Happy (very belated) 2020. This morning I looked at my website and realised I have not posted since November last year; a VERY long time. There are lots of reasons why, but mostly that I have been very busy writing, photographing and developing recipes for my third cookbook, which will be a somewhat nostalgic look at Istria, the northern Adriatic Peninsula where my father was born. For months I was immersed in his story, and that of my grandparents and their Istriani friends. I will be heading back there in May to complete the final research for the book. You might remember how I was meant to finish the research in May 2019 but I (somewhat inconveniently) broke my ankle in Trieste, which made much of the rest of 2019 rather challenging. But here we are, in February 2020 and all is good again. My manuscript is due in August, so up until that point, I will have my roller skates on during this enjoyable and creative time.

I wanted to share a simple recipe with you, one that has been in the making since a day in November when I bought a tray of tomatoes from the Victoria Market for six dollars. It was the end of the day so they were getting rid of them cheaply. They weren’t the best tomatoes to be honest; it was too early in the season for them to have been ripened in the sun, so they were on the tasteless side and a touch too acidic. I slow roasted them (dried them out) in the oven, popped them in jars and drowned them in Mount Zero extra virgin olive oil (the recipe is in this blog post from 2014 – my photography skills had not yet developed so please excuse the photos!). They went from tasteless to terrific, with concentrated sweetness and a deliciously rich tomato flavour. We ate them all through November and December (including at our Christmas lunch) and then they were forgotten at the back of the fridge. I dug them up last week and given it was around three months since I had made them, it was time to use them up.

I let them thaw a bit as the oil had solidified, then whizzed them up with garlic and parmesan cheese to make the most delicious pesto. It was as simple as that. If you do not want to go to the trouble of slow-roasting the tomatoes yourself (though I highly recommend it, in Australia at least, now is a good time as we are tailing into the end of the tomato season), you could buy them already roasted/dried. If you do so, you are better off finding the ones that are just dried and not marinated, as the oil they have been marinated in is probably cheaper and the taste of the pesto will definitely be affected. If you do find ones that have just been dried, pop them in excellent quality olive oil for a week before eating them. It will make a world of difference. Another reason for slow roasting your own tomatoes is that you can control how dry you let them get; the best and tastiest ones are still quite moist at the end of the drying process.

I made corzetti pasta to go with the pesto. To make the pasta for the two of us for a light lunch I used 175g 00 soft wheat flour (Mulino Caputo brand), one large egg and a mixture of water and white wine to bring the dough together. After resting I rolled the dough to number 5 on my Marcato pasta machine, then cut out discs of dough  and pressed in the wheat sheaf with my corzetti stamp.

It is pretty much impossible to ignore world events over the past few months and it is very hard to not let these things affect you. I know that I found it very difficult in late December and January, when I found myself obsessively reading the news. But in the end, we must remain positive, be informed and guided by science and be the best as we can be; living simply, seasonally, ethically and being mindful of our impact on the planet. These are my strongest drivers. I am currently writing a guide for my website called “living like a nonna”, which will be about being sustainable in the kitchen and in the home, with general tips and tricks and on where I shop in Melbourne. It may take some time to get up and running, but I hope to have it ready sometime in April.

In other news:

    1. WORKSHOPS at VILLA FLORETTI – I am running a couple of “I dream of Puglia” workshops at beautiful Villa Floretti Flowers this year: Saturday 4 April and Saturday 17 October. We will make pasta, pasta sauces, a dessert and share a leisurely lunch overlooking Richelle’s stunning property. You will also arrange your own take-home bunch of proteas and other flowers. Flowers and food? A match made in heaven. Please click here to book and find out more and here to see photos from last year’s workshop.
    2. PUGLIA TOUR 2020 – my tour of Southern Puglia is less than three months away! It is so very exciting. There was a last minute cancellation so you may be able to get that spot. Click here to find out more and for details about booking.
    3. COOKING CLASSES in Melbourne – I take a break from classes in January and February, but this year they are starting a bit earlier. Together with italian language teacher Monica from Su Misura Italy, I will be running an event called Caffè e crostata (coffee and crostata) on 23 February. It sold out very quickly; we raised $1,670 for organisations supporting people and animals in the recovery relief for the recent bushfires in south east Australia. It will be a lovely afternoon making crostata, eating that and other cakes plus drinking coffee, all while chatting in Italian. Monica and I may run more of these, depending on how they go. Follow me on instagram if would like a live update of the afternoon.
    4. ONLINE – A couple of recent articles on my cookbook Italian Street Food in AJ Paris and in regards to pizza rustica on SBS Food. And my friend Domenica Marchetti posted a delicious looking goulash recipe, based on the one in my cookbook Adriatico on her website recently; click here to have a look . We chat on Skype sometimes and are hoping to run an event in Italy together next year – fingers crossed it pans out!

And now the simplest and most delicious of pasta sauces…. (PS it makes a great spread on crusty bread too)

oven roasted tomato pesto

serves 2

100g oven roasted tomatoes
1 clove garlic
10g parmesan, grated (plus extra for serving)
1 tablespoon (or more) of excellent quality extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a mini processor and whizz until a thick but pourable paste forms. Toss through cooked pasta, adding a bit more olive oil if needed to loosen it up.

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