Italian Eggplant Ricotta Rollatini

Since we are on an Italian spree, we thought we’ll give you all a recipe thats refreshing, not overdone and can be made with simple ingredients from our kitchen staples. We hate it too when one has to go from store to store for some really exotic and inaccessible ingredients.

So, if you ever thought… what do Italians eat for a meal, other than pasta – then it is probably this! There are numerous other similar recipes which we will bring to you really soon.

For this you need 3 basic garden fresh ingredients. Spinach, tomatoes, long eggplant/brinjals and garlic. Other than this, we will be using 3 types of Italian cheeses.

There’s no Italian meal without a cheese. Primarily, we need ricotta, a fresh Italian cheese. You can either use store-bought or use our ricotta recipe. Other than that we have used parmigiano reggiano for the flavour and mozzarella for that stringy topping.

If you don’t have parmigiano reggiano, you can simply use parmesan. The difference is that parmigiano reggiano is the original cheese from the Italian city of Parma near Rome. Only cheese from Parma can be called parmigiano reggiano as it comes under the Protected Designations of Origin (PDO). They have laws guiding the ageing and the cheese-making process. Similar cheese from any other place outside of this city can be called parmesan but should be made in a similar way.

In this picture we are with Federica Corradi and her uncle Leonardo Corradi in their cheese factory in Parma.

So if you get parmigiano reggiano its definitely from Parma because nobody else can call it that. We learnt this during our visit to Casearia Corradi, a family-run cheese factory in Parma, Italy. In the picture above, you can see the many wheels of parmigiano reggiano being aged as per the lawful guidelines for cheese-makers in Parma.

Take the pureed and sieved tomatoes in a pan. Let it bubble and cook for 20-25min or till they have reduced and changed colour like in the pictures above. Remove from flame, add garlic, salt and olive oil. Then leave to cool.

To blanch the spinach, boil water in a saucepan, put the spinach leaves in it for 2-3 minutes and then strain. DO NOT COVER while blanching. Once blanched, chop it roughly to get minced spinach.

In a bowl, take the chopped spinach, ricotta cheese, parmigiano reggiano, salt and pepper. Make a mixture and keep aside.

Slice the eggplant into long strips like in the image above.

Drizzle with salt and olive oil and grill on the pan till they’re slightly cooked and start turning golden.

Put the filling on one end of the eggplant strip and roll it up firmly. Spread some of the tomato sauce on the base of a baking dish. Arrange the eggplant rolls in the dish.

At this stage preheat your oven at 190° C.

Spread the remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant rolls. Cover them evenly.

Tear the mozzarella cheese and top it with that.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

Take it out of the oven and garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve hot while the cheese is still melted and soft.

Recipe: Italian Eggplant Ricotta Rollatini

Ingredients

500gm Long Brinjal/Eggplant
250gm Spinach
1kg Tomatoes
125gm fresh ricotta cheese, or half of our homemade ricotta recipe
100 gm Mozzarella Cheese
50 gm Parmesan Cheese/cheese, grated
8-10 cloves Garlic, minced
15-18 Fresh Basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt
Freshly crushed pepper

Method

  1. Puree the tomatoes and strain them to remove the seeds and peel. Cook the tomato pulp on medium heat for 20-25 minutes or till it has reduced to half. Add the minced garlic, salt and 3-4tbs olive oil and leave to cool.
  2. Blanch the spinach in boiling water and drain to remove all the water. Chop it roughly to get a minced spinach. To the fresh ricotta add parmesan cheese, blanched spinach, 2-3 basil leaves chopped, salt and pepper. Mix well and keep aside.
  3. Slice the brinjal as thin as possible lengthwise. Drizzle with some salt and olive oil to coat well. Grill on a hot pan on both sides till golden brown and soft. Keep aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C. In a baking dish put a layer of the tomato sauce. Put a little cheese filling on the brinjal and roll it up. Arrange these over the tomato sauce in the dish seam side down.
  5. Finish off by pouring the tomato sauce over the rolled brinjal. Tear and put mozzarella cheese over it and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and put the basil leaves on top. Serve immediately.

Lemon Basil Sorbet

This recipe for sorbet is straight from our heart to yours, via Capri! This is truly and completely inspired by our trip to the Capri island in Italy. It was a hot summer afternoon and after a cruise from Amalfi early morning, we had just reached Capri. We took a funicular to reach the high street area which was at a higher altitude. When we got out of the station, it was the burning 12pm heat. What do we see next… a roadside stand with luscious Amalfi lemons hanging. We knew we were going to get our elixir of life here, and so we did. It was a lemon sorbet slush!

