Linguine with Clams, Mussels and Cherry Tomatoes

On Saturday night, we had a few friends over for dinner.  One of our friends was here on vacation with her son, and she had mentioned to me that he was really keen on trying seafood from Spain.  So, it was our duty to make this pasta with mussels and clams.  Then our other friend arrived, who is quite a foodie and great cook himself, so we all gathered in the kitchen, and I followed his detailed instructions, because he said he had spent a good deal of time perfecting this dish.  This is the perfect summer pasta dish, easy, delicious and just a little bit spicy!

So, here are his instructions on how to make an amazing Linguine with Cherry tomatoes, clams and mussels!

For 4 people you will need:

1 kg linguine or spaghetti

1kg mussels

1/2 kg clams

4 tbsp olive oil

1/2 kg cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 cup white wine

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 dried chilli peppers

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 tbsp of parsley, chopped

Under cold running water, scrub and de-beard the mussels.  In a large stock pot add one tbsp olive oil and the mussels and clams.  Cover and cook over high heat until they open and release their water, about 5 minutes.

Strain the liquid that they released into a small bowl and set aside.  Discard any mussels or clams that have not opened.  Now, take about 10 mussels and clams out of their shells, and reserve.  Discard those shells, and keep the rest of them in their shells.

To a large sauté pan, add the rest of the olive oil, garlic, chilli pepper and the sea food without their shells.  Saute over medium heat until the garlic is just fragrant.

Now add the wine, and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes more.

When the wine has evaporated, add the tomatoes, your reserved clam and mussel juice and the salt.  Cook over low heat until you have a thickened sauce, about 8-10 minutes.  Take off heat while you boil the pasta.  Strain one or two minutes before the time that is on the package directions.

When the pasta has been strained, toss it into the sauce that you reserved, cooking it in with the sauce the last few minutes until al dente.

Add the chopped parsley, fresh pepper and serve.

From my kitchen (and Fernando’s) to yours,



Tagliatelle pasta with Pancetta Romana, Zucchini and Pistachios

Obviously I got back from Italy yesterday…..and I felt like a kid at Christmas who can’t wait to unwrap their presents.  I did.  I ate some of the salami, the appenzeller cheese…..and last night absolutely had to try the pancetta.  I was *this* close to not buying it, but the vendor absolutely insisted I had to try it.  Ok, no he didn’t, he just said, do you want some pancetta too? (I was buying guanciale) And I was like….Yes please!

Actually, the dish came up as follows.  I arrive home, having left the fridge fully stocked for my boyfriend and my daughter, full of healthy veggies, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and some cake too.  When I opened up the fridge, the cheese and cake were almost finished.  The veggies untouched.  So, I thought, I need to make something with this zucchini.  So, I decided, tagliatelle, zucchini and pancetta.  Went to the store to get some fizzy water, and passed by the pistachios, and remembered how in Sicily, we used to eat the Pistachio pesto with pancetta.  Voila!  A star is born.  I think this is my new favorite pasta dish.  And I am urging my friend Miki and her boyfriend R to try this.  Because I think they will be as excited about this dish as I was last night.  I actually want some more today.  But although I tend to be obsessive about things, the rest of my household isn’t like that.

So, here’s what you’re going to need:

Serves 4

500g Tagliatelle

1 zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons

250 g pancetta, cut into thick match sticks

3 tbsp olive oil, more if the pasta is too dry

100 g pistachios, shelled and crushed.

Pepper to taste.

Parmesan cheese

Boil your water for the pasta.  In the meantime, in a large skillet fry up your bacon over medium heat with the olive oil.  When it is starting to brown, add the zucchini ribbons.  Saute for another 5 minutes, until softened but not mushy.  Add the pistachios and the rest of the olive oil.  Turn off heat.

When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it quickly with your pancetta mix, serve immediately with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And you’re done!  So easy, so good.  You’ll want more I bet.  I did.

From my kitchen to yours,


Tagliatelle all Boscaiola : Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushrooms and Garlic Cream Sauce

My uncle in Italy has a house in the Dolomites.  When I go and visit him in autumn, the first thing we do is go Porcini hunting.  It is one of the most relaxing things ever.  Hiking through idyllic forests, splashed with a variety of greens, browns, yellows and orange.  In our foraging, we would talk about everything and nothing, and when we found one of our specimens, the Porcini, we would start thinking of how we were going to prepare it that night.

