Pancetta wrapped cod loins with tomato and asparagus orzo

When the sun comes out, it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy a colourful meal before the clouds threaten again. In the UK we are about to see the end of this year’s asparagus season (boo!) so this is a perfect way of enjoying it before it goes. Orzo is rice grain shaped pasta which is great for cooking in risotto style as it is here as well as using for pasta bakes and salads. Unlike classic risotto, the stock can be added all in one go rather than one ladleful at a time. Next time you cook this try playing around with combinations such as cherry tomato, chorizo and red pepper which are equally as delicious.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Glug of olive oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
50ml white wine
200g orzo
150g cherry tomatoes- halved
100g asparagus- chopped
300ml vegetable stock
Slices of pancetta
2 cod loins
1/2 tsp paprika

1. Add a glug of olive oil to a large pan that is large enough to hold the orzo. Gently cook the onion and garlic together until softening but not so they are turning golden. Pour in the white wine and simmer until it is reduced by half.

2. Stir in the orzo until it is well coated in the onion mixture. Pop the halved tomatoes and chopped asparagus into the pan. Add the stock little by little until the orzo starts to turn tender and the tomatoes will break down to form a light sauce. If you are using fine asparagus then you may like to add this in slightly later in the cooking of the orzo. You are aiming for the asparagus to retain a little crunch to add texture.

3. Meanwhile, you can prepare the cod. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Depending on how big the cod loins are and the size of the pancetta slices, lay -pancetta slices on a chopping board so they slightly overlap and are the length of the cod loin. Season the cod well with salt, pepper and paprika and wrap one of the cod pieces in it; repeat for the other loin. Take a small frying pan and add a small splash of oil, heating it to medium. Place the wrapped loins seal side down into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes. If the pan you are using is ovenproof then pop the cod straight into the oven for around 10-12 minutes until the cod is cooked. If it is not ovenproof then use a baking sheet to cook the cod on instead. When the pancetta is cooked and crisped it is ready to serve on top of the orzo. Serve immediately.

Pancetta wrapped cod loin with tomato and asparagus orzo- a colourful dish to cheer up anyone’s day!

 

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Fiorentina puntalette bake

This is a surefire winner for a midweek feast! You can pick up puntalette, also known as orzo pasta, in most supermarkets or Italian delis now so stock up as you’re sure to make this more than once. I have given you a basic recipe that you can tweak until your heart’s content. Play around with a mix of mushrooms and kale which is delicious!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g puntalette pasta (rice grain size pasta shapes)
30g butter
30g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
40g creamy blue cheese- such as dolcelatte (optional)
40g parmesan and extra to finish
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 large banana shallot- sliced
Small punnet of chestnut or white mushrooms
Small pack of baby spinach- washed and dried

1. Grab a large pan and cook the puntalette according to packet instructions until al dente. meanwhile you can make the creamy cheese sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter together with the flour and a good pinch of mustard powder (optional). Stir together the milk and cream before gradually mixing into the flour. Keep going until all the milk has been added and then keep stirring until it has thickened. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheese until it has melted through.

2. Take a frying pan and heat a glug of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a moment or two before turning up the heat to medium/ high and cooking the mushrooms. You need to cook them quickly so remove any excess natural moisture. When they are softening and catching a little colour, take the pan off the heat and set aside.

3. When the pasta is ready, drain well. I then add the cooked mushrooms and spinach into the cheese sauce before combining with the pasta, just allowing the spinach to wilt a little before adding more. Taste and adjust seasoning. A good crack of black pepper never goes amiss!

4. Pop the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with more parmesan and the odd dot of blue cheese if you like. Bake for around 30 minutes in a 200c/ 180fan oven until the cheesy topping is golden and bubbly.

Fiorentina pasta bake- a decadent midweek dish that makes a delicious leftover lunch! If you have any left…