These are the pictures of the exact place we tried it and got inspiration for this Italian sorbet. The lemons in Amalfi and Capri are truly a sight to behold. They’re large and juicy and have the unique limone shape. They are sweet and the peels too are edible.

This is an exquisitely refreshing thing for a hot summer day during holidays. Give yourself a break… a lemon sorbet break. So, here’s recreating a memory!

This is a 3 ingredient dessert. So get in your kitchens and get going.

Take sugar and water in a saucepan and turn on the gas.

Let it bubble for a while till it turns into a smooth sugar syrup.

Let the sugar syrup cool down.

Add lemon juice, zest and a few basil leaves to it once its completely cooled down. If you can’t find basil, try it with mint leaves.

Put it in an aluminium cake tin preferably. A steel box will also do. Cover and freeze it for 5-6 hours.

Take it out once its completely frozen.

Scrape it and put it in your food processor or blender.

Put as much in the blender as can fit. Put in some basil leaves and ice. You can skip the ice if you want it softer. Blend it .

Once its churned, transfer it back to the tin. Again, cover and put it back in the freezer for 8-9 hours or best overnight.

Scoop it and serve immediately. Garnish it with fresh basil leaves or lemon twists.

This sweet and sour sorbet with an enhanced flavour of basil is truly Italian and perfect for any time of the day.

If you don’t find basil, you can also try this recipe with mint. For kids you can put it in popsicle moulds when we’re freezing it the second time.

Recipe: Lemon Basil Sorbet

Ingredients

150gm castor sugar
300 ml water
8 lemons
15-20 basil leaves / mint leaves

Method

  1. Take the sugar and water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Let it simmer on medium flame for 10 minutes to get a sugar syrup.
  2. Leave the sugar syrup to cool to bring it to room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile zest 4 lemons and take out juice of all 8 lemons.
  4. Mix together sugar syrup, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  5. Stir well and add a few leaves of basil (not all basil). Pour this in an aluminium tin and cover. Freeze for 5-6 hours.
  6. Remove from freezer. Scrape all the mixture and put in a blender with remaining basil leaves. You can add 3 ice cubes to keep the mixture chilled in the blender.
  7. Churn well and pour back in the tin. Remove the ice cubes if they remain un-churned.
  8. Freeze covered for 8-9 hours or best overnight.
  9. To serve scoop and enjoy immediately.

Watermelon Mint Ice – Granita

In the scorching summer all that the heart wants is ICE!! Imagine ice, dripping with a syrup of your favourite flavour (kala-khatta for me) – thats our entire childhood for most of us. If you’ve grown up in a tropical country like India, then your memories can’t be without stories of ice. Sneaking an ice tray from the freezer, eating it and being punished for it was a common thing. Although, the most enjoyable bit was dropping a few cubes down your sibling’s shirt and watching them wiggle all over the place. Aaaahhh… those joyous memories!

In the 80’s, the ice-cream experience was very different from the current times. The vendors would shave ice right in front of you, bind it together with their hands on a stick and drizzle your choice of syrup from the brightly coloured options displayed on their carts. That was a fresh, handmade and customised popsicle for each of us. It was fondly called chuski (Hindi word for sipping or slurping) or barf ka gola, which literally translates to a ball of ice. No ice-cream ever came close to that. However, we thought, in this summertime lets take a trip back to childhood. Interestingly, shaved ice is eaten in many countries in various forms. So, we’ve transformed our memories into a modern fusion recipe.

Here’s a recipe for a granita which find its roots in the very hot island of Sicily, Italy. Granitas are basically shavings of ice (big and small) and are eaten all over Sicily, although each town has its own version. Some have a smooth granita and the others, more coarse. Do it the way you like it best.

You literally need just 3 ingredients for this. A good sweet watermelon, lemons and sugar.

Cut it in pieces and try to remove the seeds. You can cut them in any shape. The size can vary. Go with whatever can fit in the jar of your blender. Cover and put it in the freezer for 4-5 hours.

In the picture above, you can see its just out of the freezer. It should be completely frozen.

Add lemon juice and mint leaves to the frozen watermelon.

Put it in the blender along with sugar and blend. If all of it doesn’t fit in one go, then do it in batches. Be quick so that it doesn’t turn into juice. We want to churn it while its still frozen.

You’ll get a sort of a slush. Transfer it straight away to an aluminium tin to freeze it. Make sure its not very shallow. Your slushy mixture should at least be 2 inches deep so that you can scoop and scrape it later. Although if you only have a flat tin, you can later scape it with a fork or knife.

