Recipe: Chipotle Broccoli and Pepper Pasta Bake

When it comes to pasta bakes I usually only have one goal; to mix pasta with cheese, something creamy and whatever needs to be eaten from the fridge. A great way to make them, absolutely, but recently I have been craving the same pasta bake again and again so it’s worth writing down the recipe.

I find that the combination of broccoli and fried sweet peppers work really well together in many different settings, like in a quiche, or in a salad, so maybe that’s why it works so well in this dish too.

Chipotle broccoli and pepper pasta bake, serves 3-4

As I’m of the philosophy that a pasta bake should include anything that needs using up, I highly recommend using up different dairy products and cheese. I’ve been known to mix creme fraîche with cream and even milk! Anything works.

200 g short pasta

1 head of broccoli, stem removed and cut into florets

1-2 peppers, seeds removed and cut into thin strips

1 tbsp mild olive oil

200 ml creme fraiche

2 tsp chipotle paste

salt and pepper

2 handfuls of grated cheddar

salad to serve

Cook the pastan al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and set aside. In the same pan, blanch the broccoli (place the broccoli in boiling water, bring to the boil and drain quickly) and set aside. Heat up a frying pan and add the oil. Fry the peppers on medium heat until a little brown around the edges. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix creme fraiche with chipotle, salt and pepper. Add the pasta and drained vegetables and mix well. Pour into a buttered gratin dish and top with cheese. Bake in 200 C for approx 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with a crunchy salad.

Recipe: Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Pasta with Spring Onions

There are so many aspects of a roast chicken supper that I like. That the golden roasted bird with herbs, lemon and butter pairs fantastically well with dauphinoise potatoes and is a real joy to eat is of course number one. But it’s also extremely satisfying that I can make stock from the bones to use for soup or stews. And that I can use leftovers for both sandwiches and (at least) another supper! You really can stretch a chicken quite far, especially if you’re frugal with the leftovers and use with pasta, as I explained in this post.

Like that recipe, this one came about in the usual manner; while creating a dish using leftover chicken and what else I had to hand at that time. In this case mushrooms and spring onions. The result, so good I wanted to share it with the world!

Creamy chicken and mushrooms pasta with spring onions, serves 2

250 g spaghetti 

100 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp butter

1 garlic clove, grated or finely chopped

150 ml cream

1 tbsp lemon juice

1-2 tbsp tomato paste

150 g leftover roast chicken, torn into bite size pieces

3 spring onions, sliced  

approx 100 ml pasta water 

salt and pepper

grated parmesan

Cook the spaghetti al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the mushrooms until golden brown on medium-high heat. Season. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic. After a minute or so add the cream and stir while it thickens. Add lemon juice and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the chicken and half of the spring onions. Add the cooked pasta and some pasta water and using tongs or a wooden fork, move the pasta so the sauce thickens. Once each strand of spaghetti has a nice coating of sauce remove from the heat. Season to taste with salt and peppar. Add grated parmesan and the remaining spring onion and serve.

Recipe: My favourite lasagne

Fun fact; I didn’t think I liked lasagne when I was a child. My mamma never made it so my only reference was the school lasagne which was horrible. I’m sorry, but it was and I still wouldn’t eat it today. So imagine my fear when we were going away with the student body for a few days aged 11 or so and I was told one of the dinners would be lasagne.

One of the school dinner ladies was there cooking for us and the lasagne she put down on the table was absolutely delicious and miles away from the bulk made one we had at school. From then on I’ve loved the dish, but as I never learnt how to make it from my mamma, it took me a while to figure out my preferred version.

After a lot of trail and error I have come up with a recipe I am very happy with and quite proud of. In my trials I have learnt that I don’t like mine to acidic and I definitely want red wine in the sauce. The smell of a bolognese sauce cooking on the stove for a few hours is one of my favourite smells. It’s the mixture of the scents that does it for me; slight smokiness from the browned beef, a whiff of fat that makes everything taste better, and the warming scent of red wine bubbling away.

I’ve also learnt (the hard way) that you need a vat of béchamel. Like way more than you think you need. Oh, and lasagne sheets behave very differently. The best ones I’ve found are these from Barilla that cook quickly and don’t drink all the sauce.

So without much further ado, here is my beloved recipe. Let me know if you try it and what you think! Oh, and try this salad while you’re at it. It goes perfectly with pasta and adds a little freshness and tang to your lunch or supper!

My lasagne, serves 4

Bolognese sauce:

500 g beef mince, at least 12 % fat

2 tbsp soffritto (equal parts minced carrots, onions and celery)

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 bottle red wine (375 ml)

1 tbsp tomato paste

400 g chopped tomatoes

2 tsp herb d’Provence

Bechamel sauce:

4 tbsp butter

3 tbsp plain flour

1 l whole milk

grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

1 handful grated mature cheese

1 parmesan rind

To assemble:

approx 12 lasagne sheets

1 handful grated mature cheese 

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and fry the soffritto over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add the beef mince fry until brown and a bit crispy in parts. Add salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine. Add the bay leaf and pour in the tomatoes and a little water. Add the tomato paste, give the pot a good stir and bring to the boil. Once boiling lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and let it gently simmer away for 11/2-2 hours. Stir occasionally and check that it’s not reducing too quickly. If so, lower the heat and add a little water. Once you have a thick and not too runny bolognese, adjust the seasoning and add the dried herbs. Leave on low heat while you make the béchamel sauce. 

