Sunday, 30 October 2011

Asparagus and Prosciutto Parcels

Marcello dall'Aglio's cookery course: showing how to make asparagus and prosciutto parcels 

Franski has asked me for a simple stuzzicato to serve at her wedding next May. This makes an impressive finger food, ideal for parties. What’s more, it hardly takes any time. You can wrap the asparagus first in the ham, then in the filo pastry, as in the photo, or, as I prefer, lay out the pastry, cover with the ham then lay on the asparagus and wrap it all up.   The recipe makes two parcels per person for four people. Serve it hot or cold.

Not an elegant photo but it shows asparagus already wrapped in prosciutto and then being wrapped in filo pastry

Ingredients for 4 people

asparagus tips
prosciutto, thinly sliced
8 slices
filo pastry
½ kg
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
3 tbl


1. Snap off the woody end of the asparagus, and then cut off a bit more if necessary so that you end up with tips that are about 10cms long. The bits you don’t use can be cut into small pieces and sautéed to accompany a pasta dish like  pumpkin and sage tortelloni. Parboil the asparagus in salted water for no more than four minutes, drain and refresh under cold running water to stop it cooking. 

2. Now cut up and lay out on a lightly floured surface eight pieces of filo pastry, about 15cm by 20cm. Brush with melted butter. Place a slice of ham on each piece of pastry, then two asparagus tips plus some freshly ground pepper.

3. Roll up each parcel, ensuring that the ends are properly tucked in so they can’t unravel. Brush with melted butter again. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Place the parcels on a greased baking tray and put them in the oven for 15 minutes. When they come out they are ready to serve.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

We're in the new Taste Italia

Taste Italia - the only UK magazine specialising in Italian food - is out with our feature about Bologna. There are recommendations for hotels, restaurants and the best places for an aperitivo. Taste ItaliaPlus loads of Liz Cousins' evocative pictures of Italy's food mad city.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The best tagliatelle in Bologna?

The sfoglina – or pasta maker – is the person who makes a restaurant’s   reputation in Bologna. And a little known place just outside the city has now become the tagliatelle hot spot after chef Beniamino Baleottti  - that's him in the centre in the blue t-shirt - won the prize of sfoglino d’oro at the recent international competition in Bologna’s Sala Borsa in Piazza Maggiore. Agriturismo Le Ginestre at Pianoro, just by the motorway’s Sasso Marconi entrance, is run by an ex-mountaineer, his wife and their seven off-spring including Beniamino. Their organic farm produces ham and salami, fruit and vegetables. As well as dinner, bed and breakfast they offer cookery courses taught, naturally, by the new sfoglino d’oro.
Contact them at

Aperitivo time

Almost as important as lunch and dinner in the Bolognese diary is the aperitivo. Even during the depths of the winter, when a biting wind sweeps in from the Plain of the River  Po, people can be seen huddled around the doors of bars all over the city, a calice - champagne glass -  of prosecco or pignoletto  in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  In summer it is a more relaxed affair, extending through the evening. As essential as the drinks are the accompaniments. In recent years, there has been a stuzzicati boom. This, the  Italian equivalent of tapas,  is the way that bars compete for trade. In some places you will find long tables groaning under the weight of an imposing buffet consisting of tiny pizzas and sausage rolls, ham and cheese flavoured focaccie, deep fried vegetables, salami and crisps. But choose carefully to avoid eating loads of stodgy carbohydrates.

Time for an aperitivo?


Let’s start with somewhere select or ‘snob’ as they say in Bologna: Zanarini because it’s a lovely place in its own right, with ample space inside, by the bar, upstairs where the buffet is laid out, and outside in the square. This is a place where many people go to see and be seen, and to graze on  food carefully prepared and presented. Zanarini, with its courtly service and splendid displays of canapés, cakes and chocolates, is less a bar than a grand institution.  Funnily enough, an aperitivo here at 8 euros  costs hardly any  more than anywhere else.

Spritz Campari at Zanarini
Piazza Galvani 1, Bologna


You may prefer somewhere less grand but with equally interesting clientele and a good buffet. The bar at MAMBo, the modern art museum, attracts the young and the artistic intelligentsia. Sometimes at the weekend there will be a DJ playing the classics of the last fifty years.  (Has rock and rolls really been going that long?) The drinks are standard but the buffet is more like a vegetarian feast with lots of wholesome salads. You can stand at the dimly lit bar, sit inside or under the portico outside. Depending on the season, you can stay warm and dry or bask in the evening sun.

Via Don Minzone 14, Bologna

Osteria del Sole

If you object to paying the price for a buffet you don’t want, then Osteria del  Sole is the answer. It’s easier to find in the evening – you can spot it by the huddle of people, glass in hand, spilling out into tiny Vicolo Ranocchi. Otherwise, it is easily missed; there is no sign outside the scruffy entrance.
Osteria del Sole: scruffy hospitality

If anything, the interior is even less prepossessing.  But that really doesn’t matter. The attraction is that this is a genuine osteria, a (usually rough and ready) place that you go to drink and chat, a bit like a pub.  Here you can rub shoulders with a wide cross section of Bolognese society, including writers, politicians, academics and talkers. Many osterie do provide food these days but not here. Not even a bag of crisps. Instead the deal is that you bring your own – an inversion of the usual BYO theme. And since Osteria del Sole is right in the middle of the Quadrilatero, you can assemble lunch or a couple of stuzzicati from the best food shops in town.

You eat and drink at long tables, making room for newcomers and clearing up as you go. A wide variety of wines is sold by the glass - starting at 2 euros - or the bottle, or you can buy beer. They will provide serving boards for bread and salami.

Vicolo Ranocchi 1b, Bologna