Thursday, September 24, 2015

Fast and Easy Pasta Dishes

Pasta is such a fantastic versatile food..  Its food for all the family down to the tiny tots…  

Basic Rules… 

Don’t Overcook it…  
Fill up the pot with lots of boiling water 
Fresh Pasta only 3/5 mins – take the taste test
Dried up to 20 mins – take the taste test 
Drain when cooked and toss with a little olive oil if not using immediately.  You can reheat pasta while tossing in a sauce..  

Penne or Fusilli Pasta salad…

When I cook pasta I always throw in a bit extra to use for pasta salads or to pop into soups, it’s the handiest staple to have cooked in a container in the fridge..  simply drain when cooked rinse in cold water, shake to dry and drizzle with olive oil.

  • Cold pasta, little basil pesto, chopped grilled red peppers, garden peas, little cubes of feta cheese.
  • Cold pasta, chopped chicken breast, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, drizzle of chilli oil.
  • Cold pasta, chopped sugar snap peas, broccoli, flaked salmon or tuna, light chilli mayo.

Sauces are what make pasta dishes.......

From a Basic Tomato you can also make tomato & basil, Creamy tomato, Spicy tomato Arabiata

Creamy Sauce, Carbonara, Mushroom, Smoked Salmon, chicken and pea, 

Sometimes the simple things are the most special… 

Use any fresh or dried pasta shapes… 

Melt Real butter, 1 tbls of sage, basil or flat leaf parsley & grated parmesan cheese.

Roast butternut squash cubes, fresh sage, real butter & parmesan

Homemade Tomato sauce, Frozen peas & grilled bacon, parmesan

Fantastic Sauces

Basic Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 red onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 x 400g (140z) can of plum tomatoes
1 teasp of caster sugar
½ cup dry white wine
salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat the oil in a pot and add the onion & cook for about 5 mins  pop in the garlic and continue to  cook for about another 2 minutes.. turn the heat down to ensure you don’t burn them..  
  2. Whiz the plum tomatoes and add them with the wine to the pot..
  3. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about half and hour with the lid off the pot…  

This basic sauce freezes brilliantly and will keep in your fridge for ages if kept in a sterilized jar.  Its delicious just by itself with some Penne Pasta and some shavings of Parmesan or as the basis for Bolognese sauce or Lasagne…

Tomato & Basil sauce… just add 3 tablespoons of fresh torn basil just before tossing into hot pasta.. with lots of parmesan. 

Creamy Sauces

1 cup of fresh cream
2 egg yolks
Half a cup of parmesan grated 
Salt & Pepper

Whisk cream and egg yolks – heat gently – add to drained pasta sprinkle in parmesan cheese & gently combine.

Skinny Creamy Sauce
2 cloves of garlic
Glug of olive oil
2 tbsp of flour
1 cup of chicken stock
1 cup of low fat milk
Half a cup of parmesan grated

Heat the oil, cook the garlic 20 secs, sprinkle in flour stir and cook for 20 secs, slowly whisk in the chick broth and then the milk, bring to the boil and simmer for 60 secs – stir in the parmesan.  Combine with drained pasta ..

Penne w broccoli, lemon and pine nuts
 Serves 2

4 Stalks Tenderstem broccoli, chopped
2 tbsp, pinenuts toasted
Lemon, zest and juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
3 generous handfuls penne pasta
1 cup of cream
grated parmesan, to serve

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the broccoli and pine nuts and fry gently for three minutes. Add the cream lemon zest and juice, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper bring up to the boil and then remove from the heat.
  2. Cook the penne according to the packet instructions and drain, leaving a little of the cooking liquid in the pan. Add the broccoli mixture to the cooked penne, combine well
  3. To serve, spoon into a serving bowl and scatter with grated parmesan.

Penne with spinach, pinenuts & roast red peppers

Serves 4

3 Roast Red Peppers
3 tbls of pinenuts
3 handfuls of baby spinach
6 handfuls of Penne pasta
1 ½ cups of cream
½  cup of parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
salt & pepper

  1. Beat egg yolks together with cream & parmesan.. season with salt and pepper.
  2. Wilt the spinach, pop into a small pot with a tbls of boiling water, cover & cook until wilted.
  3. Toast the pinenuts on a non stick pan until lightly browned.
  4. Slice up the peppers into strips
  5. Pop the penne into a sauce pan and cover with boiling water – cook until aldente..
  6. Pop the egg mixture into a small pot and heat gently
  7. Drain the Penne, pop back into the pot 
  8. Toss the sauce, spinach, pinenuts & roast peppers through the pasta over a low heat.

Serve immediately in bowls with some extra parmesan…

Use the same method to make carbonara…. Use cooked bacon, sautéed mushrooms in lieu of spinach, pinenuts & roast peppers..

Know your Parmesan Cheese…

Grana Padano -  Parmigiano Reggiano 

Parmesan cheese & Grana Pandano are iconic hard cheese they are made using traditional methods as both cheeses have been produced since the middle ages.. Within Europe, Parmesan cheese is a protected cheese which means the manufacture of these cheeses are governed by rules & regulations..

Parmesan cheese is referred to by its Italian name: Parmigiano-Reggiano
To use the Parmigiano label, Parmesan cheese must be made from cow's milk between May and November in Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia, or parts of Bologna and Mantova. The cows are fed a diet of grain & grass – no silage or antibiotics, whereas  Grano Pandano can be made in many more regions, the feeding regulations are not as strict..

The cheese is traditionally made by mixing whole morning milk with skimmed milk from the previous evening. Both cheeses are  moulded with a stencil, indicating where and when it was made. 
The cheese is soaked in a brine bath and then aged for a minimum of two years before being graded for sale.

Buy these cheeses in a whole wedge, rather than pre-grated, as the wedge will hold flavour and texture better, and will not dry out… 

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