Archive for the 'Pasta' Category

Mediterranean vegetable lasagne with ricotta and parmesan

February 2, 2011

Lasagne is one of those fabulous dishes that I don’t think you really need a recipe for or an ingredients list for that matter. You can put almost anything in it. All you need is a tomato based sauce, a cheese based sauce some fresh or dried lasagne and game on! So basically I feel as if there is no need to write this recipe at all. Although I tend to forget that some people actually have never made lasagne or don’t really “wing it” with recipes like I do. So for all you people out there that need a recipe here goes.

Ingredients (serves 8 hungry people)

Tomato sauce

4 tins of peeled tomatoes
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 large red onion
Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Mediterranean Vegetables

1 large aubergine (eggplant)
4 red peppers/capsicum (you could use yellow or orange or a mixture – not green)
3 medium sized courgettes/zucchini
1 butternut squash peeled and diced 1 cm (approx 600 grams prepared weight)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Cheese Sauce

2 tbsp plain flour
50 grams butter
1 ltr whole milk
Dijon mustard
100 grams parmesan finely grated
500 grams ricotta

2 packets of plain lasagne sheets (or equivalent of fresh)


Start off by making your tomato sauce. The rule of thumb is the longer you cook the tomato sauce the taster it will be so I recommend at least an hour.

Peel and finely chop garlic, peel and finely dice red onion. Add to a large heavy based non reactive pan. Add a pinch of salt and a generous glug of olive oil (about 3 tbsp).

Heat on a low-medium heat until soft and sweet. This will take 10-15 mins. Do not brown. If it does start to brown remove from the heat and add a little more oil, this will cool everything down and stop the “burning”.

Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil.

Once boiling reduce to a simmer and simmer for 40 mins – 1hr. Add water if it gets too thick and make sure you stir it regularly.

By this time the tomatoes should have broken down, if not help them along by breaking them up with a wooden spoon and cook for a further 10 – 15 mins. Make sure you taste the sauce at this stage and if it is a little bitter at a teaspoon of sugar.

Season with salt and pepper and leave to the side.

While this is all happening you can get on with preparing the veg. Place a char-grill pan on the stove and heat until blistering hot.

Slice the aubergine and courgettes length wise and drizzle with olive oil.

Char-grill until cooked through (a minute or 2 on each side) remove and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.

Char-grill the peppers until blackened all over and soft, place in a large bowl and cover to steam then cool so that you can peel them.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel the blackened skin off and remove the seeds, you can keep the “juice” and add it to the sauce if you wish (it has a lovely smokey sweet flavour).

Pumpkin ready for roasting

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pop the butternut squash into a baking dish – ideally a large one so that there is only one layer. Toss in a little oil and season. Bake in oven until tender and a little golden (about 35 – 35 mins)

Cut the courgettes, aubergine and peppers into bite size pieces (about 1cm strips) and add to the tomato sauce along with the roasted butternut squash. Taste for seasoning and add a little extra virgin olive oil for flavour.

Time now to make the ricotta cheese sauce.

Put the butter into a pan and melt over a low-medium heat, once melted add the flour and stir to make a paste. Cook for a minute or two. Slowly add in the milk, little at a time constantly stirring. Once all the milk is added keep stirring and cook until thickened (coat the back of a spoon).

Remove from the heat and add the grated Parmesan, a large teaspoon of Dijon mustard and season.

Once the sauce has cooled a little fold through the ricotta cheese.

You are now ready to layer up the lasagne.

Add a ladle of the tomato and veg sauce to the dish, spread evenly. Layer the lasagne sheets over this. Top with the cheese sauce (about a ladle) and repeat the process until you have used up the sauces and lasagne sheets or until your lasagne dish is full.

Your last layer should be cheese sauce and a slightly thicker layer. Then sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 min – 1 hour or until cooked through and golden brown.

This can be par cooked sliced and frozen. Serve with a big salad.


