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We love simple ideas like this one for mid-week inspiration. We used ready-made spinach gnocchi, try and find a decent brand if you can.

Gnocchi with mushroom and paprika butter – serves 3

  • 50g butter
  • 400g chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 500g pack gnocchi
  • 100ml sour cream or crème fraîche
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat a small knob of the butter in a pan, add the mushrooms and ½ tsp salt, and cook until soft and golden.

Add the rest of the butter, garlic and rosemary, then cook gently for 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the paprika and season with black pepper, then keep over a low heat while you cook the gnocchi.

Drain the gnocchi and tip into the mushroom pan. Toss everything together and serve in warm bowls with a dollop of cream, lots of black pepper and some Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, October 2019.)

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You need to cut your courgettes into very thin strips for this, as thin as the pasta. The sauce is a bit carbonara-ish, very delicious.

Wine Suggestion: Something fun and white like the El Abuelo de Piqueras, a Verdejo – Sauvignon Blanc blend from Almansa in Spain. Vibrant fruit tied together with a sense of fun and energy.

Bucatini with courgettes – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 300g courgettes, cut into 5cm long, 2mm thick strips
  • 400g bucatini (or spaghetti, linguine or fusilli)
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 extra egg yolks
  • 70g Parmesan, grated
  • a few fresh basil leaves

Warm the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and courgettes with a pinch of salt, then cook gently for 10 minutes, turning over gently, until very soft. Remove from the heat.

Bring large pan of water to the boil, then add lots of salt. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, put the eggs, egg yolks, Parmesan, a pinch of salt and lots of black pepper into a large bowl. Whisk together to combine.

When the pasta is almost cooked, return the courgette pan to the heat to warm through the fat and courgettes and add the torn basil.

Drain the pasta and reserve some of the water. Add the pasta to the courgette pan and stir together. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg mixture and a splash of pasta water, then stir quickly until everything is coated in a creamy sauce. Add a little more pasta water to make it silky if needed, then serve.

(Original recipe from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, Fig Tree, 2021.)

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If you have a little leftover ‘nduja, then this is the dish for you!! It makes a delicous main for two, or starter for 4. Masterminded by Jacob Kenedy of Bocca di Lupo.

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs a medium bodied red fruited wine with a lick of acidity like the Morisfarms Mandriolo from the Tuscan coast. Fruit-forward cherry and raspberry flavours which come from the Sangiovese which is tied together with a touch of Cabernet and Petit Verdot.

Orecchiette with ‘nduja – serves 2 (or 4 as a starter)

  • 200g dried orecchiette (if you can make or get fresh then go for that but dried works pretty good)
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 120g cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 100g ‘nduja (a bit less will be fine)
  • 50ml white wine
  • 80ml double cream
  • 50g rocket, very roughtly chopped
  • freshly grated Pecorino Romano, to serve (we used Parmesan – sorry Jacob!)

Get your orecchiette on to boil in lots of very salty water. Start making the sauce when there’s about 10 minutes to go.

Fry the onion and tomatoes over a high heat for about 3 minutes, you want them softened and lightly browned. Add the ‘nduja, break it up and fry for 30 seconds, then add the wine and a small ladleful of water from the pasta pot. Bubble briefly, then add the cream. Taste and season with some salt.

Keep cooking the sauce until thickend and not watery, then add the drained pasta (still a bit wet) and the rocket. Cook until the rocket is wilted and the pasta is coated in the glossy sauce. Serve with grated cheese on top.

(Original recipe from Bocca Cookbook by Jacob Kennedy, Bloomsbury, 2011.)

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A nice pasta with unusual flavours. Use good-quality Italian sausages for this if you can find them.

Wine Suggestion: As this dish is full-flavoured we’d suggest a full flavoured white like Cline Cellars Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, which has a wonderful Californian ripeness combined with a core of fresh minerality and zing from the cooling breezes and fog coming through the Petaluma Gap each day. The subtle oak gives a lovely texture which helps matching this dish too.

Pasta with fennel, sausage and courgette – serves 4

  • 3 good-quality pork sausages (we like Italian sausages)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ½ small fennel bulb, trim off any green bits and chop finey, reserve any fronds to garnish
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 big cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g rigatoni pasta
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • 100g mascarpone
  • 1 medium-large courgete, grated
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • grated Parmesan (to serve)

Take the skins off the sausages and crumble them into small chunks. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then fry the sausages until browned and crispy, breaking the lumps up with a wooden spoon. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the fennel, onion and garlic to the sausage fat in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, or until softened but not coloured. You can add a splash of water if it starts to stick.

Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil, add the pasta and cook according to the timings on the pack. Drain but reserve a mugful of the cooking water.

Return the frying pan to the heat and stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, grated courgette and a splash of pasta cooking water. Bubble for 2 minutes, then stir in the cooked pasta and sausages. Season, then serve garnished with fennel fronds, pine nuts and Parmesan.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We chose this recipe because it has courgettes in it (and we have loads in the garden) but we’ll definitely be making it again. The method is a little different from usual but the results are lovely, fresh and tasty.

Wine Suggestion: Try to find a white wine with a lemony citrus flavour to bring out the bright flavours of the courgettes. We had a bottle of Karavitakis Assyrtiko “Nomas” from Crete that a friend had given us and it was a summery, lemony delight.

Tomato & Courgette Risotto – serves 2

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp coriander seeds, crushed
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 200g carton passata
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 courgettes, halved and sliced
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone
  • grated Parmesan, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes until softened.

Add the garlic and coriander seeds and cook for another minute, then stir in the rice and stir until coated and glistening.

Gradually add 300ml of the stock, stirring until absorbed each time before adding some more. Stir in the passata, then cover with a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes. Keep giving it a stir every couple of minutes and add more stock as needed.

Meanwhile, put the tomatoes and courgettes into a roasting tin, keeping them at separate ends. Drizzle with the other tbsp of oil, then season and roast for 10-12 minutes until just tender. You might need to scoop out the tomatoes and cook the courgettes a little longer.

Add the mascarpone to the risotto and season generously with salt and black pepper. Keep stirring and cooking for about 5 minutes more or until the rice is cooked. Add the courgettes to the risotto and stir to mix together. Serve in warm bowls with the roasted tomatoes and some grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We’ve a bumper crop of courgettes growing in pots in our back garden this year; the joy of loads of bright flowers followed by loads of yellow and green fruit, plus the challenge to eat them all. We picked a load of small courgettes for this dish and added the flowers too as we have them, but it is just as delicious with more normal sized courgettes found in shops and without the flowers.

Wine Suggestion: we’ve been seeking out old vine blends from the languedoc recently and just love how the best have a balance between fresh minerality, roundness, and a herbal stonefruit character. Like tonight’s juicy joy: Domaine Modat’s “de-ci de-la” Blanc which takes fruit from scattered small plots. We loved the sage and thyme scent and the juicy pear flavours cut through with summer sunshine.

Courgette and Broad Bean Risotto – serves 2

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 350g courgettes, cut into small dice
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • zest of ½ a lemon
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 75ml dry white wine
  • 750g warm vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 80g broad beans, podded and blanched for a minute, then skins removed
  • courgettes flowers (optional), remove the stamens and tear the petals into pieces
  • 20g Parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

Heat the oil and butter in a large, deep frying pan. Add the courgettes, chilli flakes and nutmeg, and season well with salt and black pepper. Cook the courgettes for about 5 minutes or until the courgettes are golden and soft. Add the scallions and lemon zest and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes to coat the grains in the oil.

Pour in the wine and cook for a couple of minutes, until almost evaporated.

Add the stock, a ladeful at a time, and stir until the liquid is absorbed before adding another. Keep going like this for 20-30 minutes or until all the stock has been absorbed. Taste the rice it should be soft with a little bite in the centre.

Stir in the blanched broad beans and courgette flowers and warm through for a minute or two.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the Parmesan. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes with a lid on, then serve with extra Parmesan over the top.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We don’t stop making soups in the summer, and in fact we often need them to use up bits and pieces. At the moment that means the courgettes that are growing faster than we can eat them. Whatever the excuse this is bursting with summery flavours and a joy to eat, especially outside on a hot summer afternoon.

Summer Minestrone Soup – serves 6

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over to serve
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, finely chopped (use green and yellow if you have them)
  • 70g diced smoked pancetta
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely grated
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1.2 litres vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 70g fideua pasta (or other small pasta)
  • 100g kale, stalks removed and roughly chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves, to serve
  • finely grated Parmesan, to serve

Warm the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, courgette and pancetta. Season well with salt and pepper and cook gently for about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another minute, then add the beans, tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, vegetable stock and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 30 minutes.

Add the pasta and kale and cook for a final 10 minutes.

Taste for seasoning, then serve in warm bowls, with some basil and Parmesan over the top.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food).

