After a great summer ( most of us enjoyed the sunshine somewhere hot ) we are now back in the full swing of our busy lives (….and that not so warm weather), and probably we are all thinking about a nice warm dish we can cook for dinner.

One of the dishes that comes into my head and is also inspired by the latest documentary from Jamie Oliver (#SugarRush), is my Chicken Stanotte (title taken from a well known supermarket brand…), just to show that is as easy to prepare your own sauce instead of buying it ready made. Don’t forget that making your own dish is a simple and healthier option and despite our busy schedules we always need to find some time to cook fresh meals. Stock up your pantry and your fridge with fresh vegetables and fruit! Fresh fruit is an healthier option to sweets, crisps and chocolate bars, most of all after children come back from school. Besides there are so many great dishes we can create with fresh produce.

“Pollo” (POH-LLOOH)  is the Italian for Chicken and Stanotte (STAH-NOH-TTEH)  is “Tonight” or “This Evening” in English 😉

My Nonna would cook chicken as a back up plan on days when there was so much homemade bread left over that you needed a good earthy dish to mop the sauce up!!! #BringNonnaBack

So have all your ingredients ready and let’s start!


4 people


6/8 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped in chunks

2 celery sticks, chopped in chunks

half red onion, diced

half white onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

handful of rosemary

1 tin of plum tomatoes

2 peppers, chopped in chunks

1 small tub of olives, preferably green

300ml of chicken stock or vegetable stock

salt, a good pinch

olive oil, 4 tablespoons



Preheat the oven at 200 degrees.

In a large bowl marinate the chicken thighs with the garlic, rosemary , salt and olive oil. Leave it to rest for 5 minutes.


In a large pan (make sure it’s oven proof) put a little olive oil, put the pan on a medium heat and add the vegetables (celery, carrots, peppers red and white onion). Simmer until golden.


Take a nonstick pan and put it on the heat until warm and add the chicken thighs. Cook them on one side and turn them over once golden. The juice from the marinate will prevent them sticking to the pan. If you wish, add a pinch of salt. Cook with the lid off until both sides are cooked. Put them to one side.


Add the tin of tomatoes and the stock into the pan with the vegetables, stir and cook with the lid on for 10 minutes.


Place the chicken thighs into the pan with the vegetables, add the olives. Make sure the sauce covers the meat so it won’t dry up in the oven. Place the pan in the oven and cook for another 10 minutes…..Pronto! 

To give a touch of freshness to your dish you can sprinkle some finely chopped basil. Enjoy your chicken with some warm bread or some rice. Buon Appettito !!!


Please, please, pretty please!!! Be aware of the added sugar in your food and drinks, cook sensibly and ditch heavy ready sauces!

Benfleet FRD pic



I know this might not be a very “refreshing” dish but the weather outside is still a bit uncertain and a warm soup full of stars might brighten up our dinner time. This is what in Italian we call : Minestrone, a classic dish that most of Italian children would eat only because they have to! It’s the dish that every Nonna cooks, it’s a must in school dinner menus and it’s the Godfather of the left overs. You’ll be eating it for days and days!

Based on this introduction I will #Bring Nonna Back!!! Bring wholesome, fresh and healthy food back on the table!!! Hey! It worked with me in the 80’s!! I am now going to celebrate this dish and introduce it to modern families of 2015. Add your children’s favourite pasta shape (Lettere-letters, Conchiglie-shells, Farfalline-butterflies ….), they’ll enjoy it even more 🙂

Serves 4 people


1 stick of celery

2 carrots

half of one onion

1 large potato

2 sweet potatoes

150g lentils

1 tin of plum tomatoes

small handful of fresh basil

1lt chicken or vegetable stock ( gelatine stock cubes are great as well, 1 cube per litre)

150g of pasta for soup ( stars, mini farfalle, conchigliette…. you can find them in any local supermarket)

pinch of salt

tbs of olive oil


Boil the kettle and pour the hot water in jug with a gelatine cube. Stir it until the cube dissolves and put it aside. Dice the onion, carrots, celery, potato and sweet potatoes. Into a large pot heat the olive oil and add the vegetables. Simmer for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. Add the salt. Pour the stock in the pot. Put the lid on and cook on a low heat. Place the plum tomatoes in a blender with the basil and blend until smooth. Pour the tomatoes into the pot and stir. Wash the lentils under the tap and add them into the soup. Stir and put the lid back on. Add the pasta as well and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft. Your Minestrone is Pronto!   Enjoy with some fresh bread.

