Recipe: Orrechiette with Wild Garlic Pesto and Charred Broccoli

I made this dish just before lockdown, and then again in lockdown (but the pictures are from the first time I made it). It’s a perfect example of the kind of homemade food I want to highlight right now; inexpensive, nutritious and it allows for substitutions.

I was lucky to get hold of wild garlic even in lockdown (from Natoora and Natoora via Ocado) and it made me incredibly happy. If you live in an area where it grows you might still be able to forage for it, but you can of course use regular pesto (any green pesto in fact) in its place.

I use almonds in my pesto which makes it a little sweeter so charred flavours pair really well. (That’s how I got the idea for this dish in the first place). And the reason I used orecchiette was because I had some in the cupboard, but I also find it’s a good pasta shape to use with pesto. But you can use any similar pasta shape, I think the key here is that it’s not too big or too long.

Orrechiette with wild garlic pesto and charred broccoli, serves 2

250 g orrechiette

3 tbsp wild garlic pesto

mild olive oil

50 g grated parmesan

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

200 g tenderstem broccoli

salt and pepper

Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Trim the broccoli. Keep 2 stems whole and chop the others into 2 cm long pieces. Blanch all the broccoli quickly. Drain and transfer to a hot and dry frying pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until slightly charred. Set aside.

Drain the pasta and reserve half a mug of pasta water. Transfer the pasta back to the saucepan but take it off the heat. Add pesto, a little olive oil and pasta water if needed. Mix until every piece of pasta is coated. Add more water if not loose enough and place on heat while stirring for a minute or so if too watery. Add half the parmesan and half the lemon zest. Add the small pieces of broccoli and mix well. Season and place in bowls. Add a long broccoli stem to each bowl. Scatter with parmesan and lemon zest.

Recipe: Lockdown Chicken and Courgette Pasta

Cooking every single day is in a way easier than cooking a few days a week like I usually do. Cooking every day gives you a different continuity and it makes it a lot easier using up leftovers. In my regular life I sometimes have to throw away leftovers I had planned to use up because plans changed and they got too old. I really don’t like that. But London life is (usually) fast pace with drinks here and dinners there and impromptu plans. Which I love. It’s less conducive to meal planning though. But I do utilise my freezer as much as I can even in normal life.

But using up leftovers has become a sport of mine in lockdown. I don’t want to throw a single little thing away. I keep parmesan rinds in the fridge until I can throw them into a béchamel sauce, and add the leftover grated carrot from a carrot cake baking session to a salad. If some vegetables need using up they get used in a soup, quesadillas, salad or frittata.

And this chicken and courgette pasta is one example of using up every single little bit of chicken meat. One night we had a roast chicken with potatoes, gravy and vegetables. Two days later I reheated some of the leftover chicken pieces for lunch and made a potato salad with some already cooked new potatoes. After that there weren’t that much meat left, even though I picked every last little bit off the carcass before it went into the stock pot. So the obvious answer to how to use up the rest was of course pasta. Mixing proteins with carbs and some veg and lots of grated Parmesan is one of the best magic tricks of the kitchen craft.

This one, with lemon, soft courgette, plenty of olive oil and said parmesan felt very appropriate of spring but I could myself eating it on a sunny patio with a glass of ice cold pale rosé too.

Lockdown chicken and courgette pasta, serves 3

300 g tagliatelle

1 medium courgette, cut in half lengthways and sliced

approx 100 g leftover roast chicken

50 g parmesan, finely grated

lemon zest from 1/2 large lemon

50 ml olive oil

25-50 ml pasta cooking water

salt and pepper

Add a little olive oil to a roasting tray and add the courgettes. Toss in the oil, add salt and pepper and cook in 200C for 10- 15 minutes, until soft and a little browned.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions in saucepan.

Add the chicken pieces to the courgette to heat up and add more olive oil. Add the lemon zest and some of the parmesan and mix. Add the cooked pasta. Reserve a mug of pasta water and pour some into the roasting tray with the pasta. Add more parmesan and put the roasting tray on medium-low heat. Stir the pasta with tongs until it has the sauce consistency you like (a little gloopy). Add more pasta water if needed. Adjust the seasoning and divide between bowls. Add more grated parmesan to finish.

