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.

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.