Once frozen it will be slightly lighter in colour because of the ice crystals.

Scoop it out with an ice-cream scoop or a spoon. A granita is not as smooth as a sorbet. Its flaky and more icy, probably for a cooler experience during the scorching heat. Serve it quickly so that its still frozen.

This is a wonderful idea for a dessert at any time. The watermelon granita has a beautiful tartness because of the lemon juice and a refreshing fragrance from the mint leaves. All the ingredients are very easily available. Its just a refreshing new way of putting them together. You absolutely must try this while watermelon is still in season.

We’re sharing this wonderful recipe to make your summer fun. Let us know in the comments how yours turned out!

Recipe: Watermelon Mint Granita

Ingredients

½ watermelon, peeled and cubed
15-20 mint leaves
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp sugar

Method

  1. Arrange the watermelon on an aluminium tray and cover. Freeze for 4-5 hours. You can also freeze the watermelon in a zip lock pouch.
  2. Add mint leaves lemon juice and sugar to the water watermelon. Put it in batches in a grinder or food processor and grind to a slushy frozen paste.
  3. Transfer the slush to an aluminium tin and freeze covered overnight.
  4. To serve scrape with a scooper or spoon or fork to create ice and serve immediately garnished with mint leaves.
  5. Adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the watermelon. Serve immediately as it starts melting very fast.

Ricotta Lemon Cake

A perfect dessert with a truly Italian touch… our favourite! We made ricotta, and then we thought what best we could use it for, and we came up with this. Its a beautiful cake with a slightly smooth and grainy texture at the same time. It is not fluffy like other cakes, but owing to the moist ricotta, this cake has a full-bodied texture and that oh-so-lemony freshness!

This is what you’ll need along with ricotta. To make fresh ricotta click here for the recipe.

To begin, line your cake tin like this. Put two strips in a cross. Then draw the base of the cake tin on a sheet of baking/parchment/butter paper. Cut it out and place it on top of the cross. You can use a springform pan (the cake tin with a loose bottom and a spring clasp at one side), it would be easy to remove the cake from. If you don’t have one of those, then go ahead and do the cross thing.

Take the butter and sugar in a big bowl and cream it for at least 5 minutes. You can use an electric beater, stand mixer or even a whisk. If using a whisk just beat it a bit longer. The mixture will turn lighter in colour, which means it has been aerated. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. This will ensure your batter is fluffy.

Now, to the egg, butter sugar mixture add the ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla essence. Mix well. Now add the flour and baking powder and beat lightly first to ensure the flour doesn’t fly away from the batter. The batter could look grainy but thats perfectly fine. Its due to the texture of ricotta.

Put it in a preheated oven. This is what your batter would look like. Don’t tap it to smoothen out the top. It will even out itself in the oven.

Once baked, it will look somewhat like this. If the colour differs a bit don’t worry. Each oven is different and it could look different due to that.

Don’t invert the cake. This cake has a short crumb and not a spongy crumb because of the cheese, so it will break if you handle it ungently. Lift it out with the help of the two cross strips. This is why we had put those, to aid in taking the cake out from the tin. After putting the cake on a plate, gently slide the strips out. This cake sinks on cooling, so don’t worry.

Dust some icing sugar on top and garnish with mint or flaked almonds or nuts.

Slice it when its cooled.

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm. You can also serve it with some fresh berries or a berry compote. This cake is crusty outside and soft and moist inside.

Recipe: Lemon Ricotta Cake

Ingredients:

250 gm Fresh Ricotta
150 gm All-purpose Flour
150 gm Caster Sugar
100 gm Butter, softened room temperature
2 Eggs, Room temperature
2 tsp Baking Powder
Zest of 2 Lemons
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or Essence
Icing Sugar for Dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake tin with baking paper or parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl beat softened butter and sugar for 5 min. In another bowl sift together flour and baking powder.
  3. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Beat for 3-4 minutes to get a light fluffy batter.
  4. Add ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat for a minute. The mixture will look grainy which is fine.
  5. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed to prevent flour from flying.
  6. Pour the batter in the lined cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 mins or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool for 30 mins and then remove from the cake tin.
  8. Dust with Icing sugar and eat warm.

