Pasta

Penne with Courgettes, Mushrooms & Pine Nuts (Serves 4)

This is a pasta recipe which I have been serving to my family for more years than I care to mention, it’s a ‘home grown’ recipe, one which I developed after being inspired by a pasta I tried in a restaurant. It’s not fancy, but it is one of those easy midweek dishes, which is instantly gratifying.

400g courgette, cut into batons

400g portobellini mushrooms (or large flat mushrooms), sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

4 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

400g penne pasta

Sea salt and black pepper

4 heaped tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve

  1. In a dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a medium/high heat for a few minutes until golden. Remove and keep to one side.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the frying pan and fry the courgette batons over a medium heat until softened, but retaining some ‘bite’ (al dente). Remove and keep to one side.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, add the garlic slices and fry over a medium heat for about 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juices and have softened but are still retaining their shape.
  4. Meanwhile cook the penne pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  5. Finally, return the courgettes to the pan along with the pine nuts, stir to combine and reheat before adding the drained penne pasta. Give everything a good mix and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve with a very generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Rigatoni with Sweet Tomatoes, Aubergine & Mozzarella (Serves 4)

This has been one of my family’s favourites for many years, it is a Jamie Oliver recipe from one of his older books, ‘Jamie’s Dinners’, it is his take on the classic Italian dish of ‘Pasta alla Norma’. The wonderful combination of aubergines and tomatoes is enriched by the addition of mozzarella, as the cheese melts it becomes deliciously ‘stringy’! I prefer if without the addition of the dried chilli flakes, but if you like a bit of heat you could add some.

To watch the video of this recipe being cooked click here!

1 large aubergine (or 2 small)

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

A bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and stalks sliced

4 tablespoons double cream

455g rigatoni or penne

200g mozzarella cheese

½ teaspoon of chilli flakes (optional – see note above)

Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

  1. Remove both ends of the aubergines and slice into 1cm slices then slice these across to form 1 cm cubes.
  2. In a large frying/sauté pan heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil. When it’s hot, add the aubergine cubes and stir them around so that they are lightly coated in the oil. Cook for about 10 minutes over a medium heat until softened.
  3. Add the onion and garlic, cook for a few more minutes. When they have a little colour, add the tinned tomatoes, the balsamic vinegar and the sliced basil stalks (if you want to add some heat you could add the chilli flakes at this point). Simmer gently for 15 minutes, season with salt and pepper, then stir in the cream.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  5. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to the aubergine and tomato sauce. Tear up the mozzarella and fresh basil leaves, and stir them through the pasta and sauce – the mozzarella will start to melt, becoming beautifully stringy (it can be a little messy to serve!). Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

Gnocchi with Chicken Sauce (Serves 4)

Just when I thought I had exhausted all the pasta sauces along came this wonderful recipe! The rich chicken sauce beautifully complements the gnocchi, however I also think that it would work very well with either pappardelle or tagliatelle (and for this reason I’ve included this recipe in Menu Mistress’s ‘Pasta’ section). You could, of course, make your own gnocchi, but these days it’s possible to buy great quality gnocchi from the supermarket, including those that are gluten free.

I found this recipe in ‘Flavours of Sicily’ by Ursula Ferrigno, a book which concentrates on Sicilian dishes – if you have never visited this beautiful island, I urge you to put it on your bucket list, you will be in ‘food heaven’!

500g potato gnocchi (gluten free if required)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

50g pancetta, cubed

4 chicken thighs, boneless and skin-on, cut into bitesize pieces

100g green pitted olives

3 bay leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato purée

125ml white wine

50g dried porcini mushrooms

100g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size.

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

150ml chicken stock

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated to serve

  1. Firstly soak the porcini in cold water for 10 minutes, drain reserving the soaking water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or casserole (which has a lid), add the onion and cook until golden.
  3. Add the pancetta, cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and stir fry for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients except the parsley and parmesan cheese. Cook, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally – if the mixture becomes a little dry add a splash of the reserved porcini soaking water.
  5. Just as the sauce is ready, cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to the cooking instructions – they should only need 2-3 minutes.
  6. Drain the gnocchi, add to the sauce and stir in the chopped parsley, checking the seasoning. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Pasta alla Puttanesca (Serves 4)

There are various versions of this pasta sauce, but I particularly like this one from Gennaro Contaldo; it is a lovely thick sauce with just the right amount salt from the anchovies. It is another recipe which I have taken from one of my favourite cookbooks, ‘Cook: A Year in the Kitchen with Britain’s Favourite Chefs’, which has numerous recipes from different chefsincluding Gennaro Contaldo.

