Spanish puttanesca pasta

IMG_20150912_145640[1]A success from the “oh no there’s nothing in the fridge” school of cooking.  Feeds 4 – ish.

  • 300g wholewheat spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chorizo ring
  • handful of black olives, chopped
  • a splash of red wine, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever’s around along those lines
  • black pepper
  • grated parmesan

Put the spaghetti into a large pan of boiling water with the olive oil and pinch of salt. Meantime, chop up the chorizo into slices about the width of a pound coin and then cut the slices in half.  Add them to a frying pan (no need for oil) on a medium heat, moving them about so they don’t stick and start releasing the oil.  After a few minutes add the handful of black olives and empty the tin of tomatoes into the pan, stirring everything about.  After a few minutes more taste the sauce and add red wine, or balsamic vinegar, or a pinch of sugar, or whatever you think it might need to brighten up the flavour a bit.  Turn down the heat and let it all simmer together.  Add some black pepper.  Meantime test the pasta.  Wholewheat normally takes about 10 minutes.  When the pasta is ready, take a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and mix into your sauce.  Drain the pasta and add it to the frying pan with the sauce in it and mix it all together so all the pasta is coated with the sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan to sprinkle over the top.

Not quite minestrone

This made enough for 6 big portions.

  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 handful frozen green beans
  • 1 head cavolo nero – a very dark green crinkly cabbage with long thin leaves (you can use spring cabbage but cavolo nero is much tastier)
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tin tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tin canellini beans
  • 500ml stock (veg or mushroom)
  • 100ml small pasta shapes (broken spaghetti, orzo, ditalini or small macaroni)
  • salt and black pepper
  • If you have a dried up old rind of hard cheese in the fridge, now is the time to put it to use!NB if you leave out the hard cheese and use pasta made without eggs, this soup is vegan. Parmesan is not suitable for vegetarians, but there are other hard cheeses which are.

Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and add the onion and garlic.  Stir it around and leave it to saute gently until the onion is translucent – high heat will burn the garlic and that never tastes good.

Add the cubed potato, carrot, green beans and peas and the tin of tomatoes. Add the 500ml hot stock and stir all the veg around. Now is the time to add your bit of hard cheese to the mixture. Bring to simmering point then leave it all to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are almost soft. Add the drained canellini beans. Shred the cavolo nero finely.  Put the pasta into a separate pan of salted boiling water and let it boil for 5 minutes, while you put the cavolo nero into the pan with the rest of the soup ingredients.  Small pasta shapes don’t take long – check after 5-8 minutes to see if it’s done.

Season the soup with black pepper and salt if it needs it.   Drain the pasta when it’s done and put a spoonful in the bottom of each soup bowl, then ladle the minestrone over the top of the pasta.

If you cook the pasta separately, it’s easier to save any leftover minestrone for another day so that you can add more freshly-cooked pasta.  Leaving pasta in the soup mixture makes it go a bit sticky and flabby.

Tomato and mozzarella pasta bake

Pasta with tomatoes and cheese – but a bit different.

I came across the idea of baking pasta from dry in a tomato sauce via a link on the Guardian’s excellent recipe exchange – from  Beware though – the first time I cooked it, I used a pottery casserole dish which promptly cracked when on the hob!  Back to good old cast iron… I treated the cheese differently as I’m a sucker for toasted cheese in all its forms.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • half teaspoon chili flakes (or lazy chili from a jar)
  • 2x400g tins of tomatoes
  • 350g penne pasta
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • generous handful of chopped basil
  • 1 ball of mozzarella
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish (or a pan with metal handles that can go in the oven).  Add the garlic and chili and stir for a minute or so.  Add the tomatoes – if they are whole, break them up a bit with a spoon. Add the pasta, a teaspoon of salt (yes you do need this much or it will taste very bland) and stir.  Add about 500ml of boiling water and stir everything together, and bring it back to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Then stir in the cream and the chopped basil, and season with lots of black pepper.  At this point you could also stir in a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach or cavolo nero to up the veg content of this meal.

Slice the mozzarella very thinly and lay it on the top of the pasta and sauce.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the mozzarella, and put the whole dish in a preheated oven (gas mark 4, 200 degrees C) for about 20-25 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheeses have melted and gone a bit crispy on top.

NB if you search out vegetarian mozzarella and vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, this dish is suitable for vegetarians. Proper authentic Parmesan is not, however, veggie-friendly.