This was the star dish when Teresa, Giovanni and Angela came round for dinner the other evening!
I had a “ball” of cooked spinach in the freezer. So, when it had thawed I squeezed out as much water as possible and chopped it roughly. I then put it in the Magimix with 500 g flour and 5 eggs. I added enough water to create a thick sticky paste. I grated the paste through the spaetzle grater and let them fall into a pan of salted boiling water. When the spaetzle rose to the surface I drained them into a colander. For the sauce, I sautèed some onion for a few minutes with a little salt, added chopped speck, and then a generous tablepoon of butter. Finally I added a generous glass of cream and then the spaetzle and black pepper.
I served the spaetzle with a good sprinkling of parmesan.
Teresa invited the family for Easter lunch, and as there were 20 mouths to feed, I made three dishes of lasagne, one with asparagus, one with artichokes and one mixed.
I prepared the vegetables first: 25 artichokes, sliced finely and sautèed in olive oil with a splash or two of water and 3 bunches of asparagus, chopped and sautèed in butter. (I used two bunches of white asparagus and one of green). Then I briefly cooked 20 sheets of lasagne (shop bought!) in boiling salted water. Then I made 3 litres of bechamel sauce with 240g of butter, 150 g of flour and 3 litres of whole milk. I flavoured the sauce with salt, pepper, nutmeg and parmesan.
I then assembled the dishes. A layer of pasta, a layer of vegetable, a few ladles of bechamel and a sprinkling of parmesan, finishing with a final layer of pasta and bechamel. A few flecks of butter and parmesan on top. They cooked 20-30 minutes in the oven.
Could lasagne be the ultimate comfort food?
The only thing with this is that you will need to wash up three pans!
While the pasta is cooking, I dissolve an anchovy in olive oil with a clove of garlic and chilli flakes. When nicely flavoured, I remove the clove of garlic and add some (leftover) cooked green cauliflower. in another pan, I toast a good handful of breadcrumbs in a little olive oil and add a fresh chopped herb (rosemary, in this case). I drain the pasta and add to the vegetable pan to soak up the falvours. I serve with the toasted breadcrumbs/herb on top.
For all my fans out there (!) I haven’t been very active in the kitchen lately as WORK and the real world take up too much of my time!
This sauce is best with short pasta – penne or twists.
First I slice an onion finely. Then I remove the seeds from a pepper, quarter it and remove the skin with a potato peeler. I cut the pepper into strips. I sautè the vegetables in olive oil and add chilli flakes. When softened, I add a can of tomatoes and cook briskly. I add salt and pepper to taste and a good swirl of extra virgin olive oil.
This will do three to four servings of pasta. Pecorino cheese is good grated on top.
There’s no comparison between shop bought and home made orecchiette.
I make a dough with 100 gm semola (hard wheat flour) per person and water. I use the Magimix, adding the water in a stream through the lid until the flour forms crumbs, which I then press together with my hands to form a dough that’s neither too hard nor too soft. This rests, covered, for 30 minutes. Then I take a portion of the dough and roll it out between my hands to form a long sausage , about 2 cms thick. With a table knife, I cut off a half centimetre piece and, pressing hard, drag it towards me. I open the little roll and shape it over my thumb to create the cap-like shape of an orecchietta. On with the next….! I cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water, remove them when they come up to the surface and add them to the pan of sauce (yesterday I made a tomato sauce with pancetta, onion and chilli) to toss.
I suggest googling “orecchiette” and watching a youtube video of someone making them, because it’s not easy to describe the process in words. It’s worth perservering.
We have spent a week in London with James, Hannah and Betty.This is a quick lunchtime dish I prepared for them one day…
I cook pasta in plenty of salted water and in the last 5 minutes I add small florets of broccoli. In the meantime I flavour some extra virgin olive oil with a clove of garlic and some chilli flakes in a large frying pan. I drain the pasta and toss it in the flavoured oil for a minute. A little water from the pasta cooking pot helps create a creamy finish.
Good with a sprinkling of pecorino or parmesan.
This is good for a dinner party as it can be prepared ahead and put in the oven when everyone arrives. It also looks good though is easy to make!
I cook a packet of capellini (angel hair pasta) for 3 minutes in a litre and a half of lightly salted boiling milk. The pasta will absorb all the liquid. I put the pasta in a mixing bowl and add a generous knob of butter, a very generous handful or two of parmesan and two beaten eggs. I taste for salt and pepper. I put the pasta in a buttered and breadcrumbed ring mould and press down well with the back of a spoon. I sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and dot with butter. It cooks 30 minutes at 180°C.
I serve the ring with peas in the centre and tomato sauce around. Alternatives could be ragout or mushrooms. A grander version would be to layer mozzarella and diced cooked ham in the ring. Whatever, make sure you turn it out onto your best dish!
For the final of X Factor we had a small group of fans round for a TV dinner! This oven baked pasta is handy, as it can be made in advance and heated when needed.
I put on the water for the pasta and then make a white sauce: to a litre of full milk I add 80 gm butter and 50gm flour and, strirring constantly with a balloon whisk, I bring it to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Off the heat I season the sauce with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a generous amount of parmesan. I cook 600 to 700 gm pasta very al dente, mix with the sauce and put in a lightly buttered oven dish. I sprinkle breadcrumbs on top, dot with butter and cook 20-25 minutes at 200°C.
Very satisfying…but can’t say the same for the standard of the singing in this year’s contest!
Radicchio di Treviso is a very versatile salad. Here I use it for pasta.
I cut the radicchio into small pieces, discarding the root. In a large frying pan I infuse a clove of garlic in olive oil and add a fresh chilli pepper. Then I add the salad, a little salt and sauté briskly for a few minutes. I add the drained spaghetti and toss pasta and vegetable together with a little extra olive oil.
A sprinkling of grated pecorino is good. As is a glass of Chianti!
The ultimate comfort food. Tagliatelle are a comfort to make and a comfort to eat. Nothing beats the satisfaction of rolling out the pasta by hand to a wafer thin sheet, folding it up, cutting into ribbons and hanging up to await cooking.
Last night we had the tagliatelle with tomato sauce and some sautèed courgettes, plenty of butter and parmesan. Augusta made the sauce in September when plum tomtoes are at their ripest and cheapest. She cooked them down with celery, onion, carrot and basil. Then she passed everything through the vegetable mill and portioned the sauce into plastic bags which went into the deep freeze. Traditionally such a sauce should be bottled, but sterilising jars is too much bother! Freezing works very well for us.