Essentials, Pasta

Pasta dough

This is a basic recipe for egg based pasta dough.
If you have access to a vacuum sealer machine I would definitely recommend to vacuum seal the dough after it’s kneaded as this helps the flour hydration / resting further.

The recipe makes roughly 420 g finished dough, which should be enough for a dinner main dish for 4 people.

Ingredients for Pasta dough:

250 g Tipo 00 pasta flour
125 g egg yolks, roughly 7 large eggs
1 large egg
13 g extra-virgin olive oil
15 g whole milk
1/4 tsp salt

How to make Pasta dough:
Start by making a round mound of the flour in the middle of your work-bench. Take away some of the flour, maybe 1/8th or so… so that you can add this back to the dough should it be too wet.
Make a big hole in the middle of the mound, big enough for all the other ingredients, so you basically end up with a thick ring of flour.
Add the rest of the ingredients in the middle of this hole.
Start mixing everything together in the well with a fork or your fingers. Gradually pull in more and more flour until everything comes together in a wet dough. It’s almost essential to have a plastic bench scraper at this stage to be able to scrape the wet dough and flour off the bench and it’s also useful at the start to handle the dough.
Once it all comes together start using your hands to knead it. Use the heal of your hand to knead and keep folding it over and kneading away from you. Knead like this for 5 minutes.

At this stage the dough should be ready. Either put in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for about 5 hours, or vacuum pack.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta with Courgette, Onion and Kale

I made this pasta dish freestyle with ingredients I happened to have in the fridge and in the pantry. Turned out surprisingly tasty.
The only tricky part really is the very end when everything comes together in the sauté pan – I used a fairly big Sauteuse pan with sloped sides, which makes the last steps a bit easier.

This serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients for Pasta with Courgette, Onion and Kale:

1 courgette
1 onion
1 big handful of kale
3 cloves garlic
0.5 star anise
1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
25 g of butter
100 ml white wine
250 g pasta
Wedge of lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flat-leaf parsley

How to make Pasta with Courgette, Onion and Kale:
Dice courgette into about 4 mm dice. Add to hot deep sauté pan with olive oil. Salt. Start sautéing.
Slice onion. Add to pan with star anise. Salt a bit more.
Slice garlic. Add to pan.
Sauté for a while until caramelised and looking good. Add butter, melt while sautéing. 
Add kale and Dijon, bit more salt. Stir then add wine, full heat to boil off alcohol. Lid on to make kale cook.
The idea is kind to make a kind of Beurre Blanc with wine, vegetable juices and butter.
Lid off, sauce is now kind of done. Take out star anise. Leave on low heat or even slightly off burner. 
Boil pasta water, salt to sea water level. Boil pasta. When almost done take out a good cup of the pasta water.
Drain pasta and add to sauce sauté pan. Add enough of your reserved pasta water to bind to a sauce (the starch in the reserved pasta water will bind the sauce), while stirring sauté pan over heat. Hit with Parmesan, parsley, some lemon juice and EVOO. Bind together to a nicely sauced pasta.
Serve immediately on warmed plates (so that the sauce doesn’t seize).

Mains, Pasta

Pasta with Stilton, jalapeño and cavolo nero

This serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients for Pasta with Stilton, jalapeño and cavolo nero:

225 g Stilton cheese
200 ml crème fraîche
5 garlic cloves
2 anchovy fillets
1 big teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Splash of Noilly Prat or similar vermouth
0.5 – 1 fresh jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped
200 g Cavolo Nero
40 g butter
50 g vegetable stock
Olive oil
190 g pasta, fusilli or similar
Handful of hazelnuts, for garnish
Handful of walnuts, for garnish
Small amount flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Small amount of chives, for garnish

How to make Pasta with Stilton, jalapeño and cavolo nero:
Start by putting on water for the pasta.
Slice two of the garlic cloves in medium-fine slices and also slice the anchovy fillets. Heat a medium large saucier or pot on medium heat and sauté the garlic and anchovies in olive oil and half the butter, stir constantly with a spoon or fork so the anchovies break up and flavor the oil. Cut the cheese into chunks and add to the pan together with the vermouth and Dijon mustard. Stir and then cover the pan with a lid. Lower the heat to low. Let the cheese melt and stir from time to time. When the cheese is melted and smooth add the crème fraîche and the chopped jalapeño. Use at least 0.5 jalapeño and up to 1 if you like it hotter. Do not use the seeds.
Let the sauce bubble away slowly without a lid. Stir occasionally.

