Tag Archives: Italian

Butternut Squash Macaroni

We picked up a copy of Gennaro’s Italian Home Cooking recently to expand our repertoire of Italian classics. This book is all about BIG cooking – most of the recipes feed 8-12 people so we’ve had to scale things down a lot! This recipe jumped out at us as, even though we’re inching towards spring, we’re not quite ready to give up our beloved butternut squash yet. You can use any pumpkin or squash for this dish. His recipe made 8 servings so we decided to make half and freeze half of what we made, and we are so glad we did. We made a pretty special mac and cheese with the other half – unfortunately this was so exciting that we forgot to take photos!

Ingredients – serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1/2 butternut squash (about 500g clean weight), cut into small cubes. We cubed all of our squash and froze half so we have that to look forward to sometime too!
  • Salt & pepper
  • A small handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 250g macaroni
  • (optional: a few drops of white truffle oil)
The truffle oil is sort of (but not really) optional
The truffle oil is sort of (but not really) optional

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and when hot add the chilli, garlic and rosemary. As soon as the garlic starts cooking add the squash/pumpkin cubes and stir well to coat in the lovely flavoured oil. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley. Turn the heat right down and cook gently for around 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the squash is almost cooked.

Chopped Squash

Add the stock in, turn the heat back up and bring to the boil, then tip in the macaroni and turn down to a simmer. Cook this until the pasta is al dente, stirring frequently. You may have to top up the water a little, we didn’t need to. This is where Gennaro’s recipe ends but we decided to make this dish just a little more luxurious! Serve onto warmed plates or bowls and if you wish, add a couple of drops of white truffle oil to each plate – pure decadence! The truffle made this dish for us, we tasted some of the reserved pasta in the pan which we froze and we definitely preferred the truffled up version. Serve with a side salad, we had ours with a lemon vinaigrette to cut through the richness of the truffle.

Squash macaroni cooking

This is such a lovely dish, we can totally imagine it being brandished with pride for a huge Italian family! It’s a nice trans-seasonal dinner too, it’s still quite wintery but not too heavy, perfect for these chilly spring days.

Squash Macaroni Done

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Prawn and Pea Spaghetti with Lemon and Fennel

Another one-pan quickie here, definitely with a spring influence – we went out and saw crocuses (crocuses? Croci? Apparently both are correct) and snowdrops in the sunshine today… blame that! Technically you do use two pans as you use one to toast the fennel seeds but this isn’t essential and they don’t exactly make much of a mess. So if, like us, you are ready for a little spring on your plate then give this one a try.

Fennel seeds toasting

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
  • Pasta of your choice
  • Raw king prawns, about 6-8
  • 1 large handful of frozen peas
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • A handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche
  • Salt & pepper

Lemon zest and parsley

Pop some water on to boil and when it’s boiling salt the water and drop the pasta in (pretty sure you don’t need telling how to cook pasta). When the pasta is a couple of minutes away from cooked add the peas to the pan. Once the pasta is cooked reserve about 1/2 a mug of the pasta water and then drain. Put the pan back over a low heat, add the fennel seeds, lemon zest, parsley, prawns and creme fraiche to the pan and stir over the low heat until the prawns are cooked. While doing this add in a little of the pasta water you saved as you need it until it looks like a perfect, creamy consistency. Season to taste and serve!

Pasta with raw prawns

Finished pea and prawn pasta

Ricotta, Aubergine, Prosciutto and Tomato Salad

This recipe was heavily inspired by a trip we took to Tuscany in June last year. We’re planning some special posts to celebrate 100 posts on the blog (only 4 more to go!) which will expand more on this and some of our other top foodie moments so keep an eye out for that! We had the most brilliant moment eating ricotta, a creamy gorgonzola, the most heavenly vine tomatoes, and two types of focaccia under the arches of the Uffizi gallery in Florence during a spectacular storm. Cuddled up together, in our anoraks (nerdy love), attracting all manner of jealous stares from everyone else who was trapped by the rain but hadn’t thought to bring lunch… the memory never fails to make us smile. We took a couple of elements of this perfect picnic, a bit of inspiration from a classic Tuscan dessert and added in our current obsession of chargrilled aubergine and a beautiful salad sprang into creation.

