Rigatoni alla Checca, a Roman Recipe

Please do not hold a grudge on me, my Roman friends, but let’s admit that the Roman cuisine is essentially  oriented to the “basics” and to a rusticity that I often do not appreciate.  Yet,  give credit where credit is due: there are excellent recipes among the Roman ones too, and what I am describing today is exactly one of them, a very easy pasta, though rich in taste and flavour. The must is the ricotta cheese: it has to be the best you can afford.

Serves 4

  • 400 gr rigatoni
  • 300 gr ricotta cheese
  • 80 gr parmesan, freshly grated
  • 14 date or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 5 tbsp extravirgin olive oil of extra good quality, plus extra to garnish
  • black pepper, freshly ground, to your taste

In a large bowl whisk by hand the ricotta, parmesan and pepper until creamy. Dice the tomatoes to super tiny cubes and add to the ricotta mixture,  together with the basil leaves, washed, drained,  pat-dried and cut by hand into small stripes. Season with the oil and let rest for 2 hours at room temperature. Add some sea salt only before serving.

Boil the rigatoni in salted water (keep 1 cup of water in case the sauce is too thick), transfer to the bowl with the sauce and toss everything together. Add a further glug of oil, salt to your taste, some extra pepper and serve.

Super Crunchy Fig and Ricotta Cheese Gratin

What is better than figs dipped in a sea of creamy ricotta cheese mix and surprisingly, deliciously crunchy? Either prepared the day ahead and refrigerated or eaten lukewarm, this is a cake you will treasure.

Serves 8

  • 500 gr fresh ricotta cheese
  • 800 gr figs, ripe but not too soft
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • 40 gr brown sugar
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 6 amaretti biscuits (optional) or 50 gr almonds, skin on, coarsely crushed
  • 50 gr butter

In a large bowl mix the ricotta, egg yolks and caster sugar working with a fork.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and glossy, then incorporate into the ricotta mix.

Grease a ceramic baking dish with some butter, scatter with a few breadcrumbs discarding the excess, then pour the batter. Place the figs halfway in the batter, forming a circle.

Scatter the butter flakes on top, sprinkle the brown sugar and bake in the oven at 190°C for 15 minutes. Now sprinkle the amaretti, crushed with a mortar and pestle, or with the almonds, and bake for an additional 30 minutes. If the gratin becomes too golden, cover with aluminum foil.

Ottolenghi Style Artichoke Gratin


This recipe is inspired from an Ottolenghi recipe book. I have adapted the recipe to my liking, as instead of boiling artichokes, I prefer to sauté them. By frying them with the onion directly, they acquire more flavour and aroma, as well as preserving a good consistency. I reduced the quantity of lemon zest as well in order to maintain the peculiar flavour of the artichoke. 

Serves 8

  • 6 big globe artichokes
  • Zest of 2 large lemons, grated
  • 2 medium onion
  • 6 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 200 gr ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp chopped parseley
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh mixed herbes (thyme, oregano, marjoran)
  • 50 gr Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 75 gr butter
  • 75 gr plain flour
  • 600 ml fresh milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or hot water

Finely chop the onion and clean the artichokes: peel off the outer leaves, which are the hardest, cut off 1 cm at the top, refine the stems and halve them. If the artichoke hearts have some hairs in them, pull them off using a sharp knife. Now quarter the halves and place in cold water with lemon juice, so that they don’t brown.

In a large saucepan stir the onion and oil, cook slowly until soft, and toss in the artichokes. Leave them to cook on a low heat until very soft, adding in vegetable broth as needed (it may be that you won’t need a whole  cup of vegetable broth, as artichokes quality may vary; by the end your artichokes should be tender and dry). Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Finely chop the lemon zest and herbs and add to the artichokes.


For the béchamel: melt butter, stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Turn down the heat and slowly pour in the milk, while accurately whisking. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Mix the béchamel with the artichokes and pour in a tin greased with butter or oil.


carciofialgratin-001Now that the artichoke and béchamel mixture is in the tin, carve small holes on the surface with a spoon (or your hands!) and drop a tbsp of ricotta into each hole. Now, scatter the grated parmesan on top and bake at 180° until golden and crispy. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Vegetable-quinoa patties with eggplant sauce


The creamy consistency in the heart of these patties is wrapped by the golden crust of the quinoa, in order to give you a double experience, crunchy and adorably soft at the same time.

