Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

(summer is here, bitch!)

Here is a very napolitan pasta dish, very very simple, and yet unexpectedly flavorful. Despite being a very common recipe in my region and all over the south of Italy, credit for this specific version goes to my uncle Antonio, Zio Antonio. The thing is, my mom always cooked this pasta, but it was never that special or good, so I didn’t think much of it. Things changed when I had Puttanesca at Zio Antonio & Pupa’s place, and the recipe was presented to me under a brand new light. Zio Antonio’s trick was simple enough: exaggerate. A lot of tomatoes, a lot of olives and capers, a LOT of basil and parsley. The sauce must be rich!

Puttanesca comes from “puttana”, which is a bit of a bad word to say prostitute. The stories of why this recipe is called so are very many and not that interesting, so I’ll skip that. It’s a very summery dish, very quick, very easy. But you’ll need two key ingredients that might not be so common outside of Italy: anchovies and salt-preserved capers. I can find both of them here in Sweden, so I’m sure you’ll manage. I’ll talk about them and other ingredients in a special note* to the directions for the recipe.

Created with Sketch. 20 minutes Created with Sketch. 4 servings


  • 3 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 4 anchovies (preserved in oil)
  • 30 grsalted capers
  • 100 grolives (kalamata or di Gaeta are perfect)
  • 2 cansof cherry tomatoes (or 1 kg fresh if in season)
  • A lot of fresh basil and parsley
  • Hot chili flakes to taste
  • 400 grof spahetti


*Note about ingredients:

  • Anchovies, or Alici sott’ Olio in italian (in Sweden called sardeller), are cured in salt, and preserved in oil: this tiny fishes are an umami bomb, and  the base for this recipe: one per person is ideal, but feel free to exaggerate.
  • Capers everybody knows what they are, but here you want those preserved in salt. Not water, not vinegar, but SALT: this is very important, the capers, very flavorful little things, contribute a lot to the dish, and you don’t want no vinegar taste in there.
  • Olives: ideally you should use “Olive di Gaeta”, but good luck finding them. However, greek Kalamata olives are really really good for this recipe (I suspect they’re are done pretty much like the Gaeta variety). Don’t use those very black olives, they’re not for this.
  • Tomatoes: if in season, use fresh cherry tomatoes or datterini: but make sure they are good and sweet and rich in taste. Otherwise, canned cherry tomatoes work perfectly.
  • Pasta: my favorite for this dish is vermicelli, a type of thicker spaghetti. But spaghetti, linguine and even bucatini will work nicely.

But let’s cook!

  1. Add the olive oil with the garlic to a tall pan (or a pot) on medium-high, and let the garlic take some color. When the oil is sizzling add the anchovies and with the back of a spoon crash them until they dissolve in the oil.

  2. Quickly de-salt the capers under hot running water, wash the olives a little as well, and add everything to the pan. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Add a little pepper, and hot chili flakes if that is of your liking (do not exaggerate).

  3. Let it cook for 10 minutes on medium (or 15/20 if you’re using fresh tomatoes), after which add half of the parsley and basil finely chopped. The salt from the anchovies and the capers should be more than enough for the sauce, but just in case, taste it and see if you need to add some. Off the fire, add 1 dl of pasta water to the sauce.
  4. Cook pasta by the law as you should know by now, al dente, and AS SOON AS the pasta is drained (don’t wait, PLEASE), throw it in the sauce pan and mix well on medium-low for 2 minutes. Also eat as soon as possible, don’t let it cool down.

Pumpkin Pasta

(yes, you read it right, pumpkin)

The problem with italian food abroad is that it’s almost always wrong. I guess it’s pretty much the same for every other cuisine, but still, it’s quite a pity. Above all, pasta is usually very wrong: the idea non-italians have of it is so limited and incorrect. I’m not talking only of the well-known problem with Fettuccine Alfredo or the many ways Carbonara is ruined worldwide. The bigger problem for me is that the abroad menus are so limited compared to the vast regional diversity of pasta recipes that exist across Italy. One of the limits that I find more troubling is the complete lack of one entire category of pasta recipes, namely the so called “minestra” which is pasta cooked in a soup, as opposed to the other way you would normally cook your pasta: by itself in water before you add the sauce.  Usually very wintery dishes, minestre (plural for minestra) combine pasta with what you might find strange pairings. Things like potatoes, peas, beans, lentils, cauliflower, and yes, you read the title, pumpkin. Minestre can be both very soupy or quite dense, and this can differ a lot even from neighborhood to neighborhood in the same small town. I usually stay on the dense side, as is also the case with this one.

