Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Sicily, surrounded by water and having many ports meant that it was a key player in the spice trail. Whereas other regions of Italy tended to rely solely on their own produce, Sicilian cooking has always been a little more adventurous with its ingredients. This amalgamation of chilli, pinenuts, currants, parsley and lemon zest is classic and its sophisticated sweet and sour combination works beautifully with the delectable Romanesco.

The amazing fractal Romanesco is closer related to broccoli than cauliflower and it has a delicate nutty flavour and great crunchy texture. It holds its shape much better than cauliflower which makes it a useful replacement in lots of recipes and it looks fabulous!

Sicilian Pasta with Sautéed Romanesco, Chilli, Pine nuts, Currants, Parsley and Lemon

Serves 2

1 small to medium Romanesco cauliflower, cut into small florets (use the stalk too, thinly sliced)

200g pasta

Extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, grated

1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped

100g pine nuts, toasted

100g currants or raisins

Zest of 1 & juice of ½ lemon

Large handful fresh parsley, chopped

Handful Parmesan, grated

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a pan of boiling salted water, cook the Romanesco for 2-3 minutes, then drain and refresh in a bowl of cold water to stop any further cooking. Drain again and keep to one side. In another pan of boiling water, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the Romanesco and fry for a couple of minutes until just starting to turn a golden colour. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for couple of minutes more. Add the pine nuts, sultanas, drained, cooked pasta, lemon juice and zest and parsley. Toss together to combine. Check seasoning and transfer to serving bowls and serve drizzled with a olive oil and some grated Parmesan.

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Spaghetti with Spring Greens, Garlic, Chilli and Olive Oil

In a hurry? It doesn’t get quicker and more delicious than this!

Spaghetti with Spring Greens, Garlic, Chilli and Olive Oil

(Spaghetti Aglio, Olio & Spring Greens) – Jamie Oliver

2 cloves of garlic

1 fresh red chilli

1 head of spring greens

400 g dried spaghetti

extra virgin olive oil

1 large unwaxed lemon

Parmesan cheese

Peel and finely chop the garlic, deseed and finely chop the chilli and finely slice the spring greens. Wash and drain well. Cook the spaghetti in a saucepan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions, around 8 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a glug of oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for a minute or so, until the garlic is starting to colour. Add the spring greens and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes or until the greens have wilted a little. Finely grate over the lemon zest. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with a splash of the water it was cooked in.

Squeeze over the lemon juice and serve topped with a drizzle of oil and finely grated Parmesan.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

I hate to admit it but we eat rather a lot of sausages in our family. They are cheap and please everyone, which is always a bonus. I serve them up alongside all manner of vegetables and it is a great use up of whatever veg I have in the fridge, but I was I was thrilled to come up with this new way of serving them up and still managing to please the family.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

2 heads fennel, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

8 good quality sausages or about 400g sausage meat

100mls white wine

1 tin plum tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

200g pasta, I used Conchiglie

Freshy grated Parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the fennel with some olive oil. When beginning to colour, add the sausage meat. Squeeze it from the casings and break it up really well with a wooden spoon. You don’t want any large lumps. Turn up the heat and fry really well. It is nice if it begins to brown. Add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Scape the bottom to release any stuck on sausage. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and the tin of tomatoes. Rinse the tin out with a little water and add that too. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and let the sauce gently bubble away whilst you cook your pasta. Check seasoning before serving. Top with Parmesan.

Tagliatelle with Roast Parsnips, Leeks, Bacon & Cream

I have made pasta dishes similar to this one before, but it occurred to me that you could add all sorts of different roast root vegetables, just to get even move goodness in your diet. Bacon and parsnips is a winning combination and along with the leeks, this made a really tasty dinner.

Tagliatelle with Roast Parsnips, Leeks, Bacon & Cream

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

1 large parsnip

6 slices thin-cut smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips

1 large leek or 2 small, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, shredded crosswise and washed

100mls double cream

125g Tagliatelle

Finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel and cut the parsnip into 1cm cubes. Toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Tip onto a lined roasting tray and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes or so until tender and golden brown. Stir once or twice to ensure even cooking.

