Tag Archives: Pasta

Mushroom Spinach Tagliatelle

Mushroom Spinach Tagliatelle

Mushroom Spinach Tagliatelle

I have to be disciplined when it comes to pasta.  I have a weakness and could eat it every day.  Actually a while back I noticed I was making pasta for dinner almost every week nights and it was seeping into my weekend meals too.  I’m not worried about carbs or anything extreme like that, it was more a variety issue for me and also pasta is so easy I felt I was getting a bit lazy too.  So now, I try to eat pasta no more than twice a week at home (that little clause allows me to eat pasta out as much as I want) and I try not to post too many pasta recipes on my website either.  I want to give you lots of variety too.  But, there are times when I just have to have it, and, I just have to share it.  This one is a great mid-weeker, easy, quick and loads of flavour.  Best eaten when you can get some nice seasonal mushrooms.

Preparation Time: Less than 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients

300gr / 10.5oz  good quality egg tagliatelle pasta
2 x tbsp of olive oil
2 x shallots chopped finely
3 x garlic cloves chopped finely
250gr / 9oz.  minced beef
200gr /  7oz. frozen, chopped spinach (defrosted)
1 x tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped finely
400gr / 14oz. chestnut mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 x tbsp of Marsala wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional, to dress:  Some flat parsley, chopped roughly and a little blue cheese, gorgonzola or stilton are my favourites for this dish.

Method

  1. Heat the oil on a high heat in a non-stick pan then add the shallots, garlic and thyme. Allow them to brown slightly, this will take a couple of minutes.
  2. Check the pasta cooking time on its packaging and try to match this with the rest of the cooking time – sounds complicated, but once you’ve made this a couple of times, it’ll be like second nature – promise.
  3. Add the mince to the pan and cook until browned, stirring only occasionally.
  4. De-glaze with the Marsala wine, let it bubble off and add the mushrooms and then the spinach. Stir through and add a some salt and pepper to taste.
  5. This part needs to be done quickly, so don’t mess about. Once your pasta is cooked, before draining take about 4 tablespoons of the water in which your pasta has cooked and add it to the mushroom, spinach sauce.  Drain your pasta add it immediately to the still cooking mushroom and spinach mix, stir through, check seasoning again and serve immediately with the parsley and blue cheese sprinkled over should you wish.

 Tips and Variations

  • Make a veggie version by losing the mince, adding lots more mushrooms – a nice mix rather than just chestnut will give a deeper flavour, and a little sage (add this at the same time as the shallots and thyme).

Mushroom Spinach Tagliatelle

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma  Pasta alla Norma:

I’ve said it before, Sicily is one of the few places I reckon I could be 100% vegetarian.  I think it’s the mix of cultures that have had an influence on the island’s cuisine and the fact they just seem to have the knack of really celebrating their vegetables.  Pasta alla Norma is classic Sicily and probably one if it’s best know dishes, named after Bellini’s opera Norma it’s base is a tomato sauce with aubergine, but with some little additions from around the Mediterranean and further afield the simple sounding combination is lifted to new heights.

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 40  minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients


For the Aubergines (egg plant)
2 x aubergines sliced thinly – about ½ cm / 0.4 in. thick
2 x tsp salt
Olive oil – difficult to say how much as it will depend on the dimensions of your pan.

For the Sauce
2 x tbsp olive oil
4 x garlic cloves, sliced thinly
6 x large, ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 x small onion, chopped finely
1 x tbsp of small capers
1 x tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 x tsp of chili flakes
1 x tbsp of dried oregano
2 x tsp honey
Salt
75gr / 2.5 oz.  pecorino cheese, grated
Some fresh oregano or basil to dress

Pasta alla Norma

Method

  1. Lay the aubergines out and salt them – both sides, then place the slices in a colander with a tea towel underneath. Allow the liquid to drain for about 30 minutes.  Before you remove them, press down to get as much liquid out as you can – not too hard though, you don’t want to break the slices of aubergine.
  2. Whilst the aubergines are draining you can make the sauce. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and onion, let them cook for a couple of minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the tomatoes, chili, capers, vinegar, dried oregano, honey and a pinch of salt (be careful, the aubergines have been salted and the capers add a saltiness too).  Set to a medium heat and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.  As the sauce becomes thicker, you can turn down the heat so that it doesn’t stick.
  3. As the sauce cooks, you can get going on the aubergines. Get a plate and some kitchen towel ready and heat about a ½ cm of olive oil in a shallow frying pan.  To check it has reached temperature I dip the end of wooden spoon into it, if it fizzes, it’s hot.  Lay the slices of aubergine into the pan – you’ll have to do this in batches, and don’t overload the pan.  Cook gently on both sides until golden brown then remove and place on your plate with layers of kitchen roll in between the layers of aubergine.
  4. Once the aubergines are ready and the sauce has cooked down to be quite thick it’s time to add the aubergine to the sauce. Keep back 2 or 3 slices per person to lay over the top of your dish, this adds a nice crispy texture.  With the rest, tear them roughly into the sauce and stir through carefully as you don’t want mash up the aubergine – you want it to stay as intact as possible.
  5. Serve with the extra pieces of aubergine placed over the top and then sprinkled with pecorino and fresh oregano or basil.

