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Posts Tagged ‘Pasta’

We’re never sure what to cook for other people’s children but most of them seem to like pasta bake. This one has been popular and also the recipe below which uses a packet of supermarket filled pasta. They like our home-made lasagne too but we don’t always have the energy or time for the extra effort required!

Easy Pasta Bake – serves 3 children (or even 2 adults and 1 child)

  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • a small handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 packet of filled pasta, about 250g, we tend to go for spinach and ricotta tortellini but you could do a meat filled version if you want to keep to traditional lasagne flavours
  • 4 tbsp mascarpone
  • 3 tbsp grated Parmesan, plus extra for over the top
  • ½ a small ball of mozzarella, sliced

Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan. Add the garlic and cook gently for a couple of minutes, then tip in the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the basil.

Cook the pasta in boiling water for about a minute less than recommended on the pack, then drain.

Mix the mascarpone with the 3 tbsp grated Parmesan.

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

Rub a little olive oil over a small baking dish. Spoon a little bit of tomato sauce over the bottom of the dish, add about half the pasta, then spoon over half the mascarpone and Parmesan mixture.

Add another layer of tomato sauce, then the rest of the pasta. Top with the remainder of the tomato sauce and the mascarpone mix. Lay the mozzarella slices over the top and sprinkle with some more grated Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven until golden and bubbling.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, June 2016.)

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A great dish for using up the end of a tub of cream with just a few ingredients that you might well have already.

Wine Suggestion: Central Italian whites just seem to sing with this dish and the La Piuma Pecorino which is light as a feather, citrussy and floral hits the spot; and is a bargain to boot.

Tagliatelle with broad beans, cream & mint – serves 2

  • 150g broad beans, blanched and skins slipped off
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 100ml double cream
  • a small handful of mint, finely chopped
  • 75g pecorino, finely grated
  • 200g dried tagliatelle

Get the pasta water on, then start the sauce.

Whizz half the beans in the small bowl of a food processor to get a rough purée.

Warm the 1 tbsp of the oil and the garlic in a heavy-based saucecpan for a minute or two to soften the garlic but without letting it colour.

Add the puréed broad beans, to the pan and cook for a minute, then add the double cream and the rest of the broad beans. Stir in the mint and bring to a simmer. Add half the pecorino and season to taste – careful as the cheese is quite salty.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of salty water then scoop straight out of the cooking water and into the pan with the sauce. Toss to combine and add a little more pasta cooking water if needed to make a sauce. Serve with the extra pecorino for sprinkling over the top.

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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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Bored with bolognese? Try this lamb and pea ragu for a change, it’s just as comforting but peas for a bit of Spring freshness.

Wine Suggestion: We had a glass of the Umani Ronchi Rosso Conero Serrano, which is an unoaked Montepulciano with a touch of Sangiovese. Springtime in a glass.

Lamb & pea ragu – serves 6

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 1 leek, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 anchovy fillet, drained
  • a splash of white wine
  • 200g tomato passata
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 250ml full-fat milk
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 150g frozen peas
  • grated Parmesan
  • 500g casarecce, fusilli or other pasta

Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the mince and fry until well browned. Season with salt and pepper and scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the carrot, celery and leek to the fat in the pan and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, and anchovy to the pan and cook for another minute.

Return the lamb to the pan and stir into the vegetables, then add the splash of wine and allow it to almost evaporate. Add the passata and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes more, until the sauce is quite thick.

Add the milk and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thick and creamy, then stir in the balsamic vinegar and peas and cook for a final 3 minutes. Season again to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the past is lots of very salty water. Drain and reserve a mug of cooking water. Combine the sauce and pasta and add a bit of pasta cooking water to moisten if you need.

Serve with lots of grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Jane Baxter in The Guardian)

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We’ve tried a few of these lately; a pasta dish where you literally chuck everything into the one pan, pasta and all, and cook. Perfect for weeknight/late night cooking.

Wine Suggestion: Well we wouldn’t go too fancy here as it would sort of defeat the purpose, something red, Italian, and not too expensive would be our choice.

One-pan pasta with sausage & fennel – serves 2-3

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 pork sausages, skinned
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp hot-smoked paprika
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped or plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 450ml chicken stock
  • 175g penne pasta or similar
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche, soft cheese or double cream
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated, plus more to serve
  • a bunch of basil, roughly torn

Heat the oil in a a large deep frying pan. Pull off small pieces of sausage and add them to the pan. Fry until nicely browned all over. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, paprika and chilli flakes and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée and stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in the pasta, then cover with a lid and simmer gently for 12-15 minutes or until almost cooked, give it a stir now and then as it cooks. Stir in the crème fraîche, Parmesan and basil, then remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to sit for a couple of minutes. Serve with extra Parmesan.

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

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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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Tinned fish seems to be having a moment, which is fine with us because we love it. We especially like Shines of Killybegs who do great sardines in sunflower oil, amongst lots of other delicious fishy things.

