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Tag Archives: pasta

Smoked Bacon and Courgette Pasta

This quick and easy pasta dish, ideal for the whole family, is another recipe from Annabel Karmel’s latest book which I reviewed a little while ago.

Annabel Karmel macaroni, bacon and courgette pasta

The original recipe uses macaroni, but any short type of pasta such as penne or farfalle would work well. It also uses crème fraîche, which can easily be substituted with Greek yogurt or even soured cream if you don’t have it on hand.

The book says this dish is suitable for freezing. It’s not clear if it means you can freeze the whole dish or just the sauce. Either way I’m always dubious about freezing crème fraîche or yogurt when mixed with other ingredients as they have a tendency to separate (the water from the dairy product separating when frozen). I’ve never thought about freezing pasta (and I think Italian hubby would be horrified!). Has anyone tried it?

Nicholas is thankfully going through a slightly better period with vegetables (fingers crossed it lasts!), but he still picked out a lot of the courgette/zucchini. If you’re feeding this to a fussy eater, dice the veg as small as you can.

SMOKED BACON AND COURGETTE PASTA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes 1 adult and 2 toddler servings

150g pasta (any short type like penne, macaroni, farfalle or orecchiette)
3 thick sices smoked bacon, diced
2 small courgettes/zucchini, diced
1 tomato, deseeded and diced
2 tbsp snipped fresh chives
3 tbsp crème fraîche (or Greek yogurt)
50g parmesan, grated
salt and pepper (optional)

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling lightly salted water according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving 150ml of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, dry-fry the bacon for 2 minutes in a non-stick frying pan. Add the courgettes and fry for another 5 minutes until they are soft and lightly golden, then add the tomatoes and chives.

Add the pasta to the frying pan with the reserved water, crème fraîche and parmesan. Toss together over the heat for 2 minutes (be careful not to let the crème fraîche split by heating it too much).

Add seasoning if desired, then serve.

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Cute lunches: pasta Christmas tree

Seeing pesto-covered farfalle pasta yesterday made me think not of butterflies, but of lovely thick Christmas tree branches and I couldn’t resist making another Christmas-themed cute lunch!

pasta Christmas tree

What you need:
cooked farfalle pasta (I used 8 pasta shapes)
pesto sauce (or avocado pasta sauce)
a small piece of wholemeal tortilla (or bread)
1 slice of cheddar cheese
1 black olive
1 slice of orange pepper
1 slice of red pepper

Directions:

Cut a trunk shape from the tortilla and place it on the plate.

Mix the pesto sauce through the cooked pasta. Starting from the bottom of the tree, place the pasta in a tree shape on the plate.

Cut a square from the slice of red pepper and a smaller square from the orange pepper. Put them next to the tree.

Finely dice the remaining pepper and scatter them over the tree.

Cut a star from the slice of cheese and place it on top of the tree.

Cut two thin strips of cheese and place them on the red pepper for ribbon.

Finally cut the olive in half lengthways and slice two thin strips from it. Place them on the orange pepper for ribbon.

inspecting the 'presents'

Spinach lasagne

Nicholas is a big meat eater (not surprising if you know his parents!). He usually happily shares his food when asked, but if it happens to be some meat he’s particularly enjoying, then he’s more likely to shovel everything into his mouth as quickly as possible then gesture with his hands it’s all gone (what a shame!).

During our holidays it was easy to feed him meat, but less easy to get him to eat a good amount of vegetables. And with the nice weather at the weekend, we had two days of barbecues at friends’ with Nicholas happily devouring hamburgers and chorizo sausages. Vegetables? Not interested mummy, more MEAT.

So my objective for this week was to get as many vegies in him as possible!

My vegetarian lasagne is just a simplified lasagne that’s not too time-consuming to prepare or cook. Looking for a dish small enough to fit just one sheet of lasagna, I had the brainwave of using a loaf tin and mine was the perfect size. Any ovenproof dish would be fine though.

