Archive | Pasta RSS feed for this section

Soba and Broccoli Salad

3 May

This healthy little salad makes a perfect spring lunch. A lovely combination of fresh green broccoli sprouts, buckwheat noodles and deeply satisfying oriental flavours.
Serves 2  Prep and cook time 10 minutes

  • 2 servings of Soba or other oriental noodles
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 tsp fine sugar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (optional)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • chilli (ground or flacked) to taste (optional)
  • sesame seeds

In a large pan of water. Boil soba for 3 minutes then add the broccoli florets and boild for a further 3-4 minutes until both are just cooked. Meanwhile slice the spring onions and put into a wide serving bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Whe the noodles and broccoli are cooked drain and toss in the dressing mixture. Serve hot or cold, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Cooking Tip. It is important to slightly under cook both vegetables and noodles when making this salad to keep the ingredients fresh so they are at their best served cold.
Cooks Note soba are a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat whole wheat spaghetti makes a great alternative. Mirin can be replaced by 1tsp voka mixed with 2 tsp water and 1/2 tsp sugar.
Variationsadd char grilled red pepper strips.


Spaghetti Carbonara

9 Jan

Carbonara is a perfect sauce for spaghetti because the ham and eggy-cheese mix clings to the thin strands of pasta. I love it, particularly for lunch on a cold day, the simple flavours are satisfying and it is super quick to make.

Serves 2 Prep&Cook 10-15mins

  • 1/2 onion or 1 green onion
  • 100g streaky bacon or pancetta minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • pinch paprika or to taste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp yogurt or creme fresh
  • 1-2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put a large pan of salted water on the stove to boil. When boiling add enough spaghetti for each person, in this case 2, a little olive oil, then cover and boil for 6-7 minutes or cooked to your taste. In a wide pan or wok fry the bacon and onion in a decent glug of olive oil until the bacon starts to colour. Meanwhile mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl to make the sauce and set aside. When the pasta is cooked drain immediately and add it to the bacon pan stir then add the sauce stir well and cook over a low heat for a minute or so until all the sauce is clinging to the pasta. Serve immediately with a little side salad.
NB you can easily make a vegetarian version of this pasta dish by just leaving out the bacon.

Pasta Arrabbiata

14 Oct

This is a classic Italian pasta sauce, spicy tomato sauce with garlic, herbs and hot chilli pepper. Most commonly served with a ridged pasta such Penne all’Arrabbiata. Arrabbiata means “angry” in Italian referring to the red colour of the sauce and its angry heat. The main ingredients of an Arrabbiata Sauce are tomatoes and chilli most cooks will add some garlic, onion and one or more fresh herbs, I prefer oregano for this dish. Some cooks also use cured bacon but for my taste i like to add a couple of anchovy fillets to deepen the flavour. It is a simple sauce and can be cooked in the time it takes to boil the pasta, using either fresh tomatoes or bottled.
Serves 2 prep 5mins cooking 9 minutes

  • Pasta, 2 servings
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red shallot
  • 2-3 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1-3 fresh red chilli peppers or dried chilli flakes to taste
  • 2-3 tomatoes or 1 cup of home-made passata
  • Fresh oregano leaves or basil chopped

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 9 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Mince the anchovies and fry in a good slug of olive oil l until they melt into the oil, add the garlic and fry until its aroma rises then add the chopped or flaked chilli, skinned and chopped tomatoes (I used home-made passata but you could also use tinned tomatoes) stir well and cook for until the sauce is thick, about 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of pasta that has been tossed in olive oil with a pinch of cracked black pepper and some grated parmesan cheese (optional).

Recipe Sources
I looked at several versions of this classic the simplest being the one from in mamas kitchen or this one with bacon some recipes advocate using parsley, basil, oregano, marjoram or even mint some even suggest using all of them.
Variation Leave out the anchovies and this is a great vegetarian pasta dish.

Pasta Con Sarda

26 Sep

Sardines are a super healthy food and plentiful, they are a fairly local fish for us, coming from the Mediteranean sea, which makes them cheap and easy to buy fresh. Sardines have a strong taste and I normally prefer them just dusted with seasoned flour and cooked over coals but I do like them with pasta, especially if teamed with tomatoes and parsley to cut through the oiliness of the fish.

