Carbonara With Courgettes

Method:

  • Carbonara is a classic pasta sauce made with cream, bacon and parmesan and is absolutely delicious. Try to buy the best ingredients you can, as that’s what really helps to make this dish amazing. I’m using a flowering variety of thyme but normal thyme is fine to use. When it comes to the type of pasta, you can serve carbonara with spaghetti or linguine, but I’ve been told by Italian mammas (who I don’t argue with!) that penne is the original, so that’s what I’m using in this recipe.
  • Before you start cooking, it’s important to get yourself a very large pan, or use a high-sided roasting tray so you can give the pasta a good toss. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil.
  • Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgettes at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely.
  • Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.
  • To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.
  • Heat a very large frying pan (a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
  • It’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)
  • Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away.
  • While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce.
  • Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any courgette flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.
  • ***I made it with leek and field mushrooms instead of courgette as was out of season :-)

Cheat’s Home-Made Pappardelle With Quick Tomato Sauce

Home-made pasta sauce is so easy, and you can sling it together in around the time it takes to open a jar and heat it up.

Method:

  • Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a good few lugs of olive oil. When the oil’s hot, add the garlic and chilli and fry until lightly coloured. Drop in most of the basil – stand back as it will crackle and spit in the oil – and then, after a few seconds, add the tomatoes.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. You’ll end up with a chunky sauce – if you like it smoother, pass the sauce through a coarse sieve. T
  • aste the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
  • On a lightly floured work surface, cut the lasagne sheets into strips with a knife or a pastry wheel. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for a few minutes until just al dente.
  • Drain the pasta strips in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water.
  • Stir the pasta into the warm sauce. If it’s a bit thick, add a few spoonfuls of the cooking water to loosen it up.
  • Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and the reserved basil leaves and serve immediately.

Tortellini Bolognese

Method:

  • Heat 20g butter in a frying pan over medium heat, add minced pork, stir occasionally until cooked through (3-5 minutes), season to taste and set aside to cool.
  • Process mortadella, prosciutto and cooked pork in a food processor until finely chopped, add parmesan, egg and nutmeg, season to taste and refrigerate until required.
  • For pasta dough, process flour, eggs and a pinch of salt in a food processor until combined, turn onto a work surface and knead until smooth (5-7 minutes)
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside to rest (30 minutes)
  • Divide dough in two, then, working with one piece at a time, feed dough through pasta machine, starting at the widest setting.
  • Lightly flour dough as you fold and feed it through, reducing settings notch by notch until pasta is 3mm thick.
  • Cut 6.5cm-diameter circles from pasta with a cutter, fill with a teaspoon of pork mixture, brush edges with water, fold to form a semi-circle and enclose filling.
  • Brush one pointed end with water, bring edges together to form a tortellino, pressing to seal.
  • Set aside on a tray dusted with semolina.
  • Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  • Cook tortellini in batches in a large saucepan of simmering salted water until cooked through (1-2 minutes)
  • Transfer to a large bowl with a slotted spoon, add remaining butter, toss to combine and serve scattered with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • This recipe is from the May 2011 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Yummy Pasta Carbonara

Method:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the bacon until it's crisp.
  • Drain off most of the fat but leave a little to saute the garlic.
  • Add garlic and saute for exactly 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat.
  • In a bowl, beat cream, yolks and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese.
  • Add cooked pasta to skillet and add sauce mixture.
  • Toss it all over low heat until the sauce is thickened and all of the pasta is coated.
  • Transfer to warm plates, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, black pepper (to taste) and parsley.
  • Even yummier if you add some chicken strips :-)

Sausage And Roast Vegetable Pasta Bake Recipe

Method:

  • Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat.
  • Add the sausages and cook for 4-5 minutes, until browned.
  • Add the pasta sauce, half-fill the jar with water and rinse out into the pan.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes, until the sausages are cooked – it will be quite saucy. Season.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high.
  • Cook the pasta shapes in a large saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes or until al dente.
  • Drain and return to the pan.
  • Add the sausage mix and a handful torn fresh basil leaves.
  • Stir, then tip into a large deep ovenproof dish.
  • Dot with mozzarella then grill for 3-4 minutes to melt the cheese.
  • Scatter with basil leaves and serve with garlic bread.

Tagliatelle With Spinach, Mascarpone And Parmesan

This is a really good dish for kids. Even though they may not eat spinach on its own, I've never had a problem feeding this to my kids. The reason they like it so much is because they can suck on the spaghetti, and the mascarpone and cooking water make a fantastic sauce.

Method:

  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta, and cook according to the packet instructions.
  • Meanwhile get a frying pan or wok warm, add a drizzle of olive oil, the butter, garlic and nutmeg.
  • When the butter melts, add the spinach.
  • After 5 minutes it will have wilted down and will be nice and dark.
  • A lot of the liquid will have cooked away and you'll have wonderful intensely flavoured spinach.
  • At this point season with salt and pepper until it tastes good, then add the cream, mascarpone and a little ladle of cooking water from the pasta.
  • Let this come to a simmer and then season again.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water, then stir it into the spinach sauce.
  • Add the Parmesan and toss everything together.
  • Loosen to a nice silky consistency with some of the reserved cooking water, so it doesn't become too claggy.
  • Check once more for seasoning and serve straight away.