I used spinach, yellow pepper (capsicum), mushrooms and onion in my vegetable layer to pack in lots of nutrients (and don’t you just love the bright yellow and green colours?). You can use pretty much whatever vegetables you like or have on hand.

I remember my first attempts as a uni student making lasagne… not great. I didn’t understand the concept of the dry pasta sheets needing moisture to soften and cook. I thought the edges I didn’t cover with sauce would get nice and crunchy. Well they did, but they were also raw! It’s not rocket science, just make sure when you’re spooning the sauce over the pasta that the sheet is completely covered.

SPINACH LASAGNA

Prep time: 30-35 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Makes 4 toddler servings (or 2 toddler servings & 1 adult serving)
Freezable

1/2 onion, diced
100g mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow pepper (capsicum), diced
75g fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tsp olive oil
50g butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk
A pinch of salt (optional)
A pinch of nutmeg
3 uncooked lasagna sheets
100g mozzarella di bufala (or any fresh mozzarella)
A handful of grated parmesan

Heat your oven to 220C.

In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 mins.

Add the mushrooms and pepper. Cover the pan and turn the heat down a little to med-low. Cook until the onion is transparent and the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.

Add the spinach and stir until it just starts to wilt. Take the pan off the heat.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a med-low heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon for 1 minute (this cooks the flour to avoid having a raw flour taste in your sauce).

Add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the flour paste and use a whisk to stir to get rid of any lumps immediately. Turn the heat up to medium and gradually whisk in the rest of the milk. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens to a runny custard consistency (not too thick), making sure it doesn’t boil.

Take the white sauce off the heat and add a pinch of salt (if using) and a good pinch of nutmeg. Mix and taste, adding more salt and/or nutmeg if necessary.

In a loaf tin, big enough to hold one lasagna sheet, spoon a few tablespoons of sauce into the bottom (just enough to cover it). Place a sheet of lasagna on top. Cover with half of the vegetable ‘sauce’ and then about one third of the remaining white sauce (making sure the pasta sheet is completely covered). Pull apart one third of the mozzarella into chunks with your fingers and sprinkle it over.

Add another layer of pasta, vegetables, white sauce and mozzarella.

Finish with the third sheet of pasta, top with the last of the white sauce, the remaining mozzarella and sprinkle over the parmesan.

Cook for 20-25 mins until the top is lovely and golden and the pasta is cooked (a knife or skewer will easily pierce through from the top to the bottom). If the top is getting too golden, cover with foil and continue cooking.

Variations:

  • use any combination of vegetables in the vegetable sauce
  • add long slices of lightly fried courgette (zucchini) or aubergine (egg plant) under your vegetable sauce
  • use dollops of ricotta instead of the mozzarella

Ricotta and spinach pasta sauce

I love a quick pasta sauce for Nicholas. If I have ricotta in the fridge, I’ll add a tablespoon or two to cooked pasta and mix it together with a sprinkling of nutmeg; it’s a meal ready in a few minutes.

My favourite addition to this basic ricotta pasta sauce is spinach. Spinach is packed with almost every vitamin and nutrient we need, so it’s the perfect vegetable to add to our munchkins’ meals.

I wilt the spinach by pouring over boiling water (see my Super Easy and Fast Creamy Spinach Pasta Sauce for some photos of the process), but you can wilt it quickly in a frying pan if you prefer.

RICOTTA AND SPINACH PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 5-10 mins (depending on how long it takes for your kettle to boil!)
Cook time: 0 mins 🙂
Makes 1 toddler serving

1 large handful of fresh spinach
1 tbsp ricotta
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of salt and pepper (optional)

Fill your kettle with water and turn it on. Put the spinach in a colander.

Holding the colander over the sink, pour over half the boiling water. Use a wooden spoon to push down the spinach to drain it. Pour over the rest of the boiling water and again drain the spinach as much as you can.

Chop the spinach and put it in a small bowl. Add the ricotta and nutmeg (and salt and pepper, if using) and mix.

Stir through cooked pasta.

