Tag Archive for Pasta

Ragu alla Bolognese

The classic Italian bolognese meat pasta sauce. Many different (authentic and less authentic) recipes can be found on the internet, all of them contain more or less the same ingredients, this one is my version. A good bolognese can’t be rushed, to obtain the rich, meaty flavours it needs a few hours to cook and to reduce the liquids down, to intensify all the flavours. And making a small portion doesn’t work either. Luckily it freezes well for a few months, so I cook this in bulk and freeze portions for later, to use on busy (or lazy) days. I usually serve this sauce with spaghetti, which is very un-Italian because the pieces of meat don’t adhere well to the pasta, or with penne or tagliatelle as the Italians do. And of course a good sprinkling of Parmesan to add even more flavour and richness!

Ragu alla Bolognaise

Ragu alla bolognese (serves 6, or serves 2 with 2 extra portions for the freezer)
Adapted from the Conran Cookbook

3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 large carrot, chopped finely
1 celery stick (with leaves), finely chopped
500 g mince (half beef, half pork)
3 large, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped (a can of tomatoes works well too)
a large sprig of thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
150 ml chicken stock
a wineglass of red wine
Parmesan, for serving
Pasta, for serving

Optionals:
few rashers of bacon (add together with meat)
rind of a piece of parmesan (add with liquids, fish out before serving)
splash of cream or a knob of butter (when serving, adds richness)

Heat the olive oil in a pan (I always use my Dutch oven for this). Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and sweat until softened. Add the minced meat to the pan. Turn up the heat and brown the meat, stirring to crush the lumps. Add the tomatoes, thyme and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes has evaporated. Add a little of the stock and the red wine and stir. Leave the sauce to simmer gently for about 1.5 hours, adding more stock and wine as it is needed, using water if you run out of these. When ready the sauce should be thick and smooth. Check for seasoning and serve immediately or leave to cool for freezing.

Spinach-Ricotta Cannelloni

I made these spinach and ricotta cannelloni together with a friend. It was a recipe she wanted to make already for a time, but did not came to it yet. So we decided to make it together. At first sight it may look like the countless recipes containing spinach and ricotta (which is a very good combination), but the addition of mozzarella and parmesan give it something extra. It is also a very easy dish that doesn’t use much pots and pans, so it is light on the cleanup.

The original recipe suggests to put the tomatoes under the cannelloni in the oven dish, and to serve the dish with rucola. The moistness that comes from the dish then works as a dressing for the rucola. But you can also use the tomatoes cold, together with the rucola and some olive oil and balsamic or your own favourite dressing, to make a nice side salad. Also, the recipe only uses a small amount of garlic and anchovies, we doubled the it and still thought it could use a bit more (but we are garlic and anchovies lovers).

Canneloni are big pasta tubes that you can fill with all sorts of things. If you can’t find them, use home-made pasta sheets, shop bought fresh lasagna sheets or dried lasagna sheets softened in boiling water for 5 minutes to roll the filling in.

It may seem that the suggested portions are very small, only 3 cannelloni per person, but I can assure you that this is not the case. With all the cheeses the dish is very filling and satisfying and I will certainly make it again!

Spinach-Ricotta Cannelloni

Spinach-Ricotta Cannelloni (4 portions)
from my friends recipe archive

500 g fresh spinach
olive oil
6-10 anchovies, minced finely (from a tin/jar; depending on how much you like anchovies)
1-6 cloves garlic, minced finely (depending on how much you like garlic)
250 g ricotta
salt and pepper
4 tomatoes, sliced
12 cannelloni
150 g Parmesan, grated
200-250 g mozzarella (1 maxi mozzarella or 2 ordinary ones)
150 g rucola

Preheat the oven to 170C.
Wash the spinach and leave to drain.
Heat some olive oil in a large pan, fry the anchovies and garlic. Add the spinach in small amounts while leaving the pan on high heat. You want to evaporate as much of the water that comes out of the spinach as possible, because it will thin the filling and if you drain it you will loose a lot of the nice flavours in there. Put in a bowl, add the ricotta and season with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Arrange the tomato slices on the bottom of an oven dish. Fill the cannelloni with the spinach mixture. Arrange the cannelloni on top of the tomato. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan, then break the mozzarella in pieces and arrange on top.
Bake for 40 minutes. Serve hot together with the rucola.