Salad Detail

Ingredients

  • Vine tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 aubergine, sliced into 0.5cm thick slices
  • 1 sweet, pointed red pepper
  • Ricotta
  • (Prosciutto – optional)
  • Mixed salad leaves – we chose lettuce and peppery leaves like watercress to add some bite
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Coat the tomatoes in 1tbsp of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and then place in a dish and put into a preheated oven at 140°C – the idea is to cook these slowly, dry them out to concentrate the flavours. The tomatoes we had in Italy were the best either of us have ever tasted and we knew that we wouldn’t get anything that delicious here so by semi-drying them we’ve managed to get a little closer. These should take around 1 hour altogether.

Slow Roast Tomatoes

Once they’re in the oven it’s time to prepare the pepper. You know those whole roasted red peppers that you get in a jar? Well this is one of them, but done fresh so it doesn’t have any of that vinegar-y taste. You can start off just holding it over a flame but we ended up rigging up a little system with two skewers going through the length of the pepper so that we could get every bit charred. The whole thing needs to be pretty blackened, it looks scary but will taste like heaven! Simply hold over an open flame, rotating every now and then to char the whole pepper – this should take about 10-15 minutes. Once it’s done pop in a freezer/sandwich bag, seal and just leave it to cool, once it has the skin will just rub off leaving you with sweet, soft flesh.

Charring a Pepper

Pepper Charred

For the aubergine salt the slices – sprinkle table salt on and stand upright for around twenty minutes then dab with kitchen paper. Mix 1 tbsp of olive oil with salt and pepper in the bowl/ramekin and then brush the slices with this before laying them on a hot griddle pan. They should only take 1 minute on each side as they are quite thin, you’ll have to do this in batches but the salad is supposed to be warm, not hot so just pop the ones you’ve done on a plate.

Aubergine Chargrilling

Now it’s assembly time – scatter some leaves on a plate, add the tomatoes, slice up the red pepper and add this. Blob some ricotta on and then drizzle each blob with a little honey and crack some black pepper on – this is a classic Tuscan dessert which we tried while dangling over the Arno, using it in a savoury dish is a little unconventional but it really works.

Tasty Ricotta

Place on the aubergine and the prosciutto if using, we used about 3 slices between us. For the dressing just mix equal quantities of good quality balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper and drizzle this on.

2 Salads

Salad on the Table

We’re submitting this recipe for Fromage Homage’s Cheese, Please! Challenge, this salad will forever remind us of one of the most amazing, joyful moments we’ve had and it’s been great playing around with the flavours and putting our own spin on it.

Fromage Homage

Vegetarian Antipasti Risotto with Parmesan Crisps

We know we’re probably making several Italians want to rip our heads off with the title but it does what it says on the tin! We were musing about how fab vegetarian antipasti is, and how fab risotto is and this beauty was born. Apologies for the lack of photos, Bird cooked this while Fats was at the pub and her bird-brain finds it difficult to cook and take photos at the same time…

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, very finely diced
  • 200g risotto rice (we use arborio)
  • 150-200ml white wine (we’re sad and don’t drink much white wine in the winter so buy the miniature bottles just for cooking…)
  • Around 1-1.5l stock, either vegetable or chicken
  • 5-6 sundried tomatoes, diced
  • 2 handfuls of frozen broad beans
  • Artichokes from a jar in oil, as many as you like
  • Parmesan and fresh basil to serve

Start off by heating the butter and oil in a large, shallow pan, adding the onion when hot. You want the onion to be really finely diced so that when cooked you can barely tell it’s there. Cook over a low heat for around 5 minutes, stirring almost continuously, until the onion is translucent but not coloured. Tip in the rice, stir to coat in the onions and butter and cook for around 1 minute, then pour in the white wine and let it bubble off. Now start adding the stock, 1 ladle at a time, stirring regularly and don’t add more until the previous addition has completely absorbed. After about 10 minutes add in the diced sundried tomatoes – we didn’t want to add them too early as they are such a strong flavour and could take over.

While you’re doing your regular stock additions now is the time to pod the beans. This step is optional but you won’t see the stunning bright green colour if you don’t and the outer shells can be a little tough. Pour boiling water over the frozen beans in a bowl, give it a few minutes to cool down and for the beans to defrost and then get shelling! It is a bit of a time consuming process but definitely worth it in our opinion.

