A Sunday Italian feast

This weekend I had a craving for pork cheek ragu, and as we had a few people round, I whipped up a small Italian style menu.  I LOVE this pork cheek recipe – as long as you check the recipe and realise you need to give it some time (marinating the cheeks in wine before and allowing it 4 hours in the oven), you’ll be rewarded.  Other than the time, it’s very simple and absolutely delicious.  The cheeks shred apart after slow cooking to make a rich, tender sauce.

Pork cheeks marinating with red wine, thyme and peppercorns

Pork cheeks marinating with red wine, thyme and peppercorns

I left the pork cheeks marinating overnight the day before cooking.  In fact I cooked the ragu the day before I needed it so that I could prepare the rest of the meal on the morning before guests arrived, but you’re not interested in details, so we’ll move on.

We started with crostini – squashed cannellini beans with garlic and rosemary (Jamie Oliver’s recipe) and mushrooms with homemade pesto and ricotta.

Crostini with squashed cannellini beans

Crostini with squashed cannellini beans

Crostini with pesto and ricotta mushrooms

Crostini with pesto and ricotta mushrooms

Next up was the ragu, which I served with tripoline pasta and parmesan to go with it.

Pork cheek ragu with tripoline

Pork cheek ragu with tripoline

Thick ribbons of pasta, like pappardelle, fettucine or tripoline go well with this ragu.  Have I mentioned that I love it?  I love it.

For dessert, I made a chocolate ricotta cheesecake.  It was a bit of an amalgamation of a few recipes, so I’ve listed my version below.  Admittedly the picture doesn’t do it justice – it was slightly burnt on top (took my eye off the game!) which you couldn’t taste, and I nearly dropped the whole thing when trying to extract it from the tin so some of the biscuit base was lost. And it’s a bit cracked.  But never mind all that, I never said I was a chef.  It was tasty and chocolatey and people wanted to take the leftovers home, so job’s a good un.

Chocolate ricotta cheesecake

Chocolate ricotta cheesecake

200g dark chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed
75g unsalted butter, melted
250g ricotta
200g half-fat creme fraiche
300g dark chocolate, melted
1 tbsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp plain flour
25g sugar
2 eggs

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees.
  2. Line the bottom of a loose-bottomed cake tin with a sheet of greaseproof paper.
  3. Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter and press into the bottom of the tin.
  4. Beat together the eggs, ricotta, creme fraiche, vanilla and chocolate, gradually adding the flour and sugar as you beat them to a smooth mixture.
  5. Spoon the mixture onto the biscuit base and put into the over for 35-40 minutes to bake.  When the time is up, turn off the oven and leave it in to cool with the oven door open.  This is supposed to stop it cracking, which usually works well for me but this was not to be today!  If it does crack, you could always cover the top with a layer of cream or sauce to hide it.  Clearly I couldn’t be bothered.
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