Tag Archives: pasta

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

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

Courgette Ribbon Tagliatelle

If you’re anything like us you’ll have been longing for a glimpse of summer ever since Christmas – as far as we’re concerned, winter can get lost already and make way for some warmth! While this pasta dish can’t quite transport you forward in time 6 months (still working on that one), it is full of the taste of summer and will leave you feeling fresh and with a smile on your face! It’s another of our super-quick specialities, it will take no longer to cook than the pasta.

For 2 people, you’ll need:

  • About 180g of tagliatelle
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for Courgette Ribbon Tagliatelle

Start by putting your pasta on to cook in a large pan of salted water – a couple of large pinches of salt ought to be enough. While it is cooking, slice your courgette into thin ribbons – its easiest if you use a potato peeler for this bit. Chop the herbs while this is happening, and put to one side.

Courgette Ribbons

When the pasta is cooked but before you drain it, throw the courgette ribbons into the same pan. Leave them in for just long enough to be stirred in with the rest of the pasta, and then drain it all. Put back in the pan you used to cook them, and add the herbs, half of the lemon juice, a good pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and the extra virgin olive oil. Mix it all together and serve! Garnish with some lovely photogenic basil leaves, if you have any lying around, and serve up the rest of the lemon just in case anyone wants an extra squeeze…

Courgette Ribbon Tagliatelle Done

That couldn’t have been easier could it? We eat meals like this all the time in the summer – really simple, fresh pasta dishes that are comforting and yet leave you feeling rather virtuous… And in the winter they make a lovely change from soups and stews!

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

 

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?

Pimped Pesto Mac and Cheese

Hello and welcome to our first ever post! We thought we would skip the cheesy intro and get stuck in with some cheesy food.

Mac and cheese is having something of a revival at the moment with it popping up on the menu at restaurants across the country. We just cannot turn down anything involving pasta and copious amounts of cheese so this is our take on it:

What you’re going to need (for 4 people)*:

Macaroni (around 200g)
Cheese – any kind is good, we used parmesan, freshly grated (around 60g)
Goats cheese (around 200g)
Butter (15g)
Flour (15g)
Milk (around 1 pint/568ml)
Green pesto (1 heaped tbsp)
Smoked bacon/cubetti di pancetta (around 40-50g)
1 shallot

*These might be a bit off – we usually don’t measure anything so this is guesswork. If it’s a baking recipe we will definitely include correct amounts, and in future we will try to remember to weigh things.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Chop your bacon or pancetta into very small pieces, and slice your shallot into fine half-rings. Put these in a frying pan with a drop of olive oil on a low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until lightly golden and the shallot is softened. Put these to one side once cooked.

Meanwhile put a pan of water on for the pasta to cook, once it is boiling cook the macaroni until al dente (this took about 8 minutes for us).

Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough for the macaroni to fit in once cooked, and when it has melted add the flour and stir to form a roux. Continue stirring this over a low heat for around 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour.

Then start to add your milk – some people say this works better if the milk is warm, we’ve never found this makes much difference and as we don’t have a microwave this is a bit of a ball-ache so we used cold. Add the milk slowly stirring well in between each addition to keep the sauce smooth (you can switch to a whisk if it helps) and keep adding the milk until you have a smooth fairly thin sauce as this will thicken up later. Continue cooking the sauce, stirring every minute or so, for about 10-15 minutes until it has thickened up and is gorgeous and glossy.

Now comes the fun bit, adding the cheese! Take the sauce off the heat and throw in your grated cheese (see below for highly necessary demonstration):

It's a shame you can't see this because it's sexy.
I wish I had the magical ability to produce cheese from my hand.

Then stir in the pesto, and add the macaroni stirring well so that each piece is well coated.

I might frame this and put it on my wall.
I might frame this and put it on my wall.
PHWOAR!
PHWOAR!

Then tip half of this sexy, cheesy mixture into a lightly buttered oven-safe dish, put the bacon and shallot mixture you made earlier as evenly as you can over it, chuck the other half of the macaroni on and top with slices of goats cheese.

Pop it in the oven for around 20 minutes, and then under the grill for a few minutes to get really golden on top.

Don't you just want to dive right in? We did.
Don’t you just want to dive right in? We did.

We had ours with a simple lettuce and tomato salad with a balsamic dressing, sorry there are no plate pictures, we were too desperate to eat!