My family is originally from Emilia-Romagna, which is the region in Italy that has brought you such sublime classics such as Tagliatelle, Tortellini, Parmesan, Balsamic, Mortadella and the ubiquitous Ragu alla Bolognese.  In his home in Molinella, my great-aunt had a small but complete garden, with all sorts of fruits and vegetables.  The first time I visited them, I was absolutely fascinated when they opened the garage door.  There in the middle of the garage was a gorgeous, pristine 1975 canary yellow Alfa Romeo Spider.  And surrounding it was 3 entire walls, covered floor to ceiling with canned tomatoes, plums, cherries, eggplant, artichokes, and Porcini mushrooms.  The art of canning for winter is something that is lost on us, now that we live in this global and easily accessible fruit and vegetable world.  Long gone are the days when you HAD to can to be able enjoy the bounties of summer throughout the winter months.

Alas, but I digress.  Tagliatelle alla Boscaiola is loosely translated to Tagliatelle in the “woodsy” way.  Bosco means woods, or forest, and this sauce is generally made with Porcini mushrooms, or any type of wild mushroom that you have on hand according to the season.  It can just be the mushrooms with garlic and parsley, or you can add a little cream, as we do to almost anything in Emilia-Romagna.  Yesterday I made it with Cremini mushrooms, 1) because I had some left over from my Tunisian Brik.  And 2) because Porcini are out of season.  You can make this with whatever mushrooms you find, but it is nicer if they are wild and not our cultivated button mushrooms.  It is a simple, filling and exquisite meal with very little prep time.  Just make sure you have the best pasta, or home-made if you’re up to it!

So here is what you’re going to need:

For 4

1 lb Tagliatelle pasta

2 tbsp of butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lb porcini, or any other wild mushroom, sliced or chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

300 ml of cream (optional)

1.5 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh grated nutmeg

Parmesan cheese, grated

A few glasses of wine, to drink while you are cooking 🙂  and maybe some Paolo Conte to listen to.

In a large stock pot, bring your water to a boil.  In the mean time, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter to melt.  When it is bubbling, add the garlic and cook about 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.  Raise the heat to high, and add the mushrooms, and sauté until nicely browned.  Reduce the heat to low, add half of your chopped parsley, and the cream.  Cook until the cream just starts to bubble and thicken a little bit, and remove from heat.  Add your salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.  Keep warm.

When the water is boiling, add your tagliatelle, and cook until just al dente.  Strain, reserving just a smidge of the cooking water and then add to your skillet and toss with the cream sauce over high heat for about a minute.  Place in your plates and top with the rest of your chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.  Finito!

From my kitchen to yours,


Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Horseradish Cream Sauce

Why, oh why don’t I make this dish more often?  I always forget how much I love spaghetti with salmon.  And I also love whipping up a sauce with the ingredients you find in the fridge, it just feels so great when you make a delicious dish with random ingredients that are in your home.

So, yesterday I had a few friends over from lunch, and I saw the smoked salmon, these perfect little asparagus tips, and some cherry tomatoes.  As I was chop chop chopping away, I went to grab a glass of water, and I saw my horseradish.  Horseradish is really hard to find here, but I was at the Deli Shop the other day, which is this food store that has imported food from all over the world, and got me some Coleman’s Horseradish.  I have been putting this stuff on everything.  Cause I’m obsessive like that.  So, I decided to add some to the sauce to give it that flavorful kick, instead of just having a very calm cream sauce.  I thought that maybe it was going to be too overpowering, but it was the perfect addition to give the sauce a little acidity and bite.

This is a really simple meal that can be put together in about 20 minutes, tops.  And it reeks of sophistication.  So, you’ll be hailed as a fantastic host.  Here is the recipe that I used yesterday, but feel free to add or omit ingredients according to what you like or you have in your fridge!

Oh, and I also got a nifty new gadget, it’s a cheese grater, but it’s also a cup, so as you grate the cheese it falls into the cup!  I love it, it has three different hole sizes for grating!







Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Horseradish Cream Sauce:

Serves 4

1lb Spaghetti

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp olive oil

12 asparagus tips, 6 chopped, 6 reserve the tips and make ribbons from the base

500ml Cream

200 g Smoked salmon, chopped

2 1/2 tbsp horseradish

4 cherry tomatoes, minced

1 tsp parsley, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Parmesan Cheese, grated

Boil enough water for the spaghetti

In a saucepan, add the butter and olive oil over high heat.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the chopped asparagus.  Reserve the ribbons for garnish.  Saute for about two minutes, until bright green but still crispy.  Add the cream and horseradish and lower the heat to med.  When the sauce has thickened, add the salmon, salt and pepper and take off heat.

When your water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions.  Strain, and add the cream sauce and toss until well mixed.  Top with your cherry tomatoes, parsley and asparagus ribbons.  Add parmesan cheese and eat it all up!