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole and crushed with the flat blade of a knife

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

6 anchovy fillets

35 black olives, stoned and sliced in half

2 tablespoon capers

300g tinned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

A large handful parsley, chopped

400g linguine or spaghetti (gluten free if required)

Salt to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets. Fry until the anchovies have melted and the garlic is golden brown.
  2. Add the olives and capers, stir-fry for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, oregano and parsley.
  3. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, stir well so that the pasta absorbs the flavours of the sauce – if you feel that the sauce is too dry add a tablespoon or two of hot pasta water.
  6. Serve immediately.

Tagliatelle with Butternut Squash, Hazelnuts and Crispy Sage (Serves 4)

This is a relatively quick pasta dish, comforting and tasty. The crispy sage leaves really lift the dish. This recipe is from Marcus Wareing’s Cookbook, ‘New Classics’.

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 600g)

2 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

½ nutmeg, grated

75g butter

80g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped

20 sage leaves

350g tagliatelle pasta

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Put the diced butternut squash in a saucepan and cover with cold water, add a generous pinch of salt, the bay leaves and thyme. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender. Strain off the water and remove the herbs.
  2. Add the nutmeg and 25g of the butter and lightly mash the squash, seasoning to taste.
  3. Heat the remaining 50g of butter in a large frying pan. When foaming add the hazelnuts and sage. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5-8 minutes until golden and crispy, and the butter has browned.
  4. Cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Drain and mix with most of the hazelnut and sage butter.
  5. Gently stir through the mashed squash and serve, topped with the remaining hazelnut and sage butter.

Tagliatelle with Mushrooms & Chestnuts (Serves 4)

This is a beautiful pasta recipe with lovely earthy flavours. It is particularly comforting during the winter months, however I cook it all year round as we like it so much. Unusually this pasta dish calls for Comté cheese to be grated over it, it really is a delicious addition, complementing the sweetness of the chestnuts. I use the vacuum packed bags of cooked and peeled chestnuts – ‘Merchant Gourmet’ is a good brand. It is worth investing in a quality bottle of truffle oil for this recipe, as it really does enhance the flavour.

This recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks ‘Nina St Tropez’ by Nina Parker.

4 tablespoons olive oil

500g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

400g tagliatelle (gluten free if required)

4 cloves garlic, finely diced

150g cooked chestnuts chopped (see note above)

4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

4 tablespoons truffle oil

Comté cheese, grated to serve

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the mushrooms and cook until they have shrunk in size by about a half.
  2. Add the garlic to the mushrooms and let it cook for a few minutes before adding the chestnuts and seasoning generously.
  3. Meanwhile cook the tagliatelle according to the instructions on the packet until al dente.
  4. Before draining the pasta, add about three or four spoonfuls of pasta cooking water to the mushroom mixture to loosen it.
  5. Finally add the drained tagliatelle to the mushrooms along with the chives, crème fraiche and truffle oil, taste to check the seasoning.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and serve!

Amatrice Style Pasta – All’Amatriciana (Serves 4)

This is a great sauce for pasta, is traditionally served with bucatini, but also, in my opinion, great with spaghetti, or dare I say it penne (I’m sure some Italians would disagree!). Whatever pasta you choose, I can assure you it will be a very delicious sauce, ready in 15 minutes – it’s a great crowd pleaser! The recipe calls for Pecorino cheese rather than the traditional Italian Parmesan cheese, Pecorino is saltier and gives this dish a tangy flavour which I particularly like, but you could substitute it for Parmesan if you wish.

This recipe is taken from Antonio Carluccio’s cookbook ‘Passion for Pasta’.

3 tablespoons olive oil

150g diced pancetta

1 small onion, chopped

1 small chilli pepper, chopped

450g tomato passata

400g bucatini pasta or spaghetti (see note above)

50g freshly grated Pecorino cheese (see note above)

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, fry the pancetta, the onion and chilli for 3-4 minutes until slightly brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet until al dente.
  4. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce.
  5. Serve sprinkled with the grated cheese.

Lasagne (Serves 4)

This, in my opinion, is the best recipe for lasagne, it has exactly the right balance of flavours and sauce – all too often lasagne can be too cheesy. It is a recipe by Gordon Ramsay which I found online many years ago. As I am gluten free I make it with gluten free lasagne sheets, my gluten loving husband, Nick, doesn’t even notice! This is great served with a simple green salad dressed with a classic vinaigrette (recipe here).