Meanwhile heat some oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over a low heat for as long as possible, stirring often, until leeks first completely soften and then begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Add the cream to the leeks and some of the pasta water so that you have a nice creamy consistency but not too dry. Check seasoning. Drain pasta and add to the leeks and bacon. Add the parmesan to taste and serve straight away.

Fettuccini with Leeks, Bacon & Cream

I am really excited about this recipe for Fettuccini with Leeks and Bacon, probably because I am really hungry and it sounds just what I want to eat now. There are so many really good ready made pastas on the market now, and so much choice. This recipe would work just as well with pappardelle or tagliatelle, just choose a good one.

fettuccini-with-leeks-bacon-cream-1

Fettuccini with Leeks, Bacon & Cream

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil

90g slices thin-cut smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips

1 large leek or 2 small, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, shredded crosswise and washed

100mls double cream

125g fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle

Finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over a low heat for as long as possible, stirring often, until leeks first completely soften and then begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Add the cream to the leeks and some of the pasta water so that you have a nice creamy consistency but not too dry. Check seasoning. Drain pasta and add to the leeks and bacon. Add the parmesan to taste and serve straight away.

Leeks cut

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Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara

I came home to not only courgettes in my veg box but also a hoard of them at the allotment too. As I have said before, I am not a huge fan of the “courgette spaghetti” idea when courgettes replace the pasta itself. Cook the courgette until tasty and it has fallen apart. Lacking the gluten of pasta, it is never going to give your dish enough texture to hold the sauce. Why do you think pasta was invented?

But add some courgette to your pasta, and you’ve got another thing altogether. It lightens the dish, adds taste and goodness. Pasta, bacon, courgette, cream and Parmesan – a winning combination.

Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara 2

Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara

Serve 2

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 medium courgettes, mix of green and yellow if available

200 g good quality spaghetti or linguini

2 large free-range egg yolks

100 ml single cream

1 large handful Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Small handful of fresh basil, shredded

Extra virgin olive oil

150g good quality thin-sliced streaky bacon, cut into tiny strips/lardons

 

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Cut the courgettes in thin strips lengthways. Then cut the strips into very thin, into spahghetti like strips. Alternatively, grate it coarsely.  Your water will now be boiling, so add the pasta to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions. To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper and put to one side.

 

Heat a very large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Take time with the bacon as all the fat should render out and it must be crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the basil, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Add a couple of spoons on pasta water to the pan with the courgettes and bacon and remove from the heat and then add your cream, eggs and parmesan. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.) Taste quickly for seasoning, then serve and eat immediately.

Spaghetti and Courgette Carbonara 1

Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga

I have got a Riverford Lunch this week, when I go to a customer’s house and cook lunch for their friends. This lunch is hopefully so impressive and delicious that these friends are completely won over by the virtues of Riverford and their wonderful tasting vegetables, that they are instantaneously compelled to become Riverford customers themselves. No pressure there then!

I always start with a large veg box and try and use up all the ingredients in one meal, in original, inspiring and interesting ways. As the menu evolves, I usually find that I am left with a few misfit ingredients, which need to be combined together and result in a delicious and harmonious recipe. And this is where, each week, the real challenge lies. This week I was left with leeks, butternut squash and peas! As excited as I was to see fresh peas again, it took me quite a while to get my head around how to incorporate them with the other vegetables without losing them all together. I am pretty pleased with my resulting Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga. The lovely fresh peas add a touch of spring to an otherwise Autumnal dish and the goats cheese perfectly counterbalances the sweetness of the vegetables. Just hope my lunch customers are impressed!

Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga

Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga

Serves 4
I butternut squash
bag of Riverford peas
3 small leeks
50g Butter
50g Flour
1 pint Milk
100g Parmesan, freshly grated
200g Hard goat’s cheese, such as St Helen’s Farm, cut into small cubes
A box of lasagne sheets
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Peel and cut your butternut squash into bitesized chunks. Season with salt and pepper and toss in olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.