From my kitchen to yours,


Maccheroni Gambrinus

Ristorante Gambrinus.  The name invokes memories of my early “tween” years when I first started TASIS, in Lugano, Switzerland.  I went to school there from 1986-1992, and frequently we used to go to this restaurant in the main square.  I remember when I first tried this dish.  It was made table side, the server expertly flambeeing the vodka over the penne pasta, then adding the fresh cream and parsley.  And then the first bite.  Heaven.  Nirvana.  Valhalla.  Whatever you want to call it, it was delicious.  With a capital D.  For many years I have recreated this dish, from the stained, crumpled hand-written recipe my mother wrote out as per the restaurant owner’s directions, or from sheer memory.  And of course, it will never, in my mind, be as good as the original.  There is always something about someone else making you food, that makes it taste better.  Or maybe it’s a little eleven year old girls’ memory of that perfect moment, when things were a lot easier, when your parents paid the bill, and when all I had to do was dress up for dinner and then fall asleep in the car ride home, with my belly full of that scrumptuous pasta, knowing that the next morning the world would be all right.

Here, I give you my version of this dish, and I hope you will recreate it at home.

Maccheroni Gambrinus

Serves 4

1 lb of penne pasta

2 tbsp of olive oil

4 strips of bacon or pancetta (pancetta is obviously the choice, but I only had bacon on hand), chopped

1 tsp of crushed red pepper

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1/8 tsp of dried oregano

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 small can of tomato puree

1/2 cup vodka

1/4 cup cream

Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Parmesan cheese, grated

Put 8 cups of salted water to boil.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, add your bacon, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Saute until the bacon is not yet crispy, but starting to cook.  About 5 minutes.  Add your onion, and cook until soft and translucent, about another 7 minutes.  Then add your garlic and let it cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste, and mix well until combined.  Then add your tomato puree, and fill the can/bottle with water and add to the sauce, and let it come to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Now here is the tricky part.  Once you have let the sauce simmer so the water has evaporated and you get a wonderful smooth sauce, raise the heat to high, and let it come to a boil.  Get your matches or lighter ready, close at hand, and add your vodka and flambee.  It only takes a second for it to flambee, so there was no way I could get a picture of the flames.  But trust me, it lit up!

Don’t do it like I did.  You could light the vodka bottle on fire.  I was just being greedy and pouring some more in.  I like vodka.  And I am not ashamed to say it.

Once the vodka has been evaporated, take it off the heat, and add your cream and parsley.

Boil the pasta according to package directions, and then toss with the warm sauce.  Serve with a large mountain of freshly grated parmesan cheese….or a small one.  But I love cheese.

Enjoy!!!!  Have seconds.  You only live once.

From my kitchen to yours,





Xemei – Venetian cuisine in the hills of Barcelona

There is this little gem of a restaurant here in Barcelona called Xemei.  I was turned on to it by a fellow school mate and chef who works here in Barcelona.  I am so happy that she did.

Xemei means twins in Venetian dialect, because of the owners, who are……(drum roll please) TWINS!  I go there as much as I can, because the food is just amazing.  My boyfriend actually goes there almost once a week…..and he doesn’t get tired of it.  The menu is quite short, but it changes often, always making it seasonal and fresh.  The last time I went there, I had these amazing bay scallops, just sautéed with a bit of garlic, butter and parsley.

I loved the simplicity of this dish, because it really let the scallops shine… they should.  The time before, when I was starving, I had their starter Tomino cheese and rosti potatoes,  topped with a poached egg and crispy leeks.  It. Was. Divine.  I wish I could explain with words how good this was, but there aren’t any to be able to describe it as well as mine and my friends orgasmic moans.  I mean….seriously.

Tomino is a small, brie-like cheese from northern Italy.  It begs to be wrapped in bacon and cooked, like how my friend Miki’s boyfriend did when I first tried it.  This version was incredible.  Lightly pan-fried, to get the inside to melt……well…you can see from the picture….I bet you’re salivating now!

For seconds we shared the pasta, which was with mussels and clams in a spicy tomato sauce.  That is one of their specialties, that is always on the menu.

Again, how I love to cook and eat, very few ingredients to let the stars shine….which in this case were the freshest mussels and clams.

And for dessert we had Apple Strudel.  Since the Veneto region has been influenced by Austria…..well, Alto Adige (northeast region of Italy) formed part of Austria until the beginning of the last century….so you will find Apple Strudel in a lot of menus there.

It was the perfect end to a perfect meal.  With just a tiny dollop of custard on the side…..yuuuuuummmmmmy.

So, if you are ever in Barcelona, or you live here, and are hankering for some excellent venetian cuisine, I recommend Xemei.

Restaurante Xemei

Passeig de l’ Exposicio, 85

+34 93 553 5140