Fresh Ricotta

Ricotta is a fresh and soft Italian cheese… and truly delicious! It has a soft grain and light texture. Traditionally, ricotta was made with milk and whey left after making other cheeses. Thats how it got its name “ricotta” which literally translates to re-cooked. However, ricotta is now very sought after because of its slightly sweet taste and its ability to hold its consistency. Thus, its widely used in desserts and Italian cuisine. Its best use is to add it to the filling for lasagne, ravioli, cannelloni and conchiglie.

You literally need just two ingredients to make fresh ricotta at home. Milk and lemons, thats all!

You can use any milk for this, but the result could vary a bit. We have used regular whole milk. You can use skimmed milk too but you might end up with a lesser quantity of ricotta (which is fine). So, using whole or full fat milk would be better, but even others work well.

Put the milk to heat in a pan. We want hot milk but DO NOT BOIL THE MILK. Now, this is very important. You want to heat it only till you start seeing the bubbles on the edge of the pan. As soon as that happens, turn off the flame. Keep your lemon juice ready and after you have turned off the flame, add it to the milk. Stir very delicately to make sure its mixed.

Let it stand for 10-20 minutes and the soft cheese will start to curdle and separate from the whey. Whey is that thin watery liquid that separates from milk while making cheese or curd. If the milk has still not curdled, be patient. If it still doesn’t, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and it should curdle.

Be sure, not to stir it too much or too vigorously, otherwise you will turn it into cottage cheese. There is a very fine line between ricotta and cottage cheese!. On stirring too much, it will become firmer, and we’re looking for a soft cheese.

When you stir very gently, the cheese will start to show… almost as if emerging from the milk-whey liquid.

It will finally look something like this. Such a beauty!

Keep a pot ready with a big sieve on top. Place a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth on top of the sieve. Make sure there’s enough distance between the sieve and the base of the pot, so that when we leave it to strain, the cheese is not touching the strained liquid whey.

This is what it will look like. At this stage, leave it to drain the excess liquid. The draining time is directly proportional to the firmness of cheese. If you let it stand longer and let more liquid drain out then you will get a firmer ricotta. Alternately, if you don’t leave it for very long so that it retains some moisture, then you will get a softer cheese.

This really depends on the purpose of use.
Soft Ricotta: for, cakes, tarts, cannoli, puddings, mousse and other desserts
Firm Ricotta: for ravioli, cannelloni, conchiglie, lasagne, tortellini and the likes.
Ricotta doesn’t melt on baking and thats why its the first choice for the filling of stuffed pastas.

Its ready to use when cooled. You can store it in the refrigerator for upto a week.

Recipe: Fresh Ricotta

Ingredients

1 litre milk
2 lemons

Method

  1. Take milk in a sauce pan and heat it to just before it comes to a boil. You will start seeing a few bubbles on the edge of the pan.
  2. Meanwhile juice 2 lemons and keep aside.
  3. Line a soup strainer with muslin cloth or cheesecloth and place the strainer over a big pot.
  4. As soon as you see bubble on the edge of the milk turn off the flame and add the lemon juice. Stir it delicately to ensure the lemon juice is mixed well with the milk.
  5. Let it stand for 10-20 minutes. You will see that the soft cheese would curdle and separate leaving behind the whey.
  6. If the milk doesn’t not curdle completely just add an additional 1 tbsp of lemon Juice. Over stirring will make the cheese harder so stir less to get a soft cheese.
  7. Drain the cheese over the cheesecloth and let it stand from anywhere between 20-50 minutes. For a fresh and  light ricotta, drain it for a short time and for a more dense ricotta drain it for a longer period.
  8. This amount of milk will yield ricotta between 260-220gm depending on the amount of drainage time. Use fresh or store in the refrigerator for 6-8 days.

Basil

Basil is an aromatic herb which has many varieties, the most common being ‘sweet basil’ which is widely used in Italian and Southern French cooking. It is a herb said to have originated from India, but sweet basil should not be confused with tulsi, which is ‘holy basil.’ The other common varieties of basil include Thai basil, lemon basil and purple basil. Basil gets its name from a Greek word basileus which means king. Thus, known as king of herbs. The best sweet basil is grown in Genoa, capital of Liguria.

Basil grows very easily. It requires a good amount of sunshine and water. Basil is used in its fresh and dried form. Though, some amount of aroma and flavour is lost when it is dried but yet it is a good option when fresh basil is not available. Basil makes a wonderful combination with tomatoes. It is used to flavour pizzas, pastas, risottos, salads, stir fries and many more such dishes. It is best to tear basil leaves and add towards the end of the cooking process. A typically Italian use of basil is in the form of basil pesto. Pesto derives its name from an Italian word meaning ‘to pound’ as traditionally it was made using a pestle and mortar.