Pasta carbonara with broccoli

There are a few important things about pasta carbonara. First: don’t overcook it! It doesn’t matter which version you make, if you overcook the sauce it will be disgusting. By adding the sauce to the pasta off the heat, you will prevent this. Second: don’t add cream. This is not authentic. Third: don’t add any vegetables. No onion, no garlic, and certainly no peas or broccoli. And fourth: the pasta should always be spaghetti.

Well, I think the first thing is completely true, but the other three are debatable. If you ignore the ‘rules’, you will not have an authentic dish, but who said food should be authentic anyway? It should be delicious, and if possible, good for you as well! So this is my take on pasta carbonara, with cream and vegetables. I use broccoli, because it is one of my favourite vegetables, but peas would be nice as well.

Pasta carbonara with broccoli

Pasta carbonara with broccoli (2 servings)

175 g dry spaghetti or tagliatelle
1 head broccoli, in florets
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
150 g bacon, cubed
2 eggs
50 g parmesan + extra for serving
50 ml cream
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in a lot of well salted water until al dente (time depends on the brand). Cook the broccoli until al dente.
Saute the bacon until it starts to brown, then add the onion and cook further until the bacon is nice and crisp, and the onion cooked. At the last minute, when it is almost there, add the garlic. If you add it earlier, it has the tendency to burn. Whisk the egg, parmesan and cream together, season with salt (you will only need a tiny amount) and pepper.
Reserve a bit of the cooking liquid of the pasta. Add the drained pasta and drained broccoli to the bacon and onions, mix. Take the pan of the heat and add the sauce. Stir and add a little of the cooking liquid of the pasta to make a nice, smooth sauce that coats everything. Scoop onto plate and grate a little extra parmesan cheese on it.

Pasta with tomato sauce or lasagna

Simple pasta with tomato sauce, mince and vegetables, and a simple lasagna are quite similar to make. The pasta is a little faster because it does not have to go into the oven, but I do like the lovely cheese crust you get on the lasagna. Both dishes are not the real deal, not real ragu alla bolognaise and not real lasagna al forno, but they are great dishes filled with veggies and much faster and lighter than their original versions.
You can make the pasta sauce in advance and store it in the fridge or the freezer, I personally like to cook my pasta fresh, but even cooked pasta can be frozen. Ideal for last minute healthy food on busy days. Lasagna can be stored in the fridge as well (uncooked or cooked), freezing I never tried.
Because of their hearty taste, ease, vegetable-richness and filling properties, these dishes can be found often on our diner table.

Pasta with tomato sauce or lasagna (2 generous servings)
penne/lasagna sheets (the ones you don’t have to precook)
olive oil
300 gram minced meat
1 can of tomatoes
1 onion, cubed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bell pepper (red, orange or yellow), cubed
100 gram mushrooms, sliced
1/2 courgette, sliced
1 stock cube
pepper
1/2 tbsp paprika
balsamic vinegar (1/2 tsp lasagna, 1/4 tsp pasta)
soy sauce (1/4 tsp lasagna, not in pasta)
sambal (1/4 tsp lasagna, not in pasta)
1 tsp dried oregano
cheese (gouda or mozzarellla)

Cook pasta/preheat oven to 200C. Fry the onions and garlic until soft in some olive oil, add the minced meat and fry until loose and slightly cooked. Then add the mushrooms and the bell pepper. Add the can of tomatoes, spiced and condiments and let cook for a while. This is especially important for the pasta sauce, since canned tomatoes are quite acidic and you need to cook them for a while to get the sweetness out. Add the courgette at the last moment, so it will keep a nice bite. Serve with the pasta, or make layers with the lasagna sheets in an oven dish and cover the top with cheese. The lasagna will have to cook for about 35 minutes in the preheated oven (but check the package of your lasagna sheets, some will have to cook shorter or longer). Enjoy!