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This simple pasta dish will be ready in 10 minutes, the kind of dish we like on a Friday night! The Italian sausages we used tonight were the spicier sort but this would be delicious with milder ones too, the key is the higher meat content. If the sausages have fennel in them halve the fennel seeds.

Wine Suggestion: An under-rated Tuscan coast gem, Morisfarm’s Mandriolo. A classic, youthful Sangiovese with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot this is juicy and vibrant, but also hiding a serious core that stands up to flavoursome food

Penne with Italian sausages & rocket – serves 4

  • 200g Italian sausages
  • 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ glass of white wine
  • 500g penne rigate pasta
  • 100g freshly grated pecorino
  • 100g rocket

Remove the skins from the sausages and break them up into a bowl.

Warm the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat, add the sausages and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add fennel seeds and some salt and continue to cook for another minute. Add the wine and cook for a minute more, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in lots of salty water.

When the pasta is cooked, return the sauce to a medium heat. Drain the pasta and tip into the sauce. Sprinkle over the pecorino and rocket and toss for about 30 seconds over a medium heat to allow them to come together.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010.)

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Today was a sunny Sunday so we grilled aubergine slices on the barbecue, made this delicious veggie bake, and ate it outside. Happy days! Serve with garlic or crusty bread and salad.

Wine Suggestion: We think youthful, fruity reds are a joy with this dish and can’t pass up a chance to open a good Beaujolais. For this dish Domaine Rochette’s Régnié, a cru that is often overlooked and unfairly so. Bright and almost crunchy fruit that shouts just as much of sunshine as the Parmigiana.

Melanzane Parmigiana – serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing over the aubergines
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 8 large sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp golden caster sugar or granulated sugar
  • 6 large aubergines, sliced very thinly, lengthways
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 85g white breadcrumbs
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 2 x 125g mozzarella balls, torn into small pieces
  • a handful of basil leaves

Get the sauce on first. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or a wide saucepan, then add the garlic, thyme and sage and cook for a few minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, vinegar and sugar, and simmer gently for about 25 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, light your barbecue – a gas barbecue is particularly good for this as it’s easier to control the heat, you don’t want the aubergine to char before it’s softened. If you don’t have a barbecue (or if it’s not barbecuing weather) you can use a griddle pan instead.

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil, then barbecue in batches until softened and lightly charred.

Mix 25g of the Parmesan with the breadcrumbs and pine nuts, and set aside.

Spread a little of the tomato sauce over the base of a large baking tray or lasagne dish. Top with a layer of aubergine slices, then season well. Spoon over some more sauce, then scatter over some mozzarella, Parmesan and bssil leaves.

Repeat the layers and finish with a layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle over the cheesey breadcrumbs. You can bake the dish now or stick it in the fridge for up to 24 hours and bake when you’re ready.

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden and the tomato sauce bubbling. Rest for 10 minutes, then serve with salad and bread.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food).

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Jules’ parents often give us yellow peppers as they prefer green ones, and for some reason they can only buy peppers locally (NI) in multi-coloured packs of three. Perhaps another Brexit effect. No matter as we’ve found the perfect use for them in this simple pasta sauce by Joe Trivelli. We didn’t have enough rigatoni so added some penne that got stuck in all the rigatoni tubes. We had good fun sucking them out.

Wine Suggestion: This is excellent with oaked Sauvignon Blanc, especially white Bordeaux, where the oak mellows out the grassy characteristics and adds a creamy, buttery layer with extra citrus fruits. We recognise these are harder to find and higher in price, so more affordably we successfully opened an Umani Ronchi Ca’Sal di Serra Verdicchio which carries over the cut grass and citrus characters and adds an almondy twist.

Rigatoni with yellow peppers – serves 4

  • 1 large yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • ½ dried chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 40ml double cream
  • 400g rigatoni – Joe sugests whole-wheat but we had the regular stuff so just used that
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • salted ricotta if you have some – we used Parmesan which works too

Put a medium frying pan over a medium heat and add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Fry the pepper for 3 minutes, then add the garlic with a pinch of salt. Crumble in the chilli, cover and cook over a low heat, stirring now and then. You want the pepper to soften completely which could take around 30 minutes so be patient.

Add the cream and bring to the boil, then simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning, then purée the sauce in a food processer and return to the pan.

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water until al dente. Scoop out a mugful of the pasta cooking water before draining, then add the pasta to the pepper mixture. Toss the pasta and sauce over a low heat, adding the basil leaves and some pasta water if needed to make the sauce creamy.