Antipasti risotto cooking

Taste the rice and when it’s nearly done (should take around 30-45 minutes) add the broad beans and the artichokes to heat through. We made parmesan crisps to go with ours, you can just sprinkle freshly grated parmesan on once it’s cooked but these are fun and add a completely different texture to the dish. To make these just heat a frying pan over a low-medium heat and once hot drop in some little piles of freshly grated parmesan, each one should be about 1 heaped dessert spoon of cheese, and give them plenty of room around each other in the pan. Push down with the back of the spoon to give them a fairly flat shape and then just leave them alone. After a couple of minutes they should be bubbling well and turning golden at the edges so just carefully run a knife/palette knife around the edges to make sure they come off ok and then flip them over! They’ll only take about 30 seconds to 1 minute on the other side, then pop them on some kitchen paper to drain and get even crisper. We smashed ours up and sprinkled the pieces on but you can leave them whole for a more dramatic look.

Parmesan crisps

Fats loved this dish, he’d been struggling to imagine what it would taste like but (and we’re fairly sure this wasn’t the beer talking) he said it was one of the nicest risottos he’s had! Light enough for spring and summer yet comforting enough for winter – a perfect year round dinner.

Antipasti risotto with parmesan crisps

Rich and Creamy Lasagne

Lasagne is a bit deceptive – you think “Ah just a bit of meat sauce here, some cheese sauce there, bit of pasta, job done!” but it takes a bit of love and care to get a really good lasagne. And some days there really is nothing better than a really good lasagne! This one is a proper stick-to-the-ribs-er, a slowly reduced sauce made with a mixture of pork and beef mince, red wine and herbs, and a smooth cheese sauce with an extra cheesy layer on top! Bird made this while watching Lady & The Tramp… maybe it added a little Italian flair?

Ingredients for the meat sauce

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1-2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 125g pork mince
  • 125g beef mince
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 1 carton/jar of passata
  • Salt and pepper to season

Ingredients for the white/cheese sauce

  • 1.5  tbsp butter
  • 1.5-2 tbsp plain flour
  • Around 1 pint of milk
  • Grated cheese, we used cheddar but parmesan would be lovely too – as much or as little as you like!

Other ingredients

  • Lasagne sheets
  • Salad to serve

To start make the meat sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan/wok and when hot add the onion, carrot and celery. Let these sweat down for around five minutes and then add the garlic and herbs.

Lasagne veg

Cook for a further 10 minutes until everything is softened but not coloured. Add in the meat, breaking it up a bit with your hands as you do so, and then the stock and the wine.

Lasagne sauce

Let the meat brown slightly, then tip in the passata, stir, season and leave to bubble on the lowest heat possible, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Ours took the best part of an hour to fully reduce, you want to be able to draw a wooden spoon through it and be able to see the bottom of the pan cleanly otherwise your lasagne will end up as a big sloppy mess!

To make the cheese sauce simply make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan – once melted throw in the flour and stir together to form a paste (the roux). Cook this for a few minutes over a low heat, stirring continuously and then start adding the milk. If you wanted to make this the fanciest, best lasagne you could ever dream of them you could heat your milk with a bay leaf studded to an onion with a clove and some peppercorns for extra flavour but it still tastes amazing without all of that faff. Keep slowly adding the milk making sure it’s completely combined before adding the next lot. Now cook over a low heat, stirring continuously until it has thickened, then switch the heat off. Now it’s time to add the cheese! We like to have the sauce in the layers not be too cheesy, so we only added a small handful to start with and stirred it in to melt.

Lasagne uncooked

Now you’re ready to layer. We started with meat sauce, then cheese sauce, then lasagne and so on finishing with an extra thick layer of cheese sauce! For the final bit of cheese sauce we stirred in a whole load more cheese and then grated some extra on top for a really golden-brown, cheesy topping. The lasagne will take about 45 minutes in the oven at 180C to become gorgeous and bubbly and golden.

Lasagne cooked

Take it out of the oven and let it stand for five minutes (the longest five minutes of your life!) and then serve with a salad and the rest of the red wine… delicious!

Lasagne served

Comforting Italian Meatballs

This meal is like a hug on a plate. That sounds pretty weird but you know those meals that you just know you love, you think about making them a few days in advance, you plan them for a day when you have plenty of time to eat slowly, chat over wine and then go and collapse in an undignified heap on the sofa afterwards? This is one of those meals. Originally a Nigella Lawson recipe we think, but possibly adapted over time (sorry Nigella!) the meatballs are soft, fragrant with oregano and with a delicious salty tang from parmesan or pecorino cheese. They’re served with a rich tomato sauce which is so simple to make and mountains of pasta.