Pasta with tomato and chicken

This dish is fast, easy, fresh, tasty and healthy. It is perfect for a weeknight dinner on a sunny day, or on a day you want to remind yourself of sun and holiday. Important with simple dishes like these is the use of good ingredients, because you will taste everything. So go for the best pasta, the best chicken, the nicest tomatoes, the nicest olive oil and the best parmesan cheese. I found out that the parmesan I bought at the cheese-monger is not only more tasty, but it is also cheaper and keeps better than the cheese I bought previously from the supermarket. So now I can buy it and use it bit by bit without worrying about the cheese spoiling after a few days!

Pasta with Chicken and Tomato

Pasta with tomato and chicken (2 servings)

150 gram farfalle or penne
1 chicken breast
300 gram small tomatoes, cut in halve
olive oil
salt, pepper
parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente. Meanwhile cook the chicken breast: heat a frying pan with a little olive oil, fry on high heat until brown and crisp on the outside. Season with salt and pepper. Cook further on low heat with a lid on the pan. Take the chicken breast from the frying pan, slice or cube. Fry the drained pasta on high heat in the frying pan used for the chicken (don’t clean!), add a little more olive oil, some salt and pepper, the chicken and the tomatoes. Fry only slightly longer to warm up the tomatoes a little. Put on a plate, grate some parmesan over everything and enjoy.

Meatballs

Meatballs are one of my favourite dishes. Unfortunately we don’t eat them that often, because they take quite some time to prepare and usually we get home quite late and hungry. But the time is definitely worth it! These meatballs go well with almost anything because they are quite neutrally, savoury spiced, but we usually serve them with spaghetti and a simple tomato-vegetable sauce. Another good option is to serve them with peanut sauce and rice.

Meatballs 
300 g half and half mince (half beef, half pork)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt, pepper
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/4 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp dry bread crumbs

Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs. Roll small balls from the mixture.
Slide the balls carefully in a hot pan. Bake them on high heat, brown them per side and then shake them (don’t stir!!!) to brown the next side (about 3-4 sides). Don’t disturb them too much! Take them out of the pan.
Add the meatballs with all the juices into their sauce to cook further/to warm through. The first time you make this it is nice to slice one of the balls in two after the browning stage to see how far cooked they are, this will depend on the size of the balls, how hot the pan was, etc. Then you will know how much time they will need in the sauce to completely cook through.

Pasta salad

It has been a while, but I’m back! Back with a fantastic pasta salad, perfect for the hot weather last days.

Pasta salad (2 servings)

200 gram pasta (I used farfalle)
200 gram bettine blanc (fresh goats cheese)
1 yellow paprika
1/2 courgette
1/2 cucumber
2 sticks of celery
5 small tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
pepper and salt
fresh parsley and chives, chopped

Chop all the vegetables, make sure you de-tread the celery. Roast the courgette and pepper in a grillpan or in the oven for a while (without oil). Cook the pasta. Mix everything together. Season to taste.

As you see, it is a very easy and fast salad. With the warm weather it is nice to not be in the kitchen for too long. I actually wanted to have small pieces of the cheese in the salad, but the cheese was so soft (I forgot to put it in the fridge after being to the shop) that I just stirred it in. And it worked really well!! It forms a really creamy, unctuous layer around the pasta and veggies, so you don’t need any oil for dressing.

Ravioli with spinach-parmesan and ricotta-prosciutto filling

Ravioli are perfect for a diner party. They look posh, but if you have a little experience, you can make them in a matter of time. Especially when you make them for a small amount of people, or when you use them as a starter. You can make them and keep them for a while in the fridge, but make sure they don’t dry out.

The recipe for the dough is always the same (also for making other pasta), but you can stuff it with everything you want. Just keep in mind that a very wet filling causes problems sometimes, because these are likely to burst in the boiling water.

