Tag Archives: Pasta

Courgettes with pasta, my favourite pasta dish!

1 Jul

 There was a time when I hated courgettes but, over the years and after trying so many delicious recipes, that has all changed.  I love it when there is a glut of courgettes in the shops but, thankfully, you can now buy them all year round.  When we had this recently it reminded me how much we love it, and how long it had been since we ate it!  I can’t remember when we first had this dish, it must be at least five years ago.  I think our first time was because someone had given us a bag full of courgettes, they were not a vegetable I would have actually bought in those days!  The recipe would probably have come from one of the cooking journals I subscribe to and, if I remember, the picture did not look that tantalising.  I am so glad we tried it though.  Sometimes you come across a recipe that you want to make time and time again.  This is one of those times! We absolutely love this pasta dish.  You would not believe how fresh it tastes or how much flavour it packs in.  Before the recipe though, I thought I would look at some food trivia on Parmesan Cheese.

I can remember, many years ago, buying Parmesan cheese already grated and served in little tubs.  It was disgusting and smelled of sweaty socks.  Yuk!!!  The first time I bought fresh Parmesan I could not believe the flavour.  It is so strong, absolutely beautiful.  It really makes you wonder how they manage to transform such a great taste to an imitation of sweaty socks!!  A lot of people will not buy the fresh cheese as it is expensive and they may only use it occasionally.  Believe me, it is worth the expense!  I grate the whole block at a time and freeze it in a well sealed freezer bag.  That way I can take out just as much as I need when I need it.  I even freeze the rind, it gives a great flavour to soups!

Parmesan cheese is the French name given to Parmigiano-Reggiano, and one that most of the UK have adopted.  Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese that is cooked but not pressed, and is produced in Italy.  The name is protected under European Law and can only be given to the cheese produced in specified regions of Italy.  Informally it is often called the ‘King of Cheese’.  The cheese is made out of cows milk and any left over whey is used to feed the pigs from which Parma Ham was produced.  Great bit of recycling!!!  The cheese is as pure and organic as possible.  Cows can only feed on grass or hay, giving grass-fed milk, and only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter.  The only additive allowed is salt which the cheese absorbs while being submerged in huge vats of brine made from Mediterranean sea salt, before being left to age for an average of two years.  The end result is a fantastic cheese with a deep, savoury flavour.  It is very strong so, although expensive, you only need a small amount yet still get the full flavour coming through.

Anyway, I’ve tried to trace the recipe to a website and failed so I have written it out for you below.  I really hope you give it a try, I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Courgettes with pasta and herbs.    Serves 4       About 530 calories

  • 12 oz/350g  spaghetti
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 650g/1lb 7oz courgettes, cut into thin ribbons (a vegetable peeler is great for this)
  • 25g/1oz butter cut into pieces
  • 50g/2oz freshly grated parmigiano-Reggiano (or Grand Padano if you can’t get it)
  • Handful each of chopped fresh basil and flat leaf parsley
  1. Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or wok.  Add the garlic and cook gently for a few seconds until it becomes fragrant.  Be careful not to let it burn or it will be bitter.  Tip in the courgettes, stir to coat in the garlic oil then cook gently for about 4 minutes.  They need to be softened but not soggy.
  3. Drain the spaghetti and add to the courgettes, along with the butter, cheese and herbs.  Toss them gently until the butter has melted, the spaghetti is coated with the cheese and herbs and the courgettes are evenly distributed.  Season to taste and serve immediately.  You can drizzle with a little extra olive oil if you like.

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Sausage and pasta – what’s not to love?

31 Mar

We love sausages and pasta, so when it is combined in just one pot, easy and quick to cook with hardly any washing up, then this is food heaven.  I have to say I was a bit dubious that everything would be properly cooked but I enjoyed every mouthful and all I cook hear from Terry, my husband, was something that I could only describe as a purrrrrrr!  Kids will absolutely love this dish, a perfect midweek meal.  One word of advise though, use good quality sausages.  I think cheaper versions might have too much fat and maybe make the dish oily.  The pasta used in this dish is penne so I thought I would look up a few foodie facts.

Penne (pronounced peni) is a cylinder shaped pasta.  It can be either smooth or ribbed and is designed to hold as much sauce as possible.  It was perfect for todays dish and you could actually see the sauce running through the middle of the pasta and oozing out the other end.  The name penne comes from penna, Italian for feather or quill, presumably to describe the similar action of these as writing implements. 

There are some mixed theories of the origins of pasta to Italy.  Some say it was brought to Italy by Marco Polo from China.  However, there is evidence that pasta was already eaten in Italy during Polo’s time and there is even mention of a type of lasagna in 1AD!  In more recent times, the 8th Century to be exact, pasta was introduced to Sicily by the Arabs.  It was made from a hard variety of wheat and is believed to be the origin of dried pasta.  To this day there are many Sicilian recipes that contain influences from Arabian cooking, and include raisins and spices such as cinnamon. Today there are over 350 shapes of dried pasta and Italians eat over 60 lbs of pasta per person, each year!

The recipe I am sharing today is based on one from Woman and Home Dinner Tonight.  I have adapted it to suit our taste.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Sausage and pasta one-pot         Serves 4

  • 8 good quality sausages (choose the variety you like best)
  • 6 slices pancetta (or smoked streaky bacon), roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 250g (9oz)chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1.5 pints (about 700 ml) ham stock (made with 2 ham stock cubes)
  • 250g (9oz) dried penne pasta
  • 200g (7oz) runner beans, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a very large, deep, frying pan or saute pan.  Fry the sausages, pancetta and onion over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the sausage is brown all over.  Keep turning and moving around the pan to avoid burning.
  2. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 2 minutes until they have softened slightly.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes and stock then add the pasta and beans.  Mix well, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until the sausages are cooked and the pasta is tender.  This should give you a rich sauce.  If the sauce is too thick simply add a little more water.  If it is too thin boil rapidly for a couple of minutes to thicken it.
  4. Stir in the Worcestershire Sauce and season to taste.