Ingredients (serves 4, generously – we actually made half of this mixture as our freezer is fit to bursting so we didn’t want leftovers but this freezes beautifully if you have the space!)

Meatballs:

  • 250g pork, minced
  • 250g beef, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 3 tbsp breadcrumbs or semolina
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

Tomato sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (preferably not extra-virgin)
  • 700g tomato passata
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper
  • 100ml full fat milk

So it looks like a lot of ingredients but plenty of them are storecupboard favourites, it’s really not intimidating at all! To make the meatballs you basically chuck everything in a bowl and then get your hands messy but there are some cheats you can do to make it even easier! This is a no chopping recipe, a knife free zone (almost).

Grab yourself a mini chopper or food processor and blitz up a hunk of parmesan, once it’s finely chopped whack it in a bowl. Pop the clove of garlic (peeled) and about 10-20 oregano leaves (depending on size) into the blender, whizz until chopped and chuck them straight into a big bowl which you will make your meatballs in. Now you will have some bits of garlic and oregano stuck to the side of your blender… do you want to waste them? Do you want to spend forever scraping them all out? No. So grab a small piece of bread, whizz that up to breadcrumbs and then chuck all of that in the large bowl too. Whizz up a bit more bread so you’ve got enough breadcrumbs to perfect the texture of your meatballs and you’re ready to go! Add all of the other meatball ingredients to the bowl, the measurements above usually work fine but if you have a particularly small or large egg then you will need to adjust the breadcrumbs accordingly. Get your hands in there and squish it all together, but try not to squash all of the texture out of this, you want the meatballs to be light and still retain a bit of texture. Once it’s mixed fairly well shape into meatballs, this should make around 16-20. Pop these on a plate or a tray in the fridge, they need at least half an hour to chill but can be left for hours.

Meatballs

To make the tomato sauce you’ll need your food processor/chopper again. It would be a total lie if we said we washed ours between using it for the breadcrumbs etc, a quick wipe and it’s good to go. Peel the onion, chop into large chunks and put it in the blender along with the peeled garlic cloves and dried oregano. Whizz this up really well, you want a grainy paste rather than finely chopped. Place a large saucepan over a low heat and add the olive oil and butter, once bubbling scrape in the onion/garlic/oregano paste and cook for about 10 minutes stirring almost constantly. This mixture shouldn’t colour, it should just soften and become really aromatic. After this time tip in the passata, and then half fill the jar/carton with cold water, give it a shake to get all of the bits off the side and add this to the pan too. Season it with the sugar, salt and pepper at this stage. It will seem really thin but it’s got a fair bit of cooking to do. Simmer this for about 15 minutes. Pour in the milk and mix well, then take the meatballs out of the fridge and gently drop them into the tomato sauce, you want them to be completely submerged and not on top of each other which is why you need a big pan! Resist the urge to stir at all or prod them around as they will just break apart. Put a lid on half covering the pan and leave them to gently simmer away.

Now is the time to get some water on for your pasta, the meatballs will take about 20-25 minutes to cook, we served ours with tagliatelle which takes about 8 minutes to cook. Once the meatballs have had around 15 minutes cooking time they will be less fragile so feel free to have a gentle stir of the pan to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom. Once the pasta is cooked we like to drain it, then put in a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce to coat the pasta and then serve the meatballs on top with more sauce, but you could just whack a big bowl of pasta and a big dish of meatballs on the table for everyone to help themselves! Serve with the leftover grated cheese (and if you’re anything like us, the block of cheese and a grater), a glass of red wine, a few twists of black pepper and prepare to feel like you’re getting the best hug in the world from an old friend.

Meatballs and pasta

 

Italian Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Traybake

It’s been a while since we blogged any Italian food which feels like a bit of a cheat because we love it and usually cook something Italian inspired at least once a week. This is another of our “bung it in the oven” specials (we seem to have a lot of those!), leaving you free to relax after work (or do something dangerously productive). It’s a little similar to our Salmon Traybake, but with a few Italian twists.

Ingredients

  • New potatoes, halved/quartered depending on size
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 large springs of rosemary
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • Vine tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Asparagus
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Parboil the new potatoes for a few minutes until slightly tender. Once the potatoes are boiling place a large roasting dish in the oven with 1 tbsp of the olive oil in it and some salt and pepper. Drain the potatoes, let as much of the water evaporate as possible and then tip them into the hot oil. Give them a good stir/shake around to get them coated and then put in the oven.

