The English word tomato derives from the Aztec word tomatl. It is believed the Aztecs and Incas were cultivating and eating the tomato from 700AD. Though the tomato originated from the Andean region, it eventually spread north to Mexico. The scientific name for the tomato is solanum lycoperscicum.
While the Spanish were responsible for bringing the tomato to Europe in the early 16th century, its first reference in Italy was in 1544 in Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Herbal, who refers to the tomato as pomi d’oro meaning golden apple. The tomato was not used in cooking until the 18th century as it was often viewed with fear and suspicion as a member of the nightshade plant family, which had plants such as the mandrake among them.
Once the names the tomato were called were amended and confusion and ambiguity as to what it was subsided, it was able to illustrate its full potential. After its family ties became less relevant and it was allowed to exist for what it was, not how it looked, it thrived. This took an element of trust.
Below, Nightshade’s subjects discuss their favourite recipes.
I can tell you, lasagna is the first dish I learned to cook. I moved out from my parents’ house without knowing how to cook even a common pasta but since lasagna and pollo con patate, are my favourite dishes, I learned how to cook them first. Even though making the ragu isn’t so easy. I tried my best and my lasagna is one of the best in town, if you get in Brianza by any chance, you’ve got to taste it.
Ingredients: Egg lasagna | Passata | Celery | Carrots | Onions | Mince | Parmesan | Olive oil | Homemade béchamel | Salt | Pepper | Basil
Fry the onion until softened. Add the carrot and cook for five minutes, then add the celery and cook for another two minutes. Turn up the heat, add the chopped beef and cook until browned all over.
Make a ragu over an afternoon, pour in the wine and passata, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of grated nutmeg, then bring to a simmer.
Make your own béchamel. Place cooked ragu into an overproof dish and layer. Top with parmesan. Garnish with basil.
This is a classic Italian recipe. If you ever jump on a plane to Italy, don’t miss it.
Since I was a child, this has been my favourite recipe. I remember cooking it for every family party, even for my sister’s wedding. With this recipe you will never go too far wrong. Your guests will love Crostata. This recipe is a mix of authentic Italian flavours, in which lemon and marmellata (jam) are the main ingredients for a unique and refined taste.
Good luck and enjoy!
Claudia’s crostata alla marmellata
Ingredients: 250g cold butter from the fridge | 200g of icing sugar | 500g of 00 flour | 2 eggs | The rind of an untreated lemon | 400g of jam | Enough milk to brush the surface | A pinch of salt
Put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in the mixer. Mix in order to obtain an uneven sandblasting.
Add the eggs, icing sugar and lemon peel to flavour the pastry and allow the citric acid to make it crumbly.
Knead the dough before putting it onto a work surface. Start working it with the fingertips, to create a nice compact dough. Wrap it in clingfilm and let it rest for 30 minutes in the fridge, or ideally overnight.
After letting the dough rest, we heat it and flatten it. Aim for a thickness of 7/8mm. Transfer the dough into a 24cm diameter cake pan and pinch the bottom with a fork.
Then we make our short pastry with jam, we distribute it on the edge. After that, prepare 3 or 4cm strips of dough and place on to the jam, applying pressure to the edges. Lay the strips diagonally creating a grid of pastry and diamond shapes of jam. To make the tart shiny, brush the milk on the pastry with a pastry brush. After that, we bake the tart in a pre-heated oven at 170C for 50 minutes.
Fiorentina is one of the most popular and biggest steak in Italian cuisine.
I have eaten this more than three times and its taste was undeniable. I think it is one of the best dishes that I often have because it reminds me of Tuscany’s fabulous and iconic lifestyle.
Ingredients: T-bone steak | Salt | Pepper (coal fire)
Use the highest quality steak, ideally Tuscan or Italian. Cook on an open fire if possible (on the embers of the grill). Rare or medium rare only. Garnish with salt and pepper.
Pizza has always been a reason to gather with my friends. Pizzerias were fancy enough for our student pockets. When my mum would make pizza at home, we were always very excited.
For me, it was nice to see the first generation of immigrants learning the Italian cooking as their way of integration.
Abigail’s pizza al prosciutto e funghi
Ingredients: Semolina pizza dough | tablespoon olive oil | 2 cloves chopped garlic | 5 mushrooms thinly sliced | mozzarella cheese | 1 can tomatoes | chopped roma | 1 bell pepper| thinly sliced prosciutto | salt & pepper to taste | oregano | pepper flakes
Preheat oven to its hottest setting for 45 minutes. With about 1 teaspoon olive oil, sauté the sliced mushrooms and a pinch of salt over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until well browned. Set aside.
Sprinkle semolina on your baking sheet. Place the dough on top of the semolina and roll out into a circular shape. Brush the outer edges with olive oil and chopped garlic. Spread chopped tomatoes from the centre out to the edge of the oiled crust.
Evenly place your toppings (mushrooms, mozzarella, bell pepper, etc) on the dough. Sprinkle with salt, Italian seasoning and pepper flakes, to taste. Add Parmesan cheese if desired.
Transfer the pizza onto your stone by sliding it off the baking sheet. Bake for 10+ minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese is bubbly. Remove with tongs and let rest for five minutes.
I usually cook it during summer for lunch, after a long morning at the beach. It is easy, quick and everyone loves it, including my kids. The pepper is not that hot. It is a plate that I particularly love because I buy the shrimps fresh from the local fish store near the beach.
