Sometimes, dinner gets later and later. It was just one of those evenings of putting children to bed, getting haircuts and other chores. I didn’t get started on this until 8.30pm, but we were eating by 8.45pm. You gotta love dinners like this, but it all starts from the storecupboard. If the basics aren’t there, you’re on to a loser.
This one massively favours substitution: swap pork for any other meat, the peppers for any firm veg, and Comté cheese is not essential. As luck would have it the Comté people got in touch and sent me some samples so I was more than happy to include it here. Heston’s a big fan of Comté, so is Raymond Blanc (he comes from that region) so it’s in good company.
Pork primavera (serves 2):
2 frozen pork loin steaks
150g frozen peppers
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
300ml creme fraiche
70g comte cheese, shaved
- Get a large pan of salted water on to boil, and a frying pan over a high heat. Add the pasta to the water and cook according to the packet instructions.
- Season the pork on both sides with salt and pepper and fry in the pan until browned on one side. Flip and cook for another minute and then remove to one side. Add the peppers to the pan and fry briskly, then add the Marsala wine. Allow to bubble for a minute.
- Slice the pork into thin strips, then add back to the pan with the peppers. When cooked on all sides turn the heat down low and add the creme fraiche. Stir thoroughly to combine and season with salt and pepper as required.
- Scoop out a little pasta water to a mug. If your resulting source is a little thick, you can let it down with this water. By this time the pasta should be done, so drain and add to the pork ‘n’ pepper pan. Turn off the heat, add most of the cheese and toss really well to combine. Serve and garnish with the remaining cheese.
I devour podcasts by the audio gallon. Since 2007 (late to the podcast party, I know) I’ve had a regular diet of banter, thought, review and revue. Many have come and gone from my queue, and I’m always happy to try new ones.
A few weeks ago I discovered The Dork Forest. Hosted by comedian Jackie Kashian she indulges her weekly guest in one of their obsessions, or ‘dorkdoms’. It’s a lot of fun, and if you like your podcasts rambly and occasionally educational, this is one for the playlist. On a recent episode her guest Tracey Ashley couldn’t praise her macaroni cheese enough. I don’t need asking twice; I raced off to try it.
Jackie’s original recipe is here, but be warned it’s written in American (Sticks of butter! Sharp cheese!). My rough Anglican version is below. I’ve not used Gruyere as it wouldn’t survive against the strong cheddar I used, an Asda mature cheddar with wholegrain mustard, part of their Asda Summer range. Any cheddar will do but the mustard flavour through it is really good. I’ve also subbed penne over macaroni. But it’s a great pasta bake, with a silky sauce and big flavour. I think it’s the breadcrumbs that make it.
Thanks to Asda for sending me the cheese to try.
Jackie Kashian’s cheese pasta bake (serves 4):
1 garlic clove, halved
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 slices bread
3 tablespoons flour
500ml whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
¼ nutmeg, grated
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
400g cheddar cheese, grated
400g penne or other pasta
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take your garlic clove and rub it around the inside of a baking dish. Whizz up your bread in a food processor, stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter and set aside.
- Get your pasta on to boil in plenty of salted water, and drain when done. Meanwhile make your sauce.
- Over a low heat stir together the remaining butter and flour until you have a roux and continue to cook for another minute until pale in colour. Add all of the milk and whisk constantly for about eight minutes until thick and smooth. Add the salt, nutmeg, cayenne and cheese. Take off the heat and stir through, then fold in the pasta.
- Pour into your baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Wait 2 minutes before serving to let the sauce settle, and serve with a green salad to try and offset some of the guilt.
Some good friends gave me some Carluccio’s black truffles as a gift; the least I could do was serve it back to them. I thought this recipe would be one that Carluccio himself would be pleased with as it has minimal ingredients and ready in under 10 minutes. Mof-mof indeed.
Spaghetti with truffles (serves 4):
250g spaghetti (fancy bronze-die cut stuff if you can get it)
30g parmesan, grated
1 black truffle
- Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Like, proper toothy.
- As the spaghetti is nearly cooked, gently melt the butter. When the pasta is ready add it to the butter at the same time as the parmesan. Toss like crazy and add a real big punch of black pepper. Serve immediately, grating over black truffle to taste.
Practically every element of this could be substituted: the definition of a store-cupboard clearout dinner! Change the chorizo for another cooked meat, throw in another cheese and it’s off in another direction altogether. A blue cheese and salami version could be pretty good too…
Chorizo and red onion penne bake (serves 2):
250g chorizo, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
200ml creme fraiche
150g Port Salut, diced
3 roasted red onions*
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Boil the pasta until al dente.
- Mix the creme fraiche, mustard, onion and cheese together and add the penne. Add a splash of the pasta cooking water to make a nice slippery sauce. Pour into a baking dish and put in the oven for 20 mins or until starting to colour. Allow to rest for a couple of minutes out of the oven before serving.
*If you don’t have any roasted onions (I had some left over from this recipe) either chuck some in a hot oven for 30 mins or fry them for a few minutes before adding to the pasta.