Created with Sketch. 45 minutes Created with Sketch. 2-3 portions


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 350 grof pumpkin (any pumpkin will work)
  • 2 small floury potatoes
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • half a onion
  • parmigiano to taste
  • gorgonzola cheese to taste
  • 300 grof pasta* (see note)


All the most common edible pumpkins will work for the recipe, but my favourite is a butternut squash. Also, Gorgonzola in the end gives the recipe a nice extra touch of fancy flavour, but the recipe works perfectly without.

*about the pasta shape for this recipe: my favourite is casarecce (as in picture), but it’s perfect to use any half-short holed shape, like tubetti, tufoli, ditali or maybe the very good mafaldine (cut in small pieces), or one of my all time favourite pasta mista (mixed pasta, a mix of leftovers). Please don’t make wierd pairings like spaghetti or linguine.

  1. Finely dice the onion and celery, and sauté them with the olive oil for 5-8 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the squash, remove seeds, and chop it into small cubes, about 1 cm. Same thing for the potatoes. Add everything to the pot and stir often so it doesn’t burn. Keep sautéing everything for 5 minutes.
  3. Add some boiling water, just enough to cover the pumpkin, and keep it on medium/high for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally, adding some more boiling water if it evaporates fast. Also add salt and pepper.
  4. After about 20 minutes the pumpkin should start to be nice and tender; use a smasher, or any other tool (a fork should also work). and start smashing the pumpkin and potatoes in a coarse puree. You can of course use an immersion blender, but I prefer when in the final dish there are still some small pieces of soft pumpkin here and there.
  5. Now add the pasta, and here comes the tricky part: add enough water to cook your pasta in. You have to consider that some of the water is going to evaporate, and some is going into the pasta (cooking pasta is basically re-hydraitation), so you have to add enough water to cover all the pasta, but not too much, as this will make the end result too soupy. The best thing, before you’ve gained more experience, is to start with as little water as is needed to cover the pasta, and then keep adding some more if things get too dry. Just keep stirring often and check that you have enough liquid. During this all process, you’ll also have to adjust salt.
  6. When after about 10 minutes the pasta is cooked (and hopefully the pumpkin is nice and creamy and not too liquid), remove from the stove and add parmigiano and, if you fancy it, gorgonzola, and keep stirring until all the cheese has melted.
  7. Serve it with some extra parmigano and finely chopped parsley, or my favorite: rosemary.



(it's pronounced ˈɲɔkki)

When it comes to fresh pasta I have no doubt that the one you make at home is way better than anything you can buy in a store. And despite what most people think, it’s quite an easy thing to do. This is the first of a series of recipes about fresh pasta and we will start with GNOCCHI (potato gnocchi to be precise) which by the way is pronounced [ˈɲɔkki] (here’s a You Tube clip, just in case). Gnocchi are easy to make for a simple “chemical” reason: to make the dough, the flour is not mixed with water, therefore gluten doesn’t form. Now gluten is what makes any flour+water dough become elastic and hard to handle when you knead it, so with gnocchi everything is a lot simpler.

Potato gnocchi are essentially made with potatoes and wheat flour, but this is only the start – one can experiment with all kinds of flours and other ingredients, add eggs or some veggies to do a “colored” version (spinach seems to be very popular). I prefere the simple potatoes+flour version better because I like to feel the potato taste. If for example you would use eggs also, you will have to add a lot more flour to reach a good consistency, and the potato taste would be lost. Sad.

You can really use all kinds of potatoes: yellow, white, firm, floury etc. And the amount of flour needed may vary a lot for a number of reasons: type of potatoes used, for how long they are boiled, even how old they are! So you can see that the recipe is not much of a precise one really, but still it’s very easy and fun to do.

For this particular recipe I’m doing the gnocchi in my favourite way. They’re called Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, as they originate from the beautiful town of Sorrento in Italy, about 45 minutes from my hometown (you’re welcome to visit!).