Take the chicken breasts, lay a sprig of rosemary on each of them and then wrap each one in 3 rashers of bacon. After the potatoes have been in the oven for 10-15 minutes and are starting to colour, move them to one side of the dish and lay the chicken breasts on the other side. Coat the vine tomatoes in half the remaining oil, the balsamic vinegar and seasoning and place these in the dish too.

Sometimes it's hard to make raw meat look appetising - not on this occasion!
Sometimes it’s hard to make raw meat look appetising – not on this occasion!

After all of this has had another 15-20 minutes mix the asparagus with the lemon juice, remaining olive oil and seasoning. Tip these over the potatoes in the roasting tin and then, using a vegetable peeler, take shavings of parmesan and place liberally over the whole dish. Use as much or as little parmesan as you like (as you’ll probably know by now, we are cheese obsessed so use plenty!). Leave this to roast for 10 more minutes then take out, throw over a few more parmesan shavings and serve!

That parmesan is gonna melt and be sooo gooood...
That parmesan is gonna melt and be sooo gooood…

We’re big fans of one-pan wonders, and this is definitely one of the best. So easy, really tasty and minimal washing up, so you can put your feet up for the rest of the evening!

Chicken and Bacon

Homemade Pizza

We love pizza! It’s definitely one of our favourite treats, and there are some great places in Bristol to get amazing pizza (see our review of The Stable for one example). Sometimes though it’s fun to have a go at making it at home – it’s a great one for when friends come round to dinner as everyone can have a go at making their own. We’ve got a foolproof recipe for pizza dough and some great toppings to share with you.

This recipe for pizza dough makes one medium-sized pizza base – we find that it feeds two people, you can double this up if you’re making 2 pizzas and it still works well. You’ll need:

  • 175 g strong white flour
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 level teaspoon easy bake/fast action yeast
  • ½ teaspoon caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

First, measure out the ingredients into a mixing bowl, being careful to keep the salt and the yeast separate. Make sure the oil is mixed in by rubbing it through the flour with your fingertips – the mixture should be breadcrumb-y. Now make a small well in the mixture and add 120 ml water, and prepare to get messy!

This much!
This much!
It's a messy job, but someone's got to do it...
It’s a messy job, but someone’s got to do it…

Mix the water into the flour to form a wet dough. Once everything has come together, knead it/smack it about a bit on a floured surface. The dough is ready when you can press your thumb into it and it springs back. Now put it aside in an oiled bowl (so that it doesn’t stick to the sides), cover it with cling film and leave it to rise. You want it to roughly double or triple in size, and depending on how warm it is this could take anything from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. If you want it to rise a bit slower you can put it in the fridge.

Knead dough

That’s your base done! I’m afraid we didn’t manage any pizza base acrobatics due to height restrictions in our kitchen (we didn’t want to end up with a dough-splattered ceiling), and instead just stretched out the bases to roughly cover our baking trays.

You can be more creative with your shapes, but we wanted maximum size!
You can be more creative with your shapes, but we wanted maximum size!

Now for the tomato sauce topping. This makes enough for 2 medium sized pizzas. Chop up half a white onion and some garlic and fry in a saucepan over a medium-low heat with some dried herbs (basil, rosemary and thyme work well) for about 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Then add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Blend this up a bit so that there aren’t any chunks of onion and tomato left.

We’ve used this recipe a couple of times now and it works a treat! Here’s some of the toppings we’ve used, but half the fun is making up your own!

  • Tomato and Parmesan on a pesto base
  • Tomato, green peppers and Parmesan on a tomato base
  • Serrano ham, goats cheese, mozzarella, figs, pine nuts, caramelised onion relish and wilted spinach on a tomato base
  • Artichokes, green pepper, pesto and mozzarella on a tomato base
  • Chorizo, spring onions and Parmesan on a tomato and chipotle chili base (to make this base, just add a heaped teaspoon of chipotle chili paste into some of the tomato sauce)

_MG_2614 _MG_2617

Once you’ve loaded up your pizza, heat up your baking trays in the oven (at about 220°C) – putting the pizzas on a hot base means they go much crispier – and then put the pizzas in for about 12 minutes, or until they start to go nice and golden.

