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Penne with courgettes and balsamic vinegar (adult recipe)

As promised, this is the original cold pasta recipe I adapted for my toddler-friendly herby courgette pasta salad. I don’t want to be repetitive, but it really is a great summer meal, and I love how it can be made the day before. It’s great in lunch boxes, on picnics or as an easy weekend meal. I’ve made it countless times and will make it many more times!

I’ve made very few changes to the original recipe by Ann and Franco Taruschio. I increased the eggs (each person only gets 3 small wedges in the original) and eliminated putting ice in the pasta immediately after you drain it to stop it from cooking (I don’t think you need to do it).

If you make it ahead of time, take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to eat it so it can start to come to room temperature and taste better.

PENNE WITH COURGETTES AND BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Serves 4
Keeps in the fridge for a day

300g courgettes, cut in half lengthways, sliced fairly thickly
4 tbsp olive oil
1-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh basil, shredded
2 fresh mint sprigs, chopped, plus few leaves to garnish
3 eggs
250g penne
100g feta cheese, diced

Cook penne and drain it well (you can spread it out on tea towel to dry it if you want). Put pasta in a large bowl and dress with the remaining olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar.

Lower eggs into boiling water and cook for 10 minutes when water returns to the boil. Plunge into cold water and peel before cutting each into 6 wedges.

While pasta and eggs are cooking, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and add courgettes. Season and stir fry for a few minutes. Remove from heat, splash with about 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, and add basil and mint. Leave to cool.

Add courgettes to the pasta, scatter over feta and mix. Garnish with the egg and the extra mint leaves. Serve cold.

Do you have any yummy cold pasta recipes to share?

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Herby courgette pasta salad with feta and egg

I don’t want to overly bombard you with my apple sauce experiments, so it’s back to good old trusty pasta today.

I love the Sainsbury’s Little One’s site when they do recipes three-ways: for babies, for toddlers and for adults. For example for their creamy spinach and leek pancake bake (must try this) the filling is pureed for a baby, a toddler eats the recipe as is,Β  and adults get a surprise of smoky ham inside. These recipes give me a renewed enthusiasm for cooking for Nicholas when my enthusiasm is lagging. They encourage me to experiment with my tried and tested recipes, working out more toddler-friendly versions of them. While I love making dishes everyone can eat, I really do love making meals just for Nicholas.

One of my ‘go to’ summer recipes is a cold pasta recipe I came across in The Times probably more than ten years ago. It’s an Ann and Franco Taruschio invention and I believe it’s in their 100 Great Pasta Dishes book (but don’t quote me on that). It’s a wonderfully fresh and filling dish, perfect to make the day before, perfect to take to work for lunch, and perfect to take on picnics or to have as a vegetarian option at a barbecue. I’ve made it a couple of times for my Italian in-laws and they love it (always a good sign!). I’ll write up that recipe tomorrow, but for now, here’s my toddler-friendly version of it.

I grated the courgette/zucchini to cut down the preperation time. However, next time I’ll dice it, as grated it sticks to itself and is difficult to separate, and Nicholas tends to pull large pieces of it from his mouth.

The original recipe uses penne and it really does need a short tube-shaped pasta. I used tubetti rigati which are like mini penne. You could also use macaroni or cut penne into shorter tubes after it’s cooked.

You can cook the egg and pasta in the same water, you just need to make a calculation based on the cooking time needed for the pasta you’re using. My tubetti rigati take 11 minutes to cook, so one minute after I put them into the boiling water I added the egg, cooking them together for 10 minutes before draining everything.

HERBY COURGETTE PASTA SALAD WITH FETA AND EGG

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes 2 large toddler servings
Keeps for a day in the fridge

100g courgette / zucchini, finely grated
2 medium basil leaves, finely shredded
2 medium mint leaves, finely shredded
1 egg
50g tubetti rigati (or other small tubed pasta)
100g feta cheese
Drizzle of olive oil
Pinch of salt (optional)

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and gently lower the egg into it. Boil for 10 minutes. Plunge into cold water, peel and cut into 6 wedges. Cut each wedge in half.

