Tag Archives: pasta

Spring Time Carbonara

This recipe is a light, spring twist on a normal carbonara. Slightly healthier with no creme freche or cream and more veggies – also no added salt. 

Broad Beans are added to this recipe – i LOVE broad beans – despite the effort of cooking them and de-podding them as they cook they are so worth the effort. Not only are they are great source of vegetable protein and fibre so they give us energy and keep out digestive system ticking along, they are also packed with vitamin B – this is good for pregnancy, helps cell strength and finally are a great source of calcium, manganese and iron.

The dish was delicious, rich sundried tomatoes and salty, crispy pancetta were balanced with the creaminess of the broad beans and parmesan and the tang from the lemon juice and zest. Fresh herbs were added for extra freshness especially mint, which goes so well with pancetta, parmesan and the beans. 

Serves 2
1 courgette – spiralized for courgetti
1 serving wholewheat spaghetti
100g pancetta cubes
1 clove garlic – finely diced
Olive Oil
Juice and Zest of 1/2 Lemon
8 sundried tomatoes – sliced
100g Peas
200g Broad Beans
1 egg – beaten
Handful of Parmesan – grated
Handful of fresh mint and fresh parsley – chopped

Pop the spaghetti in a pan to cook in boiling water for 8 minutes until al dente.
Cook the pease and broad beans in a pan of boiling water for 3-4 minutes and shell the beans discarding the skins.
Get yourself a frying pan and in a little olive oil, fry the pancetta until slightly crispy, as the pancetta starts to caramelise, add the garlic. Once cooked, remove from the pan and set to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the courgetti, tomatoes, lemon juice and zest and herbs.
Next pop the cooked pasta into the large frying pan (utilise that pancetta and garlic oil for extra flavour) on a very low heat and add the egg. Keep mixing through and add the pancetta and garlic. As the egg scrambles and mixes through the pasta add the courgetti and tomatoes and mix everything together. The egg should lace through the dish
providing a creamy element and tying all the other ingredients together. Finally scatter over the parmesan and stir through. Try not to leave the pan on the heat after the egg is cooked through as the dish could overcook and there is a risk it could all turn to mush when you want to retain that light, fresh, zing.

Bologna – La Grossa

After a lovely long weekend in Bologna with Elix, I now understand why one of Bologna’s nicknames is “La Grossa” meaning The Fat One. The food is incredible and I could not stop eating! 

Bolognese food is simple, authentic, delicious and oh so fresh. It is the home of tagliatelle, tortellini, mortadella and ragu (the Bolognese never have Spaghetti Bolognese!). On every street corner is the freshest, most colourful selection of fruit amd vegetables I have ever seen including bright purple raddichio, beautiful artichokes, juicy tomatoes and lovely pears.

Elix and I spent the weekend trying lots of new and traditional dishes and whilst I wont be sharing any recipes in this blog, I wanted to share the experience as it as so fantastic!

The first traditional Bolognese dish I ate was Tortellini in Brodo – simply – tiny tortellini in a broth. The first registration of a tortellini recipe was im Bologna – thin, light pasta encasing pork loin and prosciutto and a little cheese. A common dish in Bologna simply serves these tiny pillows of delight in a clear, rich chicken broth. Serving in such a way enhances the taste of the tortellini and is a perfect winter’s lunch. 

I also tried pumpkin tortelli with ragu. The tortellini were sweet and when paired with rich ragu sauce made for a very tasty meal at a restaurant called Al Voltone. I will definitely be trying this dish at home.


Now to talk about the ragu – this is as Bolognese as you will get – always served with tagliatelle (the Bolognese don’t eat spaghetti with ragu) – the silkier sheets of tagliatelli pasta provide a better vessel for the sauce to cling to ensuring you get a tasty mouthful with every bite. Whilst I need to try out my own recipes for traditional Bolognese ragu, the sauce generally uses just tomato paste (no chopped tomatoes), carrots, celery, onion, pancetta and minced beef along with wine, stock and olive oil. This is to be cooked very slowly – upto 3-4 hours until a rich, tasty sauce has developed. The sauce is less red than we get at home and tastes less sweet but really is delicious with some (proper)  Parmigiano-Reggiano scattered on top. The one below was the best, eaten at Osteria dell’Orsa – a tiny, very busy restaurant in the Jewish quarter.

A dish we tried and loved was Cotoletta alla Bolognese and is the Bolognese equivalent of a Chicken Milanese. Here in Bologna – a thin pork or veal cutlet is covered in breadcrumbs and lightly fried adding local parma ham and parmesan to melt on top and serving with a light creamy sauce.  We ate at Il Tinello – a friendly, cosy yet lively restaurant with delicious food and wine and lovely traditional decor.