Add the butter to a large saucepan. Add the flour and fry it while stirring with a whisk on medium heat for a minute or two. Add approx 200 ml milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture thickens. Add the parmesan rind, keep on a medium-low heat and repeat with the remaining milk. Don’t let it boil as it could split, and stir continuously with a whisk so it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Once thick and creamy add the grated cheese, grated nutmeg and lemon juice. Season well to taste and set aside. 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan. 

To start building the lasagne, pour a ladle of béchamel into an oven-proof dish aprox 25×20 cm and spread it out to cover the bottom of the dish. Place a layer or lasagne sheets on top to cover. Break sheets apart to find pieces to fit the dish if needed. Add another ladle of béchamel and spread it out. Add a third of the bolognese on top and spread it out. Add another layer of lasagne sheets, cover with béchamel and top with a third of the bolognese. Do one more layer. Top the last layer of lasagne sheets with béchamel and mix in a little of what’s left of the bolognese sauce, just to get a nice colour. Add the cheese and any remaining béchamel. 

Place the lasagne in the middle of the oven and cook for approx 30 minutes. Until browned and crispy on top and cooked through. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Prepare a salad, cut up the lasagne and plate. 

Recipe: pasta alla vodka

This year we’ve eaten a lot of pasta. I think we needed it this year more than ever. To me, a nice pasta dish is really comforting, especially if it is of the creamy Roman kind, but it also helps that so many pasta dishes are easy and quick to make. It seems much needed from time to time, this year when we have spent so much more time in our kitchens.

Pasta alla vodka has become a firm favourite that we eat quite often, and the creamy tomato-y sauce with a hint of vodka is just the best when in need for a bowl of comfort. I use Bon Appetit’s recipe and like them I prefer to make it with a medium-sized rigatoni.

Obviously one can eat pasta any day of the week but I’ve found it especially nice to make it on Fridays to celebrate the end of the working week with a quick but lovely pasta dish and a glass of wine. It sets one up for the weekend ahead, even in a lockdown.

Pasta alla vodka with rigatoni, serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe.

500 g medium-sized rigatoni

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

115 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tube (127 g) double-concentrated tomato paste

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (can be omitted)

60 ml vodka

180 ml double cream

basil leaves for serving

Boil the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and place on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, approx 5–7 minutes. Add tomato paste, and red pepper flakes if using, and stir until the paste evenly coats the onions. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the paste is deep red and starting to brown on bottom of pot, approx 5–7 minutes. Add the vodka to deglaze pan and stir to incorporate, scraping the bottom of pot. Reduce the heat to low. Using a heatproof glass measuring cup, scoop about 60 ml boiling water from the pasta pot, then add the cream to it and slowly pour it into the tomato paste while stirring. Remove from heat. Reserve about 150 ml of the pasta water and add the cooked rigatoni to the sauce. Add some of the pasta water to the pot and stir on low heat as the pasta continues to cook and the sauce thickens. Gradually add half of the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. You should have a smooth, glossy sauce that coats each piece of pasta. Season with salt and divide pasta among bowls. Top with remaining cheese, drizzle with olive oil and scatter basil on top.

Recipe: Cheat’s carbonara

You know how it’s a complete no-no to have cream in your pasta carbonara?! Well, during lockdown I had to forgo my principles a little when I was short on eggs. The honesty box for eggs at the village farm was under high demand and sometimes you were unlucky and went without.

So I ended up adding a little cream to my egg yolks and parmesan and it was actually so much easier to make a carbonara that way. No holding of breath and giving a silent prayer that it would turn out ok. It just worked, so for us non-Italians I actually think this is the best way to learn how to make this dish. And then when you’re confident and can make it in your sleep, make it without the cream and experience the authentic version, because it’s pretty great. Yes, better than this version with cream. But when you’re low on eggs or tired one night after work, then this is my go-to!

Cheat’s carbonara, serves 2

Very similar to proper carbonara, but much easier to make!

1 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

2-3 tbsp cream

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

a pinch of salt

Put the egg yolk 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 the 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 and the cream. Mix well (I like to use tongs to move the pasta around in the pan), adding more cooking water (if needed) until lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of parmesan and extra pepper. 

Updated: Easy Creamy Truffle Pasta

I last updated this recipe eight years ago, and it really is great as it is, but I recently adapted it into this creamier, more decadent version, and it’s too good not to share with you.

When you crave restaurant truffle pasta (like my favourite at Sorella) but don’t want to go out, this really hits the spot. Using truffle oil is of course miles away from fresh truffle, but as it’s much easier to get hold of it makes sense to keep a good bottle in your pantry for when the cravings hit.

Easy creamy truffle pasta, serves 2

3oo g good tagliatelle

50 g salted butter

50 ml double cream

about 1 tsp good quality truffle oil

plenty of grated parmesan

1/4 lemon

sea salt and black pepper

Cook the pasta al dente in salted water. Remove half a mug of pasta water and drain the rest away in a colander. Put the hot pan back onto high heat and add the butter. Let it foam and wait for brown flecks to appear. Remove from heat and pour in the cream while whisking. Let it thicken a little then add in a little of the pasta water and add the pasta. Add the parmesan little by little while stirring until you have a silky sauce. If too thick, add more pasta water. If too runny, put it back on medium heat and keep stirring. When the consistency is right, remove from heat and add the truffle oil. Add a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper. Divide between bowls. Add more parmesan, a little more black pepper and maybe a few more drops of truffle oil.

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

IMG_2785.jpeg

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!

IMG_2787.jpeg

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.    

Recipe: spaghetti carbonara with girolles

IMG_2410.jpeg

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.