For the cavolo nero start with making a garlic fork to stir with, this will lightly perfume the cavolo nero with garlic. Put the remaining garlic cloves on the tins of a fork. Chop the cavolo nero roughly. Put a big sauté pan on medium to high heat and add the remaining butter and the vegetable stock. Swirl the pan to make a liaison between the butter and the stock. Add the cavolo nero and stir with the garlic fork and toss to coat with the butter mixture, season with salt. Put a lid on the pan and let the cavolo nero cook over low to medium heat. Stir with the garlic fork from time to time and try a piece to judge for doneness. I like them a little bit al dente but not too crunchy.
The cavolo nero takes maybe 5 – 10 minutes to cook.

For the nuts roast the hazelnuts first in a 180C oven until the skins are starting to blacken. Take the nuts out of the oven and put them in a clean kitchen towel, fold the towel over the nuts as to make a package and then rub the towel hard with the palm of your hand to loosen the skins. Unwrap the towel and pick out the nuts with the least skin on. Chop the nuts  coarsely and reserve until plating.
Roast the walnuts until darkish brown, chop coarsely and reserve until plating.

Salt the pasta water until it’s salty as the sea and then cook the pasta as per the instructions on the package. Drain the pasta by putting a lid on the pan slightly ajar, try to reserve a little bit of the pasta water in the pan.

Add the pasta to the cavolo nero pan and dump the sauce on top. Stir and toss to combine properly.

To plate put the pasta in a deep bowl, top with the roasted nuts, the herbs, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some black pepper.

Mains, Pasta

Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato

This is a nice pasta dish that I cook a lot because it’s relatively easy and really yummy.
The nuts and vegetables can of course be varied to whatever is available in the shops or in season. When wonderful purple sprouting broccoli is in season I tend to use that, otherwise tenderstem broccoli works just fine.
On this occasion I’ve used Casarecce pasta but any short shaped pasta shape will do.

Ingredients for Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato:
200g Gorgonzola Piccante, cubed
200g tenderstem broccoli
250g Casarecce (or other short-tube pasta)
100g Crème fraîche
0.5 tsp Dijon mustard
15g butter
2 preserved anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, concasse
Handful of pinenuts
Handful of walnuts
Splash of white wine or Vermouth
Olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to make Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato:
First thing to do is to put a sheet pan in the freezer, which we will use later for the broccoli.
Start with putting on water for the pasta and when it’s cooking salt the pasta water to the salinity of sea water (around 10g salt to 1 liter water). Put on another pan of water for the broccoli, again with sea water salting levels.
Make a cross top and bottom on the tomatoes then put in a bowl with boiling water for a few minutes. When the skins are softened peel the tomatoes and then with a paring knife remove the bit of stem left at the top. Concasse the tomatoes and reserve.
Put the oven on 180C fan. Oil two sheetpans and put the pinenuts on one and walnuts on another. Lightly salt both the nuts. Roast the nuts in the oven until nicely golden. Leave the nuts on kitchen-towel to drain some of some of the oil off. When ready you can crush the walnuts with the underside of a pan or in a pestle and mortar.
Start the sauce by melting the butter with a touch of olive oil in a smallish stainless steel pan. When the bubbling subsides add the garlic and anchovies, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the anchovy is dissolved and the garlic is slightly brown. Add the cubed gorgonzola to the pot together with a splash of white wine and the dijon. Lower the heat to low and continue stirring and basting the gorgonzola cubes until they melt. Add a large tablespoon of the crème fraîche and stir. Taste the sauce as you go along to see how dominant you want the gorgonzola to be, tame it with more crème fraîche if the sauce needs to be milder. That’s the sauce pretty much done, let it bubble away ever so gently on a low flame.
Boil the broccoli until tender, not too al dente but not too soft either. When cooked (test doneness with a sharp paring knife) drain the broccoli and then spread out on the frozen sheet tray to cool rapidly without leaking flavour. Set aside.
Boil the pasta. When done to al dente drain but save a bit of the starchy pasta water. After draining put the pasta back in the pasta pot and put some extra virgin olive oil through it.

