Nduja and cherry tomato vongole

Now if you’re expecting a traditional spaghetti vongole then think again! Vongole is a classic Venetian clam pasta dish but this is a twist on it. I have used a touch of nduja which is a Calabrian spreadable salami to add a chilli hit along with some vine cherry tomatoes which give the pasta a wonderfully light, summery feel to it. It is also a perfect way to try clams in pasta if you haven’t had them before. I also used linguine instead of spaghetti for a change and the sauce clings perfectly to it.

Clams can be bought fresh or you can also get them jarred in good Italian delicatessens. I was recently bought a jar so used this and I was pleasantly surprised! They needed very little preparation apart from a quick drain and I then removed any that were already open and any pieces of broken shell and away I went!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g linguine
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves- finely chopped
1/2 tbsp nduja
50ml dry white wine
100g vine cherry tomatoes
250g clams or one jar of clams- washed and drained
Fresh basil- chopped

1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil for the pasta and cook according to packet instructions. The pasta will be finished off in the sauce so aim for al dente; drain and set aside whilst you crack on with the sauce.

2. Take a wide pan and heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook for a couple of minutes until starting to soften. Stir in the nduja so it starts to break and melt into the oil before pouring in the wine. Simmer until reduced by half. Take the cherry tomatoes and quarter them. Add the tomatoes in and simmer until the tomatoes start to reduce and thicken. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

3. When the tomatoes are nearly ready, add the drained linguine into the pan and combine with the sauce so it is well coated. Carefully tip the clams into the pan, cover for a couple of minutes and steam until the shells open. Discard any that do not open. Finish with the basil and serve in warmed bowls immediately.

Nduja and cherry tomato vongole- a summery version of an Italian classic that is perfect for dining al fresco!

 

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti

Italian sausages are not just your usual sausage! They are packed with fennel and seasoning and you can often find chilli versions which are equally delicious. They can be cooked whole or, as I have done in this recipe, the sausage meat can be removed and cooked separately. I have paired the sausage with chard which is in plentiful supply all year round. It can be substituted for spinach or cavolo nero if you like but I love the way the slight bitterness of the leaves balance with the rich sausage. When it comes to pasta, you really do get what you pay for. I absolutely love Garofalo’s long spaghetti which you can find here. Each strand is half a metre long so grab a fork and get twirling!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
1 red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4 Italian sausages- meat removed from the skin
400g passata
200g chard
Handful of pine nuts- lightly toasted in a dry pan

1. Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil. To prepare the chard you need to remove the stalks and keep the leaves separately as they both need slightly different cooking times. Roughly chop the stems and blanch for 1-2 minutes and blanch the leaves for 3-4 minutes; drain well and set aside. When the leaves are slightly cooled, roughly chop. Bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to instructions.

2. Take a frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic along with the chilli flakes (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, use the sausage meat which has been removed from the skins to form little balls. I make mine about the size of a hazelnut so you get lots of little bites throughout the pasta. Add the sausage balls into the frying pan with the onion and garlic and frying until golden.

3. Add the passata into the pan and bring to a simmer. The sauce is designed to give the spaghetti a light coating and by the time it has simmered it really does reduce down so don’t be alarmed if it seems a lot for two people. Add the drained chard stems and leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. When ready, tip the cooked spaghetti into the pan and toss so each strand of pasta is coated in the sauce. Serve in warmed bowls with the toasted pine nuts sprinkled over and a good grating of parmesan to finish.

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti- a celebration of Italian flavours!

Crab, king prawn and rocket spaghetti

As I’m writing this I’m sitting with the heating cranked up and considering reaching for a blanket to try and warm up so such a light pasta recipe may sound a little strange for a winter’s day. It’s simple really, I love seafood and sometimes these cravings have to be indulged regardless of the season!

Crab pasta recipes usually use white meat however I have chosen to use half white and half brown meat as this really ramps up the flavour. The addition of baby plum tomatoes are also lovely if you like. The sweetness of the crab and prawn pair perfectly with the gentle heat from the chilli and kick of acidity from the lemon so read on and get twirling that spaghetti!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
Glug of olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 red chilli- deseeded and chopped
60ml dry white wine
2 tbsp low fat crème fraiche
200g raw king prawns- deveined
200g crab meat- white or white and brown meat
50g rocket
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1. Start by bringing a large pan of water to the boil; cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions and drain when it is perfectly al dente. Drain well.