As I always do on any trip abroad I tracked down a good market where we could eat a traditional lunch. Piadina it was! A piadina is a warm sandwich of thin Italian flatbread encasing the filling. We had ours with mortadella (a Bolognese staple – pork sausage flavoured with whole peppercorns, pistachios and nutmeg) and pecorino – a salty sheep’s cheese. At the stall in the Mercato di Mezzo there were dozens of flavours to choose from – all showcasing the best of Bolognese and Italian produce.

Finally, we ate the best gelato I have ever eaten at a small Gelataria, south west of the centre. One of Elix’s friends had recommended La Sorbetteria and when I heard their signature flavour was bitter dark chocolate I couldn’t be stopped from marching through the rain to get there. The place didnt disappoint and my two scoops of Bitter Chocolate and Espresso, Mascarpone and Cacao made me a very happy lady! 

A final bit of news about the trip is that I tried my first espresso! We spent our first day of the trip with my dear friend Laura and her huaband Johannes. They live in Florence and came to meet us and experience Bologna too. After a lovely lunch of antipasti, pasta and Sangiovese we stopped for a coffee and a cake. Johannes explained to me how the Italians treat the espresso as a quick social drink – always to be consumed in the cafe (never takeaway!) in the afternoons (no milk in coffee after lunchtime is the Italian rule) and with a little sweet on the side. And so i came to enjoy my first espresso with a little bombolino (fried choux pastry filled with custard) on the side. I think I’m a convert – the coffee was rich and silky, not at all bitter and a lovely pick me up on the chilly afternoon! 

I would highly recommend Bologna it really lives up to its nicknames – La Grossa – the fat one, La Rossa – the red one and La Dotta the learned one – so much to eat, see and do!

Roasted Aubergine and Tomato Spaghetti

My mum recommended this recipe to me – it’s a Jamie Oliver one from The Sunday Times this week. After a big workout yesterday  aswell as a training session this morning, last night seemed as good a time than ever for some carb loading. This pasta dish is fresh and light and contains 3 of your 5-a-day.

Aubergines are packed with antioxidents and are good to balance blood sugar levels which, through slowing the release of glucose into the blood stream keep you feeling fuller for longer. Tomatoes contain plentiful amounts of vitamin c and e which are good for heart health and potassium which reduces water retention.
I used wholewheat spaghetti as its a better carbohydrate and more wholesome source of protein but normal pasta or courgetti would be perfect here too.

Onto the recipe then!

Serves 3
2 aubergines – chopped into 5cm chunks
400g cherry tomatoes – halved
2 red onions – sliced
4 Cloves Garlic – sliced
2 tbsp capers
3 servings wholewheat spaghetti pasta
150g rocket
Handful basil
Juice one lemon
Olive Oil
1 Handful Asparagus – sliced in half
Grated parmesan for serving

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degs and pop the aubergine, onion, basil stalks, garlic, tomatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil into a roasting tray. Roast in the oven for an hour covered with foil for the first 30 minutes. Cook the pasta until al dente, sieve and keep the water.
Meanwhile mix the rocket, asparagus, lemon juice and another drizzle of olive oil with some salt and pepper and leave to one side.
Once the veggies have cooked through, place the roasting tray on the hob on a low heat and mix the spaghetti in. Add some of the pasta water if necessary to create some sauce.
To serve, remove from the heat and add the rocket and asparagus and mix together. Finally, scatter with parmesan if you wish and devour!

Roasted Cauliflower, Pancetta, Pea & Chilli Pasta

After spending much of my childhood through to my early twenties avoiding cauliflower because of an unfounded phobia of the stuff, I now love it and enjoy experimenting whether it be cauliflower pizza bases, cauliflower couscous or a simple roasted cauliflower side dish.

Not only is it tasty and versatile but oh so nutritious. One serving of cauliflower provides you with 75% of your daily vitamin C and it is also rich in vitamin K, potassium and fibre. Some nutritionists advocate cauliflower as a good remedy for high blood pressure and a healthy heart.

My latest trial was roast cauliflower and pancetta spaghetti which went down a treat in our house. Elix and I have been out and about a lot lately so cooking this, eating in and having a much needed catch up was a nice relaxing treat for the two of us.

