Tag Archives: pasta

Perfect food couples no.3 – tomatoes and anchovies

The union between that most indispensable of fishes – the anchovy – and the tomato, is particularly embraced in the Mediterranean. From a simple Provencal salad of tomatoes, anchovy, shallots and parsley, to the starter I served at my first ever dinner party, Piedmont peppers, it’s a marriage that thrums of sunshine and sea.

Puttanesca is traditionally made with capers and olives, but this is a celebration of the simple love between anchovies and tomatoes, so I didn’t use them. Also, I didn’t have any.

Penne alla puttanesca

Serves 2

A small onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 red pepper, deseeded and finely sliced

12 anchovies, chopped

1 tin tomatoes

A pinch crushed chilli

A dash of double cream

A handful basil

160g penne

Salt, pepper and sugar

Olive oil

*****************

–       Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.

–       Season and add the peppers and chopped anchovy. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

–       When the peppers are soft, add the tomatoes, chilli, and a pinch of sugar.

–       Simmer gently whilst you cook the pasta.

–       When the pasta is almost cooked, add the cream and basil.

–       Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce.

–       Serve in warm bowls with Parmesan and torn basil leaves.

What’s your favourite recipe using tomatoes and anchovies? What food couples am I missing out on?

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Making pasta – defeat snatched brutally from the jaws of victory

It feels like an age since my last post. Amidst moving home and lending a hand to the already hugely successful Hart and Fuggle pop-up restaurant I haven’t found the time to write much. The new flat is cosy and light and has a kitchen that I simply don’t deserve, but which I look forward to spending as much time in as possible (pop-up is coming, watch this space).

Now that I had the room to do it, I felt it right to celebrate the move by making some pasta, something I hadn’t done in a long time. The Food Urchin recently had a bit of a shocker in the pasta department, and it struck me how something so simple was so fraught with potential trip ups. It is easy to get rather Hestonesque about it. The ratio to be employed is 100g flour (tipo 00 ideally) with 65g egg. Not 1 egg. 65g egg. This seems to go against everything I stand for in the kitchen, but in this case pedantry is necessary. So weigh your flour, then weigh the egg, or contents of the egg. Unless you plan on hoying the shell into your dough.

If the egg is a little under 65g then add enough water to compensate. Equally, if it is over, add a little more flour. Now, if your kitchen is particularly humid then you will need a smidge more flour. In a dry kitchen you’ll need a little more liquid.

Making the pasta

NB: I’m doing double quantities here.

– Tip the flour onto a clean work surface with a pinch of salt.

– Make a well in the centre and tip in your egg.

– Take a fork and whisk the egg, slowly incorporating the flour. Once you have got as far as you can go with the fork, start bringing it together with your hands until you have a dough. Knead for 10 minutes until it feels like a stress ball. If you have kneaded the dough correctly you should not need to add any flour when rolling.

– Wrap the dough in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

– If you are not using a pasta machine, flatten the dough on a clean surface (have some flour at the ready just in case, but try to avoid using). Starting in the middle of the dough, roll away from you once, then back towards you from the centre. Turn the dough 45 degrees and repeat. Turn and repeat until you have a dough through which you could read the newspaper.

– If you have a machine (and I’d recommend one), roll the dough starting on the lowest setting. You may have to cut it in half about half way through the process.

So up until this point it had all gone well. The theory that a properly kneaded dough kneaded (sorry) no added flour held true and I went ahead and cut the dough into tagliatelle. Something I had been taught in Italy (but by a Canadian, go figure) was that, unless using the pasta immediately, you should put it into bundles and into the freezer. Which is what I did.

When I came to cook the aforementioned bundles, they stuck together like teenagers at a disco. With a bit of nurdling with tongs I managed to extricate some of them from their saucy entwinements, but the end result was several strands of (admittedly successful) tagliatelle with a whole lot of lumpy dumplings. Verdict: either use the pasta immediately, or hang the strands separately on a rail until needed.


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Falling unlike Domino’s… [tagliatelle with leeks, mushrooms, and creme fraiche]


No wonder nobody has any money at the moment, if Domino’s latest figures are anything to go by. Somehow, impossibly, their profits are 10% up on last year. This makes no sense. The smallest, ‘personal’ pizza, costs a whopping £5.99. And I am not using this word with even a noodle of irony, because that is a whopping price for what you are getting. I’m not sure it’s even worth my highlighting the health implications of eating a Domino’s pizza – it’s clearly not a salad. My beef is with the horde of people seen on the news almost daily complaining about lack of money. Now, I’m not for a second suggesting that they are lying, or that they all eat daily at Domino’s, but someone must be. And it is a fantastic waste of money, it really is. Six quid can go a hell of a long way, food-wise, yet people are seduced into believing that a take-away pizza, or a trip to a dreaded All-You-Can-Hold-Down Chinese buffet is somehow a bargain. It is not. End of story.