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large carrot

1 half of a large onion

2 garlic cloves

1 bay leaf

2 pinches dried oregano

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

300g minced beef

1 tablespoon tomato purée

2 tablespoons red wine

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

50ml milk

6 ‘ready to bake’ lasagne sheets (gluten free if required)

Sea salt and black pepper

For the sauce:

25g unsalted butter

25g plain flour

300ml milk

Pinch ground nutmeg

60g cheddar cheese, grated

30g parmesan cheese, grated

A rectangular baking dish approx. 30cm x 20cm

  1. Peel and grate the carrot and onion. Crush the garlic cloves.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, gently fry the carrot, onion and garlic adding the bay leaf, pinches of oregano, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.
  3. When the onion has softened make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the mince. Stir well to break up the meat.
  4. Add the tomato purée. Continue to cook until the meat is browned.
  5. Add the wine, cook off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes, simmer for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add the milk and remove from the heat – leave to one side whilst you make the sauce.
  7. To make the sauce, melt the butter in saucepan, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to make a pasteOver a gentle heat gradually add a third of the milk, whisking to prevent lumps. Then whisk in the remaining milk, season with the pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper, then cook for a further minute or so before adding the cheddar cheese, stir until smooth.
  8. Spoon half the meat into the baking dish place three of the pasta sheets on top – do not overlap them, then pour over half the cheese sauce. Repeat with another layer of meat, then pasta sheets and finally the remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Serve with a green salad dressed with a classic vinaigrette (recipe here)

Spaghetti with Anchovy & Tuna (Serves 4)

This recipe is one that I found in the book ‘Cook, a Year in the Kitchen with Britain’s Favourite Chefs’, it has recipes from many renowned chefs including this one from the Michelin starred chef, Giorgio Locatelli. Don’t be put off by the fact that he is a professional cook – this recipe is very easy, it also uses store-cupboard ingredients so is a great weekday recipe to remember.

350g spaghetti (gluten free if required)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, each cut into quarters

4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained

250g canned tuna in olive oil, drained

50ml white wine

50g capers, rinsed and drained

2 tomatoes, diced

To Serve:

10 basil leaves

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic and fry over a gentle heat for about 3 minutes, then add the anchovies and cook until they have melted into the oil.
  2. Increase the heat and add the tuna, stir for a few minutes, then add the white wine, let it bubble for a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate.
  3. Stir in the capers and tomatoes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving 2-3 tablespoons of cooking water. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, mixing in the basil leaves and extra virgin olive oil, season to taste. If the pasta seems a little dry add a little of the reserved cooking water.
  6. Serve – how simple is that!

‘Everyday’ Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti (Serves 4-6)

This is one of two Bolognese Sauces that I cook at home; it is the slightly less elegant of the two yet is very tasty, with homely, satisfying flavours – a great midweek treat! It is from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’ (one of his original cookbooks – he looks incredibly young in the photos!), I have slightly tweaked it over the years. I serve it with spaghetti but you could serve it with other pasta shapes.

Watch the video of this sauce being made here!

150g cubed pancetta

Small bunch of basil, leaves picked, and stalks chopped

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

450g minced beef

1 wineglass red wine

1 level teaspoon dried oregano

400g tin of tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

200g tomato purée

450g spaghetti

Sea salt and black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve

  1. In a large pan/ casserole dish that can go in the oven, fry the pancetta in a little olive oil until lightly golden.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and chopped basil stalks (not the leaves), and fry for a further 3 minutes, until softened.
  3. Add the minced beef, continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding the wine and reduce slightly.
  4. Add the oregano, both the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée, and the balsamic vinegar. Season well.
  5. Now cover with a lid (or with foil), and place in a preheated oven, 180’c fan. Cook for an hour and a quarter.
  6. Just before the end of the cooking time, cook your spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  7. Serve the sauce stirred through the spaghetti with the basil leaves, torn, sprinkled over and some grated parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti with Monkfish and Cherry Tomato Sauce (Serves 4)

Often nicknamed ‘poor man’s lobster’, monkfish is a lovely meaty fish making this dish totally satisfying. It is best to have all the ingredients prepared before cooking as the sauce cooks quickly. It is a very special yet quick and simple pasta dish…

400g monkfish fillet, sliced into 1cm slices

400g spaghetti

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 red chilli, chopped (or less according to your taste)

Pinch of dried chilli flakes

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

350g ripe cherry on the vine tomatoes, halved

4 tablespoons white wine

2 tablespoons of capers

1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 lemon

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Season the monkfish ad place in the pan, allow to colour, stirring. Then add the dried and fresh chilli, and the garlic, cook for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and wine to the pan followed by the capers, cook over a high heat for a couple of minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  4. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the pan with the sauce along with the parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice (to taste). Toss everything together and serve. Easy!