Updated: Tagliatelle with Tomato, Burrata and Crispy Parma Ham Crumbs

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As you may know by now, I like to change and perfect recipes until I’m 100 per cent satisfied. Take the dish of Spaghetti with tomato, burrata and crispy parma ham for example; it’s utterly delicious and I have cooked it many times since it’s inception, making little changes here and there, really evolving the recipe until it’s in Goldilocks words is ‘just right’. 

So, let me present to you the new and improved version of my tomato, burrata and crispy parma ham pasta!

The flavour was spot on from the beginning, but I found that the pasta shape could be improved upon and this creamy tomato-y sauce coats tagliatelle so much better than the more slipper spaghetti. And the parma ham. Although perfectly crisp and delicious it just didn’t work as well with a whole slice on top (both aesthetically and flavour wise) as the parma ham chopped small and covering the whole dish like sprinkles on an ice cream; deliciously interspersed with every bite! And it turned out the addition of parmesan was actually redundant. I can’t believe I just wrote than sentence, but sometimes less is more. Just trust me on this. Instead I added more burrata and a little more cream to the sauce so the dish is now rather indulgent. And so it should be!

Small changes, absolutely. But worth mentioning as the impact is huge and I always strive for pasta (and burrata!) perfection.

So do try this at home; it’s almost as fun to make as it is to eat!

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Tagliatelle with tomato, burrata and crispy parma ham crumbs, serves 3

400 g tagliatelle

6 slices parma ham

1 garlic clove, finely chopped 

1 tbsp light olive oil 

270 g cherry tomatoes, halved 

100 ml white wine

chopped basil

2 tsp caster sugar 

salt, black pepper

6 tbsp tomato sauce 

1 tsp herbs de provence

50 ml double cream

To serve:

2 smaller or 1 large burrata, at room temperature

more chopped basil

Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan. Place the ham slices on parchment covered baking tray and put it in the oven for 7 minutes or until crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, chop into small pieces. 

Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the instructions on the packet. In the meantime, make the tomato sauce. Add oil to a medium sauce pan and put it on medium heat. Add the garlic and shortly after the cherry tomatoes. Let them soften and caramelise. Once mushy add the wine and basil and stir occasionally. Add sugar to taste.

For more sauciness, add 6 tbsp tomato sauce and the herb de Provence. Add the cream and lower the heat while the sauce is thickening a little. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.  

Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan. Mix throughly and divide between bowls. Top with the burrata torn into smaller pieces. Finish off with chopped basil and scatter generously with the crispy parma ham crumbs.    

Updated: Gnocchi with Creamy Butternut Sauce, Browned Butter and Prosciutto Crumbs

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As I stated in my November post – I think this dish is perfect for this time of year. Obviously the pumpkin fits well as it’s in season, but the creamy sauce and fluffy gnocchi is also like a big autumnal hug in a bowl, that one most definitely need right now.

The original recipe is great for weeknight comfort, but cooking for my boyfriend on a Friday night I felt it could do with some jazzing up. So this is the elevated Friday night (or  dinner party) version for when you want to impress but still keep it fairly simple.

If you can’t be bothered with my whole ensemble of extras, and only want to jazz it up in a simple way then just add the prosciutto crumbs, because they have the biggest impact! And the thyme for some freshness!

And the sage is slightly redundant in itself, but it gives a subtle flavour to that glorious browned butter; you don’t need to put the sage on the plate.

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Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce, browned butter and prosciutto crumbs, serves 2

1/2 butternut squash

olive oil

salt & pepper

approx 300 g gnocchi, cooked according to the instructions on the packet 

50-100 ml single cream

grated nutmeg

a few thyme sprigs

finely grated parmesan

a few sprigs of thyme 

4-6 sage leaves

50 g salted butter 

2 slices prosciutto

Peel the squash and remove the strings and seeds. Cut into even-sized pieces and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Stir to coat all the pieces with oil. Place in the oven and roast until the pumpkin is soft, approx 35 mins in 200C. 

