Minestrone soup

I really love this soup from Jamie Oliver’s website. I first came across it during lockdown when he was doing a show to encourage people to home cook filmed by at home by himself and his family. This recipe uses tinned beans, passata and pasta, some of the things some crazy people were stocking up on at that time. Some people must have been pretty bored of pasta with tomato sauce, really Jamie was doing a bit of a service for us. It’s a light soup but also quite filling and is a great choice for when you want to cook in bulk.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 handfuls of kale
  • 1 veggie stock cube
  • 400g passata
  • 2 tins of beans (kidney or butter, whatever you like)
  • 100g dried small pasta e.g. orzo, macaroni
  • 25g parmesan cheese (if you have rinds of parmesan cheese, you can stick them in to simmer with the soup)
  • salt & pepper

Method

1.) Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and dice the onion.

2.) Heat some oil in a large pan and add the onions. Let them soften for 5 minutes or so.

3.) In the meantime, peel and chop up the carrot. Chop up the celery.

4.) Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 1 minute.

5.) Add the celery and carrot and leave to soften for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Close to the end, fill a kettle with water and boil.

6.) Pour in the beans and their juices, the passata, crumble in the stock cube then fill up one of the tins and pour in the water from that. Measure out 600ml of the boiled water and pour that in too.

7.) Throw in the pasta, tear up the kale leaves and put them in too.

8.) Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

9.) Grate the parmesan.

10.) Stir into the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Pesto Pasta

I generally wouldn’t choose to eat Italian food in a restaurant, but when I’m at home sometimes I find pasta to be a real comfort food. It’s great after a long gym session when I can really appreciate a mountain of carbs like this and I think everyone loves pesto. If you buy the pasta ready-made it can be really quick to throw together too. Here I’ve used fresh pasta from the supermarket which doesn’t taste any different from when I’ve actually made pasta. I got the recipe from ‘Gino’s pasta’.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g tagliatele pasta
  • 50g fresh basil
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 130ml olive oil
  • 25g parmesan (more to serve)
  • 150g frozen peas
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Put the basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor, pour in the oil and blitz until smooth.

2.) Grate 25g parmesan and add to the pesto mix. Grate a bit of extra parmesan for a garnish.

3.) Cook the pasta until done. 1 minute from the end, add the peas and cook until hot. Drain off the water then add the pesto into the pan with the pasta. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper and stir through.

4.) Serve into dishes and garnish with a bit more parmesan and that’s all there is to it!

Gnocchi Puttanesca

I love the idea of gnocchi but I always feel like it’s cheating to not make my own even though I’ll happily use pre-made pasta. I got over my reservations to put this quick to prep meal together on my language class night. At 8.30pm I can’t be bothered with anything too labour intensive. Using spinach gnocchi allowed me also to get some greens in there. Puttanesca is my favourite pasta recipe (maybe excluding Spaghetti Vongole) and when I saw the recipe on BBC Good Food, it was an instant winner. I did add a tin of tuna to it which I think was a bit too much but my husband liked it so I’ll leave it to your discretion.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g gnocchi of your choice
  • 500g passata (I went for passata with veggies)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 60g kalamata olives
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • 1 tin tuna
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 250g mozzarella
  • olive oil

Method

1.) Peel the onion and finely chop

2.) Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Fry on a low heat for 5 minutes or so until starting to soften.

3.) In the meantime, chop up the olives then add to the pan with the anchovies and the capers and and fry for a couple of minutes until the anchovies breakdown.

4.) Drain the tinned tuna and add to the pan, stir for a couple of minutes.

5.) Add in the passata and the gnocchi and cook for about 5 minutes. Chop up the mozzarella.

6.) Pour the mixture into a oven-proof casserole dish then dot the mozzarella over the top.

7.) Cook under a grill for 5 minutes or so, until the mozzarella is melted and golden brown.

Roasted Fennel ‘Chorizo’ Calzone

Calzone is a folded over pizza and it’s hard to find the origins other than it being from Naples but I believe it was was created to be an efficient street/workers food, much like a British pork pie. Like pizza, the filling list is endless but I’m pretty pleased with this roasted fennel, mozzarella and chorizo shroomdog combo (I got the sausages from Sainsburys but any veggie sausage plus smoked paprika will do) adapted from Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite. This could serve 2 as a heavier meal or 4 with a side salad.

Serves 2/4

Ingredients

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chorizo shroomdog sausages
  • 250g mozzarella
  • pinch fennel seeds
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 200g pizza sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 300g white bread flour
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 300ml tepid water

Method

1.) Preheat the oven as far as it will go (around 220 degrees C or more)

2.) Finely slice the fennel and place in a baking tray. Drizzle with 1 tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper

3.) Roast for 20 minutes, turn the fennel over after 10. Set aside.

4.) Make the dough. Measure out 300ml tepid water and add the yeast. Let it brew for at least 10 minutes. In another large bowl, measure out the flour. Add the liquid to the yeast and mix it up and knead to form a smooth dough. Oil the large bowl and place the dough back in there. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rise for 2 hours.

