Recipes: Our Italian Legacy of Love by Chiara Viljoen with Ryan Viljoen and Luciana Treccani

This entry was posted on 02 August 2021.

What do you get when you add a little Italian, a little South African and
a whole lot of love? A legacy of classic yet contemporary dishes from
the Café del Sol family kitchen. Chiara and Ryan have transferred the
treasured memories of both their nonnas, as well as their mama, Luciana,
to the tables of Café del Sol, and now this cookbook. 


Here are their  mouth-watering recipes for Italian spring rolls, traditional Alfredo, flambéed porcini and chiacchiere. Buon appetito!




Italian Spring Rolls

with Beurre Blanc Sauce


These beauties are little crunchy bites of Italy. It’s a fusion dish – our family loves spring rolls and Chinese food, and these were born out of Chiara’s experimentation. You bite into golden, crispy spring roll pastry, expecting familiar Asian tastes,only to get a burst of Italian flavours. They are perfect as starters or party snacks.





500 g sliced parma ham

Smoked mozzarella or any delicious soft cheese that melts well (as much as you like)

100 g fresh rocket

1 x 500 g pack spring-roll pastry

Water to seal

Sunflower oil to deep-fry



200 ml white wine

¼ white onion, thickly sliced

Salt and white pepper to taste

500 ml fresh cream

A touch of balsamic vinegar







1. First make the spring rolls. Place the parma ham on a flat surface. Cut the mozzarella into 3 x 1 cm sticks and place each on a slice of ham, followed by the rocket. Wrap the parma ham around the rocket and mozzarella into a tight parcel, then set aside.

2. Cut a sheet of spring-roll pastry in half and place it down vertically on a flat surface. Position a parma ham parcel on one end of the pastry and roll. When rolled a quarter of the way, use water to wet the edges of the pastry and fold inwards, then continue rolling to the end. Once it looks like a perfect spring roll, seal the roll with water.

3. Heat sunflower oil in a pan and deep-fry until golden brown.

4. To prepare the beurre blanc sauce, in a medium saucepan, bring the white wine to the boil with the onion. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Pour in the cream and leave it to reduce over very low heat until it coats the back of a spoon.

6. Just before the end, add a touch of balsamic vinegar for colour.

7. Serve the spring rolls with a drizzle of beurre blanc sauce.



  • Variations for these party showstoppers are endless: gorgonzola and fig, or halloumi and salami are two of our favourites. Be creative and have fun coming up with your own spring-roll fillings!
  • You can buy spring-roll pastry at any Chinese supermarket and some of the usual retail supermarkets.
  • Make the spring rolls in bulk. They freeze well.



with ham and mushrooms


A classic dish that’s always requested, even if it isn’t on the menu, probably because it’s synonymous with rich, thick comfort food. Traditionally, Alfredo is made with butter, cream and parmesan. We love it with good-quality Gypsy ham and mushrooms. A tablespoon of flour can be added to the butter for a thicker sauce.




50 g butter

½ medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

200 g Gypsy ham, shredded or chopped

200 g portobello or brown mushrooms, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

15 ml cake wheat flour (optional)

15 g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra to serve

400 ml fresh cream

50 g parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra to serve

Cooked pasta of your choice, but we recommend homemade tagliatelle










1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Sauté the onion until sweet and translucent. Add the garlic and cook until tender, then add the ham and mushrooms and cook until done. The mushrooms may seem like a lot, but they reduce down to almost nothing due to their high water content.

3. Season with salt and pepper, add the flour if you prefer a thicker sauce and allow it to cook for a few minutes, then add the parsley and cream. Allow to reduce and thicken.

4. Add the parmesan cheese and check the seasoning.

5. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and mix well until all strands are coated.

6. Serve with more fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.



  • Variations of this dish are very popular. Bacon works well as a Gypsy ham replacement or try it with lucanica, a thinner version of Italian pork sausage (salsiccia) with a slight fennel flavour, and fresh rosemary instead of parsley.
  • We also love this dish with porcini mushrooms instead of portobello for an extra gourmet flavour.