Tips and Variations

  • I like to serve this with either spaghetti or penne.
  • If your sauce is too thick, and by that, I mean it’ll be difficult to get the sauce to cover the pasta evenly and you think you’ll end up breaking up the aubergine when you mix it through add a little water first, stir through to loosen it before you add the aubergine.

Italian Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Italian Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Italian Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce:

I feel a bit guilty.  I’ve neglected this recipe recently.  It was a favourite of clients for cooking lessons, they couldn’t get enough and then suddenly they and I just kind of forgot about it.  All of a sudden everybody wanted to eat middle Eastern, eastern Mediterranean and all those delicious Italian recipes fell by the wayside.  It wasn’t just clients though, I decided last year that I was eating far too much pasta, I mean like 5 times a week!  So, I cut back and cut down on a lot of my old favourites.  Then, last week I was tidying up some files and came across this recipe and of course had to make it right away.  Needless to say it’s straight back on my list of favourites (have had it three times in 2 weeks!).

PreparationTime: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes 

Serves 4
For the Meatballs
650gr / 1.4 lb lean beef mince
50gr / 1.7 oz. porridge oats
3 x cloves of garlic, crushed
50gr / 1.7 oz.  of grated parmesan cheese
4 x spring onions (scallions) chopped very finely
2 x tbsp of dried oregano
2 x tbsp of fresh thyme
Salt and lots of ground black pepper
2 x tbsp olive oil

For the Sauce
2 x shallots chopped finely
1 x clove of garlic, chopped finely
2 x tbsp fresh rosemary leaves chopped very finely
Honey to taste
1 x tbsp of dried oregano
6 x medium tomatoes chopped roughly
2 x tsp of tomato purée
2 x tins of chopped tomatoes
Black pepper and Salt to taste
To Dress, shaved parmesan, fresh basil and oregano leaves

Italian Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce

 Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs in a bowl until everything comes together evenly. The best way is to use your hands.
  2. Make small balls by rolling the mix in your hands, roughly walnut sized, set them aside on a plate.
  3. Heat the olive oil on a medium heat in a non-stick pan that is quite wide and has a good fitting lid.
  4. Place the balls in the pan, let them brown for a few minutes and turn over to brown the other sides/surface area and cook them through. This should take about 7 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of the meatballs and the heat of your pan).  Brown them all over and then place the lid on for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Being careful not to burn, but also making sure they are cooked through.
  5. Remove the meatballs, being careful to retain the oils and juices in the pan, and set them aside (not on the same plate where you had the raw meatballs sitting)
  6. Put the pan back on the heat, leaving the oils and cooking liquid from the meatballs, add the shallots and garlic and let this brown for a few minutes. If you need a little more oil, add it now and allow it to heat.  You shouldn’t need any more than one tbsp.
  7. Add the fresh tomatoes, let them cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Add the tomato purée and the tin of tomatoes, then the oregano and rosemary, stir through.
  9. Keep the mix to a gentle simmer, add some salt and pepper, cook for about 15 minutes and then check for seasoning, add honey if necessary.
  10. Return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce, warm through again if necessary, and mix to cover the meatballs.

Tips and Variations

  • Serve with tagliatelle, spaghetti or linguini.
  • For a richer sauce cook it longer. Leave it to simmer on a gentle heat and the flavour will deepen.
  • You can make large versions of the meatballs, but I find it best to cook these in the oven.
  • Instead of Parmesan, these are great with blue cheese crumbled through the meatball mixture, but be careful not to over salt in this version.
  • Try adding some chili to spice them up.
  • In some areas of Italy, especially in the south they add raisins and/or pine nuts.
  • Both the sauce and the meatballs can be frozen, although best to freeze them separately.
  • Of course you can use breadcrumbs instead of porridge oats in the meatballs. I tend to use oats as I always have them around (It’s a Scottish thing!)

