Antonia Landi

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Cannelloni – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on August 31, 2011 at 6:41 pm


What better way to stay warm than a lovely, comforting, pasta dish. With a few tips and tricks you’ll be serving this one in no time!

Cannelloni always remind me of festive days – at home, we would have it at Christmas or on somebody’s birthday. So it’s needless to say that I find it to be a very comforting dish! It’s also a great dish to serve at a dinner party – it’s a bit more unusual than Lasagne and just as tasty!

One of the main features of this dish is that you can prepare it the night before. On the big day, all you need to do is pop it in the oven and then you can tend to your guests while dinner is basically making itself. Pretty clever! What’s more is that you can easily alternate between Lasagne and Cannelloni – you’ll need exactly the same ingredients, all that changes is the pasta shape. A bit like changing between square and round pizza if you ask me! So now that you already know how to make Cannelloni and Lasagne, all you need is learning how to make a basic tomato sauce. I know that some of the pre-made ones out there are pretty good, but once you get into the habit of doing this, there is really no going back. Coincidentally, it takes just as much time to make a small portion of pasta sauce as it takes for the pasta itself to cook, so there’s really no excuse!

One last note on pasta sheets/tubes – I recommend using either De Cecco or Buitoni, as these are made to the high quality standard that you would expect in Italy. Though there is nothing wrong with buying supermarkets’ own brand pasta, these do tend to cook slightly differently. If you want a bake that stays al dente, do opt for one of the aforementioned brands.

Feeds 4:

1 box Cannelloni

500g mince

Approx. 200g cheese of your choice (I prefer mild Gouda to the more traditional mozzarella, as it provides an equally mild flavour with less moisture)

Approx. 50g breadcrumbs, depending on how dry you would like the mix

Grated hard cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

For the tomato sauce:

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1tbsp tomato concentrate


Half an onion

Olive oil

Spices and flavours to taste (eg chilli or fresh basil, or even capers!)

Gently fry the chopped onion and garlic in some olive oil until see-through. Add the chopped tomatoes and concentrate. Season and add any other flavours of your choice and simmer on a low heat for approx 10-20 minutes, depending on how ‘dry’ you like it.

Cover the cannelloni with tinfoil and bake on a medium heat for 20 minutes. Carefully uncover and bake for a further 20 minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Three starters – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on August 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Think you can’t make three starters in three minutes? Think again!

Even though they don’t always seem it, starters are a very important part of the meal. Want to be a bit fancy? Simply add another course to your dinner! Invite some friends round to a three-course meal – starter, main, and dessert – and you’ll be amazed at how easily you can pull it off!

As I mentioned before, starters are an integral part of a meal. Think about it – they are the first thing your guests will taste and serve as a mood-setter for the things that will follow. I usually try to keep the starter as seasonal as possible – if you’re unsure of what is in season and when, a quick search will do the trick. The golden rule is to always keep it light – you don’t want to fill your guests up right away! Keep it fresh – starters are an ideal way to serve a cool course during the hot summer months. Alternatively, opt for a warm salad or a soup during colder periods.

There is nothing better than finding a recipe that works for you and then sticking with it. Why not make your starter into a main? I love to serve up my caprese salad as a light lunch during summer, or make bigger portions of the couscous and leek salad and serve it with some toasted pitta bread! The truth is, as long as you keep it light and fresh there is not much you can do wrong. I love to use herbs in starters – since most of them rely on delicate flavours, you can really work with different herbs and make them shine.

Just a quick note on olive oil: I strongly suggest you buy good olive oil for these recipes – try to go for extra virgin olive oil whenever you can. As these recipes work with mild flavours, you will really be able to appreciate a good quality olive oil.

Feeds 4 as a starter or 2 as a main:

Caprese salad:

4 medium tomatoes

2 mozzarelle

Some fresh basil

Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

Orange salad:

4 oranges


Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

Warm couscous and leek salad:

150g couscous

1 leek

1 lime


Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Film review – Che Bella Giornata

In Entertainment, Film on August 23, 2011 at 11:34 am


Gennaro Nunziante’s new comedy Che Bella Giornata is a feel-good summer film that does not take itself too seriously. Starring Checco Zalone as the self-titled main character Checco, the harmless, albeit often clueless main character takes us on a James Bond style journey on his way into the Carabinieri – the Italian gendarmerie. While watching Checco try and fail over and over, one almost would not believe it that the man co-wrote the film. So while Checco is offered a less prestigious, but nevertheless desirable job as a security guard at the Cathedral of Milan, he is unknowingly put on the radar of a terrorist sibling couple. Cue Farah, played by Nabiha Akkari, whose job it is to gain Checco’s trust. As it ever so often happens, things do not go according to plan, and while Checco inevitably falls in love with the exotic Farah, the viewer is left to cringe at her evil plan.

