Category Archives: pasta

Basic pasta recipe (Serves: 2-3 people – Preparation time: 1 hr)

Sometimes it is important to go back to basics and learn how to make certain staples.  The staple that I am going to focus on here is pasta.  I personally eat a lot of pasta due to its convenience; most dried pasta cooks in less than 10 minutes, which means often you can have your meal ready in 15 minutes.  So why make fresh pasta? Well, firstly it tastes a lot nicer and secondly it can be a fun thing to make with friends.

 Pasta is incredibly simple to make: all you need is eggs and ‘00’ flour, bring together as a dough, knead and roll out finely and you will have made pasta.  All other ingredients that you add to the dough just act as flavouring for the pasta.

 The key to making pasta is getting the texture of the dough right; what you are looking for is a firm but elastic dough.  If the dough is too malleable and soft it will break up when it comes to rolling and you may find that the dough sticks together afterwards.  If this happens, then add some more flour to the dough and restart the rolling process.

DSC_0915.JPG Continue reading

Summer tagliatelle (Serves: 4 -Preparation time: 10 minutes)

I have been playing around in the kitchen making fresh pasta over the last couple of weeks.  Making pasta can be hit or miss if you don’t get the consistency of the dough right, if the dough is too supple it will break up when it comes to rolling or will not hold its form when you cut it into tagliatelle or spaghetti. What you are looking for is a firm dough that is firm and elastic. As with many things practise makes perfect and once you get used to recognising when the dough has the right consistency it is very straightforward and fun to make.  I am going to share how to make fresh pasta in a separate blog in the upcoming weeks breaking it down into a helpful guide so that hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did when I was learning.

The recipe below is very simple and can be prepared in a matter of minutes.  It is a vibrant dish due to the colour of the ingredients that you use.  The key to making this recipe shine is buy the best quality tomatoes and mozzarella that you can afford as this will take this dish from being good to great!  If you can get a combination of tomatoes preferably a combination of yellow and red that are ripe and packed full of flavour that would be ideal.  This is a great mid-week recipe to have on hand if you are having friends over, it is incredibly easy and packed full of the flavours of summertime.  Enjoy!

DSC_0859.JPG Continue reading

Classic Lasagne

The weather is truly miserable at the moment, it is cold and rainy and it doesn’t make me want to go outside very much.  It is the perfect weather for enjoying a lasagne, another of my comfort foods.  The recipe below is our family recipe that I have been using for years.  It is everything you want from a lasagne – a meat sauce between layers of pasta and a creamy cheese sauce.  For some reason lasagne reminds me of my university days. I think this is because it is an affordable dinner party option that was always comforting and guaranteed to go down well!

Whilst I have been living in France I have been experiencing issues with the pasta bought locally not cooking properly which I think this is down to it containing a lot of starch.  Consequently, I have had to soak the pasta sheets before putting them in the lasagne rather than just putting them under the tap which I would normally do, which seems to have resolved the problem of excess starch.

As a family we tend to enjoy the lasagne with a big tomato and red pepper salad or coleslaw.  If I am feeling particularly indulgent I sometimes serve garlic bread as well.

 

Classic Lasagne

Ingredients: (Serves 6)

  • 12-16 lasagne sheets

For the meat sauce:

  • 300g minced beef
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 500ml passata (or tin of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1tsp mixed herbs
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

For the topping:

  • 25g hard cheese (e.g. emmental or cheddar)
  • freshly grated nutmeg
For the cheese sauce:

  • 1pt milk
  • 50g butter
  • 1 handful of plain flour
  • ½tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
  • pepper (for seasoning)
  • 75g hard cheese (e.g. emmental or cheddar)

 

Steps:


Step 1 – prepare the meat sauce:

  • Place the onions and garlic in a frying pan with a little oil, cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the meat and allow it to brown off.
  • Once the meat has browned off add the rest of the ingredients and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Step 2 – prepare the cheese sauce:

  • Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan.
  • Add the flour and make a thick paste.
  • Slowly add the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously to avoid lumps.
  • Add the nutmeg and season with pepper.
  • Once the sauce has thickened slightly add the cheese and stir until it is melted.

Step 3 – make up your lasagne:

  • Soak the lasagne sheets in warm water for a minute or so to remove some of the starch and allow them to soften slightly.
  • Take a large oven proof dish and make up the lasagne in the following order:
  1. Meat sauce
  2. Lasagne sheets
  3. Meat sauce
  4. Cheese sauce
  5. Lasagne sheets
  6. Meat sauce
  7. Cheese sauce
  8. Topping – scatter over the cheese and grate over some nutmeg.

Step 4 – cook:

  • Place in oven and bake at 180C fan for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with coleslaw, a salad and/or garlic bread.  Enjoy!

 

Homemade pesto and a quick pesto pasta

On Monday we had our first frost.  My heart sank when I stepped outside and saw that our basil plant was not looking at all happy.  I thought we had lost it all, but as I cut away the bits that had been most effected I realised about a third of the plant had survived.  So there was no other choice than to harvest the leaves and make something with them.