Special Equipment

  • potato press
  • oven-proof bowls
Created with Sketch. 35 min Created with Sketch. 2 servings


  • 350 gpotatoes
  • 150 gall purpose flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • for the sauce
  • 1 tbsof oliveoil
  • 1 cloveof garlic
  • 300 gtomato puree (passata)
  • 80 ggrated Parmigiano cheese
  • 125 gof mozzarella



  1. Boil the potatoes, skin and all, until they’re fully cooked.
  2. Use the dedicated potato press to smash the boiled potatoes in a big bowl.
  3. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and mix everything together until the dough looks nice and smooth. You can add a bit more flour if you think the dough is not firm enough. The smashed potatoes are able to incorporate a lot of flour, but we don’t want the dough to be neither too loose, nor to firm. I guess it’s both a matter of how you prefere your gnocchi to be, and also of practice; with time you will be able to “feel” when the consistency is correct.
  4. Cut a small piece of dough and roll it down by hand to a ‘worm’ shape about 1,5 cm wide. With a knife cut the ‘worm’ into 1,5 cm pieces and using two fingers (and some extra flour as the dough will still be a bit sticky) press on the little ‘plug’ while at the same time you roll it back towards you. This will give the gnocco (singular for gnocchi, of course) a bit of a cavity where the sauce will sit nicely. Repeat this operation until you run out of dough. While you roll your gnocchi, arrange them nicely on a large flat surface and sprinkle a little flour over them. (I should mention that this is only one of the possible ways to roll gnocchi, but it’s my favourite). Actually, you know what? To make things easier I made a short explanatory how-to video!
  5. Start your oven grill at this point, you’ll need it later. Also put a big pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.
  6. Now for the sauce, it’s really quite simple: add olive oil and a clove of garlic to a sauce pan on medium until the garlic is golden/brown. Add the tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste, and cook it for 10 minutes on  medium/low.
  7. Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water just as if you were cooking pasta (in case you’re not very sure, here‘s our how-to article). But gnocchi cook very quickly! When the water is boiling,  add the gnocchi, put the lid back on the pot and in one or two minutes the water will start boiling again and the gnocchi will come up to the surface: ready! You just have to drain the water and put the gnocchi back in the pot.
  8. Now quickly pour 3/4 of the tomato sauce over the gnocchi, add the parmigiano and half of the mozzarella and gently mix everything.
  9. Put the gnocchi in oven-proof bowls, scoop the remaining sauce on top of them,  add the rest of the mozzarella and throw everything under the oven grill for 5/10 minutes or untill the mozzarella starts to become a bit brown

Carbonara For Dummies

(there is hope!)

“I have seen things you people wouldn’t believe. I’ve seen cream, and onions mixed together, and for some reason green peas and bacon. And ketchup, oh my goodness, ketchup! All these things will hopefully be lost in time, like egg whites in a drain”

According to a Peer Reviewed Study conducted by Professor John Rigatoni at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 99.7% of Carbonaras made in the world, are done wrong. Sometimes very wrong, stuff like cream or ketchup. But the reality is that Carbonara is not easy to do well, the very issue is quite tricky, even in Italy.
The dish origins in fact from central Italy, and calls for very few, precise ingredients: pasta (spaghetti or rigatoni), eggs, guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino romano cheese, black pepper. Each of these ingredients is essential. If you don’t have one, that’s no Carbonara you’re cooking and no, you can’t use pancetta or bacon instead. Despite being a very basic preparation, people tend to overcook eggs that end up being scrambled, and that’s when you get what I like to call ‘pasta with frittata’: it’s quite disgusting. Instead, a good Carbonara needs a smooth creamy mix of eggs and cheese, the eggs must start to gelatinize, but never to coagulate too much. It’s tricky, it’s very difficult to achieve the right consistency, either you overcook it with the results described, or you undercook and the eggs remain too liquid. So I came up with a method for Dummies that works all the time and I’m very happy to share it with you, so that you can spread the word, and maybe one day all the atrocities and mayhem will stop, and people will not put ketchup on Carbonara any more.

Special Equipment

  • a whisk
Created with Sketch. 30 min Created with Sketch. 2 servings


  • 200 grrigatoni
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 grguanciale
  • 50 grpecorino romano
  • 0.5 teaspoonblack pepper



  1. Start to put a big pot of water on the stove for cooking the pasta, as described in the related article here.
  2. Slice the guanciale in small strips, put them in a frying pan over medium/high without any oil, it’s not necessary: guanciale has a delicious fat/meat ratio of something like 85/15 so really, any extra fat here is redundant. Fry until crispy.
  3. In a metal bowl, or a sauce pan, mix together one full egg (white+yolk), one egg yolk, the grated pecorino cheese, and a lot of ground black pepper. Quantity of black pepper is up to your taste, but the recipe calls for A LOT. Mix it well using a whisk, you want everything to become as smooth as possible.
  4. Now the “for DUMMIES” part.  This is when you have to pay attention to the procedure. Put a small sauce pan with some water on the stove and bring it to a boil, place the bowl with eggs+cheese on top of it, add one tablespoon of pasta cooking water (yes, in the meanwhile you’re cooking the pasta of course).  The pasta cooking water is perfect for this (and for a lot of other pasta dishes) for two reasons: it’ s already salted, and contains the starch released from the pasta itself, that will help the egg sauce to get nice and creamy). Mix it all using the whisk. The steam coming from the boiling water underneath will very slowly help to gelatinize the egg mixture, the process is so slow that you can have full control over it and stop when you feel the consistency is right. If you feel like it’s getting too thick, or start to coagulate too much, remove the bowl from the boiling pot, and maybe add some more cooking water and keep on stirring.
  5. When the pasta is ready, drain it well in a colander, and without further ado, put it in the bowl with the egg mixture, add the fried guanciale, stir it well over the boiling water for one more minute, and quick as a flash serve it. 