To assemble the dish, roughly chop the broccoli and add to the warm pasta pot. Toss to heat through. Check the consistency of the gorgonzola sauce and if too thick thin it out a bit with the starchy pasta water. Add the gorgonzola sauce to the pasta pot too and stir through. Finally add the tomato concasse and stir through.

Serve the pasta on warmed pasta plates and top with the nuts.

Mains, Pasta

Portobello-Porcini Pasta

porcini_pastaThis is a nice robust pasta sauce for autumn and 100 % vegetarian.
Makes two large portions.

Ingredients for the Portobello-Porcini Pasta:
250g portobello mushrooms, sliced in 5 mm slices
50g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 200 ml warm water for 10 minutes
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
100ml double cream
1/2 lemon
250g rigatoni pasta
Olive oil
Splash of Noilly Prat vermouth, optional
Small handful of freshly chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
Small handful of freshly chopped basil, optional

Preparing the Portobello-Porcini Pasta:
Heat a large saute pan until hot. Add some olive oil and then add the garlic and thyme leaves. Saute for a few minutes.
Add the portobello mushrooms to the pan and saute for 15 minutes. They will release a bit of water so keep sauteing and “jumping them” in the pan until the water is absorbed back into the mushrooms.
Drain the porcini mushrooms using a finemesh sieve, reserving the soaking liquor. Wash them thoroughly under cold running water (sometimes they can have a bit of sand and grit on them). Chop the porcini mushrooms finely.
Deglaze the saute pan with a bit of Noilly Prat if using, scrape the bottom of the pan and boil hard to get rid of the alcohol.
Add the porcini liquor and the chopped porcinis to the pan. Saute for about 10 minutes.
Add the lemon juice to the pan and boil a bit, add the double cream and stir to incorporate. Add basil and parsley if using.
Boil the rigatoni according to the instructions on the packet (in water with plenty of salt).
Drain the rigatoni but reserve two ladles of the pasta water.
Add the rigatoni to the sauce and stir to combine, add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.
Serve in warmed bowls with plenty of parmesan, extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top and freshly milled pepper, add some parsley as well if you have some.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta with Chorizo

chorizo_pastaThis is one of those pasta dishes that I make time after time again since it’s so tasty and satisfying, and quick enough to make on a weeknight.

I can really recommend San Marzano D.O.P tinned plum tomatoes if you can get hold of them, they are amazing.

This recipe makes enough for two to three persons.

Ingredients for Pasta with Chorizo:
250 g dried pasta (fettuccine or tagliatelle)
100 g chorizo, diced
250 g mushrooms, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 – 2 normal sized red onions, chopped
1 (400 g) tins of Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
5 fresh plum tomatoes, skinned and diced
1 tsp of tomato puree
1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 – 1.5 tsp hot smoked paprika
About 5 – 10 basil leaves, torn
1 tsp dried oregano
1 – 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley (plus extra for garnish)
40 g butter
Olive oil
Sea salt (preferably Maldon)
Black pepper