Roast Butternut Squash

Check from time to time and move around to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile shred your leeks and wash well. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan add the butter and the leeks and sweat down until really soft and beginning to colour. Season well with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add the flour. Stir well and then return to the heat to cook out the flour for a few minutes. Slowly add the milk and whisk over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Season well to taste with salt and pepper. You don’t want your lasagne to dry so make sure the béchamel is creamy. Add more milk if necessary. Cook the peas for a few minutes in a pan of boiling salted water. Drain,

Take a large gratin put a very thin layer of béchamel on the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Break up the sheets if necessary. Top with the butternut squash and 1/3 of the remaining béchamel and 1/2 the goat’s cheese. Next do another layer of lasagne. Then top with the remaining butternut squash, the rest of the goat’s cheese and the next 1/3 of béchamel. Next the final layer of lasagne and finally the rest of the béchamel. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or so until golden brown on top and a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through.

Peas

Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol

Roast Aubergine and Cherry Tomato Pasta with Basil

Finally, for this week, a delicious pasta dish. When I was at then River Café (sorry, it is a week of name dropping) we often used to make this delicious Melanzane al Funghetto, which actually means aubergines cooked in the style of mushrooms, though I have no idea why! Anyway, I am sure that I will probably cook it on this blog very soon, but today I wasn’t looking for a side dish, I wanted a quick supper, so I decided to add some pasta.

Roast Aubergine and Tomatoes

I then thought that it might be nicer to roast the aubergine instead of frying it, to make it less oily and then I thought some little roast cherry tomatoes might be nice so I have called it Roast Aubergine and Cherry Tomato Pasta with Basil and I have to say, it was very nice.

Roast Aubergien and Cherry Tomato Pasta

Roast Aubergine and Cherry Tomato Pasta with Basil
Serves 2
1 large aubergine, cut into chunks
10 cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled
1 tin plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of chilli flakes
handful basil leaves, shredded or torn
handful of drained capers
200g pasta such as penne or fusilli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 180C fan. Heat some of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Very thinly slice the garlic and fry until just golden brown. Add the tin of tomatoes, the balsamic vinegar, the chilli flakes and some salt and pepper. Let the sauce bubble away slowly on a low heat. If it gets too dry add a little water. Meanwhile toss the aubergine chunks with some of the olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and tip onto a roasting tray. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and put them onto the roasting tray as well. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-30 mins but check the aubergines regularly and move around to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile cook the pasta and drain. Tip the cooked aubergine, basil leaves and capers into the tomato sauce and stir gently. Check the seasoning and adjust. Tip in the pasta, stir and tip into serving bowls. Scatter with the roast tomatoes and serve straight away with parmesan if you like.

Roast Aubergine Pasta Sauce

Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta with Lemon and Chilli

Courgettes are another vegetable that are in abundance in the boxes right now and on recommendation, I tried out a recipe from Riverford’s website, for Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta. It really did turn out to be quite delicious. I just made a couple of changes, using lemon zest instead of juice and adding a pinch of chilli. Make sure you really give the courgettes enough time to cook down properly. You can decide how creamy you want the finished dish at the end. Balance the amount of crème fraiche with pasta water to get your desired consistence. Finally, the choice of pasta is up to you but we are particularly enjoying Rummo’s Linguini in our household at the moment but Riverford stock some organic varieties too,

Cougettes slow-cooked raw

Slow Cooked Courgette Pasta with Lemon and Chilli
Serves 2
500g courgettes, very finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Lemon zest
Pinch chilli flakes
1-2 tablespoons crème fraiche
200g pasta of your choosing
Parmesan or pecorino

Heap the slices into a sauce pan with 2 tbsps. of olive. Add a pinch of salt and cook on a low heat for about 20 mins, they should start to cook and reduce. Stir every so often and make sure they aren’t catching on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 15 mins, adding a dash of water now and then if it starts to catch. Meanwhile cook your pasta. Season the courgettes with salt, pepper, a pinch of chilli flakes and the lemon zest. Stir in the crème fraiche, some good olive oil and a dash of the pasta water to loosen. Mix with the drained pasta and top with a generous grating of cheese.

Courgettes slow cooked