Tagliatelle in tartare sauce

I was having Italian lessons up until a few weeks ago but with my company conference and having COVID I missed booking the most current course. It’s probably for the best as there was an older woman in the class who was a few steps behind everyone else and I wasn’t getting anything done in the breakout rooms when we were paired up. Also there was an Eastern European guy who kept pronouncing my name Gemma with a hard ‘g’ which was pretty annoying, especially given that my name is Italian. I have my Italian book for dummies and am doing a bit of duolingo to try and keep up until the next course in September. I found this pasta recipe in ‘Gino’s Pasta’ and it was not like anything I’d seen before so I was interested to try with the tartar. Maybe Gino created it after going to Norie’s fish and chip shop in Oban. We got some scampi and it did come with tartar sauce.

Anyway I did like the recipe and it’s very quick, particularly if you’re lazy like me and use pre-made fresh pasta.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 30g pickled onions
  • 30g pickled gherkins (or cornichons)
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 15g butter
  • 75ml double cream
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 200g fresh tagliatelle
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 30g parmesan

Method

1.) Get the pasta ready to cook in a large saucepan. Boil some water.

2.) Grate the parmesan and dice the parsley finely and set aside. Chop up the onions and gherkins. Melt some butter in a large frying pan and add them along with the capers.

3.) Fry for 2 minutes then pour in the cream and spoon in the mustard and mix. Cook for 3 minutes and whilst this is cooking put the pasta onto boil.

4.) Add the yolk and sprinkle in the parsley and parmesan and stir. Cook for a further 15 seconds. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce.

Lentil Bolognese

For me, a classic Italian pasta with Ragu is a big comfort meal. Lentils provide all of the protein in the meal you lack from the minced beef/pork and have just a little bit of chew to mix up the texture. This recipe was from ‘Bosh – Healthy Vegan’. I take Italian lessons each week and I’ve learnt that when we ask for a panini it doesn’t make sense as panini is the plural form of sandwich – if you have Italian servers you want to impress, ask for a panino. Learning Italian, it was very difficult going on holiday recently to Spain. The basic phrases you need in both languages are very similar, so I was constantly muddling up the two! Bilbao was beautiful though and I fully recommend a trip and a taste of all their delicious pinxtos (bar snacks).

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 onions
  • 1 tin lentils (400g)
  • 10g fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50g walnuts
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 50ml red wine
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp marmite
  • 100ml water
  • 320g pasta
  • salt and pepper
  • 20g hard cheese
  • 10g parsley

Method

1.) Peel and finely dice the garlic and the onions. Strip the leaves from the thyme. Bash the walnuts in a pestle and mortar.

2.) Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and cook on a low heat until soft.

3.) Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

4.) Add the tomato puree, tin of tomatoes, walnuts, lentils, red wine, chilli, oregano, thyme, marmite and water. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes to thicken.

5.) Whilst this is cooking, grate the cheese, Chop up the parsley and cook the pasta. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Serve the pasta with some sauce, sprinkle over the cheese and parsley.

Sprout & Lemon Risotto

Sprouts are super tasty when not overcooked and one of the vegetables we can actually grow in the UK so it’s a shame generally people only eat them at Christmas with a roast dinner. This recipe from Ottolenghi’s ‘Plenty More’ is freshened up by using lemon rind and tarragon and made a bit special with delicious dolce Gorgonzola. Ottolenghi serves this with some fried quartered sprouts (300g) which I didn’t serve on this occasion but can only improve things even more.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 30g butter
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • few sprigs thyme
  • 2 lemons
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 200g sprouts
  • 200ml white wine
  • 900ml vegetable stock
  • 40g parmesan
  • 60g dolce gorgonzola
  • 10g tarragon
  • salt and pepper

Method

1. ) Peel and finely chop the onions. Chop the sprouts into shreds. Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the onions. Start to fry until soft.

2.) While the onion is softening, peel and finely chop the garlic, strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs and peel the skin from one of the lemons. With a small knife, scrape any pith that’s left on the lemon strips. Finely slice the lemon skin.

3.) Once the onion is soft, dd the garlic, lemon and thyme to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Measure out the wine in a measuring jug.

4.) Add the rice to the pan along with the sprouts and toast for 1 minute.

5.) Add the wine and let it simmer until mostly cooked off. In the meantime, make up the stock.

6.) Add the stock in ladleful’s until it’s all absorbed and the rice is soft with a bite. Zest the lemon and measure out the cheese. Grate the parmesan. Finely chop the tarragon.