_MG_1998 _MG_2620

We loved all of these, but we had our favourites! Fats reckons you can’t beat the chorizo with the chipotle chili base for sheer spicy-smoky awesomeness, but Bird thought the Serrano ham and figs were about the most indulgently delicious thing that’s ever been on a plate.

Linguine Amatriciana (Pasta with Bacon and Tomato Sauce)

This recipe is another one of our regulars, it’s very quick and easy – it’s ready in the time it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook – and it tastes really fresh. This is our take on an Amatriciana sauce, but using fresh tomatoes instead of tinned.

Ingredients

  • Dried linguine or any other pasta you fancy
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into small strips
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 300g cherry tomatoes, halved/quartered
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Fresh basil
Italian essentials - magical ingredients, and so fresh!
Italian essentials – magical ingredients, and so fresh!

Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil. While this is happening sliced the onion and bacon and fry in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat with a tiny bit of olive oil. Once the water is at a rolling boil put in a pinch of salt and add the pasta. Add about 200g of the halved cherry tomatoes to the pan with the garlic and however much chilli you fancy – we used around 1 tsp. The remainder of the tomatoes will go in right at the end to give a lovely fresh burst of flavour. Take a spoonful of the pasta water and add it to the sauce to help the tomatoes squash down and get all saucy and delicious!

Bacon in Pan

Amatriciana sauce

Once the pasta is almost cooked chuck in the rest of the cherry tomatoes and most of the basil leaves finely chopped, and then add the drained pasta to the sauce so that it really coats it. Serve this with the rest of the basil leaves on top and then add parmesan if you wish (we do, of there is ever an option to add parmesan to something we’ll take it!).

Mix it up proper - the pasta water will help the sauce go silky smooth
Mix it up proper – the pasta water will help the sauce go silky smooth

This recipe is perfect for a work night, as it’s so quick and simple, and tastes so fresh.  For added refreshment, serve with a cold glass of white wine if you have some lying around.

Stop the clock! About 12 minutes?
Stop the clock! About 12 minutes?

Quinoa Stuffed Vegetables

Quinoa. Not particularly new but new to us. We bought a bag recently as we hadn’t cooked with it before and wanted to experiment so we thought we would share one of those experiments with you! This recipe is great because it’s really flexible, you can use whatever you have lying around and give it a completely different spin with different herbs and spices and it can easily be turned into a vegetarian or vegan meal.  Here, we’re going for an Italian style with copious parmesan and a delicious and very pine nutty pesto.

Ingredients (for 2 people):

  • 100g quinoa
  • 500ml of stock – chicken or vegetable
  • 1/2 a white onion – finely diced
  • 1 small courgette – finely diced
  • 1 rasher of smoked bacon – diced
  • Fresh thyme (but dried would be fine too)
  • A selection of stuffable vegetables – we used red and green peppers and Portobello mushrooms
  • Parmesan
  • 30g pine nuts
  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves – finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salad to serve

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Put the onion and courgette in a small saucepan with a lug of olive oil and leave over a low heat to soften, stirring occasionally. After around 5 minutes when they have begun to soften and become translucent add the diced bacon, and continue to gently cook for another 5-10 minutes. Rinse the quinoa and then add to the pan along with the stock, stir and put a lid on the pan. This needs to cook for about 20 minutes – remove the lid after 10 minutes so that all the stock is absorbed/evaporates and the grains of quinoa are slightly separated.

While the quinoa is cooking toast the pine nuts until lightly coloured and then crush half of them in a pestle and mortar to a rough powder. Add the basil to this, along with freshly grated parmesan (about 1 tbsp), the juice of half a lemon and a good lug of olive oil. Mix this together to form a thick pesto-like paste.

Not as attractive as the stuff from a jar but a damn sight tastier!
Not as attractive as the stuff from a jar but a damn sight tastier!

Once the quinoa is nearly cooked prepare your vegetables by removing the stalks from the mushrooms, cutting the peppers in half and pulling out the seeds. Place these on a baking tray. Mix the remaining pine nuts into the quinoa with the pesto mixture, reserving a few pine nuts to scatter on top.

We're suckers for heavy parmesan use.
We’re suckers for heavy parmesan use.

Stuff this mixture into the vegetables, top with the remaining pine nuts and a liberal dusting of grated parmesan. Put into the oven for about 30 minutes and serve with salad.

Finished Quinoa Veg
We can’t wait to try this recipe a few different ways, perhaps with a Greek twist (feta and olives) or a Moroccan one (harissa and lamb mince).