Serves 2 prep 5 minutes cooking 8 minutes

  • pasta to serve 2
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2-3 fresh sardines
  • 2-3 tomatoes or 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • large handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Cookthe pasta in boiling salted water for 8 minutes or until ‘al dente’. Fillet the sardines removing any larger bones and cut into bite size pieces. Put a good slug of olive oil in a wide pan over heat then add the garlic and when the aroma rises add the fish. Fry gently then add 2 or 3 skinned and chopped tomatoes (I used home-made passata when I am in a rush or you could use tinned tomatoes) stir well and cook until the fish is cooked through and the sauce thickens,  5-8 minutes. Season and stir in the parsley and serve on a bed of pasta with a splash of fresh lemon juice.
A note on the pasta 
You can use any pasta, I used Casarecci, which means “home style” usually two-inch-long thin twists, popular in the Puglia region of Italy.
I sometimes like to add the grated zest & juice of half a lemon, or roasted sweet red peppers.
Notes on the Recipe  
When thinking about making this dish (all I wanted was sardines, tomatoes and parsley) I did some research  to see if there were any traditional recipes for pasta with sardines, as it seemed such a natural combination to me.  I came accross many versions of various types of pasta with sardines but non in the vein of what I had in mind. The most common are those which include pinenuts and sultanas and have their origins in the Arab or Saracens influenced Southern and Sicillian cuisines. In addition to the sultanas and pine nuts some recipes also include breadcrumbs, saffron and cheese. Non of them were really what I had in mind but here are some interesting examples if you want to take a look at Accidental HedonistJoanna’s Food, or Histoire de pates.

Pasta: Courgette Walnut Pesto

23 Sep
This knock out pasta dish is a great combination of walnuts, garlic and parsley with sweet fried courgettes. It is a perfect autumn dish when both parsley and walnuts are in season. I prefer to use Reginatte for this dish, thick wide ribbons with a wavy edges but you could use any kind of pasta.

Serves 2 Prep & Cook 12 mins

Boil the pasta in a roomy pan of hot salted water until cooked, I like mine with a little bite or al dente. Meanwhile slice the courgettes and fry in olive oil in a wide frying pan with high sides, a wok type pan always works well for this. Fry until they pick up a little colour season with salt and cracked pepper and when the pasta is cooked drain and throw into the pan, add the walnut pesto to taste toss well, sprinkle with lemon zest and serve with some grated parmesan.

This recipe was originally posted on on 24/1/2007.

Tomato Sauce

22 Aug

This classic sauce of tomatoes is made all over the south where tomatoes grow in abundance. The juicy pulp of fresh garden tomatoes is cooked down in a generous amount of olive oil and garlic to make a thick sauce than can be used immediately or bottled and preserved. It is one of the traditional ways to preserve the summer and autumn tomato harvest for winter. I make several different types of tomato sauce but this is the basis for most of them. In France this would be called tomato coulis and in Italy it is sometimes called sugo or salsa.

  • 2 kg of tomato pulp , skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped.
  • 1 tsp crushed or chopped garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste

Prepare the tomatoes by peeling and roughly chopping the flesh and discarding the stalks. Put a large pan on the stove and pour a generous layer of olive oil over the bottom. Throw in the garlic and fry until the arma rises then add the salt, pepper and then tomatoes. Cook for 30 minutes or so until the sauce is rich and thick.


Keeping the sauce simple like this gives it greater flexibility but I do like to make a few batches with added herbs and other flavourings to make a variety of pasta ready sauces. For a mediterranean sauce add a herb bundle of:1 sprig rosemary, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 Bay leaves tied together with the tomatoes and remove before bottling. For a tomato and basil sauce stir in chopped fresh basil 1 minute before the end of cooking.

This sauce will keep well in the fridge for a week or it can be preserved by pouring into sterilised bottles and heat processing for 15-20 minutes or it can be frozen in bags or tubs. It is a very useful pantry preserve to have on hand to knock out a quick plate of pasta or for use in Italian, Greek, Spanish, Turkish or French dishes requiring a tomato sauce.
See How ro preserve by Heat Processing.

Courgette and Pasta Soup

3 Jul

A perfect summer soup making the most of crunchy young courgettes, which we have by the basket load, and fresh basil. The essential ingredient is freshly made pesto sauce. To this winning combination I normally add big pasta shapes to make a meal out of it.

Serves 4 Prep 7min Cook 10-15 min
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* pinch each of sea salt and cracked black pepper, or to taste
* 1 medium onion finely minced
* 3 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 handfuls of large pasta shapes such as Conchiglie or Lumache
* 1 litre home-made stock
* 3-6 green courgettes (depending on the size) diced
* 1 large ripe tomatoe, cored and roughly chopped.
* Handful basil, shredded
* 3 tbsp home-made pesto sauce

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and gently fry the onion and garlic with the salt and pepper until soft, add stock and pasta, cover and simmer 8-15mins depending on the variety of pasta. 5 minutes before the pasta is cooked add the courgettes, tomato and half the shredded basil continue cooking until the pasta and courgettes are only just cooked. Remove from the heat stir in the pesto and remaining basil, check seasoning and serve immediately.