Preparing Pasta with Chorizo:
Put a large pot of water on the hob for the pasta.
Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Sweat the onions for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic. Add the diced fresh plum tomatoes if using and then the tinned plum tomatoes and the tomato puree. Add the oregano, cayenne pepper and chili flakes. Let the sauce boil for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened.
Heat another frying pan over medium to high heat, add a bit of olive oil and then saute the diced chorizo. After a few minutes add half the butter. When the butter is melted transfer the chorizo to the sauce using a slotted spoon. Add the mushrooms to the frying pan and saute them off, season with a bit of salt and pepper, add the rest of the butter to the mushrooms. When the mushrooms look finished add them to the sauce together with the butter and juices. Add the smoked paprika to the sauce together with the parsley and basil.
Boil the pasta.
Drain pasta when it’s al dente and toss with some extra virgin olive oil (this prevents the pasta from sticking). Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine (alternatively poor the sauce on top of the pasta in the bowls).
Serve the pasta in warmed bowls. Grate over some parmigiano reggiano, drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, a bit of milled black pepper. Add some chopped parsley and a few basil leaves.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta Puttanesca

IMG_0235Pasta Puttanesca is a tasty pasta sauce originating from Rome.
I use a fairly traditional recipe with some of my own tweaks. What pasta to have it with is varying for me, but normally it’s penne, rigatoni, spaghetti or linguine. It’s a great and quick everyday pasta sauce.

This makes enough for 4 persons as a main course.

Ingredients for Pasta Puttanesca:
500 g dried pasta
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
6 anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
2 (400 g) tins of Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp of tomato puree
3 fresh plum tomatoes, skinned and diced (optional)
150 g pitted black olives, thickly sliced
1 to 2 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
About 5 – 10 basil leaves, torn
1 tsp dried oregano
1 – 2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
Sea salt (preferably Maldon)
Black pepper

Preparing Pasta Puttanesca:
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add the chili flakes, cayenne, garlic and anchovies to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly using a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have disintegrated. This will take about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and dried oregano if using and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened. This will take about 15 minutes. At this stage you can also put the pasta in the pot so it’s ready at about the same time as the sauce.
About 5-10 minutes before the sauce is finished add the basil, olives, capers and parsley if using.
Also check for seasoning and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Drain pasta when it’s al dente and toss with some extra virgin olive oil (this prevents the pasta from sticking). Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss to combine (alternatively poor the sauce on top of the pasta in the bowls).
Serve the pasta in warmed bowls. Grate over some parmigiano reggiano, drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, a bit of milled black pepper. Add some chopped parsley and a few basil leaves.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta salad with chicken breast

This is a pasta salad that I keep returning to and I cook it pretty much all year around, biased towards the warmer months of the year though.  It’s best in the summer when one can barbecue the chicken.

Ingredients for Pasta salad with chicken breast:
4 chicken breasts
400 gram penne
1 red onion
1 red chili
500 gram cherry tomatoes
100 gram mozzarella
20 or so black pitted olives
Olive oil
Half a pot of basil
4 cloves of garlic
White wine vinegar

For the butter:
200 gram room tempered butter
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp black pepper
1 shallot

Preparing Pasta salad with chicken breast:

Preparing the chicken:
Start by preparing a simple marinade for the chicken. Mix one part of white wine vinegar and three parts extra virgin olive oil. Chop the garlic cloves finely and mix with the oil and vinegar. Add some chopped basil as well.
Put the chicken filets in a bowl or oven dish and poor the marinade over. Cover with cling film and leave the chicken in the fridge to marinade for an hour or so.

The butter:
Chop the shallot very finely. Mix it with the butter, vinegar and black pepper in a bowl. You can also add some pressed garlic if you want. When it’s all mixed put it on a piece of greaseproof paper and make into a roll. Put the roll in the fridge so the butter becomes more solid again.

The salad:
Finely chop the red onion. Cut the chili lengthwise and take out the kernels. Chop the chili finely as well. Cut the olives in chunks if you want. Put everything in a bowl and tear the mozzarella in pieces to put in as well. Mix everything a bit.
Cook the pasta and let it cool if you want to serve a cold pasta salad or cook it later if you want the pasta to be hot. Mix the pasta with everything else in the bowl.

