Saturday, February 25, 2023

Weekend Cooking: The Italian Pantry by Theo Randall

Last week I talked about the two cookbook clubs that I am kind of participating in and all the books that I had out from the library. This week I thought I would talk about one of the two books that I bought.

The Italian Pantry by Theo Randall was the January cookbook for the Jamie Oliver Cookbook club.  As we were travelling around Europe I kept on seeing all the posts in the Facebook group raving about this book but it is one that isn't available in either of my libraries, so I bit the bullet and bought it as soon as we got home. And it was worth every cent!!

Theo Randall is an British chef who has worked in a number of restaurants, most famously at The River Cafe in London where he gained a Michelin star.

The structure of this book is very interesting. Rather than be broken up into sections about starters, main course and desserts or seasons, the book is built around 10 key ingredients. They are:



Porcini Mushrooms


Leafy Greens




Pine Nuts

Within each chapter there is a nice mix of sweet and savoury recipes. Well, there aren't sweet recipes in every chapter, but there are in most.

In the photo above, you might be able to glimpse the pieces of paper which are marking all the recipes that I want to try. There are a lot!

So far I have made 5 recipes from the book. They are Paccheri with Leeks, Parmesan and Prosciutto di Parma, Aubergine and Courgette Lasagne (both from the parmesan chapter), Richhieri (from the pine nut chapter) and Amalfi Lemon Cheesecake from the lemon chapter. 

The recipes have all been easy to follow, and not particularly difficult to make. I have also had to look at different pasta shapes. For example, paccheri is a large tube pasta shape I had never even noticed on the shelves before.

Some recipes, like the Aubergine and Courgette Lasagne, take a bit of time to prepare but it was worth it.  I will definitely be making that one again. In fact, the Ricchieri were a bit hit when I took them to work, and I took the cheesecake to a friend's place and they loved it, so there's every chance I will make all of them again. 

Whilst there are some recipes that ask for specific ingredients, I have found that it isn't difficult to find alternatives. For example, the cheesecake says Amalfi lemon but I just used normal lemon. I suspect it might have been a bit more tart than it might have been but it was still really good! And it was made using a base of ricotta and mascarpone instead of the cream cheese I would normally use to make cheesecake. As a result it was very light.

Here's some photos of some of the things I have made:

One recipe I have already made more than once are the meatballs. Actually, I should more correctly say my husband has made them more than once. This is the recipe that everyone in the group was raving about, so it had to be the first recipe we tried. And we loved it too!

We couldn't get burrata from our local supermarket so the first time we made it we substituted baby boccincini and the second time we used chopped up mozzarella.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Burrata

For the meatballs

400g/14oz pork mince
400g/14oz beef mince
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little sea salt
3 tbsp full-fat milk
100g/3½oz dried breadcrumbs
75g/2½oz parmesan, finely grated
3 free-range eggs
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for greasing, frying and drizzling

For the tomato sauce

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 red chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
600g/1lb 5oz tomato passata
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the burrata and crostini

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 ciabatta or sourdough loaf, cut into thin slices
1 garlic clove, peeled and left whole, to rub
150g/5½oz burrata

For the meatballs, put all the ingredients for the meatballs (except the oil) into a large bowl and combine to form a firm, evenly distributed mixture.

Cover your hands in olive oil, take a generous tablespoon of the mixture and roll it between your palms to form a meatball the size of a golf ball. Repeat until you have used all the mixture - you should have 16 meatballs. Place them on a tray, wash your hands and then place the tray in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.

Place a large, non-stick, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When the oil is hot, begin browning the meatballs (in batches if necessary), ensuring that you don't cook them completely - a little colour on the outside is perfect. Once they are all browned off, remove them from the pan and leave them to one side while you make the tomato sauce.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in an ovenproof pan and set it back over a medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, thyme, and chilli. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the tomato passata. Cook gently for 15 minutes, or until the volume of the sauce has reduced by half.

Season the sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper and take the pan off the heat.

Place the meatballs in the pan on top of the sauce, evenly spaced, then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through. Leave to one side for 5 minutes to cool slightly (leave the oven on).

For the burrata and crostini, drizzle a little oil over the ciabatta slices and sprinkle them with some sea salt. Place on a baking tray and bake in the hot oven for 4 minutes, or until crisp, then rub them all over with the garlic clove.

Meanwhile, finely chop the burrata, then use a spoon to drop dollops all over the baked meatballs.

The meatballs are juicy, the sauce is tasty. We are tending to put the cheese in a bit earlier so that it was a bit more melty (technical term).

If you are interested in Italian cooking, this might be a good cookbook for you!

Weekly meals

Saturday - Out for dinner
Sunday -  Enchiladas
Monday - Bacon, zuchhini mushroom pasta
Tuesday - Out for dinner
Wednesday - Mexican chicken parma
Thursday - Out for dinner
Friday - Out for dinner

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page


  1. These look delicious! I need very easy recipes or I encounter disaster but I think even I could make those meatballs. The cheesecake also sounds appealing.

  2. Okay, okay. I see have to start actually reading the posts in the Jamie Oliver Cookbook club. I'm going to see if I can pick this up from the library. Everything looks and sounds delicious!

    1. He will be announcing the next cookbook tomorrow BFR!

  3. This is not available at our library either. Thank you for the meatball recipe. I would love to try the cheesecake!

    1. I have a plan to share the cheesecake recipe in the next few weeks Jackie!

  4. Not in either of my libraries either!

  5. Interesting how the book is set up. Everything you made looks great!

  6. I love a book like this where an ingredient is highlighted with several recipes. Your dishes look delicious!

    1. It really worked in this book Melynda!

  7. This is the post I've been waiting for!!!!!!!!! I love the meals you cooked and this is acookbook I'd love to check out. Sorry I didn't get it together for a post/link up this week.

    1. No stress Tina! There's still next week!

  8. You know part of the challenge in cooking is either having lots of ingredients in your house already or planning ahead - neither of which I am good at.