Mini Shell Pasta With A Creamy Smoked Bacon And Pea Sauce

This is one of the dishes I cook for my kids, but to be honest, it’s so good that me and Jools always eat it too! Mini pasta shells are actually meant to be added to soups, but they’re quick and easy to cook, which makes them a good thing to serve with pasta sauces. All in all this should take you no more than five and a half minutes to cook. However, if you decide to go for a bigger type of pasta, remember that it will need more time to cook than these mini shells.

Method:

  • Finely slice the bacon.
  • Pick the mint leaves and discard the stalks.
  • Finely grate the Parmesan.
  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and drop in the stock cube. (if using)
  • Stir until it’s dissolved, then add the mini shells and cook according to the packet instructions.
  • Get a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a good lug of olive oil and the butter.
  • Add the bacon to the pan, sprinkle a little pepper over and fry until golden and crisp.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop your mint leaves.
  • As soon as the bacon is golden, add your frozen peas and give the pan a good shake.
  • After a minute or so, add the crème fraîche and chopped mint to the bacon and peas.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water.
  • Add the pasta to the frying pan .
  • Halve your lemon and squeeze the juice over the pasta.
  • When it’s all bubbling away nicely, remove from the heat.
  • The sauce should be creamy and delicious but if it’s too thick for you, add a splash of the reserved cooking water to thin it out a bit.
  • Add the grated Parmesan and give the pan a shake to mix it in.
  • Divide your pasta between plates or bowls, or put it on the table in a large serving dish and let everyone help themselves.
  • Lovely with a simply dressed green salad!

Farfalle With Carbonara And Spring Peas

This is a twist on the classic Carbonara, using spring peas and smoky bacon. A great combination and a great one for the kids. My girls just love it.

Method:

  • First of all, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the farfalle, and cook according to the packet instructions.
  • Whisk the egg in a bowl with the cream, salt and pepper.
  • Put your pancetta or bacon into a second pan and cook until crispy and golden.
  • When the farfalle is nearly cooked, add the peas for the last minute and a half.
  • This way they will burst in your mouth and be lovely and sweet.
  • When cooked, drain in a colander, saving a little of the cooking water.
  • Add the pasta to the pancetta and stir in most of the mint, finely sliced - if the pan isn't big enough, mix it all together in a large warmed bowl.
  • Now you need to add the egg and cream mix to the pasta.
  • What's important here is that you add it while the pasta is still hot.
  • This way, the residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs, but not so that they resemble scrambled eggs, as I've seen in some dodgy old restaurants on the motorway!
  • The pasta will actually cook the egg enough to give you a silky smooth sauce.
  • Toss together and loosen with a little of the reserved cooking water if necessary.
  • Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the Parmesan and the rest of the mint leaves, and serve as soon as possible.

Chicken And Mushroom Pasta bake (Spaghetti Tetrazzini)

I remember meeting a lovely old couple outside my parents’ pub and when they heard I was going to Italy they told me to make sure I cooked turkey tetrazzini – I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about and then, by chance, I saw a recipe for chicken tetrazzini in an old Italian cookbook and it’s great – really tacky but gorgeous! Here’s my version...

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.
  • Put your porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover them. (approx. 150ml/5½fl oz)
  • Put to one side to soak for a few minutes.
  • Heat a saucepan big enough to hold all the ingredients, and pour in a splash of olive oil.
  • Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown them gently in the oil.
  • Strain the porcini, reserving the soaking water, and add them to the pan with the garlic and fresh mushrooms.
  • Add the wine, with the strained porcini soaking water, and turn the heat down.
  • Simmer gently until the chicken pieces are cooked through and the wine has reduced a little.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions and drain well.
  • Add the cream to the pan of chicken, then bring to the boil and turn the heat off.
  • Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Add the drained spaghetti to the creamy chicken sauce and toss well.
  • Add three-quarters of the Parmesan and all of the basil and stir well.
  • Transfer to an ovenproof baking dish or non-stick pan, sprinkle with half the remaining cheese and bake in the oven until golden brown, bubbling and crisp.
  • Divide between your plates, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese before serving.

Baked Cannelloni

Try these simple cannelloni – they’re great as a vegetarian alternative.

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.
  • Mix half the Parmesan, the mascarpone, the taleggio, the lemon zest and juice, and the walnuts.
  • Put ¼ of the mixture to one side, then combine the remaining cheese mixture with the spinach and season to taste.
  • Fry the sage leaves in hot butter and crumble ½ into the cheese and spinach mixture, saving the rest for the top.
  • Put a good spoonful of the cheese and spinach mixture along one of the longer edges of each lasagne sheet and roll up.
  • Put them in a flat oven dish, dot with the leftover cheese mixture, drizzle over ¼ of a glass of water and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and crispy sage leaves.
  • Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

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