Cook’s TIP if not adding pasta use a little less stock e.g 750ml and if using fresh pasta add the courgettes at the same time or even before.

Gardener TIP
Courgettes are vigorous producers, at their peak sometimes 5-6 courgettes per day per plant, scary stuff. To avoid a glut of courgettes stagger sowing, aiming for 2 plants per month April-July, and harvest courgettes when they are small, they not only taste better but will reduce the feeling of a glut.

This recipe was originally posted on  3/07/2006 now updated

Spaghetti: Tomato & Bacon

2 Jul

A simple tasty pasta dish with fresh summer tomatoes, herbs and fried bacon. I prefer it with spaghetti but you can use any pasta.

Serves 2
* 250g Spaghetti
* 2-3 tbsp olive oil
* 150g cured bacon cubed
* 1-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
* salt & pepper
* 250g fresh tomato paste
* 8 tbsp fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, marjoram or parsley.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water until ‘al dente’, drain, drizzle with a little olive oil and set aside. Put the rest of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the bacon and fry until starting to brown, add the garlic then the tomato paste. Check seasoning and cook for 5-10 minutes. Stir in the herbs and pour the sauce over the pasta, tossing well to coat then serve.

This recipe was originally posted on on 2/7/2007.

Spaghetti with black olives

30 Jun

I think the Italians are the masters of simple cooking, making each ingredient really count. This pasta dish pays homage to that simplicity and manages to really pack a punch on the taste buds. With so few ingredients make sure they are good, the spaghetti should be perfectly cooked, al-dente, and the olives the best tasting you can find, and viola! you’ve got yourself a delicious plate of food in less than 10 minutes.

Prep & cooking 10 minutes

* spaghetti
* salt
* olive oil
* a good handful of whole oily black olives
* plenty of garlic
* Sicilian Green Sauce optional
* herb infused oil such as basil oil or crank up the heat a little with some chilli oil

Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling, salted water until just cooked, 6-7minutes usually. Meanwhile take the stones out of the olives and slice the garlic. Heat a large pan, a wok works for me, add a good slosh of olive oil and throw in the garlic, when the aroma rises add the olives and fry until you can really smell the olives. Drain the spaghetti and throw into the pan along with a little Sicilian Green Sauce or freshly chopped green herbs. Toss to coat well and serve drizzled with a little oil.

Variations: It tastes great with a smattering of roughly chopped fresh tomato ( I am still waiting for my first tomato this year). If you don’t have Sicilian Green Sauce or infused oils throw in some freshly chopped green herbs such as basil, oregano or parsley, and fresh or dried red chilli.

This recipe was originally posted on on 30/6/2008.

Spinach Pélardon Lasagne

28 Jun

This is a lovely vegetarian lasagne using the famous speciality cheese of our region, the Pélardon. The Pélardons are small, round, soft-ripened goat cheese that, when bought young, is smooth and creamy with a mild taste. This lasagne is so easy to knock up with ingredients straight from the garden and any kind of soft goats cheese. It is also a great cupboard quicky using passata or pasta sauce from the pantry and quickly thawed spinach from the freezer.
  • Olive oil
  • large colander full of spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 small rounds of goat cheese (Pélardon)
  • 200-400g home made ricotta, cottage cheese, thick yogurt or creme fraîche
  • 3-4 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1x250g jar home-made tomato sauce or passata
  • fresh basil
  • sheets of ready to cook lasagne
Preheat Oven to 180c
Choose an oven proof dish that will accommodate one or more sheets of lasagne in a single layer. Wash the spinach then plunge into boiling water for a few minutes to blanch. Drain and chop, mix with the cheeses and garlic (reserving 2 tbsp of parmesan). Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of the baking dish then add a couple of spoons (about a quarter of the jar) of tomato sauce and some basil leaves, a layer of pasta, a couple more spoons of tomato and another layer of pasta. Spread a layer of half the spinach and cheese mix followed by a layer of pasta then the other half of the cheese and pasta again. Spoon on a thin layer of tomato sauce another layer of pasta and a final layer of tomato and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 5 -10 minutes until the top is golden.
Add pinenuts to the cheese and spinach mix for a little added richness.
Cooks’ Tip
Use fresh or frozen spinach. I grow spinach in the cooler months then blanch for 2 minutes and freeze in batches, which are perfect for this dish. Home-made bottled tomato pasta sauce makes this dish even easier.