Serve on warm plates with some grated cheese.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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A recipe by Rachel Roddy; simple and filling. Keep your Parmesan rinds in the freezer for adding to soups like this.

Pasta & Chickpea Soup – serves 4

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
  • a Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 225g short tubular pasta e.g. tubetti or ditalini or broken tagliatelle

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery, then cook gently until soft and fragrant.

Add the tomato purée and sprig of rosemary, stir and cook for a few minutes, then stir in the chickpeas. Add 1 litre of hot water, a pinch of salt and the Parmesan rind, then stir again. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove half the soup and pass through a food mill or blend with a stick blender until smooth, then return to the pan. Season to taste with salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender, the pack timings should work but do check as you go and keep stirring. You add a bit more boiling water if needed. Season again to taste then serve garnished with your favourite olive oil.

(Original recipe from Five Quarters: Recipes and Notes from a Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy, Salt Yard Book Co., 2015.)

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A nice treat for two and ready in minutes.

Wine Suggestion: Something red from Italy’s Adriatic coast, but nothing too big or complex as this is a fun, casual dish! For us Umani Ronchi’s Rosso Conero Serrano, a Montepulciano – Sangiovese blend that has a medium body, fresh and bright cherry fruits and a gentle, earthy tannins was the ticket.

Prawn spaghetti with tomato, chilli & basil – serves 2

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 150g baby plum tomatoes
  • 150ml white wine
  • 200g spaghetti
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 225g raw peeled prawns
  • a generous knob of butter

Warm the oil in a large frying pan, then add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until starting to soften, then add the white wine and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions in lots of very salty water, then drain but reserve a cup of the cooking water.

Add the basil and prawns to the tomatoes, season well, and cook until the prawns turn pink. Stir in the butter and spaghetti and a splash of pasta cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce a bit. Toss it all together and serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, March 2020.)

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Do buy good quality tuna for this, packed in olive oil. We like Ortiz which is widely available and excellent quality. We’d also highly recommend Shines’ Wild Irish Tuna, one of our local companies based in Donegal. We have tried loads of their tinned and jarred fish and they are all top quality.

Wine Suggestion: We chose a lighter red to match this dish from the Marches in central Italy. The Umani Ronchi San Lorenzo Rosso Conero has style and panache and the medium body, morello cherry flavours, soft spices and silky tannins are a charming match.

Baked orzo puttanesca – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 3 anchovies in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 30g preserved lemon, discard the flesh and thinly slice the skin into strips
  • 70g pitted Kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
  • 2 tins of good tuna in olive oil, drained and roughly flaked
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 250g dried orzo
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into half ½ cm thick rounds
  • 40g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 5g basil leaves, roughly torn

Preheat the oven to 200C fan.

Heat 3 tbsp of the olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan that has a lid. Add the onion and cook gently for about 8 minutes or until softed and browned. Add the garlic, chilli flakes and anchovies and cook for another minute, until fragrant.

Stir in the capers, half the preserved lemon strips, 45g of the olives, the tuna, tomato purée, tinned tomatoes, orzo, 450ml of water, 1 tsp of salt and lots of black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cover with the lid and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the orzo is cooked through.

Turn the oven up to 230C fan.

Remove the lid from the dish, top with the tomato slices and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake for a further 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle over the remaining olives, preserved lemon, basil and 1 tbsp of oil before serving.

(Original recipe from OTK Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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This is a perfect lunch dish – quick, easy and just a few ingredients. We made this to use up the rest of a jar of passata and cooked slightly less gnocchi to serve 3. The quantities are just a rough guide really so use up what you’ve got.

Gnocchi al pomodoro – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 700ml passata
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 500g ready-made plain gnocchi
  • 100g grated mature Cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the passata and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil leaves, season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Half-fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add 1 tbsp of salt and the packet of gnocchi. As soon as the gnocchi start flowing to the top, scoop them out with a salted spoon and add to the sauce.

Gently stir the gnocchi into the sauce, then transfer everything to a baking dish and scatter over the grated cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino d’Acampo, Kyle Cathie Ltd., 2010.)

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Inspiration for evenings when you’re feeling uninspired. Ready in 10 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: A southern Italian red, especially those from Mt Etna and surrounds if you can as they tend to have both warm to match the roasted red peppers and a savouriness to comliment the umami anchovies. For us the Gulfi Cerasuolo di Vittoria, and Nero d’Avola – Frappato blend. Fragrant, silky and with a deep core of earthy red fruits; one of those wines that is both effortless and yet demanding of attention.