5.) Slice up the sausages and fry in a frying pan with a tbsp oil. Slice up the mozzarella and set aside.

6.) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C

7.) Knock back the dough. Divide the dough into half then lightly dust your work surface with flour. Roll the half into a ball then roll out with a rolling pin to a thin circle (as best you can).

8.) Spread out half the pizza sauce, sprinkle with half the chilli flakes and fennel seeds, sprinkle one half of the dough with half of the roasted fennel, half of the sausages and half of the mozzarella.

9.) Fold over the half of the calzone without the mozzarella and crimp the edges together to seal. Place on a pizza baking tray.

10.) Repeat with the rest of the dough and ingredients.

11.) Bake for 10 minutes.

Mascarpone stuffed pasta shells

I always used to love these conchiglie shells when I was a kid. They taste like every other kind of pasta but have the bonus of catching the sauce inside. So this recipe is a nice comfort food for me (I guess I can’t blog about potato smileys!). A base of rich Bolognese sauce holding shells are stuffed with creamy indulgent mascarpone and mozzarella. I spotted the recipe on BBC Good Food but for me 250g pasta shells was too much pasta for the amount of mascarpone so in the recipe below I’ve cut it down to 200g. I also think you’d benefit more from the mozzarella being placed on top of the shells and grilled at the end rather than stuffed in the shells.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 200g giant pasta shells
  • 200g mascarpone
  • bunch basil
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 30g parmesan
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 carrot
  • 250ml red wine
  • 400g quorn mince
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 400g passata
  • 200ml beef flavoured stock (or vegetable)
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method

1.) Put a kettle on to boil and measure out the pasta into a pan. Boil until soft but not too soft as you’ll have to handle them to stuff them. Leave them to one side so they cool enough to handle.

2.) Peel and finely chop the onion and carrot. Finely chop the celery. Make up the stock.

3.) Heat the tbsp oil in an ovenproof pan and add the veg and sauté until soft.

4.) In the meantime, peel and chop 3 of the cloves of garlic.

5.) When the veg is soft, add the garlic and continue to sauté for another minute or two.

6.) Add in the mince and cook until it’s defrosted completely.

7.) Add the wine and continue to cook until it’s mostly evaporated

8.) Add the tomato purée and stir, add the bay leaves then add the passata and stock.

9.) Turn up the heat to a boil then turn down to simmer and simmer until the sauce is just a little less thick than you’d want for a normal Bolognese (about 40 minutes)

10.) In the meantime, stuff the pasta shells.

11.) Make the mixture for the pasta shells by adding the mascarpone to a bowl and beat it well.

12.) Peel and chop finely the garlic and add to the mascarpone. Also finely chop the mozzarella and the basil and give it a mix with the mascarpone.

13.) Fill up the pasta shells with the mascarpone mixture and set aside until the sauce is ready.

14.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/180 degrees fan

15.) Place the shells open side up on top of the tomato sauce and bake for 20 – 30 minutes until bubbling.

16.) While this is baking, grate the parmesan

17.) When done, sprinkle over the parmesan and serve.

POlenta bean bake

I looooove polenta and my normal method of preparation is to just throw in a ton of butter and cheese and stick some ragu on top. However, I came across a recipe in ‘Two Greedy Italians eat Italy’ and felt inspired to try a new take on it. The two greedy Italians in question are Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. Carluccio’s was one of the better food chains in the UK and Gennaro is Jamie Oliver’s bestie. I went to a food festival run by Jamie Oliver once and will never forget Gennaro being asked what his favourite vegetable was and responding with epic enthusiasm ‘Iiia laaaava brocolli’ – that was my attempt at transcribing the Italian accent. This is a great tasty recipe for vegetarians as the beans provide the much-needed protein. Using quick cook polenta would probably have been a bit easier but I couldn’t find any.

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tins haricot beans
  • spray oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 leek
  • 1 carrot
  • 4 rashers plant based bacon
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • 500g ready prepared polenta
  • 1 tbsp chicken flavoured stock
  • 10g parsley
  • 80g parmesan/fontina
  • salt

Method

1.) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C

2.) For the polenta, put the polenta in a pan and add 250ml boiling water and the stock powder. Simmer on a low heat for about 10 minutes.

3.) Peel and chop the carrot, leek and onion, chop up the stick of celery

4.) Fry the carrot, leek, onion and celery until soft.

5.) Chop up the fake bacon and add to the pan

6.) Slice the tomatoes in half and add to the pan with some salt. Cook until starting to break down.

7.) Grate the parmesan

8.) Mash up the polenta in the pan with a fork then use a whisk to combine the water and polenta. Add the cheese to the polenta.

9.) Drain the tins of beans and mix with the tomato mix.

10.) Chop up the parsley and add to the tomatoes and beans. Stir until all warmed through.

11.) Mix the tomato and bean mix with the polenta and pour the lot into a baking dish.

12.) Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. (My baking dish was quite deep but if it’s larger and more shallow, less time would be needed).