The Mamma & Papà lunch

by mimithorisson


The shape of things

Last week I had a vision. I closed my eyes and all I could see were serving plates in Italian restaurants, stacked with lamb chops and veal escalops. Some of them had steamed fish with slices of lemon, others had mountains of pasta. At least one of them was held by a slick waiter in a white dinner jacket but mostly they were carried by plump women with multicolored aprons and smiles on their well-fed faces. One of the women had yellow plastic flowers in her hair. I know her well, she’s the lady from Cumpa Cosimo restaurant in Ravello where everything tastes divine (it’s our holiday hangout). And she’s got attitude. She used to hit the kids lightly on their heads if they didn’t finish their plates and say “Pasta non Pane”!



We do have a number of serving plates but these visions called for new ones – and Italian feast was on the cards and I would somehow trick my husband into making his delicious tomato sauce to start. We headed to Anne’s brocante in St Christoly, it’s the most beautiful place, she has such pretty, well-chosen things and spending time in her company is a treat – some people just ooze grace and kindness. There was too much choice so I got more than I needed (brocante shopping is very dangerous). Beautiful colors and patterns and exciting shapes. Talking of shapes and forms  – since my body started taking on a new shape I have had a distinctive craving for all things sour and acidic (thus the tomato sauce) and a preference for lean meat over too fat. So out went the lamb chops, in came the veal escalopes. We still have a lot of sage that is braving winter so Saltimbocca it had to be. For dessert I made a pine nut and lemon ricotta cream tart, inspired from one of my favorite restaurants in Rome, Matricianella.


The “secret” sauce

Let me introduce myself, I’m the husband. Mimi, my wife, somehow talked me into making a tomato sauce for Manger and now she wants me to explain it … in writing. Well, first there is a story to tell. I met Mimi in Paris about a thousand moons ago and soon after (very soon actually) she visited me in Reykjavík. She arrived late and I wasted no time in trying to impress by making dinner for two. It was a simple tuna and parsley pasta with lemon and butter – served with Pinot Grigio. Perfectly decent but admittedly nothing amazing. Mimi was very gracious about my cooking and went on to admit that she herself wasn’t very accomplished in the kitchen. I on the other hand, empowered by my success with the tuna told her I was quite the little chef. Some days later, this time in Paris, I was working on some tedious project at her desk and she appeared, impossibly glamorous and put together as she always is holding a tray of “snacks”. I remember the moment well. It was a cheese soufflé, an endive and Roquefort salad with walnuts, served with a nice chilled beer. To finish she had made a strawberry tartlet with vanilla custard cream. It was the beginning of what has been an absolute defeat on my part when it comes to cooking. You might say that the last 10 years have been a humbling experience for me culinary speaking, like the garlic in the tomato sauce I have been, and continue to be, crushed in the kitchen. It does have its advantages, a wonderful three-course meal or two every day is nothing to complain about and all I have to do is wash the dishes afterwards. Once in a while, when Maman is tired or busy I make something for the family, often Italian or something on the grill. I always get rave reviews, practically a standing ovation. It makes me feel like the granny who finally figured out how to operate the DVD player and all the family is shouting bravo and yippee. It’s more of a sympathy vote. In our kitchen there is only one master … and I figured out a long time ago that it’s not me.


Vito Posillipo’s tomato sauce

In my life I’ve had endless versions of amazing tomato sauces and a few terrible ones too. It’s a good way to judge a restaurant if it’s Italian but if it’s French you should probably look elsewhere on the menu. This one is by no means a perfect tomato sauce but we like it, it has developed over the years with the family. It used to be more spicy but Louise doesn’t like that. I’ve had my aubergine period (which technically makes this pasta alla Norma) and my anchovy period which was very controversial. But this is a version everybody likes. We call it Vito Posillipo’s tomato sauce. He was a character, although never seen, in the movie 9 ½ weeks and unfortunately for him he was gunned down in a restaurant on Halloween. At the time he was having Ziti al forno which does have tomatoes in it but otherwise has little to do with our sauce. But what a name. Saying it is almost therapeutic – like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Vito Posillipo, try saying it! One day, I’ll have a dog called that. Enjoy the sauce.

A note on the sauce. Normally I would slice the garlic thinly and sauté in the oil first before adding the tomatoes. But I always forget that part and so I used to frantically crush garlic into the sauce after the tomatoes were already in. I am not sure if it’s an improvement – it’s more of a superstition but this is how we make it.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 (8 ounces/ 230 g) cans good-quality peeled & drained tomatoes
2 dried red chillies
3 gloves garlic, crushed (minced)
1 big glass red wine
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
100 g/ 1 cup and 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
100 g/ 6 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

For this dish, we used long fusilli pasta/ 500 g/ 17-18 ounces.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the tomatoes and crush them with a large spoon. Add the dried chillies, crushed garlic, vinegar, sugar and red wine. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the saucepan with parchment paper, lower the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and mix in the piping hot tomato sauce. Add the butter, parmesan and basil, stir gently and serve immediately. Reserve extra parmesan and basil for individual servings.


Veal Saltimbocca (Veal with sage & prosciutto)

1 pound approx/ 450/500 g veal escalopes/ cutlets (preferably sliced thin) – I count about 2 slices per person (about the size of the palm).
6 slices prosciutto, about half a slice per veal escalope
A bunch of fresh sage
Plain flour for dusting
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 glass of white wine
4 tablespoons/ 60 ml veal stock
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F

Dust the veal escalopes with flour on both sides. In a large sauté pan, melt the butter and olive oil until sizzling on a medium heat. Sauté the veal, about 15 seconds on each side. Season with salt and pepper and scatter the sage leaves all over. Pour the wine and leave to reduce for 2 minutes. Remove the veal and transfer to an oven-proof baking dish. Add the veal stock to the juices of the pan, mix well and continue to cook the sauce for 3 minutes. Place the prosciutto on top of each veal slice. Pour sauce on top, a a few more sage leaves and place dish in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately with roast potatoes (see recipe below). I also like to serve with steamed spinach with a drizzle of olive oil and a few squeezes of lemon. Perfect!


Rosemary, garlic and lemon roast potatoes

2 pounds/ 900 g potatoes, peeled and halved
Lemon zest of 1 lemon
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
Olive oil
Coarse sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Parboil the potatoes for 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes, toss them in a baking dish, add the garlic, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle lemon zest, salt and chopped rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.
Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden.


Pine nut and lemon ricotta cream tart

For the crust

2 cups/ 240g plain flour
1 egg
1/2 cup/ 120 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes & at room temperature
2 tablespoons/ 30 g sugar
½ cup/ 60 g confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup/ 30 g ground almond
½ lemon zest
A pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until the mixture forms a homogenous dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Roll dough to fit a 9-inch/23 cm tart pan. Line the pan, prick the bottom with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

For the filling

½ cup/ 120 ml honey
½ cup/ 100 g granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
1/3 cup/ 80 g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp/100 ml heavy cream
5 ounces/140 g ricotta
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
150 g pine nuts
1 egg

Preheat oven to 170°C/ 325 °F

Combine the honey, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the butter and bring the mixture to a soft boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
Whisk in the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, ricotta and the egg until you get a smooth mixture.
Take the tart out of the freezer, scatter the pine nuts over the bottom of the tart, and pour the filling. Bake tart in the preheated oven for approximately 50 minutes, or until the tart and crust are golden brown. Don’t worry if the tart is still ‘jiggly’ when you take it out, it will set once cooled.
Leave to cool completely before unmolding.

A few summers ago, Marche, Italy

A few summers ago, Marche, Italy