Homemade Roast Butternut pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with parmesan cream sauce…..dribble

September 4, 2010

Rolling pasta

I am hoping that the pasta maker will not turn out like the bread maker – 1 month of fun then several years of being tucked away in the back of the cupboard. One week in and I feel like that won’t be happening. Back in Sunny Sydney I made my first homemade pasta with my friend Kate who had been to an Italian cooking course, she arrived at my house Tipo ’00 and pasta maker in hand. We made cracking spinach and ricotta cannelloni. It was sensational and relatively easy. Since then I have had a few pasta making flutters including gnocchi – which, may I add, is VERY easy to make and you do not need any special equipment. (see my recipe for Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts). Other than that the trusty De Cecco Linguine has been my pasta of choice. Until now! My lovely sister decided to by herself (or should I say me) a pasta maker. After a few minor hiccups we managed to produce a rather wonderful roast butternut pumpkin ravioli with a burnt butter and sage sauce. As this was my first venture back into pasta land I didn’t take any photos (doh!!) So decided to do a re run for “the blog” this week. I didn’t have any sage so whipped up a creamy sauce instead which turned out to be rather delicious. By the way you can make pasta with a rolling pin and a bit of elbow grease – worth giving it a bash if you are not sure whether to invest in a pasta maker. However they are not very expensive you can get one for about £20.



500 grams plain flour (ideally Tipo 00)
6 medium sized eggs or 5 large eggs


200 grams ricotta
50 grams finely grated Parmesan
Approx 800 grams Butternut Pumpkin (squash) whole weight before peeling and de-seeding
Whole nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil


1 clove garlic
1 large knob of butter
Salt and pepper
Splash of dry white wine
100 mls double cream
50 grams finely grated Parmesan



To make the pasta dough.

Put flour in a large mixing bowl. Crack eggs into a separate bowl or jug and lightly whisk to combine.

Whisked eggs

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg mix.

Mix eggs in with a fork

Mix together with a fork until egg has been mixed in.

Bring dough together with hands

Bring together with your hands into a dough.

Remove from bowl and knead until smooth. The dough will feel relatively dry – don’t worry it will soften up a little.


Wrap in cling film and rest in fridge for min 30 mins.

Dough wrapped in cling film

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Pumpkin ready for roasting

Peel butternut pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1cm cubes and add to a baking dish. Toss through a little olive oil until coated and pop into the oven.

Bake until soft and a little golden – make sure you check regularly and give the pumpkin a toss around.

Leave to cool.

Mashing pumpkin with fork

Mash with a fork until smooth (ish).

Mashed pumpkin

Add ricotta, grated Parmesan and some nutmeg (about 1/6), mix well to combine. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. If you want you can add more Parmesan.

Add ricotta Parmesan and nutmeg

Once the pasta has rested split the dough into 4 smaller balls. Keep one of the balls and re-wrap the rest and place back int he fridge.

Set the pasta maker to the widest setting.

Roll pasta

Flatten the dough into an oval shape, dust in flour to prevent it sticking and feed it through the pasta maker.

N.B. My first try came out with holes through it, this was because there were air bubbles trapped in the dough. I mashed the dough back into a ball and then rolled it out again with a rolling pin – this helped remove the bubbles and kick start the rolling process.

Turn the pasta maker down a notch and roll again, you may need to lightly dust the pasta again with some flour.

Keep doing this until the pasta is about 1mm thick.

Pasta strips with pumpkin mix

Lie the pasta onto a floured surface and cut into 4 cm strips.

Put a small amount (approx 2/3 teaspoon) at one end of the strip and lightly brush around it with water. Fold the other half of the strip over to create a parcel. Be careful not to trap air inside the ravioli as this will expand when cooked and may burst open.

Making ravioli

Keep doing this and lay them out onto a floured tray, do not pile them on top of each other as they may stick – from experience!!


Once you have used your first batch of rolled out pasta you can continue with the rest of the pasta until you have made as many as you wish. This amount of dough and filling should feel 8 people for main course or 14 starters.

You can freeze the pasta, pop them in the freezer on the tray. Once frozen you can bung them in a tub or a bag. You can cook them straight from frozen.