Earlier in the year we picked, shelled and froze a couple of kilos of hazelnuts, so I decided to see how they would work in a pesto rather than the normal pine nuts.  I had no idea how easy it was to make pesto before yesterday provided you have a food processor.  I have decided it is definitely something that I am going to try to make more often when I have the herbs available as it tasted so much better than the shop bought ones I normally get.

I tried out the pesto in a pasta dish that I knocked together last night using a few bits and bobs I found in the fridge.  It seemed to bring all of the flavours together and wasn’t at all overpowering.  Whilst the pesto worked well with the pasta, I am looking forward to seeing how it works as a marinade with lamb in the next couple of weeks.

 

Homemade Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 150g hazelnuts
  • 50g walnuts
  • 75g parmesan
  • 50g basil leaves
  • 25g parsley
  • 10-15 chive stalks
  • wine glass of olive oil (and more for preserving)
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Place the nuts in a food processor and blitz until they become crumbs.

2.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and blitz until you have the consistency you are looking for.  Add a little more olive oil if the mix is too dry and make sure you taste it to see if it needs more seasoning.

3.  Store your pesto in a sterilized jam jar, cover with some olive oil and keep in your fridge.

 

Quick Pesto Pasta

Ingredients:

  • pasta (75g-100g per person)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 50g lardons
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 1 mushroom (diced)
  • handful of green beans (cut into 1” pieces)
  • 2tbsp homemade pesto
  • olive oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

1.  Cook the pasta according to the instructions whilst you are preparing the other ingredients.

2.  Cook the onions and lardons in a saucepan with a little oil until the onions are soft.

3.  Add the chorizo, pepper, mushroom and beans and cook for 5-7 minutes.


   

4.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the saucepan along with the pesto and stir until everything is combined.  Then serve.

 

 

Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

I have been thinking about wanting to make this recipe for a while.  However, the thing that has been holding me from making it is the fact that the Old Man does not like spinach.  This is a slight problem when it is the main ingredient.  So I had to come up with an idea that made the meal appealing to him.  Then it dawned on me that perhaps adding Chorizo might distract him sufficiently enough to get him to try it.  The idea worked better than I could have ever hoped, the Old Man actually gave the pasta the thumbs up!  Success!

I am not going to try and disguise the fact that this recipe involves a lot of ingredients but my advice is to be methodical when you approach it and it will all come together.  I got a little bit of help when I was piping the filling into the cannelloni shells as it made it a lot easier and less messy!

This recipe involves using a tomato puree for the base layer.  I had made tomato puree from scratch a couple of weeks ago when we were inundated with tomatoes, so I used it in this recipe.  Making the puree from scratch was time consuming and I am not altogether sure it was that cost effective; despite the fact it tasted good.  (For those of you who are interested I have included my recipe for tomato puree at the end.)

 

Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5 people)

Base:

  • 2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato pesto
  • 20-25 cherry tomatoes (halved)

Pasta and Filling:

  • 18-20 cannelloni shells
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 400g fresh spinach leaves (washed)
  • 250g ricotta
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

Sauce:

  • 1 ½ oz butter
  • handful plain flour
  • 1pt milk
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • Seasoning

Topping:

  • handful of grated cheese (emmental or cheddar)
  • black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 180C fan.

2.  Spread the ingredients for the “base” on the bottom of a large ovenproof dish (I used a dish that was 20cmx30cm). 

3.  Now prepare the filling for your pasta.  Place the onions, garlic, chorizo, thyme and oil in a large saucepan and allow to soften.

4.  Add the spinach to the pan and allow to wilt down.

5.  Place the ingredients from the pan, the ricotta and seasoning into a food processor and blitz until the spinach is broken down and the filling is fairly smooth.

    

6.  Place the filling into a piping bag (I used a freezer bag that I had cut one corner off).

7.  Dunk each cannelloni shell into a bowl of water before piping in some of the filling. (It was at this stage I found it helpful to have an extra pair of hands).

8.  Place the filled shells on top of the base.

9.  Now you need to make your sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until you have a paste.

10.  Slowly add your milk stirring continuously so that you have a smooth lump free sauce.

11.  Add the nutmeg and season well.

12.  Once your sauce has thickened slightly pour over your pasta (if you are worried about it being too thick add a little more milk to your sauce).

   

13.  Finally, scatter over the toppings before placing in the oven and cooking for 30-35 minutes.

14.  I would recommend eating this with a freshly made green or tomato salad. Enjoy!

 

 

Tomato Puree

Ingredients:

  • 15-20 large tomatoes
  • a glug of olive oil (for cooking with and preserving with)
  • salt

Steps:

1.  Wash the tomatoes well, then remove the core and as many of the seeds as possible.

2.  Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a large saucepan with some olive oil, cook on a low heat for 30-45 minutes.

3.  Pass the tomatoes through a sieve into a deep roasting tray.

4.  Season with salt, add another glug of oil and place in an oven that you have preheated to 160C Fan for 2-3hrs until it is reduced, stirring occasionally.

5. Place in a sterilized pot and cover with some more olive oil.