Cook the gnocchi and keep it warm.  

Place the prosciutto slices on a parchment lined oven tray and bake until crispy for approx 5 mins in 200C. Let cool on kitchen towel. Chop coarsely and set aside. 

Purée the roasted squash with a stick blender. Add (cold) cream until you have a nice thick sauce. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and grated parmesan. Heat up the sauce in a non-stick saucepan while stirring, if needed.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the sage leaves. Remove from pan and drain on kitchen towel. Keep the butter on the hob until it’s browned. Remove from the hob when it smells nutty and has a brown (but not very dark brown) colour. 

Mix the gnocchi into the sauce and divide into bowls. Add the sage leaves (if using), drizzle with browned butter and scatter with prosciutto crumbs and thyme leaves. Serve with grated parmesan.   

Recipe: spaghetti carbonara with girolles

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As we’re bang in the middle of the mushroom season (and it looks like a great mushroom year this year, judging from the bounty my foraging friends present) I thought it appropriate with a little homage to the lovely girolle. Which also happens to be one of my favourite mushrooms!

I think mushrooms and pasta go well together, and I have several great recipes on the blog already, but as I learned to perfect a proper carbonara I couldn’t help but experiment with it too. You see, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that the addition of girolles to the creaminess and saltiness of a carbonara would work really well, and so I tried it out on my favourite guinea pigs; my best friend, her husband and my boyfriend.

As I really wanted the girolles to take center stage I was afraid the salty pancetta would take over, but with the double amount of girolles compared to pancetta in weight, it worked really well. I also fried the mushrooms separately to the pancetta, adding plenty of butter, garlic and seasoning to really make them hold their own.

Hope you like my little experiment as much as I do. For me, this is just the perfect Friday night pasta, especially in autumn, obviously paired with a large glass of smooth red wine and great company.

Spaghetti carbonara with girolles, serve 4

6 egg yolks 

80 g parmesan + extra for serving

175 g good quality pancetta, diced

350 g fresh girolles, washed and patted dry

2 tbsp butter

400 g dried good quality spaghetti 

2 garlic cloves

olive oil

salt and black pepper

Put the egg yolks. in a bowl and grate the parmesan into the bowl. Add some pepper and mix thoroughly with a fork. Put to the side. Cook the spaghetti in salted water according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente. 

Fry the mushrooms in butter and a little oil on medium-high heat. Finely chop a garlic clove and add it to the pan. Season well. Pour the mushrooms into a bowl and leave to cool a little. Fry the pancetta in oil on medium-high heat. Peel a garlic clove, crush it with the palm of your hand and add to the pan – remove it if it browns or when the pancetta is cooked. Drain the cooked pancetta on kitchen towel. 

Fill a mug or small jug with pasta cooking  water and drain the pasta. Mix the spaghetti with the pancetta and mushrooms and remove from heat. Pour everything back into the pasta pan, add some pepper and some of the pasta cooking water. Add the egg and parmesan mixture and mix well. Add more pasta water if the mixture is too dry. Divide into bowls and serve with grated parmesan and black pepper. 

Recipe: spaghetti with tomato, burrata and crispy parma ham

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Who else loveeees burrata? I’m a huge fan and I think it’s easier to find decent burrata than mozzarella in the supermarket these days. That makes me a little sad, as I think good quality buffalo mozzarella should be readily available but as I love burrata, I’m glad it has become more accessible. Still, get the best you can find as even though the supermarket version is decent there are better ones out there!

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My favourite pairing with burrata is definitely tomatoes, as the natural acidity and sweetness in them just works so well with the creaminess of the cheese. I love a caprese style salad with burrata and that’s where I got the inspiration for this dish. With the addition of crispy parma ham for texture.

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Adding the tiniest amount of cream to the tomato sauce, like I’ve done here, really changes the flavours of it and I think it goes even better with the burrata this way. But only use a small amount of cream, as I think the tomatoes should still be prominent.