Just to show you that I am a nice person open-minded and all, I tried to do carbonara with bacon. It was fit to be consumed as food (this is the definition of “eatable”, I like it!) but it was no carbonara really.

It all comes down to how guanciale and bacon are made: the curing processes are in fact very different. Guanciale is cured for three months, hanged in dry cold rooms after being dry-rubbed with abundant salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. Bacon is brine-cured for a few days in salty water only, and then cold-smoked (at least, most of the time). Plus guanciale has a very different fat-meat ratio, as we have seen. All this is very important for the final taste: the delicate spiced flavours of crunchy guanciale are paramount in the final dish, while bacon’s smokyness is a very big NO-NO.

EXTRA TIP: If you’re cooking this for more than two people,  you will need to use more eggs of course. Try always to keep the eggyolk-eggwhite ratio 2:1. Or even 3:1 if you’re making a lot of it.

Penne Rigate with Zucchini Cream

(can't you feel the SPRING?)

Nothing says spring like zucchini and little cherry tomatoes, but since in this country (Sweden) “seasonal“ doesn’t really mean much (unless you want to eat potatoes and cabbage all winter), we’re making this pasta dish in autumn, or whenever you happen to read this recipe.
This is definitively the pasta dish that most people have asked me to cook, over and over again, or asked for the recipe, or talked about, and the reason is simple: it’s really good, and fresh, and light.
It’s done with ricotta, one of those ingredients that people really should use more and for a number of reasons, at least three; 1) it’s light and fresh (technically it’s not even a cheese, as it is in fact a by-product of the cheesemaking process: it’s made from whey, which is what’s left of the milk once the fat has coagulated into cheese); 2) it doesn’t have a strong taste, so it doesn’t cover the other ingredients; 3) therefore it is perfect to make creamy sauces that don’t end up being heavy and greasy (this would happen if you use cream or butter or a creamy cheese instead). Extra points: it’s beautiful to look at, once you arrange it nicely on the plate.

Special Equipment

  • immersion blender
Created with Sketch. 30 min Created with Sketch. 2 servings


  • 1 zucchini (about 400 gr)
  • 100 gricotta
  • 30 gparmigiano in flakes
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tbspolive oil
  • 1 clovegarlic
  • basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • for the pasta
  • 200 gpenne rigate (any other similar furrowed pasta)
  • 2 ltwater
  • 15 gsalt


  1.  Start by placing the pot of water on the stove on high temperature, read carefully here how to cook pasta properly, or everything else will be worthless!
  2. You start like almost every italian pasta sauce, with a clove of garlic in olive oil on medium fire, for as long as it take for the garlic to become gold/brown (but don’t make it burn!).
  3. Add the zucchini, in slices or cubes, add salt and pepper to taste and let it cook for about 10/15 minutes, stirring every now and again: you want the zucchini to become soft from cooking, this will “wake up” their sweet taste.
  4. At this point the water should be boiling, so you can throw in the salt and the pasta.
  5. Take the zucchini out of the frying pan (leave the garlic and most of the olive oil) and throw them in a tall container together with the ricotta, parmigiano, one spoon of olive oil, one spoon of the pasta cooking water, 3/4 leaves of basil. Mix everything together with an immersion blender: the sauce mustn’t be too thick, add a bit more water if necessary (but not too liquid either!).
  6. Put the frying pan on the stove again at medium/high with the garlic and olive oil (add some if it looks too little), and stir-fry the cherry tomato halves adding salt and pepper: you don’t want the tomatoes to loose their nice shape or to cook too much and become too soft, so 2/3 minutes should be enough.
  7. Drain the pasta in the colander, put it back in the pot and quick as a bolt of lightening throw in the ricotta/zucchini cream, stirring it all together so the pasta is well covered in the creamy sauce. Divide it on two plates and garnish them with the tomato halves, parmigiano flakes, and a couple of basil leaves.
    And buon appetito!