Ok to cook and serve.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a teaspoon of salt.

Warm a non stick frying pan with the knob of butter and a splash of olive oil.

Butter and garlic

Add crushed garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until soft and sweet – no colour. Add glug of white wine (approx 3 table spoons). Simmer to reduce wine to almost totally evaporated. Add the cream. Simmer until thickened a little then remove from heat and add Parmesan. Stir through and season to taste (you probably won’t need salt).

Add wine

Reduce wine

Pop the pasta into the pot, I probably wouldn’t do not than 4 serves in the one pot.

Ravioli in boiling water

Cook for about 4 minutes then remove one and see if it is cooked. You may need to cook the ravioli for a little longer it really depends on how thick the pasta is – everyone’s pasta is slightly different. Once cooked drain in a colander and toss through sauce, serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Ravioli in cream parmesan sauce


The creamy sauce is great but so is the burnt butter and sage. This is made by taking about 75 grams of butter and heating it on the stove until it is bubbling (this is for 4 people). Do not heat at too high a temp as it may actually burn, you are looking for a nut brown colour. Add sage leaves (about 8 small to medium leaves per person or 4 large). The sage leaves should be crisp once cooked. Pour over the top of the ravioli when it is plated up and top with some finely grated Parmesan.

I am planning on trialing some other filling so will keep you posted!

My most favourite pasta sauce ever

May 20, 2010

Tomato Caper and Anchovy Linguini

I really do think that it is important to have a good selection of “stuff” in your store cupboard for those “I can’t be bothered to shop for dinner” moments. You know the times when you arrive home after a full on day at work, it’s 8pm, and the last thing you want to do is get a dodgy Chinese take away. There is also absolutely no chance you can be bothered to go to the supermarket. All you want is a home cooked meal.

With a few bits and pieces you can easily throw together something fabulous best of all it is easy and quick.

Woo Hoo!

This recipe is my fail safe. I ended up making it yesterday because I was given 1 1/2 kilos of lovely vine ripened tomatoes and they needed used up ASAP. Now normally I would use the tinned variety so don’t worry I am not going to expect you to conveniently have 1 kilo of vine ripened tomatoes on hand.

There is one ingredient in the sauce that is a little controversial. Anchovies.

I am sure many of you are already tuning out at the sheer mention of anchovies however I promise you that it is worth giving this a go even if you absolutely HATE anchovies. Honestly they are only used to enhance the flavour of the sauce and they do not overpower – I promise.

1 kg of fresh ripe tomatoes or 2 tins of good quality peeled tomatoes
4 large cloves of garlic
1 red medium red onion
1 table spoon of salted capers (do not use the ones in vinegar – you can use the ones in brine but I prefer the salted ones)
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
3 or 4 anchovy fillets
Fresh herbs (Parsley or Basil) if you have it
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 packet of Linguine (you could use Spaghetti, Penne etc)
Fresh Parmesan (Reggiano or Padano)

Finely chopped onion and garlic

Finely chop the onions and garlic, add to a heavy based pan with a small pinch of salt and a good glug of oil.

Chili being added to sauted onions and garlic

Saute until sweet and soft, add anchovy fillets (mine were massive so I only used 2), teaspoon of chili and rinsed capers. It is really important to rinse the capers well as it can make the sauce too salty if you do not.

Anchovies and capers being added

You can adjust the chili amount to your taste – 1 teaspoon will give the sauce a bit of a kick but will definitely not burn your head off.

Cook anchovies until they have melted.

Tomatoes being added

Peel the tomatoes by cutting a cross in the bottom of the tomato and popping into boiling water (I put the tomatoes into bowl and poured boiled water over them). Leave them in the hot water for a minute of two then peel – the skins should come off easily – if not pop them back into the boiling water for a minute of so longer.

Once peeled roughly chop them and add to the pot, bring to the boil and then simmer.

Cook sauce until all the tomatoes have disintegrated and the sauce has thickened and become lovely and “saucy”. This should take about 25 – 35 mins.

