stirring in the vegetable stock one ladle at a time, before allowing it to cook the rice. The point of stirring the stock constantly is to allow the friction between the rice grains to release their starch, causing the risotto to take on its classic creamy character.
  7. The risotto is done when the rice grains are translucent and you can see a white centre inside each individual rice grain. This means the rice is al dente, and still has a bite to it.
  8. Just before the risotto is done, pour in the fresh morel mushrooms and finely chopped parsley, before adding in the parmesan cheese in 3 separate stages and mixing till melted.

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As the trait of a good quality risotto is one that is creamy but still with a bite to it, the rice we use needs to have a high starch content like Arborio and Carnoli rice, which are the two classic risotto rices. If you really are unable to find these types of rices, sushi rice is also a possible substitution. Carnoli rice is the more traditionally used rice for risotto, and it originates from the village of Carnoli in the Po Valley. It is generally thought to be the best rice for risotto, and thus usually has a higher price than Arborio rice. This being said, the taste and texture of Arborio rice is comparable to it. When learning how to make a good risotto, I feel that the technique used to cook the risotto to perfection, not undercooked or overcooked, is more important than the type of rice you buy. Therefore I recommend learning the basics of making a risotto before investing in expensive risotto rice.

Some people might feel that just adding the fresh morel mushrooms directly to the risotto to cook wasteful of such a fine ingredient, and I myself personally prefer cutting the morels length wise, before frying with some butter, shallots and parsley, before pouring over the risotto at the end. I also like to add my parsley midway through the cooking process, as I find adding the parsley at the end slightly overpowering. The white wine in this dish serves to add acidity to the risotto, which helps balance out the thick creamy texture from the rice and cheese. If using homemade vegetable stock/morel stock for this recipe that you did not preseason, the amount of cheese that you add to this recipe is very important as that will act as the main source of salt in this dish. If the dish becomes too cheesy before it tastes salty enough, you can always add a pinch of salt to the dish.

Other ways of making risotto creamy includes adding cream/milk to the risotto. Other than being considered sacrilegious by many chefs, there is also the risk of adding too much cream to the risotto, which raises the fat content so high that the risotto starts to stick, ruining its delicate texture. A well made risotto itself must be served hot, if the risotto cools before serving, the starch in the sauce will start to gel, creating a coat on top of the risotto.

Tagliatelle di basilico al pomodoro

Tagliatelle with a Basil Tomato Sauce topped with Buratta

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This is one of the simplest classic Italian pasta dishes to make. The sauce consists of a garlic infused olive oil, mixed with a tomato base, before being seasoned with a bit of oregano and basil. The use of fresh basil is highly recommended as dried basil is unable to preserve the true flavour of a freshly picked basil leaf. Oregano however is different. Oregano being a plant that has adapted to a Mediterranean environment, is accustomed to desiccation and thus preserves it flavour well. Dried oregano may arguably be even better than fresh oregano. Besides having a longer shelf life, dried oregano has a more subtle and balanced flavour compared to the sometimes overtly pungent fresh oregano.

A good dish consists of its many components being cooked to perfection before being assembled together. In my opinion, the pasta in this dish is just as important as the sauce.  I feel that tagliatelle works better with this dish as its larger surface area provides more area for the sauce to cling onto. When cooking pasta, it is important to remember to always add salt and oil to your pasta water. The salt helps season the pasta, while the oil prevents the pasta from sticking together. The duration which you cook your pasta for depends on how soft you like your pasta and the best method to use is to just periodically take some pasta out of the water and bite it to see if it has reached your desired doneness. Pasta should be cooked in a shallow pan with just enough water to cover the pasta so as not to waste energy.

Salt, when used properly, plays an important part in cooking, bringing out the flavours of the various ingredients. When used improperly however, it can ruin a dish. A skilled cook is able to use salt to layer on different tastes on each other, emphasising the uniqueness of each taste. The same goes for this dish. It is not sufficient to just add salt to the final dish. The right technique to use is to add a little salt to each component of the dish. If this is not done, the contrast in salt levels between the different components of the dish will make the dish taste unbalanced. For example, if the pasta water is not salted when cooking the tagliatelle but the sauce is perfectly seasoned, the taster of the dish will first taste the delicious sauce, but will bite into a horribly bland tagliatalle, making the sauce seem overtly salty and acidic.

Tagliatelle di basilico al pomodoro

  • olive oil
  • Minced Cloves of Garlic
  • Tomato Sauce (Tomato Puree, Tomato Pasatta and Fresh Chopped Tomatoes)
  • Dried Oregano
  • Fresh Basil
  • Fresh or Dried Tagliatelle
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Burrata or Mozerella Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Before mincing the garlic, remove the skins by crushing the garlic between your palm and the chopping board or alternatively using a knife to crush the garlic.
  2. Fry the minced garlic in olive oil until golden brown and fragrant.
  3. Add in a little tomato puree to the mixture and fry for a minute or two before adding the tomato pasata.
  4. Let it reduce for a few minutes before adding half the fresh basil and the dried oregano.
  5. Finally, add the freshly chopped tomatoes into the mixture, squeezing the tomatoes against the side of the pot to release its juices.
  6. Reduce until it coats the back of a spoon or until desired thickness before mixing with the cooked tagliatelle.
  7. Top the mixture with the remaining fresh basil, burrata cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Grind fresh black pepper onto the cheese before serving warm, allowing the heat from the pasta and sauce to melt the cheese naturally.

21278149108_fe44ba4697_k.jpgThe point of frying the garlic in oil until golden brown is to caramelise the garlic while also infusing the olive oil with the taste of the garlic. It is important to first crush (bruise) the garlic before mincing it as it releases the garlic’s aromatic compounds better. You could also just use plain olive oil and season the pasta dish with garlic powder. Garlic infused olive oil can also be added to enhance the taste of garlic in the dish. Half the fresh basil is added to the dish to impart the taste of basil into the dish as a layered underlying flavour, while the remaining fresh basil is added at the end not only to make the dish visually appealing, but also to allow the fragrance of the basil to be smelt before the dish is even consumed.

Burrata cheese in this recipe can be substituted with fresh mozzarella cheese as burrata cheese in itself is a mozzarella skin stuffed with mozerella cheese mixed with cream. I personally prefer burrata cheese as it is creamier and it gives the dish a unique characteristic.

When making the tomato sauce, the various desirable traits of a good tomato sauce are sadly inversely related to each other. To achieve the thick savory and umami rich flavour of tomatoes, one needs to stew tomatoes for a long period of time. In contrast to this, the act of cooking down tomatoes removes the refreshing taste of acidity of freshly picked tomatoes. To balance this, I recommend the addition of tomato puree to the sauce, which removes the need to stew fresh tomatoes for at least an hour, before adding fresh tomatoes right at the end to give your sauce its refreshing bite.

In the end, you yourself ultimately get to decide how complicated a dish you want it to be, ranging from simply frying some garlic and adding canned tomato sauce before serving with pasta and some grated cheddar cheese, or going all out and adding a touch of  basil oil at the end along with taking the effort to source burrata cheese.