P.S. Any vegetable you have in your fridge will add extra flavour, you can never overload your Minestrone….kale, courgette, broccoli, peas, green beans, cauliflower, butter nut, pumpkin…….

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This is the Italian Sunday dish, the celebration dish, the dinner party dish, the dish that will feed up to 10 people in one go, the dish that all Italian Mums make with or without a reason, the dish you can make the day before and still tastes delicious the next day, hot or cold.  Right! and this is my very dish, recreated with the ingredients that you can find in any English supermarket. It is important for me to keep my Italian origins whilst I am cooking and using Italian produce is essential. However I found that sometimes we can swap parmesan cheese (quite dear) for cheddar cheese and have almost the same result……….I said “almost” as, if my Nonna knew I am using cheddar instead of parmesan, she would not be very impressed!!!!!

but Hey ! sometimes it’s ok to make exceptions, isn’t it?


Serving 8 people

Ingredients for the Ragu’ sauce ( Bolognese sauce)

5/6 medium carrots

5/6 celery sticks

half of a white onion

2 cloves of garlic


500g mince meat (good quality)

2 bottles of tomato passata

1 teaspoon of sage (fresh or dry)

or 1 handful of rosemary (fresh or dry)

1 pinch of salt

3 tbsp of olive oil



Blend the carrots, celery, onion and garlic. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the “soffritto” (the onions, celery, carrots and garlic) and sweat over a medium heat until the vegetables are soft but not browned, (about 10 to 15 minutes). Add the mince and stir into the vegetables. Cook the mince until it is completely cooked.  Add the tomato passata, rosemary and sage and simmer over  medium-low heat for 25 /30 minutes. Season with salt and taste, remove from the heat.


Ingredients for the Besciamelle sauce

150g butter

150g flour (plain)

700ml milk

salt, a pinch

1 teaspoon nutmeg, grated

150g cheddar cheese, grated


In a deep non stick pan heat the butter on a low/medium heat and gently melt it. Add the flour little by little keeping stirring with a wooden spoon. Once you have used all the flour start adding the milk, little by little and keep stirring. You should get a a very smooth mixture and by adding the milk the mixture will become smoother and runnier. Make sure you keep stirring it as it could easily stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the salt and the nutmeg. Gradually mix the cheese and stir it gently. Your besciamelle sauce is coming together! It should not be too runny or too thick! If it feels too runny, bring it to the boil and keep stirring it until it thickens up. If it’s too thick, add more milk little by little until it feels creamy and soft.


Now you are ready to assemble your Lasagna!

I would use pre packed Lasagna sheets, unless of course I made my own one (next time I will write about making your own spinach Lasagna sheets!). Any good quality Lasagna sheets are ok to use and you can find them in any supermarket. You will need 2/3 sheets per layer…5 layers is plenty!

In a large tray place 2/3 sheets of lasagna (depending on the size) on the bottom and pour on some of  the ragu’. Gently pour some besciamelle sauce and with a spoon spread the sauce all over the lasagna sheets. Take another 2/3 sheets and place them on top forming another layer. Pour the ragu’ and the besciamelle on top. Repeat this 4/5 times depending on how many layers you want or until you run out of sauce! I would make a mini lasagna for my little one using a smaller dish, it tastes as good as the big one and it looks great! Kids love being spoilt and this is a great way to make them feel special at dinner time.


Dust your Lasagna with some grated parmesan cheese or cheddar and place it into a preheated oven at 200 degrees (190 fan oven) for 20/22 minutes. A good test to check if the Lasagna is cooked through is to put a knife in, if it is soft all the way through your Lasagna is ready. Pronto!