In My Italian Kitchen, August 2015

Hand crocheted edging by Nonna Gina.
Hand crocheted edging by Nonna Gina.

Inspired by these beautiful hand edged tea towels brought to Australia by Alberto last summer, this month’s kitchen post is dedicated to Nonna Gina who lives in Carmagnola, Piedmonte, Italia. Hemmed, edged and crocheted meticulously, I stashed them away, thinking that they were just too lovely to use. Now they are out and ready for work. Age, washing and softening will give them a faded patina. And naturally, when I use them, I will think of Gina and life in Piedmonte, a region I am keen to visit. Grazie di cuore, Gina ed Alberto.

The star of any Italian kitchen is a good wedge of Parmigiano cheese, either Grana Padano or Reggiano.  Look for a parmesan that is  ‘stagionato‘, or at least 24 months old, the grainier the better. I have noticed that cheap parmesan cheese is being dumped in Australia from who knows where and sells for $13.00 a kilo. I suspect it will lack ‘graininess’ and taste like soap. Beware of cheap imitations.

Good Italian Parmigiana and my favourite tool, the microplane.
Good Italian Parmigiano and my favourite tool, the microplane.

Italian jugs are handy, especially when pouring ‘vino da tavola’, ordinary cheap wine. Whenever I use these jugs, I pretend I am sitting in some quaint little trattoria in Urbino, Lucca or Puglia. My fantasy world is well-developed.

Caraffe per vino da tavola
Caraffe per vino da tavola

My little Pinocchio, and the Pinocchio wine stopper which, fortunately, has never been needed, sit on the kitchen dresser, perusing the family scene below. They are a reminder to finish reading Carlo Collodi’s original Pinocchio which I purchased last year.Pinocchio, and friends

One of my favourite Italian white wines is Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It brings back so many memories of the time I spent studying in Siena where I first discovered this wine at the local Upim store. A good one will be crisp and dry with honey notes. Dan Murphy used to stock a range of Vernaccia but now the range is limited to ‘el cheapos’. This one turned up in my favourite Italian supermarket, Gervasi, Sydney road, Brunswick. Cheap and cheerful is the best description for this brand!

The last and only time I went to Costco, I found this big tub of salted capers for a song. I knew there was a reason for trudging around that place for four hours! This big stash is so handy and gives a lift to a salsa verde, pizza or pasta putanesca.

Huge tub of salted capers
Huge tub of salted capers

An Italian themed post wouldn’t be complete without another peak at pasta. Here is my new favourite, egg reginette, delicate and fast cooking. Again, found at Gervasi Supermarket, Brunswick.


Reginette con bietola e salmone affumicato.
Reginette con bietola e salmone affumicato.

And grazie di cuore also to Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, our busy host of this famous monthly event. Open the link and visit some other worldwide kitchens.

Risotto all’Onda for Carla.

Over lunch yesterday, I came across a new Italian expression, Risotto All’Onda. At the time, I was serving a classic Marcella Hazan rice soup, or rather a minestra which, to be truthful, was more like a wet risotto. A soup or a wet risotto, I commented, knowing that this distinction is not particularly relevant to those from the Veneto region in Italy.  Alberto, a visitor from Lombardy in Italy, then related the story of his prozia, or great-aunt, who uses her brodo (stock) rather liberally when making risotto, earning the comment ‘all’onda!!!’ in a disparaging way from her husband, who had a preference for a drier risotto. Drier risotto is the preferred style in Lombardy, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna. It has a stickier texture and can be plated rather than served in a bowl. Alberto’s family continues to describe a wet risotto in this way, to recall their late prozio’s reaction to wet risotto, risotto’all’onda!!


As it turns out, risotto all’ onda is a common enough term for Venetian style risotto, ‘all’onda‘ meaning that the finished product should ripple like the ocean current, yet maintain its classically creamy consistency. It should be liquid enough to make it pourable. Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice are the preferred varieties for a wet style risotto: also using smaller pan when cooking helps to maintain the moisture.

The following recipe is an adaptation of Marcella Hazan’s Minestra di Sedano e Riso or rice and celery soup, from the Classic Italian Cookbook, 1980. I have replaced the celery with zucchini, given the continuing summer glut. The method of this soup is rather interesting, with half the zucchini pureed, adding a lovely green cremoso texture to this minestra/soup/risotto.

Minestra di Zucchini e Riso- Zucchini and Rice Soup.


  • 2-3 small zucchini, diced
  • 6 tablespoons EV Olive Oil
  • half small onion, finely chopped
  • 25 g butter
  • 200g rice, preferably Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
  • 500 ml of stock or one stock cube dissolved in the same quantity of water
  • 3 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley.


  1. Wash the zucchini, finely dice,. Put the zucchini, olive oil and salt in a heavy base saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a steady simmer, cover, and cook until the zucchini is tender. Turn off the heat.
  2. Put the chopped onion in a heavy based saucepan with the butter and saute over medium heat until pale gold but not browned.
  3. Add half the zucchini to the saucepan with the onion, using a slotted spoon. Saute for two or three minutes, stirring, the add the rice and stir it until well coated. Add all the broth.
  4. Puree the rest of the zucchini, including all its cooking liquid, with a stick blender. Add this puree to the saucepan containing the rice.
  5. Bring to a steady simmer, cover, and cook until the rice is tender but firm to the bite, around 15- 20 minutes. Watch and check that it doesn’t catch as some rice absorbs stock too quickly- you may need to add a little more to make it ‘all’onda’.
  6. Stir in the grated cheese, turn off the heat, add the parsley and mix. Serve at once! This dish should be eaten immediately before it turns too soft. Make it only just before you are ready to eat!


I’m with Great Aunt Carla when it comes to risotto- I love it ‘all’onda’, nice and wet, rippling with little currents from the sea of broth.