Red pepper & anchovy spaghetti – serves 3

  • 300g spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra to drizzle
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 8 anchovies, from a jar of tin of anchovies in olive oil
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 300g jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • a handful of basil leaves, finely sliced

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add lots of salt. Add the spaghetti and cook for 1 minute less than the timings on the pack.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil, garlic and anchovies into a large, deep frying pan and cook over a medium heat for a minute or until the oil is hot and the garlic has started to sizzle.

Add the peppers and tomato purée and stir well. Continue to cook until the spaghetti is ready, adding a ladle of the pasta cooking water to make a sauce.

When the spaghetti is ready, use tongs to transfer it to the sauce, you can add a little more water to get the right saucy consistency if you need. Cook for another 30 seconds, tossing to coat, then remove from the heat and stir through the basil. Serve drizzled with some extra olive oil.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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We’re pretty sure we saw somewhere that Polpo, a cookbook by Russell Norman, has just turned ten years old which inspired us to get it out and cook something. We served these, at Russell’s suggestion, with some home-made focaccia but pasta would be good too. It’s an excellent tomato sauce to use for other purposes too.

Wine Suggestion: Given the Italian inspiration to this dish we had to open something to match. The cherry and berry flavours in Pico Maccario’s Barbera Tre Roveri really sing alongside the anise-fennel flavours and the wild herb, leather and truffle flavours lend a base note to the whole dish. Bravo!

Spicy pork & fennel polpette – serves 6

  • 1.5kg pork mince
  • 3 medium eggs (we only had large, all was well)
  • 150g breadcrumbs
  • a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 20g fennel seeds, lightly toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
  • ½ tbsp fine salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • ½ tbsp fine sea salt
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • a small pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 750g fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • a small handful of oregano, chopped
  • caster sugar, if needed

Make the tomato sauce first, up to a few days in advance if you like.

Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes for 15 minutes. Add the fresh tomatoes and the rest of the oil and continue to cook gently for another 15 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, bring to a gentle bubble and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped oregano. Now taste and season if it needs a litle sweetness (we find it usually does). Blitz with a stick blender until smooth and you can also pass through a fine sieve if you would like it more passata textured (we don’t tend to bother).

Now make the meatballs. Heat the oven to 220C/Gas 8.

Put the pork mince, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix together well with your hands. Roll in 45g balls and place on a greased baking tray, then roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once, until starting to brown.

Meanwhile, bring your tomato sauce up to a gentl simmer. Transfer the meatballs to the tomato sauce and poach for 10 minutes. Serve with some lightly toasted focaccia or pasta or whatever else you fancy.

(Original recipe from Polpo by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

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Adapted from Claudia Roden’s Tagliolini with lemons, but as we couldn’t find this pasta chose another thin version with great success. Perfect for lunch or in small portions for a starter.

Wine Suggestion: Paired with Sartarelli’s Sparkling Verdicchio which captured the sunshine and joy of the Adriatic coast. Full of pure fruit flavours, hints of almond and lemon and a real balance between a crisp, fresh acidity and fruit.

Capellini with lemon – serves 2 to 4

  • 200g capellini (or tagliolini or whatever long and very thin pasta you can find)
  • 1 lemon, grate the zest and juice
  • 6 tbsp double cream
  • grated Parmesan or Grana Padano, to serve

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling water according to the timings on the pack.

Mix the lemon zest and juice with the cream in a serving bowl and season with salt.

Add the cooked and drained pasta into the serving bowl and mix with the sauce.

Serve with lots of black pepper and cheese.

(Original recipe from Med: A Cookbook by Claudia Roden, 2021)

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This recipe is from Rachel Roddy’s fabulous book, An A-Z of pasta. She introduces this one by asking if you are familar with vitello tonnato, which happens to be one of Jules’ favourite dishes, so we had to try it. Rachel uses the lumache pasta shape, which means snails and they are a bit like snail shells. We found these hard to find so we substituted conchiglie to great effect.

Wine Suggestion: look for a crisp, fresh white with a good body/structure like a dry, unoaked chardonnay from a cooler region. For us it was Céline & Frèdéric Gueguen’s Bourgogne Côtes Salines. Grown in vineyards just outside the Chablis appellation this is vibrantly fresh apple and melon flavoured with a savoury mid-palate that just melts into the tuna sauce.