The name is completely tongue-in-cheek, a sideways reference to another stupidly named dish. I’d piped up on Twitter that I was having Gordon’s Pasta that night when Lorna Wall mentioned it’s similarity to a dish of Jamie’s.
So I tried it – and it is as good as it’s simplicity suggests. Just asparagus and bacon powering the flavour along, and I added a dash of creme fraiche to help it stay slick and delicious. A lightning-quick and satisfying supper.
Bacon and asparagus pasta (serves 2):
6 rashers smoked bacon, sliced
1 bundle of asparagus
Big handful parmesan
150ml creme fraiche
- Get two pans on, one deep pan for your pasta and another big frying pan for everything else. Get the big pan on with rapidly boiling salted water and get your penne on to cook until al dente.
- In the frying pan add a dash of olive oil and add the bacon. For the asparagus snap off the woody end, then trim off the feathered ends, reserving for later. Thinly slice the remaining stalks and add to the pan. Stir fry for about five mins and add some seasoning. Turn the heat down and add the creme fraiche and parmesan and stir well.
- The pasta should be nearly done now so add the asparagus tips for the last two mins of cooking time. When they’ve had their time drain the lot, reserving some of the cooking water and add the pasta and asparagus to the pan. Toss well to combine, you may need to add some water to slacken it down to a shiny sauce. Check for seasoning and serve immediately.
I am utterly aghast that I have not blogged this before. I must’ve made it half a dozen times and it never fails to delight, yet somehow it fell through the cracks. I was chatting with a colleague that I was having this for dinner and she asked if it was on my blog. “Of course,” I said, “I’ve cooked it loads of times.” And yet there it wasn’t.
This is a great twist on carbonara. It always nags at me that these delicious pasta dishes don’t have a veg component which means cooking something else on the side. You can’t fault the Italians; it’s the way they eat but I prefer to have everything together. I find peas a little too harsh against the creaminess but the addition of courgette is a great one. It’s an idea I’ve lifted from Jamie at Home and it’s really worth trying. I’m also a big fan of dishes where the sauce is cooked in the same time as the pasta so can be up and on the table in under 15 minutes. Brill.
Courgette carbonara (serves 2):
1 large courgette
6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
Leaves from a sprig of thyme
150ml double cream
A large handful of grated parmesan
2 egg yolks
- Get a large pan of salted water on the boil and a big frying pan on a high heat.
- Slice your courgette in half, then use a spoon to scoop out the fluffy seeds and discard. Slice the courgette on an angle so you end up with pieces about the same size as the pasta.
- Chuck the pasta in to boil and keep checking for when it’s al dente. In your frying pan add a splash of oil and toss in the bacon. Keep frying until crisp on once side, then add the courgette and thyme and give everything a good toss to coat in bacony goodness. Meanwhile in a jug stir together the cream, parmesan and egg yolks and grind over loads of black pepper – it really helps cut through the cream. Toss your courgettes every now and then.
- Get a mug and scoop out some of the pasta cooking water to slacken your sauce in a minute. When the pasta is cooked drain, and when the courgettes are starting to go tender turn the heat off of the pan (this is important to avoid scrambling the eggs) and add your creamy mix. Keep stirring it to stop the egg clumping and add a dash of the reserved water. Toss with the pasta, check for seasoning and add a little more water if you need a bit more liquid in your sauce. Serve immediately with a dash more parmesan, this dish doesn’t hang around!
I always mean to try interesting lasagna recipes – ones that aren’t classic lasagne al forno that is – but when I come to cook it I can’t resist meaty, tomatoey rich ragu topped with creamy bechamel. It takes Jamie Oliver to convince me to try it another way.
This Summer veg lasagne is inspired by one from his 30 Minute Meals book. It’s perfect for the Summer months and ideal for clearing out the fridge! I grabbed a bunch of things that needed using up for here and it came out lovely.
Summer veg lasagne (serves 4):
A bunch of spring onions
3 cloves of garlic
Large handful frozen peas
Large handful spring greens
Large bunch of basil
150ml single cream
150ml veg stock
250g cottage cheese
250g fresh lasagne sheets
- Get the kettle on to boil, get a large frying pan on a high heat and add a splash of oil. Put the oven on 180°C.
- Slice up the spring onions and add to the pan. Crush in the garlic and toss well to prevent sticking. Snap off the woody bits of the asparagus then slice up the stems, but leave the tips intact and keep to one side for now. Add the chopped stems to the pan with a splash of boiled water.
- Add the peas and greens and keep stirring. Chop the basil and add to the pan with the cream and add plenty of seasoning. Cover with stock and bring to the boil.
- Get a roasting tray and start to layer up lasagne sheets and veg mix until you have used everything up. Finish with pasta. Add a splash of boiled water to the cottage cheese to slacken and then spread over your pasta. Scatter the asparagus on top of the cottage cheese and grate over plenty of parmesan. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden and crunchy. Serve with panzanella.