2. Whilst the spaghetti cooks, get going on the sauce as it won’t take long. I can’t stand pasta that is drained and then stands around for ages, slowly clumping into a wonderful mess so avoid! Take a large frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and red chilli and cook for a couple of minutes until softening. Add the white wine and reduce the amount by half before lowering the heat. In goes the crème fraiche and simmer for a minute or two.

3. Pop the deveined raw prawns into the pan and cook for a further minute before adding the crab meat and rocket. Simmer until the prawns are a gorgeous blush pink and the sauce is warmed through. Season to taste. If the sauce looks a little dry then add a splash of the water from the pasta pan in to loosen it slightly. I try not to add extra crème fraiche as this tends to make it even thicker and a bit claggy. When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan with sauce and toss to coat each strand of spaghetti well and finish with a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice to really make the flavours sing. Serve immediately.

Ultimate slow cooked bolognese

A great bolognese should be in everyone’s culinary repertoire so let me share mine with you. The key to a beautiful bolognese sauce, or ragu, is slow cooking so be patient! Also remember that Italians traditionally serve this with tagliatelle so use a good quality pasta so the sauce clings to every strand. If you’re not a huge fan of mince then substitute it with diced beef but remember that this would cook better in the oven on a low heat to ensure the meat falls apart.

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Ingredients-serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
400g beef or veal mince or half and half
1 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Handful of rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 carrot- finely chopped
Small pack of pancetta cubes
120ml red wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
Beef stock cube
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle

1. To start, take a large pan and heat 1tbsp of the oil over a high heat and brown off the mince which will take a few minutes. I often use veal mince as it has a lower fat content and gives a lighter bolognese.

2. In a frying pan sautee the chestnut and porcini mushrooms until golden. Mushrooms need to be cooked over a high heat to draw out the water

. 3. Take a heavy based pan (time to crack out my Le Creuset again!) and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat.Cook the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta until it all begins to soften and then add the garlic into the pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pancetta cubes are easy to find however if you want to ramp up the flavour even more then look for a small block of pancetta which you then cut yourself. This tends to have more flavour and a smokey note which you don’t get with precut cubes so head to the local deli and treat yourself!

4. Next the tomato puree goes in to cook off for another couple of minutes, followed by the red wine and aim to reduce this by half. Pop the bay leaf in and sprinkle the oregano.

5. Stir the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in and crumble in the stock cube which will add an additional depth of flavour. Season to taste, bring the bolognese up to a simmer, cover and cook on the hob for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. I also keep some of the porcini mushroom liquor back and add a little to give an extra meatiness.

6. When the bolognese is nearly ready cook the pasta and drain well. I add the pasta into the sauce to ensure each stand if pasta is well coated. Divide the bolognese between the bowls and serve with parmesan.

A classic dish to please any family! I mean who wouldn’t want this simmering away on their hob?…

 

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!

Fiery n’duja and slow cooked vine ripened tomato fusilli

N’duja is an utter joy to behold so if you haven’t tried it before read on. Think spicy, think flavoursome, think n’duja. It’s an Italian soft, spreadable sausage style meat that is so versatile and has become more available over the last couple of years so look out for it in your local Italian delicatessan. I love it in simple pastas so give it a go! I use one from www.eatdrinkideas.co.uk who you can also find on a Saturday at the St Albans farmer’s market.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Glug of olive oil
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 banana shallot- finely sliced or chopped
2 tbsp n’duja (or more if you like it even spicier!)
8 vine ripened tomatoes
Small handful of flat leaf parsely- finely chopped
Salt and pepper
300g pasta such as fusilli

1. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a saucepan and pop in the banana shallot and garlic to cook for a couple of minutes until starting to soften. I love using banana shallot (which is not actually a shallot, but a cross between a shallot and an onion) to add a gentle sweetness but you can add a small onion if you prefer.

2. Take the equivalent of 2 tbsps of n’duja and stir into the pan. The heat will break the meat down and it will melt into the shallot and garlic. Remember that n’djua can be quite spicy so you can always add a bit more as you go but you can’t take it back out again! You can try a bit before you add it if you’re not sure how hot your n’duja is.

3. The tomatoes need their seeds removed before cutting into small chunks. I leave the skin on for an extra texture however you can take these off if you prefer. Add these to the pan along with the parsley and season to taste.

4. Simmer the sauce for around 45-60 minutes until thickened. Have a quick taste and you can add a little more n’duja at this stage if you want a bit more kick! Just before the sauce is ready, prepare the fusilli, drain well and stir through the sauce to coat each piece. I sprinkle a bit of extra parsley to serve along with parmesan.

N’duja- once you have discovered it you will wonder how you went all these years without it!