Movie review: A Trip to Italy

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan join up again to take a culinary tour in The Trip to Italy. A wonderfully entertaining film shot over 6 days and 6 restaurants.

The movie includes many impersonations, such as Michael Cain, characters from The Godfather, Batman, Michael Parkinson, Robert De Riro, Sean Connery in Bond, and The Italian Job among others. I wanted to watch The Godfather before seeing this film, so I got the scene better, but it doesn’t matter much. Some of the funniest scenes are the silly ones. The food looks just devine and at points it makes you want to join them, even though most of the places they stay and eat at are probably out of my price range. The scenery is just spectacular in places (think Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, Amalfi and Capri) and I bet you too will be envious of their trip.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and dare I say, I think it’s better then the first one.

Best recipe: Tagliatelle with ragu (spaghetti bolognese)

Spaghetti bolognese is a favourite dinner time meal loved throughout the world. It can be a simple as browning the mince and adding some bottled sauce, but just once try this traditional version. Trust me, it’s the best.

Italy’s most loved but misinterpreted dish has to be tagliatelle al ragu. When it left Italy’s shores it somehow become spaghetti bolognese. The real bolognese dish is made by tossing a little rich, slow-cooked ragu (a meat sauce, usually veal and pork) through fresh egg noodles.

There’s a number of tricks to an outstanding ragu sauce. First you really need to let it simmer for a good 3 hours to allow all the flavours to meld together and fill your house with divine smells. A dash of milk  is added to the ragu sauce to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and wine. It’s worth using good quality mince, wine and stock.

60g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot finely chopped or grated
90g pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
220g minced ground veal or beef
220g minced ground pork
2 sprigs of oregano, chopped or 1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of nutmeg
½ cup dry white wine
3/4 cup milk, or soy milk
400g tin chopped tomatoes or fresh
250ml beef stock
400g tagliatelle
grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta. Cook over a moderate heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  2. Add the minced beef, pork and oregano to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mince has browned slightly.
  3. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and boil over high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the wine has been absorbed. Stir in the milk and reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomato and half the stock, partially cover the pan and leave to simmer gently over very low heat for 3 hours. Add more of the stock as it is needed to keep the sauce moist.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the tageliatelle, toss with the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan.

Serves 4.

Variation: These aren’t traditional variations, but if you’d like the meal to go further add a can of beans. You could also add any extra vegetables (grated) that you might have in the fridge or the garden.

Cooked for the 100 recipes to cook in your lifetime challenge. 

Antipasto

An antipasto platter is one of the easiest dishes to make for entertaining. Every so often, we use up whatever we can find in the fridge and have it for lunch. You could also raid your home-grown preserves or vegetable patch. I’ve found it’s best to keep within one cuisine.

Italian antipasto

artichokes, marinated
capsicum, marinated char-grilled
mushrooms
olives
tomatoes, semi-dried
zucchini, sliced length-ways
grissini or ciabatta bread
boccochini, pecorino, provolone, mozzarella
prosciutto, parma ham, or salami

Greek mezze

cucumber, ribbons
eggplant, marinated char-grilled
dolmades
olives
tomatoes, semi-dried
pita bread
hommus
feta, cubed

French hors d’oeuvre

anchovies
vegetable crudites
olives
french loaf
tapende
fromage frais aux fines herbs

Spanish plate

caperberries
olives
peppers – pequillo or padron
manchego cheese
chorizo, jamon serrano

The ingredients listed are only suggestions – select a couple for less people. Arrange all ingredients on a large serving platter or individual small bowls. To make a more substantial meal serve with crusty bread.

Rigatoni with sausage, fennel and tomato (Italian)

Rigatoni with sausage, fennel and tomato

Cooked for the Italian entry in the Euro Cup and Plate challenge.

2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp fennel powder
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 Italian sausages, skin removed
1 tsp thyme leaves
100ml red wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
400g rigatoni (tube pasta)
grated Parmesan, to serve

  1. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and fennel with a pinch of salt.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion for a few minutes over low heat to soften it. Break up the sausage meat with your hands and add to the pan. Increase the heat and cook until the meat is lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add the the garlic, fennel and thyme and mix in. Then add the wine and stir the sauce.
  3. Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes or until the wine is reduced, then add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened.
  4. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan until al dente. Drain reserving some water. Add to the sauce, toss well and serve sprinkled with the Parmesan.

Serves 4.