Turn on the oven at about 150 C (for fan assisted oven). Put some of the shallot butter in a frying pan and let the chicken fillets fry for a few minutes on each side. Then put the frying pan in the hot oven and let the chicken cook for about 15 – 25 minutes or so.

When the chicken is finished put the chicken fillets on top of some salad on the plate and then put a slice or two of the butter on top of the chicken.

Mains, Pasta


This is my mothers recipe for lasagna.

For the basics:
A packet of lasagna sheets
Olive oil
Mature cheddar

For the sauce:
2 medium sized onions
2 cloves of garlic
400g beef mince
400g can of chopped tomatoes
4 or so vine tomatoes
Mushrooms, sliced
Splash of red wine
One cube of beef stock
Chili flakes
Fresh basil

For the bechamel sauce:
2 table spoons of butter
4 table spoons of plain flour
About 600ml milk

How to make it:
Chop the onions and garlic. Fry them gently until translucent in a frying pan. Transfer to a big pot. Fry the mince and then transfer to the same pot. At the same time as frying the mince put the tomatoes in boiling water and then remove their skin. Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pot together with the can of chopped tomatoes. Add the splash of wine, a pinch of chili flakes, the beef stock and the oregano. Salt and pepper to taste. Let it all boil for 20 – 30 minutes until reduced and a good reduced consistency. 5 minutes before ready to use add 10 fresh basil leaves or so (chopped up) and the mushrooms.

How to make the bechamel sauce:
Gently melt the butter in a saucepan. When butter is melted add the flour. Take the saucepan of the heat and start whisking. When flour is dissolved return to the heat (medium) and add the milk. Keep whisking all the time until the sauce is the right consistency (a bit like wallpaper glue).

Grate the cheddar and parmesan. You need about 600 ml. Around two parts cheddar and one part parmesan.

Assembling the lasagna:
Get an ovenproof dish and put some bechamel sauce in the bottom of it. Sprinkle some cheese over the sauce then put the first layer of lasagna sheets. Put a layer of the ragu sauce on top of the lasagna sheets then bechamel sauce on top of that and then sprinkle with cheese then lasagna sheets again. Repeat this until you get to the top. You should end up with lasagna sheets on top and then put the rest of bechamel sauce and cheese on the top.

Mains, Pasta

Pasta al forno

This was an excellent soul food dish. The sauce is like a traditional Italian ragù (aka bolognese), which is so much better than the northern European version of ragù. Like lasagna this really benefits from a night in the fridge (intensifies the flavors a bit) so be sure to make enough to last for lunch the day after.

What you need:
500 g penne
125 g mozarella, in small pieces
150 ml parmesan cheese, grated

For the ragù:
300 g mince meat
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 pieces of celery, thinly sliced
2 carrots, in small pieces
500 g crushed tomatoes
200 ml red wine
10 basil leafs
50 ml olive oil
2 teaspoons of salt
1 pinch of sugar

For the béchamelsauce:
1.5 desert spoon of butter
1.5 desert spoon of flour
300 ml milk
3 pinches of salt
About 1 pinch of white pepper
About 1 pinch of nutmeg

How it’s done:

Heat the oil for the mince in a big pot. Add the mince, celery, carrots, onion and garlic. Separate the mince a bit with a fork.
Add the tomatoes, wine, basil, salt and sugar and boil under a lid for about 30 minutes.

Melt the butter for the béchamelsauce in a pot on low heat. Add the flour and mix properly. Add the milk gradually and whisk all the time. Boil the sauce on low heat for 5 minutes and whisk occasionally. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg according to your taste.

Turn on the oven, 225 C.

Boil the pasta according to the packet. I would recommend al dente.

Coat an ovenproof pot with butter. Add half the pasta and then put half of the ragù and béchamelsauce on top. Add 1/3 of the parmesan cheese and all the mozarella.
Put the rest of the pasta on top and then put the rest of the ragù and béchamelsauce on top of that as well as the remaining parmesan cheese.

Bake it in the oven for 20 minutes.