Conchiglie with tuna, egg & capers – serves 4

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, trim to the palest bit, pull of any strings, and finely chop
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 x 200g tin of tuna in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp tiny capers, rinsed
  • 200ml white wine
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zested and juiced
  • 400g conchiglie (or lumache)
  • a sprig of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a generous amount of salt.

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the onion and celery with a pinch of salt and cook on a medium-low heat, until soft. You need to be patient as this will take a while.

Add the tuna and capers, stir for a minute, then add the wine and allow to bubble for 10 minutes, adding 3 tbsp of lemon juice and some zest for the last few minutes. You are looking for a saucy consistency so cook for a bit longer if it is still watery.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet timings, then drain and tip into a warm bowl, pour the sauce over the top, add the parsley, toss together, then quickly add the egg yolks and toss again.

(Original recipe from An A-Z of Pasta by Rachel Roddy, Penguin: Fig Tree, 2021.)

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This version has fresh pesto stirred through the béchamel sauce which is a variation we’d not come across before, and it’s very good indeed. So good we may add any leftover pesto to dishes like this in the future; it brings a burst of Spring to a rich dish.

Wine Suggestion: We were uncertain what to open alongside this dish given the many components, but felt we needed to stick to an Italian. Freshness to balance the béchamel, depth for the layered richness, but a lightness of being to complement the basil pesto. We had a bottle of Pira Langhe Nebbiolo on the shelf and we’re happy to report it was a good match.

Lasagne with pesto – serves 6 to 8

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 700ml passata
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 12 fresh lasagne sheets

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 litre full-fat milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 100g freshly grated Parmesan

FOR THE PESTO

  • 40g basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 120ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 20g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the 3 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions, carrot and celery for 5 minutes over a medium heat. Add the beef mince and cook for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking it up with a wooden spoon until browned all over. Season and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the wine, stir well and buble for about 3 minutes, then add the passata and tomato purée, lower the heat and continue to cook for an hour, uncovered, until you have a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning after 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the pesto by putting the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor. Pour in the oil and blitz until smooth, then transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside.

To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the cold milk, reduce the heat and cook for 10 minutes, whisking constantly. When the béchamel is thickened, stir in half the Parmesan, the nutmeg and the pesto. Season and set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas mark 4.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish. You can use your lasagne sheets to get the right sized dish, you need to make 3 layers of lasagne sheets. Lay a third of the lasagne sheets over the béchamel, then spread over half the meat sauce and top with another thin layer of béchamel.

Lay another third of the lasagne sheets on top and cover with the rest of the meat sauce. Add the final layer of lasagne and spread the remaining béchamel on top, completely covering the lasagne sheets. Sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan and grind some black pepper over the top.

Cook on the bottom shelf of the oven for 30 minutes, then move to the middle shelf and increase the temperature to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cook for another 15 minutes or until browned and bubbling.

Remove the lasagne from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010.)

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We came across this Joe Trivelli recipe at the weekend when trying to find a lunch dish that would use up half a tub of ricotta. It’s definitely worth buying a tub of ricotta for too.

Wine Suggestion: This dish needs a wine that has a bit of acidity and freshness, so taking inspiration from the grated Pecorino on top we went for the similarly named Pecorino grape from the Marche. The crunchy, characterful Vellodoro Pecorino from Umani Ronchi well met the mark and reminded us of summer too, which was a bonus.

Pasta with pine nuts and ricotta – serves 4

  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 300g tomatoes, peeled and chopped (Joe recommends yellow tomatoes but we had red)
  • 3 sprigs of basil
  • 400g short pasta, we used fusilli
  • 200g ricotta
  • 50g grated pecorino
  • extra virgin olive oil

Put the garlic into a wide pan with 3 tablespoons of oil and place over a medium heat. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add the chilli. Turn the heat down low, remove the garlic and add the pine nuts. Allow them to colour but watch carefully or they could burn.

Add the tomatoes and basil sprigs and season. When the sauce starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of boiling salty water until al dente. Scoop out a mug of cooking water before draining.

Toss the pasta with the tomatoes and pine nuts, then add the ricotta, half the pecornio and a few spoons of cooking water. Keep turning the pasta over until you have a nice consistency, adding more water if it looks dry. Serve in warm bowls with the rest of the cheese and a drizzle of your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from The Modern Italian Cook by Joe Trivelli, Seven Dials, 2018.)

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