Wine Suggestion: An Italian white with a nutty twist at the end like Sartarelli’s Tralivio, a verdicchio from low yielding old vines that epitomises the very best of this grape and a perfect match to the umami saltiness of this dish.

Spaghetti with chilli, sardines & oregano – serves 2

  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 75g rough breadcrumbs, made from stale bread
  • 200g dried spaghetti
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 x 120g tin good-quality sardines in oil, drained
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 50g rocket

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add a good glug of olive oil and when it’s hot add the breadcrumbs and half the garlic. Cook for a few minutes until golden and toasted, then season with salt and pepper and toss well. Drain on kitchen paper if needed.

Cook the pasta according the pack timings in lots of very salty water.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add a little oil, then add the remaining garlic and the chilli for 1-2 minutes. Flake the sardines into small pieces, then toss in the pan with the garlic and chilli.

Lift the cooked pasta out of the cooking water with tongs and add straight to the frying pan with the sardines. Toss to mix well, then add the oregano and season to taste.

Stir in the rocket and divide between two plates. Garnish with the garlicky breadcrumbs.

(Original recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course,

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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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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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A simple pasta dish with fantastic flavours. It looks veggie but actually contains anchovies and chicken stock. If you’re not bothered by those it’s a definite winner!

Conchiglie with chickpeas and za’atar – serves 4

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • a small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 10g thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • 25g anchovy fillets in oil, drained and chopped
  • 1 lemon, finely shave off a piece of the skin of half, then squeeze to get 2 tbsp of juice
  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 200g conchiglie pasta (or gigli or orecchiette)
  • 50g baby spinach
  • 15g parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp za’atar

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan until hot, then add the onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, anchovies, lemon skin, ½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring, until soft and golden.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the chickpeas and sugar. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring now and then, until the chickpeas start to brown and turn crispy. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 6 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the timings on the pack, then drain.

Stir the spinach and parsley into the chickpeas, if it doesn’t wilt you can warm the chickpeas through again gently. Add the pasta to the pan of chickpeas and stir to combine. Divide between bowls, then sprinkle with the za’atar and drizzle with olive oil.

(Original recipe from Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi with Tara Wigley and Esme Howarth, Ebury Press, 2018.)

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Every year we get a Christmas gift of a cookbook, well we demand it really. This year’s was Med by Claudia Roden and we made this soup as soon as we got home. The flavours are unusual and very delicate but it’s really lovely.

Yoghurt soup with orzo & chickpeas – serves 4

  • 50g orzo
  • 700ml chicken stock (or you can use veg stock)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 250g Greek-styke yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • a good pinch of saffron threads
  • 120g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • extra virgin olive oil, sumac & chilli powder (to garnish)

Cook the orzo in salty boiling water according to the pack instructions, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil in another saucepan.

Put the egg yolk and cornflour into a bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth. Put a large spoonful of the yoghurt into the bowl and beat to combine, then beat in the rest of the yoghurt. Stir in the mint, saffron and some black pepper.

Remove the stock from the heat and add the yoghurt mixture, whisking continuously. Stir over a very low heat until beginning to simmer, then cook for 3-5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the chickpeas and heat through and season with salt to taste.

Mix the orzo into the soup just before serving.

Divide between warm bowls and garnish with the sumac, chilli powder and olive oil.

(Original recipe from Med A Cookbook by Claudia Roden, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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Tender lamb and a sauce rich with cumin and warm spices. Certainly not a combination we’re used to but one that works very well. Do remember to put the lamb in the marinade when you get home from work, don’t skimp on the butter, and don’t be tempted to use any cheese on the pasta, it is not required!

Wine Suggestion: warm, red and spicy; like a good Primitivo (Zinfandel), Monastrell (juicy Mourvedre) or Shiraz. Our choice tonight was Finca Bacara’s Crazy Grapes Monastrell from Jumilla in Spain; juicy, brambly and velvety tannins.

Lamb & Cumin Pasta – serves 4

  • 500g lamb leg steaks
  • 1 tbsp garlic granules
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 250g tagliatelle
  • 50g butter

Put the lamb between sheets of cling film and bash with a rolling pin to flatten. Thinly slice the lamb into strips about ½ cm thick and put them into a non-reactive bowl. Add the garlic granules, spices, olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar and plenty of seasoning and mix well. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate at room temperature for at least an hour.

Cook the pasta in lots of salty water, then drain but keep the cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat a wok over a high heat. When hot, add the lamb and the marinade, cook until seared all over, this shouldnt take more than a few minutes, avoid stirring constantly to allow it to sear.

Remove the wok from the heat and add the butter. Check the seasoning, then add the cooked pasta with a little cooking water to loosen. Serve straightaway.

(Original recipe from Simply by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2020.)

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This is tomato pasta sauce but with some unusual additions that make it taste a bit special. We hightly recommend you try this.