Cook the pasta as directed on the packet. Drain and add a drizzle of olive oil to stop the pasta from sticking to itself. Put in a medium-sized bowl and cool in the fridge.

Squeeze the excess moisture from the grated courgette. In a small non-stick frying pan, cook the courgette for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Take off the heat and stir in the basil and mint.

Add the herby courgette to the pasta. Mix in the feta and egg. Serve cold.

Variations:

  • chop the courgette into small cubes rather than grate it
  • add a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end

Tuna and corn frittata

Frittatas are great because you can usually whip them up with what you already have in the kitchen. Cut them up into strips and your toddler will love feeding himself/herself. And served with a salad, they’re a great meal for you too. Why not eat the rest that your munchkin doesn’t eat yourself?

There are so many flavour combinations that work well in a frittata. Use leftover cooked chicken and add mushrooms, leftover roasted vegetables like pumpkin and add feta, or pieces of asparagus with feta and thyme works wonderfully too.

Writing down this recipe, I realised I have NO idea what you call the individual stems of chives. For those of you who know what my job was before I had Nicholas, I’m sure you can imagine my frustration! You have sprigs of rosemary, parsley, mint and thyme, but do you have a sprig of chives? I have no idea. If someone knows, please tell me!

I cooked my frittata completely on the stove, flipping it to cook the other side. The more conventional way is not to flip but to put the frying pan under the grill to cook the top. If you prefer to finish cooking it under the grill, make sure you use a frying pan that is safe to go in the oven (in other words, one that doesn’t have a handle that will melt). I’ve had many disasters in the kitchen but have so far never melted a handle. I have, however, managed to melt a thermometer…

TUNA AND CORN FRITTATA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes 3-4 toddler servings or 2 adult servings
Freezable

1/2 185g can tuna, drained and flaked
3 tbsp corn (frozen or tinned and drained)
5g butter
3 chive stems
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt (optional)

Melt butter in a small non-stick frying pan (mine is about 20cm in diameter) over a med-low heat. Add tuna and corn and use scissors to snip chives over the pan. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes.

Season the beaten egg if you wish and pour into the pan. Swirl the pan around to make sure the egg is evenly spread. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes until edges are cooked and starting to turn up, and underneath is lightly golden brown.

Use a spatula to slightly life around the edges. Being careful not to burn yourself, place a dinner plate upside down over the pan and flip everything over. Carefully slide the frittata off the plate and back into the pan. Cook the other side for 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool a little.

Variations:

  • use finely sliced spring onions instead of the chives
  • add crumbled feta
  • before you turn it, grate over some cheddar cheese

What other flavour combinations do you think would be yummy in a frittata?

Mini beef burgers


I also think of these as mini burgers with hidden veg. You could add lots of different vegetables. Parsnip and sweet potato immediately come to mind, and of course onion. Cooking the vegetables first means you can cook the burgers fairly quickly. Of course, add which ever herbs you like, fresh or dried. If you don’t want to fry them you could bake them in the oven.

They’re a great finger food either on their own or dipped into homemade tomato sauce. Or keep them round rather than flattening them, and add them to pasta and homemade tomato sauce for a version of spaghetti and meatballs.

Another great meal to have in your freezer.

MINI BEEF BURGERS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 25
Freezable

250g beef mince
1 medium carrot, finely grated
1/2 courgette/zucchini, finely grated
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 egg yolk
some breadcrumbs (optional)

Put the grated carrot and zucchini in a microwave-safe bowl together with 1 tbsp water. Cook for 2-3mins on medium until tender. Drain off as much liquid as possible.

Mix all the ingredients together except for the breadcrumbs. Season if you wish. If the mixture is too wet to hold its shape when formed into small balls, add some breadcrumbs a spoonful at a time. Shape into small balls about 3cm in diameter.

Heat a small frying pan over a low heat (otherwise the outside of the burgers will burn before the inside cooks). Place the balls in the pan, flattening them out into burgers. Fry them in batches about 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Variations:

  • add other vegetables like grated parsnip or grated sweet potato
  • use fresh herbs (chopped parsley or oregano)
  • use lamb mince to make mini lamb burgers

Other uses:

What other meals do you cook for your little ones with minced beef?