PHOTO Rob Palmer

Italian My Way: Barry McDonald shares his food secrets

ITALIAN food lovers will relate with Barry McDonald when he says: "Like all Italians, I think coffee is oxygen, the tomato is a gift from heaven and wine makes life bearable."

The Sydney restaurant owner shares his secrets on how to cook, shop and eat Italian in the new book Alla Fratelli.

Cozze ripiene

Enjoy a plate of these garlicky, crumb-topped mussels with a glass of Italian chardonnay.


  • 350g loaf day-old, rustic-style bread
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2kg fresh black mussels, scrubbed, bearded.


First make the crumb mixture. Remove the crust from the bread then roughly chop the bread. Process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form.

Tip the crumbs into a bowl and combine with the garlic, parsley, oregano and lemon zest, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss to combine.

Heat the grill (broiler) to medium-high. Discard any broken mussels, or opened ones that don't close when tapped on the bench.

Place mussels in a large saucepan, cover and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.

Uncover the pan and remove the mussels with a slotted spoon as they open. Remove the meat from half and discard the shells. Open the remaining mussels wide, keeping both half-shells attached, then place on a baking tray. Place one of the removed mussels on the empty half of each shell. Top the mussels with 1 tablespoon of the crumbs and grill until golden. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve hot. Serves 6.


Caponata with pine nuts

One for lovers of eggplant, this rustic mess of vegetables is beautiful served with a simple grill of fish or meat.


  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 eggplant, chopped
  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 tbs pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbs sultanas
  • 4 green olives, pitted, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp salted baby capers, rinsed
  • 4 basil leaves, chopped.


Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the shallots, garlic and celery for 5 minutes. Add the capsicum and eggplant and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened.

Add the vinegar and sugar and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring.

Check for seasoning, and stir in the pine nuts, sultanas, olives, capers and basil. Serves 4 as antipasti.

Recipes and images from Alla Fratelli by Barry McDonald (Murdoch Books), $49.99, available now in all good bookstores and online.

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