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.

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.

Lemon & Caper Cauliflower Orzo

My husband was asking for something with roasted cauliflower and I came across this charred cauliflower and orzo dish on BBC Good Food. I’m not sure how authentically Italian it is. I was just in Rome and I saw all the classics – Spaghetti alle Vongole, Lasagne, Carbonara, Rome’s version of Arancini (suppli) and more focaccia and mozzarella than you can shake a stick at but nothing with cauliflower and orzo. Nonetheless it’s still molto buono as they say in Italy. Rome is a beautiful, richly historic city and I’m now watching Suburra on Netflix which is an engrossing Italian crime drama set in Rome allowing me to relive all the sites.

Serves 3 (I doubled the recipe which Served 1 with leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g orzo
  • 4 tsp capers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 100ml vegetable stock
  • 100g rocket

Method

1.) Heat up the grill

2.) Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Chop up the cauliflower and place over the tray.

3.) Grill for 10 – 15 minutes until charred.

4.) Cook the orzo in a pan of boiling water until soft.

5.) Make up the stock and peel and dice the garlic. Zest the lemon.

6.) Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and capers and fry for a minute.

7.) Drain the orzo and add to the pan, add the cauliflower, the lemon zest, add the lemon juice to the pan and the vegetable stock.

8.) Cook for a couple of minutes then serve up with the rocket sprinkled over.

Festive Pasta

Here’s my last pre-Christmas meal before I get into the real unhealthy Christmas fare. I saw a recipe for sprout, hazelnut and leek pasta on BBC Good Food and I thought why not add some Linda McCartney imitation pulled chicken and it would practically be Christmas dinner on a plate with far less effort. I really love sprouts and can’t see why anyone wouldn’t unless they’ve been subjected to overcooked soggy ones.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 200g sprouts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 50ml vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 350g pasta
  • 1 tbsp parmesan
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped, toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 pack Linda McCartney chicken

Method

1.) Wash and slice the leeks. Chop the ends off the sprouts, discard the outer leaves and quarter them.

2.) Cook in a frying pan with the oil for 10 – 15 minutes until softened.

3.) Peel and finely chop the garlic, zest the lemon and grate the parmesan and make up the stock.

4.) Put the pasta in a pan and cover with boiling water, cook until soft.

5.) Add the garlic to the frying pan and cook for another minute.

6.) Add the chicken and heat up until it’s defrosted.

7.) Stir in the stock and crème fraiche.

8.) Drain the pasta and add to the pan. Then stir through the parmesan, lemon zest and hazelnuts until everything is hot and the parmesan is melted.

9.) Season and 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!

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.