Pasta with tomato sauce & brown caper butter – serves 4

  • 400g penne pasta
  • Parmesan
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil, for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 tsp runny honey

FOR THE BROWN CAPER BUTTER

  • 4 tbsp capers, drained
  • 75g butter

Fry the onion in a splash of olive oil over a lowish heat for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic, rosemary and tomato purée and fry for another minute, then add the tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lots of salty water until al denté.

Melt a small knob of the butter into a small frying pan, then add the capers and fry until they burst open, then tip into a small bowl. Add the rest of the butter to the frying pan and cook until it turns light brown and smells nutty, then pour over the capers.

Add the miso, honey and a little seasoning to the tomato sauce.

Drain the pasta but reserve a mug of the cooking water.

Mix the drained pasta with the tomato sauce and a splash of cooking water to loosen the sauce. Divide between warm bowls, then pour over the caper butter. Serve sprinkled with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley.

(Original recipe by Ylva Bergqvist in Olive Magazine, December 2018.)

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This is a rather unconventional method but it does work, and the resulting dish is perfect comfort food for a cold day. The za’atar pesto is a good addition to cut through the richness and the feta provides creamy nuggets. A crazy but good idea from the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen.

Wine Suggestion: A crisp white with body and texture is called for here to help cut through rich layers and stand up to the complex flavours. Domaine Ventenac’s Cassandre waas our choice and a very happy match indeed. Vermentino from Cabardes in the south of France, this comes from vineyards that have cooling breezes and a little altitude to give it depth of flavour as well as a scintillating freshness; finishing with a slight nutty twist that gave the pesto an extra lift.

Middle Eastern mac n cheese with za’atar pesto – serves 4 to 6

  • 300g dried cavatappi or fusilli pasta
  • 600-700ml whole milk
  • 65g unsalted butter, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and roughly crushed
  • 75ml double cream
  • 150g mature cheddar, roughly grated
  • 180g Greek feta, roughly crumbled
  • 45g shop-bought crispy onions or shallots

FOR THE ZA’ATAR PESTO

  • 1 large lemon
  • 3 tbsp za’atar
  • 20g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 40g pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

Put the pasta, 600ml of milk, 350ml of water, the butter, garlic, turmeric, 1 tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper into a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down the heat and cook, stirring now and then, for 8-14 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and the sauce thickened. You can add the extra 100ml of milk if you need it thinned a bit.

Turn the heat to low and stir in the cumin, cream and cheeses. Stir until the cheddar has melted.

Meanwhile, make the pesto. Finely grate the lemon to get 1½ tsp of zest. Peel the lemon, cut into segments and roughly chop. Put the lemon and zest into a bowl.

Put the za’atar, coriander, garlic, pine nuts, a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and 3 tbsp of the oil into a food processor, then pulse a few times to get a coarse paste. Add to the lemon and stir in the remaining 3 tbsp of oil.

Transfer the cheesey pasta to a large serving platter, dot all over with the pesto and top with the crispy onions.

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

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A perfect lunchbox dish, keeping our December weekdays cheery.

Fried halloumi with oregano, orzo & pesto – serves 4

  • 350g orzo
  • 15g oregano, leaves picked
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g halloumi, sliced
  • 200g plum cherry tomatoes, halved
  • handful black olives, chopped
  • 140g tub fresh pesto

Bring a pan of salty water to the boil and cook the orzo according to the pack instructions.

Meanwhile, mix the oregano in a small bowl with the oil and brush some over the halloumi.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and fry the halloumi for a few minutes on each side or until golden.

Drain the orzo and mix in a large bowl with the tomatoes, olives and pesto, then season. Divide into lunchboxes, then top with the halloumi and drizzle over the rest of the oregano oil.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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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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Who doesn’t love tuna pasta bake. We’re a bit sceptical about one pot cooking … what’s the big deal with using more pots? Anyhow, the one pot works in this case as the pasta absorbs all the flavours. This is also another dish that breaks the nonsense “no cheese with fish” rule.

This is easily halved and can be whipped up from store cupboard ingredients mid-week.

Wine Suggestion: A light, youthful sangiovese with plenty of fruit like Rocca delle Macie’s Chianti Vernaiolo.

Tuna Pasta Bake – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tins of tuna, drained
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 25g capers
  • 25g black olives, halved
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • leaves from 1 sprig of thyme
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 400g short pasta, we used fusilli
  • 75g Cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole, we have a shallow one which works well for this, then add the onion and cook until very soft. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tuna, tomatoes, capers, olives, lemon zest, thyme and chilli flakes. Stir until well combined, then add the pasta. Season with salt and pepper, then stir until the pasta is completely coated in sauce.

Pour in enough water to just cover the pasta and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the water. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes, start checking at 10. You might need to stir now and again to stop it sticking to the bottom.

Heat the grill to high.

Sprinkle the dish with the cheese, then place under the grill until browned and bubbling.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ One Pot Wonders by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2019.)

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