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Spaghetti with tomato, burrata and crispy parma ham, serves 3

400 g spaghetti 

6 slices parma ham

1 garlic clove, finely chopped 

1 tbsp light olive oil 

270 g cherry tomatoes, halved 

100 ml white wine

chopped basil

2 tsp caster sugar 

salt, black pepper

6 tbsp tomato sauce 

1 tsp herbs de provence

2 tbsp double cream

To serve:

1 burrata, at room temperature

grated parmesan

more chopped basil

Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan. Place the ham slices on parchment covered baking tray and put it in the oven for 7 minutes or until crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. 

Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the instructions on the packet. In the meantime, make the tomato sauce. Add oil to a medium sauce pan and put it on medium heat. Add the garlic and shortly after the cherry tomatoes. Let them soften and caramelise. Once mushy add the wine and basil and stir occasionally. Add sugar to taste.

For more sauciness, add 6 tbsp tomato sauce and the herb de Provence. Add the cream and lower the heat while the sauce is thickening a little. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.  

Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan. Mix throughly and divide between bowls. Top with the burrata torn into smaller pieces. Finish off with grated parmesan, chopped basil and the crispy ham.  

 

Recipe: open crab lasagne with white wine and tomatoes

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Sometimes recipes, or recipe ideas – to be more exact, pop into my head without any context (or warning) at all. But then I do think about food an awful lot… This open crab lasagne happened just like that. I was thinking of what I could cook for the weekend and suddenly this idea formed of an open crab lasagne.

And it turned out really well! The white wine, cream and tomatoes compliment the crab beautifully without overpowering the seafood. I really wanted this dish to taste of fresh crab, although in a ‘pasta with a creamy sauce’ kind of setting. And I find it genius using lasagne sheets like this (obviously not my idea in the first place), as it puts the focus on the crab and not the pasta. I hope you enjoy this little dish of mine as much as I did!

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Open crab lasagne with white wine and tomatoes, serves 2

4 lasagne sheets 

1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp neutral oil 

approx 120 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half 

50 ml white wine

150 ml double cream

1/4 vegetable stock cube

100 g fresh crab meat (white and brown)

1/2 lime, zest only

dill, finely chopped + extra for serving 

parsley, finely chopped

salt & pepper

dried edible flowers for serving (optional)

Boil the lasagne sheets until soft in salted water. Heat up a non-stick frying pan, add butter and oil and when melted the tomatoes. Let them caramelise and soften for approx 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and let it boil for a minute or two. Add the cream and the stock cube and stir. Let it thicken for a few minutes. Add lime zest and season to taste. Add half the crab meat and all the herbs (apart from the garnish).

Place two low bowls or plates near the stove. Take one lasagne sheet at the time and place it in the frying pan to coat it with sauce. Move it to the bowls/plates and place one, a bit folded over, on each plate. Add a spoonful more of sauce on each plate. Place the second sauce-covered lasagne sheet in the bowls slightly overlapping the first one. Add more sauce and divide the crab meat. Decorate with dill and dried flowers. 

 

Recipe: orzo with bacon, mushrooms and parmesan

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When I think of this dish an image comes to mind, of Nigella in her silk dressing gown, opening that famous fridge door to get herself a late night snack. The leftovers from this dish would be perfect for midnight snacking and all you need is a bowl and a fork. But it’s really nice for supper a regular week night when you want something fast, easy and filling on the table in 15 minutes flat. It does that and more.

The comforting flavours of earthy mushrooms and salty bacon together with the silky orzo pasta comforts you from within. And it’s that comforting feeling that is sometimes most important for me when I cook for myself on a day that just feels a bit meh. May it be from the incessant London rain, the fact that the weekend feels far away or a rubbish day at work – regardless of the reason you will feel better after a bowl of this. Promise!

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Orzo with bacon, mushrooms and parmesan, serves 3-4

200 ml orzo pasta (the one that looks like rice)

1/2 stock cube, vegetable 

200 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

ca 120 g bacon, cut into small pieces

150 ml creme fraiche

plenty of grated parmesan

salt and black pepper

Cook the orzo pasta in plenty of water. Add salt and half a stock cube to the water for extra flavour. Cook until al dente (approx 10 minutes or according to the time on the packet). Drain and pour the pasta back into the pan. Stir in some oil or a knob of butter so it won’t become one sticky lump. 