Nadege’s pasta con gamberoni, peperoncino e pangrattato
Ingredients: Shrimps from Marsala Tomatoes from pachino | 300g spaghetti | Olive oil | Garlic | Hot pepper | Salt
In a frying pan add some oil, garlic and hot pepper then mix all together until the mixture becomes a little golden. In the meantime, boil some water for the pasta.
Add two or three tablespoons of the boiling water into the mixture. Then let it sit for a couple of minutes until the pasta is cooked. Add salt and pepper. Mix everything together.
Aubergines are my all-time favourite late summer/winter vegetable. This dish reminds me of childhood, having a family meal at a local tavola calda. It can be eaten as a standalone dish or as part of a secondo piatto. It’s one of the most unassuming yet deliciously hearty dishes. I’ve probably adulterated the dish to suit my palette but this is a firm favourite for me to prepare for my nearest and dearest. If you want a leaner version of this dish, try grilling the aubergines instead. An exceptionally tasty vegetarian treat.
Tiwonge’s melanzane alla parmigiana
Ingredients: 3 large aubergines | 1 bottle of tomato passata | 2 cloves of garlic 2 balls of mozzarella | 1 cup of parmigiano reggiano (grated) | 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil | 1 cup flour | 1 cup vegetable oil | Black pepper to taste | Fresh basil to taste | Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 180C (356F). Slice aubergines lengthways but leave skin on. Place in a bowl and sprinkle two tablespoons of salt over them and leave for an hour to remove the moisture.
In the meantime prepare the sauce. Add two teaspoons of olive oil to a pan and finely chop garlic cloves. Fry until softened. Add passata and cook on medium heat on hob for 15 minutes. Tear and add fresh basil and black pepper and salt. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Chop mozzarella into small cubes.
Place flour into a bowl. Take aubergines out of salt and coat each in the flour. Prepare a new pan with two tablespoons vegetable oil and fry off flour coated aubergines- about 1-2 minutes each side. Place on kitchen towel to absorb oil. Add more cooking oil to pan if required.Prepare an oven baking dish. Start by spoon- ing some of the passata onto the base. Then place a layer of aubergines on top, add some passata, parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.
Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve with a sprig of basil and enjoy this heart-warming beautiful dish.
This is a classic Italian antipasto. It is the perfect dish for when you invite your friend for dinner because it is easy to make and very tasty.
Ingredients: Mozzarella | Tomato | Extra virgin olive oil | Oregano | Salt | Pepper
Slice mozzarella and tomato and place on plate. Apply a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and fresh oregano.
This dish reminds me of the long summers in my childhood, and I used to enjoy this on a picnic or by the beach. It brings memories of laughs, sun, water, running barefoot in the hot sand, beach games and the joy of eating all together.
Cinzia’s pomodori di riso alla romana
Ingredients: 4-5 medium firm ripe round tomatoes seeded and hollowed out | 1 cup uncooked rice (I used long grain par boiled) 185 grams | 1 teaspoon oregano 1/2 gram | 1 teaspoon basil 1/2 gram | 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 1/2 grams | 1/2 gram *6 springs fresh chopped Italian parsley | 1 clove garlic chopped | 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped tomato pulp 55-82 grams | 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F) and lightly oil a large baking pan. In a medium bowl add rice and cover with water, allowing it soak for one hour, then drain and rinse.
Rinse and dry tomatoes, carefully cut off top of tomato and set aside. Remove seed and pulp from the tomatoes, set aside the pulp and discard the seeds.
In a medium bowl mix chopped tomato pulp, oregano, salt, parsley, garlic, 2-3 tablespoons (45 grams) olive oil and rice. Fill hollowed out tomatoes with mixture. Place tops back on tomatoes, sprinkle tomatoes with a little salt and drizzle with olive oil.
Add roasted potatoes with rosemary and bake for approximately 45- 60 minutes or until potatoes and rice are tender. Serve immediately. Enjoy.
This is my favourite dish for three reasons: though based on rather basic ingredients, it is unabashedly rich and indulgent; its reddish/orangey colours evoke those of my favourite team (AS Roma), and you can do an excellent version of it in under 30 minutes.
Ingredients: Guanciale (cured Italian pig cheek. Do not use pancetta in any circumstance) | Pecorino Romano (abundant) | Tomato passata Calabrian chili | Salt | Pepper | Rigatoni or bucatini | Wine
Dice the guanciale into thin strips. Remember to remove the hard part of the skin, and to slice off a bit of fat if the ratio of meat to fat is less than 1:3. Add to a non-stick pan at medium heat and let it heat gently until the guanciale is crispy and the fat renders.
Add a splash of dry white wine (like a frascati), to deglaze the pan. This step is optional. Once the alcohol has evaporated, add some flakes of chilli and a high-quality tomato passata (or blended chopped tomatoes). Add some seasoning (but not too much salt), and let it simmer on a medium heat.
In the meantime, bring water to the boil, and add either rigatoni (short pasta) or bucatini, depending on your (and guests’) preference. Tip: growing up I was always told that the water of the pasta must be as salty as the Mediterranean. Few things are more upsetting than an under-salted pasta. So be generous when salting the boiling water for pasta. Two minutes before the pasta is ready, set aside some of the starchy boiling water, and then quickly decant and add to the sauce.
Another tip: always toss pasta into sauce, not vice versa. The pasta is at its most absorbent in the 10 seconds after it has been drained, so don’t waste time in mixing it with the sauce. As you toss it in, add in generous heaps of grated pecorino cheese, which should gently melt. This renders the sauce less red but also thicker. Use the water set aside to regulate the consistency. A good amatriciana must have a touch of sleepiness to it.
Plate – on a heated plate preferably, add some grated pecorino and buon appetito.