It is important to use flower meant to make pasta with. This is the Italian grade 00 flower, made from hard durum wheat. If you use ordinary flower, you get noodles, not pasta.

The recipe sound very complicated, but just give it a try. The first time probably will be a horror, you’ll probably have problems with rolling your dough. But after the first time, it gets more easy. You get to know what works and what doesn’t, you can experiment with different fillings. The ravioli you buy at the supermarket won’t be as tasty as yours, and the ones of the delicacy shop will be much more expensive (and probably also not as tasty as yours).

Ravioli
About 12 big ravioli, depending on shape and size.

200 gram pasta flower
2 eggs
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp olive oil (not classic Italian, but it helps to form a smooth dough)

NB: you need a pasta machine for this recipe

Put the flower in a bowl, make a small hole in the middle, put in the eggs, salt and olive oil. Mix in the flower and knead until you have a smooth dough. The right consistency is really important, otherwise you get problems with rolling out the dough and your ravioli will burst while cooking. So keep kneading until you have a very smooth, elastic dough. Cover it in clean film and put it for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.
Take the dough from the fridge, cut in half, put one piece back in the fridge and roll the other half.
Put your machine on the widest setting. Roll the dough a few times trough, then fold it in two and put it trough again. When the dough is very dry and flaky, knead some more water trough; when the dough is too wet and sticks to the pasta machine, sprinkle with some flour. It is important to work fast, as the dough dries out quite quickly.

Roll the dough trough the machine and put the setting each time thinner. When you are at the thinnest setting, you want to have a nice big sheet of pasta with sort of straight edges. Fold the sheet together (if you have a good dough, it won’t stick, otherwise use some flower) and wrap it in clean film so it won’t dry out. Roll the second ball of pasta as well.

Now is the time to fill your ravioli. There are several ways to do this.

1. Cut rectangles from your dough (with a knife or ravioli/pastry wheel). Spoon a dollop of filling on one side. Smear the edge with a little bit of water. Put the other half of the rectangle over it. Make sure you don’t trap any air inside (keep one side open and push the air out) and seal the edges well, otherwise your ravioli will burst when cooking. You can make a half moon of it by cutting the edges with a round cutter (or cut around the edge of a glass). Or you can leave them rectangular.

2. Put dollops of filling on one sheet of pasta. Make sure you keep enough distance between them. Brush the edges with some water. Put the other sheet of pasta on top. Seal the ravioli. Make sure you don’t trap any air inside (keep one side open and push the air out) and seal the edges well, otherwise your ravioli will burst when cooking. Cut the ravioli with a round cutter, or cut around the edges of a glass.

Boil the ravioli for a few minutes (1-4 min, depending on size and filling) in a BIG pan of boiling water with some salt. Don’t put to many at once in the pan. Remove the ravioli from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside and keep warm until you cooked all the ravioli.

Sage or parsley butter

a knob of butter
some parsley or sage
a splash of lemon juice
a pinch of salt and pepper

Melt the butter, put in the sage or parsley, some lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. This is a very good sauce to toss your ravioli in. It covers the ravioli a little bit, but it is not to heavy and it doesn’t overpower the filling of the ravioli.

Off course you can serve your ravioli with any sauce you like, but this is what I like best.

Spinach-parmesan filling

100 gram spinach
100 gram mushrooms, cubed
1 shallot, cubed
50 gram parmesan
some butter
some nutmeg
pepper

Wash the spinach, put it in a wok and wait till it slinks. Put it in a sieve, push as much water out as you can. Chop finely. Sauté the mushrooms and the shallot in a little bit of butter, drain as well. Put the spinach, mushrooms and shallot in a bowl, grate the parmesan above, season with nutmeg and pepper. Mix and use as filling for ravioli.

Ricotta-prosciutto filling

200 g Ricotta
200 g Prosciutto
100 g brown mushroom
a little pepper

Cut the prosciutto in small cubes. Cut the mushrooms in small cubes and fry them slightly. Mix with the ricotta. Season with a little pepper. Use as filling for ravioli.