Serve with a couple of glasses of red wine! Heaven!!!!! 

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Courgette and lemon pasta

30 Jan

DSCI0405My husband is not very keen on vegetarian meals so when I said I was making this to use up some courgettes my friend Erica had given me his face looked like he had sucked a lemon.  In spite of this he tucked in with relish, cleared his plate completely and grudgingly declared ‘it wasn’t bad’. I thought it was absolutely lovely. It was light and refreshing and the pine nuts gave it a lovely nutty flavour and added crunch. I will definitely be making this again no matter how much he protests and begs for meat!

Pine nuts are very good for you. Here are a few nutritional facts.

  • They are rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid (18:1 undifferentiated fat) that helps to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good-cholesterol” in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet, which contain good amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants, helps to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
  • Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (ω-6 fat), pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing the appetite.
  • They are an excellent source of vitamin E; contain about 9.33 mg per 100 g (about 62% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
  • Furthermore, pines are one of gluten-free tree nuts, and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations can be a healthy alternative in people with wheat food allergy, and celiac disease.
  • They are an excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins.
  • Finally, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.  Consumption of pines helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.

I couldn’t find this recipe on the Woman and Home website so I have written it out below.

Courgette and lemon pasta                 Serves 4

  • 225g /8oz spaghetti
  • 450g / 1lb courgettes, grated
  • 50g /2 oz pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper
  1. Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  2. Zest both the lemons and juice just one of them.
  3. Drain the pasta when cooked and return to the pan.  Add the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, courgettes and pine nuts.
  4. Toss together and serve immediately.

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Tuna pasta – my daughter’s favourite.

12 Sep

I have been making this pasta dish for at least 35 years.  I made it up when the children were small and money was short.  I think the first time I ever made it was over the Christmas holiday.  In those days the shops would close early on Christmas Eve and not open again until after Boxing Day.  Sometimes this meant they were not open for 5 days, as they never opened on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday.  Imagine the outcry if that happened today!  I remember having to plan my food shopping so we didn’t run out and getting up at the crack of dawn to queue up for the bread.  This recipe came out of desperation I think.  I had run out of almost everything except for a few store cupboard ingredients and some bits and bobs of vegetables.  My kids absolutely loved it and still do to this day.  Whenever I ask my daughter what she wants me to cook for her she nearly always asks for Tuna pasta.  When I made her some at the weekend I thought I would check to make sure it was on the blog and could not believe it wasn’t there.  So, today I will put that right and hope she prints off the recipe so she can continue making it when I am no longer here.

Talking about Christmas brings back lots of happy memories.  I remember how excited I used to get as a child.  I would spend hours looking up into the sky to see if Santa was coming yet.  My Mum used to say he would not come until I was asleep.  Did she not know how impossible that was!  I remember neighbours coming round for a glass of sherry and how happy and warm the house was, filled with wonderful smells.  Mum would put the turkey on before she went to bed and cook it overnight, Jamie Oliver would have a fit!  I used to share a bedroom with my three little brothers.  One Christmas I woke at about two in the morning and found Santa had been.  I woke my brother Jeff up and asked him if he wanted me to open his presents.  After I had opened them all and eaten his chocolate santa I went back to sleep so I could open mine in the morning.  How awful was that!  My Mum was furious and made Jeff open my presents for me.  Needless to say I never did it again!  We used to have lots of Christmas parties in those days.  My Dad was a bus driver and Trent Buses had their Christmas Party in a big hotel in Derby.  I entered a competition at one of the parties to see who had the most outrageous laugh.  I won, which will come as no surprise to those who know me.  The prize was a tube of Polos, and I was over the moon!  How times have changed.

We had some great Christmases when the kids were small too.  I remember one year my brother-in-law dropping sweets down the stairs and pretending they had fallen out of Santa’s sack.  We never had much money but we always splashed out at Christmas, loads of goodies and a cupboard full of booze.  All the neighbours would go to each others houses for a drink in the morning.  It’s a wonder I was ever sober enough to make the Christmas dinner.  Mind you, one year I did forget to make the gravy!

All this reminiscing makes me sad that we have lost some of that community spirit.  Next Christmas I am going to make sure I ask the neighbours in for a drink.  It’s never too late to improve things.

Anyway, enough of the past, here is the recipe.  It is one of those that do not have exact quantities.  I tend to just guess them by the handful so it will be difficult to be exact.  I hope it turns out how it should.  My Grandson Hayden has it cold as a pasta salad, so don’t worry if you have left overs.  Or you could reheat in the microwave the following day.

Tuna pasta                                             Serves 4 

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200g dried pasta shapes eg fusilli
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into small pieces
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 500 ml whole milk
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 100g frozen sweetcorn kernels
  • 2 tins tuna, drained well
  1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until just tender.  Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onion and pepper until soft but not coloured, about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes more.
  4. Add the flour and mix well with the vegetables.  Remove from the heat and slowly add the milk, making sure it has absorbed into the flour mix between each addition.  Return to the heat and stir until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Add the peas, sweetcorn, and pasta and crumble in the tuna in big chunks.
  6. Mix well.  If it appears to be too thick add a little extra milk.  Reheat until all the ingredients are hot.  Check for seasoning and, if necessary add a little salt and black pepper.  Serve.

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