Italian Meatballs in Fresh Tomato Sauce

Cauliflower Rigatoni

Cauliflower Rigatoni

Cauliflower Rigatoni

I’ve gone from one extreme to the other.  A few months ago I decided I was making (and eating) much too much pasta.  I’d come to rely on it, and noticed that the evening meal was a pasta one maybe 3 or 4 times a week.  Another thing that made me think my habit was getting a bit out of hand was when I realised how much space my ‘pasta collection’ was taking up in the store cupboard and how many varieties I had.  After going (almost) cold turkey for the whole summer, I think it is safe to venture back into pasta.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15  minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients
1 x cauliflower broken into small florets
300gr / 10.5oz. rigatoni pasta (good quality of course)
250gr /  9oz.  green beans, topped and tailed and halved
2 x tbsp olive oil
2 x shallots chopped finely
3 x garlic cloves chopped finely
175gr / 6oz. bacon cut into cubes
300gr / 10.5oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To Serve: Some Extra virgin olive oil and pecorino cheese

Method

  1. Put boiling water directly from the kettle into a large pan that will be big enough to cook the pasta, beans and cauliflower at the same time. Add a good pinch of salt to the water and put it on a high heat.
  2. Once the water is bubbling add the pasta. Check the cooking time on the pasta and add the cauliflower at the right moment to give it about 8 minutes to cook.  Then the beans, they will need about 5 minutes.
  3. Whilst the pasta and the vegetables are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. The pan you choose will need to be large enough to hold the pasta, cauliflower and beans too.  Add the shallots and garlic allowing them to cook and fry gently for a couple of minutes, then add the bacon.
  4. Cook until the bacon is crisp and the shallots have browned, this will probably take up to 5 minutes on a medium to high heat.
  5. Add the tomatoes, stir through and then take 4 tbsps from your boiling pasta water and add to the tomato mix in the frying pan, then add the lemon juice. Allow this to reduce and bubble until most of the liquid has gone.
  6. Add your pasta, cauliflower and beans to the frying pan and stir through, check for seasoning and serve drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and some finely grated pecorino cheese.

 Tips and Variations

  • Try a mix of broccoli and cauliflower.
  • If your frying pan is not big enough to hold everything, add the tomato sauce to the pasta pan instead of the other way around in step 6.

  cauliflower rigatoni

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

Recipe for Sweet and Spicy Cherry Tomato Spaghetti.

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Tomato Spaghetti

I have this thing, I suppose you could call it a challenge.  It’s a personal challenge, kind of secret, until now.  It’s about pasta.  It’s also about cooking quickly.  The thing is I like to challenge myself to make a really tasty sauce in the time, or less than the time it takes to cook my pasta.  I have loads of these sauces – some of them are so simple I don’t dare to even call them a sauce.  This is the latest in that category.  And, like most of my recipes, it’s very forgiving – you can play with the flavours to suit your taste.  Give it a go, just don’t get caught up in my crazy challenges.

Preparation Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients
2 x tbsp olive oil
2 x shallots chopped finely
3 or 4 cloves of garlic chopped finely
2 x red chili’s chopped finely
300gr / 6.5 oz. x bacon, chopped into small cubes
600gr / 1.3 lb. x cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 x ripe tomato chopped finely
2 x tsp of tomato purée
Juice of one lemon
2 x tbsp honey
A dash of good quality balsamic vinegar (optional)
A handful of flat parsley chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Some freshly grated or shaved parmesan, fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of virgin olive oil to dress

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan.
  2. Set your spaghetti on to cook as per instructions on the packet.
  3. Add the shallots, garlic, chili to the hot oil in the frying pan and cook for just under a minute, add the bacon and cook for about two minutes or until it is cooked through.
  4. De-glaze with half of the lemon juice, stir through.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, honey and a little salt (not too much as the bacon might be salty) and some pepper. Cook on a medium heat, letting everything simmer gently.
  6. Take about 4 to 6 tbsps of the water in which your pasta is cooking and add it to the sauce, stir through and cook until the tomatoes soften, this should take just over five minutes.
  7. Check for seasoning, add the rest of the lemon juice, the parsley. Add the balsamic vinegar if you think the sauce needs it or adjust the flavour in any other way. At this stage if I want more spice, I tend to add a few flakes of dried chili.
  8. Add the pasta when it is ready. I like to do this straight from the pan in which it is cooking by dragging it into the sauce with some tongs. This sauce can be a bit dry and can benefit from the extra moisture.
  9. Dress with the parmesan, basil and olive oil before serving.

Tips and Variations

  • If you don’t have any balsamic add extra lemon juice if you feel the sauce needs a little sharpness to balance out the flavour.
  • This is such a personal taste kind of recipe – you can add more spice or sweetness as you like it.
  • Try swapping the bacon for chorizo – be careful with the chili as chorizo normally contains some.

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Tomato Spaghetti