Tag Archives: pasta

Healthy Easy Kids’ Mac and Cheese (Baked pasta with vegetables and cheese)


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Who doesn’t like mac & cheese? Even when J still had a bit of intolerance to dairy, she managed to scoff down mac & cheese. An easy meal that with a few changes, becomes the quick go-to meal that you know your child will eat any time.

Instead of the cheesy buttery sauce, I’ve swapped that for some pesto and tomato-based pizza paste, which gives the dish a fresh, light and herby taste. The addition of milk is optional, it just makes a bit more sauce for the dish. I’ve added ham and sausages for protein (not too much as overdoing the processed meat is not a good idea either) and vegetables for fibre.

Keep some in your freezer for those emergency dinners.

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Ingredients

2 cups macaroni or other medium shaped pasta (like shells or spirals)
3 tablespoons butter
4 tbsp pesto
4 tbsp pizza paste
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup ham slices and sausages, diced
1/2 cup vegetables – mushrooms, courgettes
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 200C degrees.
Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve some of the pasta water.
Add the pesto, pizza paste, milk, ham and vegetables, mix.
Add half of the cheese, mix.
Spoon the pasta into little ramekins or a large casserole dish.
Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
Bake for about 7-8 minutes, until it is brown on top.

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Easy and light carbonara 


Easy carbonara with streaky bacon, eggs and cheese

We all love an easy and quick pasta dish. This recipe uses staples of the pantry and fridge, which means it can be whipped up anytime. Perfect for the flat and family, as it is easy on the wallet. It cooks in 15 minutes or less (mise en place done and water boiling). It has neither cream nor milk. Only eggs and cheese to make it creamy and cheesy. It tastes so much better than store bought sauces that you silently marvel at its simplicity and wonder why you didn’t know this years earlier. Well in my case, I wondered out loud.

Better late than never, eat up!

Ingredients

Serves: 4

  • 400g spaghetti
  • 250g prosciutto or streaky bacon, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks (save the whites for making macarons)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup grated cheese, Parmesan, Edam, anything you like really!

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a tablespoon of salt when the water starts to boil.
  2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk eggs, a tiny tiny pinch of salt and the grated cheese. Set aside.
  3. Add the pasta to the water. When the pasta is nearly al dente, fry the diced prosciutto or bacon in a thick based pan until coloured. Add minced garlic and fry for another minute.
  4. Drain the pasta and put it in the pan together with the meat and stir to combine.
  5. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the cheese and egg mixture. Work quickly and keep mixing (I use a pair of tongs and the spatula) until the sauce is silky and clings to the pasta.
  6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

Beef, mushrooms and truffle penne pasta


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A while ago I made a Beef and Cheddar pie.
Then I made 3 more.
They were all slightly different – one with a truffle cream sauce and one with tomatoes and vegetables. The constant is the tender beef – it proved to be very versatile. I added creamy mashed potatoes to mini puff pastry-lined beef pies to make potato top pies, and then as ragu served with penne with a touch of tomato paste, as shown here.

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Ingredients:

  • 1kg beef, cross-cut blade, cut into 5cm strips
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 4 Tbsp Truffle paste if you wanted to make the truffle version, or 4 Tbsp tomato paste if you prefer
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 250ml white or red wine
  • 500ml beef stock (Simon Gault’s)
  • 3 tbsp cornflour + 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in the pan to brown the beef in several batches.
  3. Brown onion until it softens. Add anchovy fillets, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves.
  4. Add wine to deglaze the pan.
  5. Return all the beef to the pan and bring to the boil. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 2 hours (or you can use a pressure cooker like I did and it’s all done in 45 minutes!)
  6. When cooked, remove beef and flake meat off with a fork.
  7. Thicken the stock with cornflour liquid.
  8. Mix the truffle paste (or tomato paste) in with the thickened stock.
  9. Cook the pasta till it’s al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water. 
  10. Mix with ragu and add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. 

Note: I prefer to cook with cross-cut blade when making stews, casseroles and curries as the texture of the meat cut helps create this irresistible gelatinous goo that binds everything together. Yum!!

Spaghetti with meatballs in red wine tomato sauce


A friend was looking for an easy pasta dish to extend her family meal repertoire. Her daughter loves pasta and meatballs and so I thought to write up my recipe and share it with her.

If you don’t have time to prepare the meatballs, you can easily use the mince to make a spaghetti bolognese instead. Just omit the egg and panko crumbs while marinating, and fry off the meat after the shallots and onions.

Serves 2 hungry adults and 1 pasta-loving child

Ingredients

300g spaghetti

For meatballs:
500g minced beef and pork ( 50/50 is fine )
1 egg
2 tbsp tomato paste (condensed tomato)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp thyme (dried is fine)
2 tbsp basil leaves, torn (dried is fine)
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)

For sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
1 tbsp chilli flakes (optional)
small glass of red wine
1 tin, chopped tomatoes
1 tin, tomato purée
handful of basil leaves
100g pecorino cheese
salt to taste
Brown sugar to taste

Instructions

In a large bowl, mix the minced meat, egg, tomato paste, light soy sauce, sugar, diced shallots and herbs together. Using a small spoon, shape the meat into small balls and place in an oven proof dish. You will have about 30-40 small balls. This can be prepared night before.

Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a frying pan, gently sauté onions and shallots in the olive oil until soft. Add chili flakes and red wine, let it simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and purée and let it bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes to reduce. Stir occasionally to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. Taste it while the sauce is cooking – trust your taste buds and add a bit of brown sugar if it tastes too sour for your liking.

While the sauce is cooking, put the dish of meatballs into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or till juices run clear. By all means try a piece.

At the same time, put water into a large pot and bring it to the boil. Add the pasta in and add 1 tsp of salt. Cook it till al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Test it close to the 10 minute mark as I find my kind of al dente might be different to yours and I certainly don’t always follow the suggested times in the packet 100%. Drain pasta and add to the sauce. Add the meatballs to the pan, mix well and serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese (optional) and freshly picked basil leaves.

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