I do, and I want to share my favourite. It was given to me a few years ago and is a compilation of 'Authentic Italian' recipes, submitted by real people...Italian even!, with the proceeds from the sales of the book going to charity. "Amici Nella Cucina" or Friends in the Kitchen, is right up there with my favourite cookbooks. It's been to hell and back and half the pages are soggy from splatters, but I would be lost without it!
My family isn't of immediate Italian background, so this little book is like having my own personal Nonna in the kitchen, helping me and offering advice about how to dry those tomatoes or roll that pasta. And any book with a front cover that shows cooking over fire has got to be a keeper, right?
My favourite recipe from "Friends in the Kitchen", would have to be the spaghetti meatballs! I love, Love, LOVE them. And so does the family, which is great because it means I can cook up a big batch of them and freeze them for quick, easy meals. They are actually referred to as "Merlino's Spaghetti Meatballs", but in my mind, they'll always be Nonna's ;o)......
Oh, and they cook up beautifully in the slow cooker too!
Not being content to leave the recipe as is, I have changed some quantities here and there and enjoy making them on cold, wintery days. These quantities are easily halved if a big pot of meatballs is not your thing.
Ingredients for the meatballs:
1kg minced beef (if preferred, subsitute 500g of the beef for ground pork)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 fresh, free range eggs
a splash of olive oil
2 cups breadcrumbs
1-1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese (the real stuff, not the powdered packet affair). I know, it's a lot, but it's really worth it!
Fresh basil and parsely
salt and pepper
Ingredients for the sauce:
2 x 700ml passata bottles
3 x 400g cans of whole, peeled roma tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 onions (2 if small, 1 if large)
Basil, salt and pepper
For the meatballs: mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Roll out into smallish balls (3cm-4cm-ish?) and place on a tray. If you have some time up your sleeve, refrigerate them for 30-60minutes. If not, heat a large frying pan over medium/med-high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Fry the meatballs in batches until sealed and browned, then place in preheating slow cooker.
For the sauce: Add the tinned tomatoes to the frying pan and break up with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and onions and bring to a simmer. Season well with salt and pepper. Pour it into the slow cooker, adding the passata at this time as well. Stir the meatballs and sauce so that everything is evenly mixed. Add any dried herbs (if using) and set slow cooker on high for 1 hour, then on low for 5-6 hours, or alternatively on low for 8-10 hours.
Stir through some fresh basil and serve with a big bowl of spaghtetti and freshly grated parmesan, alongside some homemade garlic bread and a generous sized glass of red wine. This is wintery eating at it's best.
Do you have a favourite, quirky cookbook that lives on your bookshelf?