For about 20 patties

  • 400 gr zucchini
  • 200 gr carrots
  • 125 gr ricotta
  • 50 gr feta cheese
  • 1 shallot
  • 10 gr basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tsp chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp rice flour
  • 2 small eggplants or 1 big
  • garlic
  • red chilli pepper
  • 150 gr Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • 1 tsb extravirgin olive oil

In a bowl mix together the ricotta, feta, lemon zest, basil leaves and curry powder; now grate the zucchini and carrots, add a pinch of salt and let them rest in a colander for 10 minutes. Drain well, squeeze out all the liquid and place in the bowl with the ricotta mix.


Thoroughly incorporate all the ingredients, mould the patties and  roll in the quinoa, cooked according to the pack instructions, well covering each side with the little grains.


Lay the patties on a baking tray covered with parchement paper, gently spray or brush with some oil and bake at 180° for 30 minutes, or until crispy and golden.

Meanwhile prepare the sauce. Make some holes in the eggplants then grill in the oven (I use to put it directly on the gas flame) until the skin is black and tends to crack. After about 20 minutes the eggplants should be properly cooked (it depends on the size: if you have a big one, cook for 30/40 minutes).


Slice the eggplants lengthwise and scoop out the pulp with a spoon; let it rest on a colander, so the liquid will drain well, then place in a food processor with 1 garlic clove, the tahini, a pinch of red chilli pepper and the extravirgin olive oil. When creamed, add the yogurt by hand. Mix until you will have a uniform texture, then add a pinch of salt.

Serve the patties with their sauce.

Caramelized onions and pistachio tart


Here we are with a tasteful, luxurious recipe of a tarte which can go either as a starter or as a main dish: alone or  combined with some savory cheese, or marinated salmon, and a good quantity of mixed vegetables it will well complete both tasks. Besides, pistachio gives a touch of colour that reminds of the delicate green of the incoming spring. 

Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 kg onions
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 150 gr butter + 60 gr for the pastry
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 30 gr pistachios, finely crumbled
  • 50 gr parmesan, grated
  • 120 gr plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk (organic if possible)
  • 4 tbsp chilled water
  •  extra virgin olive oil
  • 150 gr fresh ricotta cheese

Slice onions, while melting butter in a large pan. Add the onions to the pan and toss well to coat. Cook on low heat, for 1 1/2 hour, partially covering the pan with a lid. Stir regularly and cook onions until lightly golden but still extremely soft. Pour the vinegar on top and add brown sugar, then leave to cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat, season well with salt and pepper. While onions cook, place pistachios and parmesan in a food processor and mix them together. Then prepare the dough.


For the dough, dice the butter and place in a bowl with the flour and salt,  lightly mixing everything  between your fingertips until you have a sandy-ish mixture; using a spatula or a large spoon incorporate the egg and water just to bring the dough together. Place the dough on a chopping board dusted with flour and knead very quickly until smooth, which will ensure that it results crispy.

Leave in the fridge to cool, covered with foil, for at least 20 minutes.


Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out on a floured chopping board to the thickness of 3 mm. Line a non-stick 20 cm tin, and lay dough on the bottom. Now cover the dough with aluminium foil or parchment paper and cover it with beans or rice, so that it won’t raise while baking. Bake in the oven at 160°C (fan oven) for 20 minutes, then remove the beans/rice and the aluminium or parchment paper cover and leave it to rest in the oven for 5 minutes, until the pastry is pale golden and crispy.


Remove the tin from the oven, prick the base of the dough with a fork and leave it to cool to room temperature. Now lay the ricotta cheese on the base, then place caramelised onions on top and cover with the mixture of pistachios and parmesan. Drizzle some olive oil on top, some freshly ground black pepper and grill the tart for a few extra minutes, until golden brown. Serve at room temperature.