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Central Otago’s ‘Little Italy’

29 April 2022
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Eat, drink and be merry Ben Bayly-style with these exclusive-to-Style recipes from the top chef’s latest South Island venture.

Following on from the success of celebrated Kiwi chef Ben Bayly’s southern enterprise Aosta, Arrowtown
has been treated to a second delicious offering in the form of “bambino”, Little Aosta, a family-friendly, fast-paced trattoria offering dine-in and takeaway options for locals and visitors alike.

The cuisine of both eateries is inspired by Northern Italian cooking techniques paired with ingredients from Aotearoa’s south. The namesake city of Aosta is in an alpine valley near the meeting point of the Italian, French and Swiss Alps, where Ben lived and cooked for four years in the area as a young chef, and which shares similar latitude, elevation, climate, flora, fauna and soil characteristics with Central Otago’s Southern Alps.

It was during his time in the region that Ben’s love of Italian cooking was born, and his Arrowtown eateries fuse that inspiration with almost exclusively local products and produce from selected growers, fishermen, hunters, foragers and other suppliers.

Ben says he and his family have fallen in love with Arrowtown, and bringing the Little Aosta concept to life
had been on his mind since opening Aosta three years ago.

“I wanted a casual, fun and chaotic little Italian place that complemented Aosta well – a place that was focused on simple, delish Italian food with zero faff,” he says.

The menu is designed to bring the magic of an authentic multi-generational Italian home into the heart
of Arrowtown and capture the essence of pared-back Northern Italian food.

“Look for great cuts seared over the wood-fired grill and sourdough pizzettas out of the wood-fired pizza oven, paired with interesting, entertaining and affordable wines by the carafe,” says Ben.

Designed for sharing, the menu also has a sense of fun that will appeal to the young and young at heart – with dishes such as polpette (Italian meatballs), organic fritto misto (Italian chicken nuggets) and a Havoc ham and woodfired pineapple pizzetta that’s sure to be a talking point.

Little Aosta’s Venison Polpette

Serves 5

This is a beautiful venison polpette (meatball) recipe. Using pork in two forms, we add fat back into the lean meat of the deer, which will keep it moist during the cooking process, adding more flavour to complement the venison. The polpette pairs perfectly with a tomato sugo (sauce), as the acidity from the sugo complements the richness of the meatball. This recipe can be made gluten-free by simply removing the bread and the milk.

little aostas venison polpette meatballs credt sam stewart
Little Aosta's venison polpette meatballs. Photo: Sam Stewart

Ingredients

• ½ loaf of white sandwich bread
• 250ml milk (any kind is fine)
• 150g sliced pancetta, diced
• 250g diced onion
• 8 garlic cloves, diced
• 1kg venison mince
• 250g pork mince
• 100g Italian parsley, picked from
the stem and chopped, keeping
the stems for the sugo
• 20g salt
• 10g white pepper

Method

  1. To get started, preheat the oven on fan-bake at 220°C. Fan bake is best as you’ll achieve a better crust on the outside of the meatball.
  2. Soak the sandwich bread in milk and place it on the side.
  3. Place the pancetta, onion and cloves into a warm fry pan with a little olive oil to soften them. Once softened, allow to cool.
  4. Combine the pancetta mixture with all the remaining ingredients (including the minces) in a large mixing bowl. When adding the bread make sure to squeeze out any excess milk first.
  5. Combine thoroughly with your hands, squeezing to mix everything thoroughly.
  6. Using your kitchen scales weigh out 50g portions of the mixture. Using a little oil on your hand form these into balls.
  7. Make sure you use a fair amount of pressure to form the polpette so they won’t just fall apart while cooking.
  8. Place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Little Aosta's Tomato Sugo

Ingredients

• 500g cherry tomatoes
• 30g fresh basil
• Parsley stems (these come
from the recipe for the polpette
– meatballs)
• 100ml extra virgin olive oil
• 20g salt

Method

  1. Place all ingredients into a deep oven tray.
  2. Allow 8-10 minutes of cook time.
  3. If you get your timings right the sugo and polpette will come out of the oven at the same time.
  4. Place polpette into a large bowl garnished with sugo, chopped herbs and parmesan cheese.

Little Aosta's Vanilla Panna Cotta

Serves 5

For dessert, who can go past a classic panna cotta – creamy but light with the spices in the apples adding a whole new depth and the crunch from the hazelnuts giving texture. This recipe provides
surplus apple compote, perfect for your morning cereal!

little aostas vanilla panna cotta 1
Little Aosta's vanilla panna cotta. Photo: Sam Stewart

Ingredients

• 2 sheets gelatine
• 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
• 150ml milk
• 400ml cream
• 80g white sugar

Method

  1. Add the gelatine sheets to a bowl of cold water to soften.
  2. Scrape the vanilla pod into the combined milk and cream
  3. Place the milk mixture and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil.
  4. Take the gelatine out of the water, squeeze the excess water out and stir into the milk mixture.
  5. Pass the mixture through a sieve.
  6. Pour the mixture into glasses or ramekins for presentation.
  7. Place in the fridge to allow it to set.

Apple Compote

Ingredients

• 4 crisp apples, chopped
• 140ml orange juice
• 70g brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon powder
• ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
• 2 tablespoons butter
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 100g toasted and crushed hazelnuts

Method

  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the hazelnuts, in a saucepan and simmer on a medium heat until the apples are tender and sauce is thick – about 12-15 minutes.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool. Fold half the hazelnuts into the apples. This will give the compote texture.
  3. Once the panna cottas are set, place the compote on top and use the leftover hazelnuts for garnish.
  4. If you have any pansies in the garden they will make a lovely addition as a garnish.

Recipes by Ben Bayly and Steve Sepsy

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