Ham hock, leek and mustard ‘macaroni’ bake

Now let’s start with the name of this dish- ham hock, leek and mustard macaroni bake. If you look at the photo you will see that, indeed, I have not used macaroni but instead riccioli (I used Rummo’s version which you can find at www.pastarummo.it) which lends itself to holding a creamy cheese or vegetable sauce however the name ‘macaroni bake’ was sure to grab your attention so now you are reading you may as well continue…

Ham hock is everywhere these days and ready cooked hocks are easy to get hold of so treat yourself to one for this recipe. Of course, if you fancy cooking your own you have so many options for the leftovers- think pea and ham hock soup on a chilly evening for example or (and more probable) make twice the amount of this pasta bake and indulge for dinner and lunch the following day!

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Ingredients- serves 2
250g riccioli
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
1 tbsp dijon mustard
300ml milk
300ml double cream
1 small to medium leek- washed and shredded
100g ham hock- shredded
Liberal amounts of parmesan
50g panko crumbs

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 200c/180fan. Boil a pan of water and cook the riccioli as per the packet instructions. Drain when it is al dente and set aside. Take a medium pan and heat the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Continue to stir whilst the butter combines with the flour and slowly pour in the milk and cream. I mix the milk and cream together before using to make this even easier. Gradually pour in the milk and keep on stirring to avoid lumps! When all the milk and cream has been added bring to the boil before lowering to a gentle simmer and cook until thickened.

2. Meanwhile you can prepare the leeks. Make sure the leek is washed well as grit can often be lurking! Soften the leek in a small pan with a small amount of butter and season with pepper. When the sauce has thickened add as much parmesan as you like to add an extra savouriness and stir through the leek, shredded ham hock and mustard. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Add the riccioli to the sauce and stir well to coat each pasta curl.

3. Place the pasta in either one larger ovenproof baking dish or two individual ones if you would like to present your guests with one each. Take the panko crumbs and grate some parmesan through so you have a cheesy, crunchy topping. Sprinkle over the pasta and bake for around 25-30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden. Serve with a simple dressed side salad and dig in!

Ham hock, leek and mustard bake- a great way to discover a new pasta shape and keep the family happy!

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Sweet roasted tomato, asparagus and Carmarthen ham spaghetti

This is the perfect pasta that can be thrown together when time is short and hunger levels are high. Raid your fridge for seasonal treats and get cooking! Carmarthen ham is a Welsh delicacy that can be ordered online but you can use Parma ham instead.

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Ingredients-serves 2
Glug of oil
1 garlic clove- crushed
1 small red chilli- finely chopped
Handfuls baby plum or cherry tomatoes- halved lengthways
4 slices of Carmarthen ham or Parma ham- cut into pieces
Small pack of asparagus tips- cut into thirds
Handful of basil
150g dried spaghetti

1. Get started by pre using the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Take the halved tomatoes and lay on a baking tray cut side up. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and some chopped basil. Roast for a few minutes until softened and smelling wonderful. Cover and set aside. If you like, you can also roast the asparagus with the tomatoes by I like to quickly pan fry to keep a bit of crunch to them.

2. Boil a large pan of water ready to cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile take a large frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat before adding the garlic and chilli. Throw in the asparagus and cook together for a couple of minutes. Next up goes the sliced ham to cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. When the spaghetti is ready, drain well and add to the frying pan. Pop in the roasted tomatoes and toss the asparagus mix through the pasta to heat. Add an extra glug of oil if it looks a little dry but the tomatoes should add an extra bit of moisture.

Serve with some additional basil stirred through it if you like and a good grate of fresh parmesan cheese. Dish up into warm bowls and dig in.

Roasted tomato, fresh asparagus and ham spaghetti- your answer to a midweek dinner dilemma!

Carmarthen ham pasta with garlic and chilli

This is probably the most quick, straightforward but most delicious meal I have posted so read on. Carmarthen ham comes from a market town in Wales and is similar to Parma ham however the recipe for Carmarthan ham is said to predate its Italian counterpart. Carmarthen ham follows a traditional recipe and the slices are slightly thicker but less fatty and less salty that Parma ham however the pasta can be made with either.

I have kept this recipe simple so you can taste each element in all its glory so don’t be tempted to overdo it with any additions. You can find information about Carmarthen ham and order it  from the butcher over at www.carmarthenham.co.uk– you won’t find this anywhere else! A quick word of advice: buy more than you think you need as, if you’re anything like me, most will be eaten before it even hits the pan!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
30g butter
1 large garlic clove- crushed or finely chopped
1 small red chilli (fresh or dried)- deseeded and finely chopped
4 slices of your ham of choice- cut into thin slices
Parmesan to serve

1. Boil a large pan of water and cook the spaghetti according to the instructions. I keep mine slightly al dente.

2. When the pasta is a few minutes away from being ready take a medium sized pan and heat the butter. Cook the garlic and chilli for a couple of minutes until they release their flavour but be careful not to overcook- nobody wants burnt, bitter garlic! Add the slices of ham and cook for a further minute.

3. Drain the pasta well and add into the saucepan with the ham and toss to coat well. Serve in warmed bowls with a helping of grated Parmesan.

Carmarthen ham pasta with garlic and chilli- so simple and yet so effective! Treat yourself to a pack or two and you’ll definitely be hooked!

Kale, asparagus and mascarpone pasta

Grab some great fresh ingredients, add a sprinkle of time and hey presto, you have dinner! Use the best produce you can afford and your reward is a delicious savoury pasta that will please everyone. You can also use chicken instead of the ham if you prefer and it is just as tasty.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Glug of oil
1 shallot- finely sliced or chopped
1 clove of garlic- grated
1 red chilli- finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets- drained from their oil and finely chopped
200g conchiglie (shells)
150-200g fresh kale- stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
Small pack asparagus- large stems halved
50g parma ham or similar- sliced
4 tbsp mascarpone
Juice from half a fresh lemon
30g Parmesan cheese- grated

1. Start off by boiling a pan of water ready for the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions. When the pasta is 4 minutes from being ready, add the kale before draining well. Meanwhile get going with the sauce by grabbing a large frying pan, heating the oil over a medium heat and frying the shallot, garlic and chilli for one minute. Next up goes the sliced anchovy which will add a savoury hit. Stir well to ensure that the fillets break down.

2. Stir in the asparagus and ham to fry off so it begins to soften (or it is also delicious with a bit more crunch still if you prefer). Lower the temperature and add in the mascarpone and stir well to combine. Add the drained pasta and kale before giving a good squeeze of lemon juice and a grating of parmesan to finish. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and enjoy!