When reading the main plot of this film, one might be taken aback of the fact that a comedy would, or rather dares to, portray a topic as serious as terrorism in a light-hearted manner. But this is exactly why this film works so well. By not taking itself too seriously, it turned an otherwise fairly boring rom-com into a comedy with a unique set-up. The fact that the group of terrorist activists is not portrayed in a childishly comical, nor overly serious manner, gives the film a sensible kind of humanity.

At times the film does play on the typical Italian stereotypes of big families and endless eating, and for some this might get a bit too clichéd, but as Checco’s family plays a big part in Farah’s character development it is only necessary to see the two cultures clash.

Sometimes laugh-out funny, sometimes rather sly, the comedy elements in Che Bella Giornata are varied, but simple. Taking elements from slapstick and situation comedy the film’s aim is to keep it light. Checco’s character needs a bit of warming to at first, since his clumsy idiocy does not seem apparent to anyone but the viewer, but unfailingly gets in the way of his dreams. But after the initial frustration one really warms to Checco and his family and in the end there is nothing left but to root for his love to the beautiful Farah. Farah’s character at first appears to be very one-dimensional, but as she gets more and more involved in the family of her target, the viewer finds out about her and her brother’s past and what drove them to those desperate measures.

The film is mainly set in Milan and a nearby village, and so it benefits from beautiful scenery and bags of sunshine. Some scenes might appear to the untrained eye as too packed with clichés to be true, but the truth is that a lot of images of the film reflect the everyday life of small Italian towns. But whether this is just another cliché is up to you to decide. The sense of community is strong throughout the whole film, be it Checco’s family or his work colleagues at the Cathedral – Checco is always surrounded by plenty of friends.

A perfect film for everybody who wants to welcome summer to their screens, Che Bella Giornata is a feel-good flick with plenty of laughter. Indulge in a bit of silliness and ‘Italianità’ with Nunziante’s latest piece while sipping on your espresso or enjoying a gelato and officially declare the arrival of summer. And if this film does not want to make you visit Italy, then nobody can help you.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

Barbecue Sauce – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on August 23, 2011 at 10:51 am

Picture: Useful Times

Believe it or not – I have had to wait up until last week to have my first barbecue of the season! But no matter what the weather, this little sauce is sure to cheer you up!

For a very long time I dismissed barbecue sauce as ‘yet another meat dip’. The only time any of us would use it was at barbecues, and more often than not, I’d just go for the ketchup instead. The first time I saw it on a pizza, I was intrigued and slightly disgusted at the same time. I guess that somewhere and somehow I thought that, unless you opted for French grainy mustard, sauces were a kind of sacrilege to food. What, you’re going to douse that expertly grilled steak in a nondescript brown sauce and therefore negate all the flavour? Be my guest, but I won’t be joining you. Well, it turns out that barbecue sauce as an ingredient is actually pretty versatile and with this recipe you can make it as gourmet as you like! Good news all round, right?

I must admit that this recipe isn’t actually mine. I didn’t even come up with the idea. As an avid food blogger I am constantly on the lookout for new recipes – and one day a fellow blogger posted this delicious recipe that she got from another blogger! I always wondered how they make barbecue sauce and how they get it to be so brown and smokey-flavoured. I had heard of people making their own ketchup before, although the outcomes looked a bit questionable more often than not, but for some reason I assumed that you couldn’t make barbecue sauce yourself. And to be fair, this sauce here won’t look or taste much like barbecue sauce until you add the super top-secret magic ingredient – molasses. Molasses is a by-product of sugar production and has the consistency of runny honey, but it is deep black and has an intense and very complex flavour. On its own it’s not very pleasant, but as soon as it hits the other ingredients you will see what I can only describe as magic. If you can’t find molasses, just use treacle – it is virtually the same thing and the result will still be astounding.

Makes approximately 1 jar of 500g plus enough to marinade 2-4 steaks:

1 tin chopped tomatoes

50g ketchup

1 tbsp tomato concentrate

2 garlic cloves

1-2 tsp dried chilli

2 tsp hot mustard

2 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

4 tbsp molasses or treacle

salt and pepper to taste

Add a glug of water if you find your sauce too thick

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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