Spaghetti alle Vongole (Serves 4)

This dish is one of my all-time favourites – one of ‘my last supper’ dishes. It is extremely simple to cook and ready in minutes! I really do believe that using prosecco or sparkling wine improves the flavour of the sauce – giving it a sweetness. I buy the mini 20cl bottles of prosecco from my supermarket. I like more rather than less clams, so I suggest 1.25kg for 4 people, but you could use 1kg.

400g spaghetti

1.25kg small clams, such as palourdes (see note above)

200ml prosecco or sparkling wine (a 20cl bottle)

40g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 garlic cloves, 2 sliced, 2 chopped

¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

  1. Firstly, rinse the clams in cold water, making sure that they are all closed – tap on those that are open and discard them if they do not close, and discard those with cracked or damaged shells.
  2. Put the clams in a saucepan over a medium to high heat, add 150ml of the prosecco. Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes, occasionally shaking the pan. You will be able to hear the clams popping open as they cook. Remove the lid to check if the clams have opened, if there are still some unopened continue to cook for a minute or two.
  3. Drain the clams in a sieve over a bowl – you need to keep the cooking liquid.
  4. There maybe a couple of clams that will not open – discard these. Put 12 clams with their shells to one side, these will serve as decoration. Remove the remaining clams from their shells(discard the shells). You will be left with a small bowl of clams and the 12 with their shells.
  5. Start cooking the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet until al dente.
  6. Meanwhile cook the vongole sauce. Melt 30g of the butter and the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic, lemon zest and chilli flakes, fry for a minute or so until the garlic is just beginning to colour.
  7. Add the reserved cooking liquid, the remaining 50ml of prosecco and the lemon juice. Cook over a medium to high heat, allowing it to bubble and reduce.
  8. Add the remaining 10g of butter which will slightly thicken the sauce, and all of the clams including those with their shells plus the chopped parsley, cook for a further minute. Check seasoning.
  9. Finally, drain the cooked spaghetti, add to the frying pan and mix well with the clams.
  10. Serve, placing four clam shells on each of the plates.

*Visit my Instagram Page to see a video of this recipe being cooked!

Spaghetti with Sauce Vierge (Serves 4)

This is a perfect summer pasta dish, a delicious ‘no cook’ sauce for spaghetti with the added bonus of being vegetarian!

400g Spaghetti

For the Sauce Vierge:

2 spring onions, finely sliced

2 shallots, finely chopped

Bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

300g tomatoes, about 4 medium

4 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons caster sugar

Juice ½ lemon

60ml olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, deseed, discarding any liquid – pat them dry on kitchen roll, slice into strips, then finely dice, add to a bowl along with the other sauce ingredients, mix well and season to taste.
  2. Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  3. Drain the spaghetti and mix with the Sauce Vierge.

Penne with Pea and Mascarpone Sauce (Serves 4)

Another recipe from my beloved cookbook ‘A Passion for Pasta’ by the late Antonio Carluccio. You could cook this dish with your eyes closed, it really is that easy, and will be ready to eat in 15 minutes! For those of you who are vegetarian you can leave out the smoked bacon – add a pinch of paprika to give a little smokiness.

50g butter

150g smoked back bacon, cut into strips

450g tomato passata

200g frozen peas

8 basil leaves

150g mascarpone cheese

375g penne pasta

75g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the bacon strips, cook until beginning to crisp.
  2. Add the tomato passata and the peas, cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  4. Add the mascarpone cheese and the basil leaves to the sauce, stir until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Drain the penne, add to the sauce, finally mix in the parmesan cheese.

Penne Pasta with Sausage (Serves 4)

I regularly cook this pasta dish as not only is it very tasty but incredibly quick to make. Although just a pinch of nutmeg and cloves are added, they really do make the sauce. The recipe is from ‘Passion for Pasta’ by Antonio Carluccio, I first bought this book over 20 years ago, it became so tattered from over use that I had to buy a second copy! If you are gluten free, like me, you can use gluten free sausages – I get some great ones from my local butcher, you can also make it with gluten free pasta, I think these days it’s hard to fault it; I have given it to Nick and Felix before, when I’ve been too lazy to cook two types of pasta, and they’ve hardly noticed! I particularly like ‘Barilla’ and ‘Garofalo’ gluten free pasta.

*To watch the video of this sauce being made click here!

375g penne rigate

75g butter

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

300g pork sausage meat, removed from casings and broken up

1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

150ml dry white wine

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of ground cloves

75g freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter and gently fry the onion and garlic.
  2. Add the sausage meat, continuing to break it up, mixing it in with the onion and garlic. Fry gently until well browned.
  3. Add the wine and rosemary, reduce heat and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the nutmeg, cloves and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Meanwhile cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  6. Mix the sausage mixture with the parmesan cheese and add to the drained pasta.