Serves 2
3/4 cauliflower – chopped into bitesize florets
2 tsp Grated Parmesan
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Cloves Garlic – grated
Wholewheat Spaghetti
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 rashers pancetta – sliced into strips
Handful of peas

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degs. Place the cauliflower in a roasting dish and sprinkle with the parmesan, lemon juice, garlic and some olive oil. Mix together and pop into the oven for 45 minutes until cooked and caramelised.
Meanwhile cook the spaghetti and peas together in boiling water and whilst it bubbles away start on the pancetta. You only need a tiny bit of olive oil in the pan to fry the pancetta, as it starts to crisp up, add in the chilli flakes and mix. Mix together with the caramelised cauliflower and allow the smoky pancetta flavour to really mix with the cauliflower.
Once the pasta and peas are cooked, combine with the pancetta and cauliflower.



Super Skinny Carbonara

  Elix and I are on a little health kick at the moment – more exercise, nutritious food, no snacking (me especially as i do love an evening peanut m&m’s treat) – anyway we are making good use of Jamie Oliver’s Superfood book for recipe inspiration and nutrition advice.

Tonight I made skinny carbonara from Jamie’s book and it was delicious so I thought I would share the recipe for those of you who don’t have the book. Incidentally Elix is adament this isn’t a carbonara (she loves carbonara with a creamy bacon, mushroom and cheese sauce and doesn’t like it messed with!) and more of a Pesto/Bacon/Pasta dish….helpful Elix thanks!

Serves 2
2 portions Wholewheat Spaghetti
200g peas
15g Basil
1 Clove Garlic
Juice of 1 Lemon
1tbsp Toasted Flaked Almonds
15g Finely grated Parmesan
2 Rashers Smoked Bacon – finely sliced
1 egg
75ml Natural Yoghurt

Start by popping the pasta in boiling water to cook.
In a food processor blitz the garlic, peas, lemon juice, basil, parmasan and almonds until the consistency of a coarse pesto – the smell of this is beautiful and fresh.
Fry the bacon in a little olive oil until crispy and stir in the pea pesto to warm through. Drain the cooked spaghetti and add to the pea pan. Stir to combine and take off the heat. Whisk together the yoghurt and egg and add to the pan stirring continuously to fully incorporate and avoid scrambled eggs forming at the edges of the pan.
Dish out and enjoy this lighter take on carbonara/pesto pasta!

Quick and Very Easy Prawn Pasta

Elix and I just couldn’t decide what to have for dinner tonight and were deliberating over Baked Eggs, Cheese, Tomato and Pesto Tart and Spicy Tomato pasta…..in the end I chose something different to what we usually have an opted to make Prawn, Lemon and Pea Spaghetti. We usually have prawn pasta with a tomato based sauce but shellfish and both lemon and peas are excellent flavour combinations as the lemon compliments the sweetness of the prawn and peas. Adding sour cream in further enhances this and adds a creaminess to the dish.

Its low fat, light, very quick and easy and tastes delicious!

Cook the pasta to instructions.

Delicately heat prawns, peas, zest and juice of half a lemon until warm and cooked through. 

Add in the cooked spaghetti and whilst the pan is still on the heat, stir in one egg yolk, a handful of parmesan and a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream. Season with plenty of black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve and enjoy!

*see how quick and easy that was!


Crab Linguine

Yesterday I returned from an amazing family trip to a small village in Southern Spain called Moraira. The holiday involved lots of Rioja, Paella, Olives, Tapas and Sunshine. 

A lovely little restaurant we tried was called Ca Pepe and on the first night after much deliberation I picked Iberica Pork Chop – it was so delicious I had it again on our second visit! Elix elected the Crab Linguine and it was so tasty I vowed to cook us a dish to make up for the fact that the Pork won the test for my last night meal.
I’m by no means an expert on Crab having never cooked it before and consequently Elix and I spent a good few minutes deliberating white crab meat vs brown crab meat in Waitrose! We decided on a 50:50 split but I think pure white meat would work well in the below recipe. The mix of brown and white meat we used allowed the dish to achieve a creaminess and depth of flavour from the brown meat and texture from the white meat.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
Olive Oil
1 pack Cherry Tomatoes
2 Cloves Garlic – sliced
Sprinkle of Chilli Flakes
Salt & Pepper to season
100g Mixed Crab Meat
Drizzle of Lemon Juice to taste

This recipe is super simple, quick and easy.
Pop the pasta on to boil and by the time its done the sauce will be done.
Fry the tomatoes, whole until slightly charred. Drizzle some olive oil into the pan and add the garlic and chilli flakes.
When the tomatoes and garlic are softened, mash up into a chunky sauce – add some water if necessary to moisten and season to taste.
Stir through the crab meat until all incorporated. The sauce should now be creamy in look and texture. Depending on how sweet the tomatoes are, drizzle in some lemon juice to balance the sweetness with some acidity and help bring out the flavour of the crab.
Mix together with the pasta and serve.

According to Elix this meal was amazing! Beat that Ca Pepe!