Born and raised in Milan, chef Luca Ciano inherited his passion and talent for cooking as a small child from his mother and nonna.
His skills took him around the world – working in Michelin-starred restaurants and as a consultant chef, and, eventually, to Australia, where he teaches, sells Italian products and hosts his own TV show, Luca's Key Ingredient.
In his latest cookbook, Luca's Culinary Journey, Three Generations of Italian Family Cooking, Ciano shares simple and easy-to-prepare dishes from his Italian heritage.
The collection includes traditional northern Italian family specialties, such as gnocchi, risotto, polenta and ragu, as well as sweet and simple treats. Here are four anyone can make at home.
Esse al cioccolato (Chocolate 'S' biscuits)
- 170g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 140g icing sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 340g '00' flour or plain flour, sieved
- seeds of 1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100g dark chocolate
- Place butter in a mixer with a whisk attachment, or in a large bowl and using a whisk start by beating the butter until soft and creamy in texture.
- Add the sugar, a little at a time, and the salt and lemon zest.
- Add the eggs one at a time and continue to whisk well. When combined, stop whisking and add flour, a little at the time, and stir gently until combined.
- Place mixture in the fridge to rest for 15-20 minutes. Remove mix from the fridge and fill a piping bag with a traditional ribbed nozzle.
- Preheat oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Line your oven tray with greaseproof paper.
- Using your piping bag start shaping the traditional S shape – see picture.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes or until slightly golden, remove tray from oven and allow biscuits to cool.
- Dip the top section of the S-shaped biscuit into the melted chocolate (see below). Shake off excess chocolate, place back onto the oven tray and allow the chocolate to set.
- Store in an airtight container.
METHOD (CHOCOLATE DIPPING SAUCE)
- Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwave-suitable bowl. Use the high setting in 30-second bursts, stirring well between bursts, until molten.
- Alternatively, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a bowl over simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water and stir the chocolate constantly while melting it.
- Dip biscuits into the chocolate while it's just melted.
Makes: about 20
Perfect for entertaining family and friends. Photo: New Holland Publishers
- 3 eggs, separated
- 60g caster sugar
- 300g mascarpone
- 1 tablespoon marsala or another sweet fortified wine or liqueur to your liking
- 200ml warm espresso or strong coffee
- 100g savoiardi (sponge-finger biscuits)
- dark cocoa for dusting (the best quality that you can get)
- In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. Using a large spoon, fold through mascarpone.
- In another bowl, whisk egg whites until firm peaks form. Carefully fold into mascarpone in three batches.
- Add marsala to warm espresso. Quickly dip half of the sponge fingers, one at a time, in coffee mixture. Place the soaked fingers in the base of a 3-cup capacity serving bowl. Cover with half of the mascarpone mixture. Repeat the layer once more, finishing with mascarpone mixture. Refrigerate for at least six hours.
- When ready to serve, dust generously with dark cocoa.
Use up your stale bread. Photo: New Holland Publishers
Torta di pane (Bread, pine nut and chocolate cake)
- 150g stale bread (any type)
- 500ml fresh milk
- 2 eggs
- 110g caster sugar
- 40g dark cocoa powder (the best quality that you can get)
- 50g amaretti biscuits, crushed
- 40g sultanas
- 80g unsalted butter, melted
- 50g pine nuts
- icing sugar for dusting (optional)
- Place bread in a large bowl. Pour milk over the bread, cover and let stand overnight in the fridge to soak.
- Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Grease and line a 24cm round cake tin.
- Place bread and milk in a food processor and process until smooth. In a large bowl combine bread mix, eggs, sugar, cocoa, amaretti biscuits, sultanas, melted butter and half of the pine nuts and stir until well combined. Spoon mixture into prepared pan and top with the remaining pine nuts. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan. Serve with an optional dusting of icing sugar.
Great for gifts and when visitors drop by. Photo: New Holland Publishers
Salame di cioccolato (Chocolate salami)
- 80g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 150g caster sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (the best quality you can get)
- 100g dry biscuits of your choice, crushed
- 50g whole almonds
- 1 tablespoon rum
- pinch of salt
- Beat butter with sugar until smooth, then add eggs and cocoa and mix well. Add all remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.
- Using a large sheet of greaseproof paper, place the mix in the middle and then spread it lengthwise creating a long log shape, about 4-5cm thick.
- Fold the bottom edge to the top edge of the paper sheet and try to roll the shape into a more even log – the aim is to create a long salami shape.
- Twist the paper ends to seal the mix inside the paper. Freeze.
- To serve, remove paper and cut into slices of 1-1.5cm thickness.
Note: As this is a traditional recipe using raw egg, please only use clean, store-bought eggs that have been pasteurised or safely handled.
Serves: 6 to 8
This is an edited extract from Luca's Culinary Journey, Three Generations of Italian Family Cooking by Luca Ciano, published by New Holland Publishers, RRP $49.99. Buy now