Variations:

  • If you have more time, put the cooked pasta and sauce into an ovenproof bowl, sprinkle with parmesan and bake at 180C for approximately 10 mins until golden brown

Other uses:

  • serve over rice
  • use as a crepe filling

Mini carbonara

As an Italian living abroad my husband has two recurring food grumbles. I think you can probably easily guess one of them. Yes, it’s coffee! I can’t really say too much about this as I was a bit of a coffee snob before living in Italy, so ended up being an even bigger one, and it tends to be me more than hubby turning up my nose at things like Nespresso pods. However, I do love his child-like optimism and hopefulness when trying coffee in a new place and patiently explaining to the waiter it’s not necessary to fill the little cup right up (while I’m pessimistic and opt for tea!).

His other grumble, about which our friends have endured many a lengthy conversation, is carbonara. He can talk for ages about his disgust at what passes for carbonara in many restaurants outside Italy, his disbelief at the additions people make to it, and the right way of making it. I love his passion for his culture, and for this reason I’ve never admitted making ‘carbonara’ during my university days from a recipe using evaporated milk, for fear of divorce!

Making a carbonara for Nicholas, hubby was happy to be a little bit more flexible. His less salty toddler version uses prosciutto (parma ham) instead of pancetta or guanciale and parmigiano (parmesan) rather than the saltier pecorino. He used a quail’s egg simply for its smaller size, but you could also beat up an egg and use half the mixture instead. Hubby would approve of that 😉

The most important thing when preparing any kind of carbonara is to have the sauce ingredients ready once the pasta is cooked, so you can drain the pasta and immediately mix through the sauce.

Enjoy this authentically Italian toddler version of a famous pasta recipe!

MINI CARBONARA

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: about 15 mins depending on which type of pasta you cook
Makes 1 toddler serving

1 slice prosciutto (Parma ham), cut into small pieces
drizzle of olive oil
30g pasta
1 quail egg, lightly beaten (or 1/2 beaten egg)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp parmigiano (parmesan)

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the prosciutto over a med-high heat until crispy. Take off the heat and leave.

Cook pasta as directed on the packet, but without adding salt to the water.

As the pasta is cooking, put the beaten quail egg into a bowl big enough to add and mix the pasta in. Add a pinch of pepper and the parmigiano to the egg and mix well.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, quickly drain it (keeping a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water) and put it in with the egg mixture. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat the pasta. Put it into the frying pan with the crispy prosciutto and stir constantly over a medium heat until the egg is just cooked (1-2 mins), adding a little of the reserved cooking water from the pasta if it seems to be getting too dry (you want a lovely creamy consistency to the sauce).

Serve and blow on it so you can eat it as soon as possible.

Variations: none!

Butter bean pasta sauce

This is a super quick pasta sauce you can whip up in the time it takes for the pasta to cook, and using tinned beans means no cooking!

The amount of milk is an approximate measure; it depends on how much the beans soak up. If you let the sauce stand before using it, the beans will continue sucking up the milk and the sauce will become drier. Trust your own judgement as to how much milk to add.

You can easily make as much or as little sauce as you want, either using just a couple of tablespoons of beans to make one serving or using the whole tin and freezing the leftover sauce. Why not experiment using other different types of tinned beans?

BUTTER BEAN PASTA SAUCE

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 0 mins 🙂
Makes about 300ml of sauce
Freezable

1 tin butter beans (approx. 400g), rinsed and drained
Approx. 1/4 cup of milk
Pinch of salt (optional)
To serve: 1 tbsp grated parmesan

Put the rinsed and drained butter beans in a small food processor. Add about half of the milk (and salt if using) and blend until smooth. Check the consistency , adding more milk and blending again as necessary.

Mix through cooked pasta and sprinkle generously with grated parmesan.

My quick tuna pasta on Mindful Mum

I was very excited when I was approached by Mindful Mum to be a feature writer and I’m even more excited that my first recipe is published today! Mindful Mum is a British online magazine dedicated to mums who demand more. Whether it’s food, fitness, tech, travel, money, style or fun you’re interested in, you’re sure to find it on Mindful Mum.

My quick tuna pasta can be made with ingredients you probably usually have on hand…