Sauce reduced and ready to mix into cooked pasta

Cook pasta (500 grams) using the recommended cooking time on the packet, make sure you always cook pasta in a big pot with lots of water with a large pinch of salt. You do not need to add oil.

Pasta added to pot of boiling water

Once pasta is cooked drain well and put back into the pot, add sauce to pot and mix through.

Add a handful of chopped herbs in you have some at hand – it is always worthwhile having some parsley or basil in the garden for these occasions. Season to taste – you probably won’t need salt.

Pasta with tomato anchovy and caper sauce

Serve immediately with a drizzle of good extra virgin oil and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan.

A total winner when you are needing an easy quick dish to fill your empty tummy.

Deliciously light gnocchi with rich Gorgonzola sauce and roasted hazelnuts

May 17, 2010

Gnocchi with creamy Goronzola sauce

My sister is a huge fan of anything creamy, cheesy or creamy and cheesy so when I suggested “Gnocchi with a creamy Gorgonzola Sauce” as an option for dinner I knew before I asked what the answer would be.


Normally I shy away from such creamy cheesy decadence however there was a tub of Mascarpone in the fridge left over from making Tiramisu and a wedge of Gorgonzola – realistically the choice was already made….

Now the thought of making homemade gnocchi I know is making you feel a little panicky already but I promise you you do not need to be a budding Gordon Ramsey to be able to pull this dish off and wow your friends.

Ingredients (serves 4)


1 kg floury potatoes (Maris Piper, Golden Wonder, Sebago) – this is unpeeled weight
200 grams plain white flour ideally a stone ground organic one
1 egg (free range organic preferably)
Salt and Pepper

Gorgonzola Sauce

250 gram tub of Mascarpone
200 grams Gorgonzola
Small bunch of Chives finely chopped

Skinned and roasted hazelnuts (or walnuts)

Steaming potatoes

First off peel and chop the potatoes into 2 cm cubes, steam until cooked which should take about 10 – 15 mins depending on how good your steamer is. Mine took about half an hour because it was not the more effective of steamers. Annoying!

Cooked potatoes passed through a fine sieve

Once the potatoes are cooked pass them through a fine sieve into a large mixing bowl, you can use a potato ricer if you have one. Add the egg, a large pinch of salt and several grinds of the pepper mill, add the flour in and mix into a soft dough.

Sieved potatoes with egg, seasoning and flour

Turn out onto a clean and lightly floured surface.

Split dough into 4 portions. Take one of your potions and roll into a long thin sausage shape – approx 1 1/2 wide. Take a butter knife and cut the sausage into small pieces approx 2 cm long and place on a lightly floured plate or tray. Do this with the rest of the dough.

Gnocchi dough rolled into sausages and cut into small pieces

**** once you have made your gnocchi you can press it lightly with a fork to make it ridged, this is good as the gnocchi will hold onto sauce better. It is not essential, I didn’t do this as I was in a rush.

Freshly made gnocchi (uncooked)

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and add a large pinch of salt.

Warm a ceramic dish.

Dropping gnocchi into rapidly boiling salted water

Take the Gnocchi and in pop the little dumplings into the water one by one (you will probably need to do this in about 4 batches).

As soon as the dumpling pop to the surface they are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon and pop them into the warmed dish.

Mascarpone being heated

While this is all happening take a small pot, ideally a heavy based one, and add the tub of Mascarpone. Once it starts to bubble crumble the Gorgonzola through and stir. Leave on a low heat until Gorgonzola is thoroughly melted, add some freshly ground pepper and the finely chopped chives.

Gorgonzola being added to the heated Mascarpone

Once you have cooked all your gnocchi pour the sauce over the top and pop under the grill until it bubbles and is golden brown.

Gorgonzola sauce poured over cooked gnocchi

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce grilled, adding roasted hazelnuts

Serve with chopped roasted hazelnuts sprinkled on top, a bitter leaf salad and some crusty bread.

Tucking in to the gnocchi