7.) Once the rice is soft, add the cheeses, lemon zest and some salt and pepper. Slice a lemon in half, remove the pips and squeeze in the juice from one half. Add the tarragon and stir.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

I guess I must have been a bit overexcited about my upcoming holiday in Rome to choose to make this. Roasting the tomatoes really brings out their flavour – even if the tomatoes aren’t the best. I paired it up with some anchovies and balsamic vinegar to make it taste even better.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 tomatoes
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • 15g basil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 300g pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic

Method

1.) Preheat the grill. Line a baking tray with paper and place on the tomatoes less the stalks.

2.) Roast for about 15 minutes, until starting to char all over.

3.) Boil the pasta in a pan of water until cooked.

4.) In the meantime, peel the garlic cloves and dice.

5.) Heat a frying pan and add the tin of anchovies with the oil. Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes and heat in the pan, Use a spatula to break up the tomatoes a bit into a sauce. Cook down for a few minutes until the tomatoes are completely broken down.

6.) In the meantime, chop up the basil, throw the stalks in with the tomatoes.

7.) Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the balsamic vinegar, stir so the sauce coats all the pasta. Sprinkle over the basil and serve.

Garden Soup

I made this Italian garden soup just before I went on holiday to Rome with the hope of tricking myself that we’ve reached spring. That illusion has been well and truly decimated after returning to the UK in the midst of Storm Eunice. The wind speed reached 130mph in the Isle of Wight this week, trees were blowing over and some of the Millennium Dome blew away. So perfect soup weather, even a ‘Zuppa dell’Orto’ as it’s called in Italian (or even maybe for ‘Zuppa Inglese’ as I was surprised to learn means trifle in Italian). Even with the torrential rain, my crazy cat Gino was so desperate to go out after not being able to whilst we were away for 5 days that he was sitting in our garden using the plastic chair as a makeshift umbrella. I can’t say he’s inspiring me much to leave the house after he keeps coming back in the house soggy and bedraggled. This soup can be made up from leftover vegetables in your fridge so if you’re lucky you won’t have to leave the house either.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 bulbs fennel
  • 120g spinach
  • 2 tins broad beans
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 30g parmesan/pecorino

Method

1.) Peel the onion and finely chop. Heat some oil in a casserole dish and cook the onion until soft.

2.) In the meantime, chop the tomatoes in half, slice the fennel, peel and cube the potatoes and make up the stock.

3.) Add the tomatoes, fennel, spinach, tins of beans, potatoes and stock to the casserole dish.

4.) Simmer for 25 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

5.) Grate some cheese and add to the soup, season with salt and pepper before serving.

Butternut Squash Polenta with Garlic Mushrooms

I feel like I’m on a bit of an Italian theme in my life at the moment. I’m going to Rome for the first time in a couple of weeks, I’ve made a reservation at a Michelin starred restaurant, ‘Per Me Giuloio Terrinoni’. I’ve started learning Italian. I’ve ordered an electric Fiat 500 and now I’m posting about polenta. Polenta would definitely be one of the options I would consider if I had to choose a last meal. I normally like it with a big chunk of butter, some salt and parmesan. However, with this great recipe in ‘Good Housekeeping’s Vegetarian Collection’, you roast some butternut squash, blitz it and mix it in with the polenta. This adds a lot of flavour to the polenta and then you can cut down on the high fat stuff and get an extra hidden vegetable in your meal. Buon appetito!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash (about 500g actual flesh)
  • 750ml stock
  • 175g quick cook polenta
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots
  • 400g mushrooms (I used one punnet shitake and one punnet normal mushrooms)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 150g baby spinach

Method

1.) Cook the squash, mine had some instructions on the packet for microwaving it so I microwaved it until soft, about 5 minutes.

2.) Blitz in a food processor or blender.

3.) Boil some water, add the polenta to the pan. Make up the stock, add the stock to the polenta and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it and whisk it every now and again. When done, add the cream cheese and a pinch of salt. Press down some clingfilm on the top if you don’t want it to form a skin. (I don’t bother with this -I just give it a stir at the end and it tastes fine).

4.) Wash the mushrooms. Peel and finely dice the shallots and garlic cloves. Strip the thyme leaves from their sprigs.

5.) Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and add the shallots. Cook for 6 – 7 minutes until soft. Add the rest of the oil, then add the mushrooms, garlic, thyme and cook for about 5 minutes. Place the spinach on top of the pan and leave for about 2 minutes until it wilts then stir into the mushroom mix.

6.) Dish up the polenta and top with some garlicky mushrooms.