For what I reckon cost me a pound, I had one of the best, impulsive pasta dishes I have had in a long time the other night. Incredibly simple, quicker than ordering a pizza and with little more washing up, it was a prime example of how even at moments lacking inspiration, time, or energy, it can be so easy to throw together a delicious supper.

Tagliatelle with leeks, mushrooms and creme fraiche

Serves 1

100g Tagliatelle
1 medium leek, trimmed, washed, and cut diagonally in thick slices
1 large field mushroom, sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon reduced fat creme fraiche
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt, pepper and olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Bring some salted water to the boil and thrown in your pasta.

Heat a little oil in a large saute or sauce pan. Add the leeks, mushrooms and parsley, season and stir over a medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and add the creme fraiche and lemon juice. Simmer for a minute or two. Drain the pasta when cooked, and toss into the sauce. Season with more pepper (it likes pepper, does this) and serve with some freshly grated Parmesan. Don’t wait for the doorbell to ring, don’t hand over any money.

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Sausage ragu with penne

The combination of sausage and pasta is one I deal with probably once a month. This might be because I am a greedy fatty who doesn’t consider it a meal if an animal hasn’t perished in the process, or it might just be because there is something utterly sublime about the way pork mince hugs a pasta noodle like an over-affectionate aunt, or nestles inside a tube of penne, generously offering itself as a little self-made pig in blanket (or perhaps just hiding from my hungry gaze). There is just something so perfect, so comforting about sausage pasta, in any shape or form.

A traditional beef ragu often contains minced pork anyway, a real treat in itself and adding a lot of interest to a standard Bolognese sauce (try it next time you knock up a spag bol) but it is often lean and therefore tends to dry out a little when cooked on its own. The beauty of sausage is that it is a mixture of both meat and fat (hence the bingo wings on many a full English-noshing lorry driver) and so doesn’t have the same inclination to dry out.

One of my favourite versions of the sausage pasta is a Nigel Slater concoction, whereby you sweat a chopped onion, add your sausage meat, some white wine, grainy mustard and cream and simmer for 10 minutes or so before stirring in lots of fresh chopped parsley. It’s almost unbeatable, and very quick.

This recipe requires little more of your own time, just some more cooking time.

Sausage ragu with penne

Serves 4

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 stick of celery, diced
a handful finely chopped parsley
a sprig of rosemary, leaves pulled off and finely chopped
6-8 plump sausages
150 ml red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Some freshly grated Parmesan

Heat a little oil over a low heat and add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Season and cover. Cook for 30 minutes over the lowest heat you can muster, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, slit the skin of the sausages and remove the meat, discarding the suspicious looking membrane. When the vegetables (the soffritto it is known as in Italy – that’s one to impress the ladies, ahem) are completely softened increase the heat and stir in the herbs. Stir for a couple of minutes before adding the sausage meat. Crush with a fork and stir for a further 5 minutes until the meat is completely broken up. Add the wine and simmer for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes and bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in 400g penne that you have cooked according to pack instructions, and serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan and a little more chopped parsley.

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Linguine with prawns, rocket and chilli

I really want to pretend it’s summer – that the sun is shining, and that I am sitting outside drinking rose with friends. The reality is too depressing to fathom. If you are of the same thinking then this dish is for you. Linguine are like spaghetti that someone has sat on – long, narrow, flat noodles (‘linguine’ means ‘little tongues’). This combination is about as fresh and summery as it gets, and will, I hope, make you forget that the rain is lashing at the window and you haven’t been outside for about a week.

Linguine with prawns, rocket and chilli

Serves 4

400g dried linguine
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
100 ml dry white wine
250g raw king prawns, sliced in half lengthways
75g fresh rocket, washed and roughly chopped
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper

The Italian rule of thumb for a pasta sauce is that one should be able to cook it in the same time it takes the pasta to cook (at least with dried pasta – fresh cooks in minutes). This is one such dish – that is if you have all the prep work done.

So, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the linguine. Heat some olive oil in another large pan and add the onion. Stir for a couple of minutes over a medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley, chilli, tomatoes and wine. Cover and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes have softened (If you don’t have faith in your speed you can do this bit of the sauce in advance). Uncover and add the prawns, stirring for a couple of minutes over a high heat until they are pink and firm to the touch. Stir in the rocket and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste for seasoning.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Toss thoroughly and serve with a green salad. Another Italian rule of thumb is no Parmesan with fishy pasta, but who am I to tell you not to add it if you want?

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