Flambéed Porcini

with Pappardelle


This is another flambéed signature pasta dish made with bourbon whiskey. While another whiskey (or whisky) could be used, we like Jack Daniels for its tropical and caramel undertones that complement the earthiness of the porcini. On another note, South Africans are huge brandy lovers and this is a good match for this dish if whiskey isn’t your thing. Don’t worry, the turmeric has enough health benefits to counteract the alcohol. Probably. But isn’t whiskey (or whisky) medicinal?




50 g butter

A splash of extra virgin olive oil

½ medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

400 g frozen porcini mushrooms, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

10 g fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

A pinch of ground turmeric

15 ml cake wheat flour (optional)

25 ml bourbon whiskey or brandy

400 ml fresh cream

Cooked pasta of your choice, but we recommend homemade pappardelle

30 g parmesan cheese, grated







1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

2. Add the onion and sauté until sweet and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until tender.

3. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper, and add the parsley and turmeric.

4. For a thicker sauce, add the cake wheat flour now and cook well.

5. Flambé the mixture by pouring in the whiskey and tilting the pan towards the gas flame (if using a gas stove) or lighting the whiskey with a lighter. Allow the alcohol to cook off.

6. Stir in the cream and cook the mixture over low heat until it coats the back of a spoon.

7. Mix in the drained pasta and some of the parmesan cheese. Adjust the final seasoning if necessary.

8. Serve with the remaining parmesan cheese.



If the cream is too rich for you, dried porcini dust can be added to vegetable stock to make a mushroom brodo. Alternatively, make the sauce with half stock and half cream for a deeper flavour yet a lighter sauce.




These delicious pastries are traditionally made during Carnevale time in Italy. The literal translation for chiacchiere means ‘little gossips’, because of the noise and crunch that happens when biting into them after chit-chat, although they do have different names across Italy, depending on which region you are in. Nonna made them as a crispy, sweet snack throughout our youth (there were always a bunch tucked in the cookie jar) and often gave them away as gifts to clients in her neighbourhood. While they make an excellent, crunchy dessert, they are also great with a coffee at breakfast or even made into a modern, dessert-style ice-cream sandwich complete with crème patisserie as an Italian-style mille-feuille.




375 ml ‘00’ or cake wheat flour

30 ml granulated sugar

2.5 ml baking powder

A pinch of salt

30 ml unsalted butter, cubed

2 eggs

30–45 ml grappa, or any liqueur of your choice

Lemon zest or vanilla paste for extra flavour (optional)

15 ml water or milk (optional)

Sunflower oil to deep-fry

Icing sugar to dust











1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. Add the butter and use your fingers to mix until the pieces are pea sized.

3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and grappa or liqueur, then mix in the zest or vanilla, if using.

4. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together until a dough forms. If the dough is too crumbly, add 15 ml water or milk. Transfer to a lightly floured surface.

5. Knead until smooth (about 5 minutes), wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (the longer the better). Once chilled, divide the dough into quarters.

6. Place one quarter on a floured work surface and cover the rest.

7. Roll the dough into a rectangle, as thinly as possible, flouring as needed to prevent sticking (you could use a pasta machine to roll the dough out through the thinnest setting). Rerolling the dough is key as it adds more air bubbles into the dough. The thinner the final dough, the crunchier the chiacchiere will be.

8. Use a fluted pastry wheel to cut and detail the edges of the rectangle.

9. Cut the dough into 2 x 10 cm strips. If desired, score 1–2 lines inside each strip. Place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper and cover while you repeat with the remaining dough quarters.

10. Pour oil into a large, deep pan. Place over medium heat. Once it reaches 180°C, add a few chiacchiere (do not overcrowd) and fry until golden (about 45 seconds). Turn to fry the other side. Place on kitchen towel-lined plates. Repeat with the remaining chiacchiere. Allow them to cool and serve dusted all over with icing sugar.

11. Store in an airtight container.


Recipes extracted from Our Italian Legacy of Love, out now.




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