While the pasta is cooking, fry the mushrooms in butter and oil mon medium heat and make sure not to crowd them. If you have a small frying pan fry the in batches instead. Add the garlic towards the end of their cooking time. Add salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl. Then fry the bacon pieces on medium heat until crispy and brown. Drain on kitchen towel. 

Mix the creme fraîche into the pasta, then add the mushrooms and bacon. Mix well and add in some grated parmesan. Season to taste. Serve in bowl and top with even more parmesan.  

Recipe: tagliatelle with prawns, tomatoes and mushrooms

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I made this pasta with prawns, mushrooms and tomatoes back in Sweden in August for my parents and I for supper and we all really enjoyed it.

It feels fresh and light although it has cream in it and the prawns work so well with both tomatoes and mushrooms.

And it’s actually the tomatoes that steal the show for me! Look out for those little bursts of juicy sweet tomato that comes with almost every bite. I had the luxury of using my mother’s homegrown cherry tomatoes in different colours (they were delicious!) but any small tomatoes in season will work just as well (I’ve made this dish a few times since August using store-bought on-the-vine British cherry tomatoes).

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Tagliatelle with prawns, tomatoes and button mushrooms, serves 3-4

500 g fresh tagliatelle

1-2 shallots, finely chopped 

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

plenty of butter and neutral oil for frying

200 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

50 ml dry white wine

150 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

300 ml double cream

1/2 stock cube (fish or vegetable) 

400 g frozen Atlantic shell-on prawns, defrosted and peeled (or approx 250 g fresh ones) 

approx 2 tsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

chopped parsley

Fry onions and garlic in butter and oil on medium heat without browning. Remove from pan. Add more butter and oil to the pan and fry the mushrooms on medium-high heat until golden brown. Season and remove from pan. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the tomatoes and let them cook on medium geat for a few minutes. Add the wine and let some evaporate before adding cream and stock cube (no water). Stir and let the sauce thicken. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms and season to taste with sugar, salt and pepper (the sugar will balance the acidity from the tomatoes). You want the sauce to have depth and taste a lot as the pasta will dilute the flavours. Cook the pasta in a large pot and drain.  

Take the sauce off the heat and add the prawns. Stir and add the pasta. Mix properly so every strand of pasta is coated with sauce. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Top with chopped parsley and serve immediately.  

Recipe: proper spaghetti carbonara

 

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Recipes are not protected by copyright law, probably as they are evolving all the time. And as much as I like to keep to tradition when it comes to certain dishes I love to experiment with others.

When it comes to pasta there is no reason to always stick to the traditional recipes, but I think it’s good to try to master them first.

Growing up in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, we had a lot of traditional Scandinavian dishes, usually including meat and potatoes. Italian dishes then, when the world seemed a bigger place, were often (very) bastardised versions of the real thing, and therefore not of great inspiration to me. Because I only had the school dinner version of lasagne to sample I thought for a long time I didn’t like the dish. But it turned out it was just that terrible (yes, terrible) version I didn’t like. It was the same with ravioli (and other non-Italian dishes); my reference points were bad. Whereas everything my mother (or grandmothers) cooked was always delicious, but more Scandinavian in heritage.

Now my relationship with Italian food is quite different. I have been to Italy a few times and tried the real thing, and also cooked proper Italian dishes at home. And the emulsion of water and Parmesan keeps fascinating me. First of all, it’s DELICIOUS, but also, once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult at all as this recipe proves. And once and for all, you do not need cream to make a creamy carbonara, just a little patience and using the method below. But I must admit I added one tablespoon of it during my first attempt, although it’s not needed. As always Gennaro Contaldo’s recipes are spot on. Grazie.

Spaghetti Carbonara, serves 2

Adapted from Gennaro Contaldo’s for Jamie Oliver recipe.

3 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

Put the egg yolks into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all that lovely flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture (the pan will help to cook the egg gently, rather than scrambling it). Toss well, adding more cooking water until it’s lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and extra pepper.