Mietta’s Rigatoni with Cauliflower

Serves: 6

Mietta (O’Donnell) was a bit ahead of my time.

She was one of those 80s and 90s doyens that drove food and fine dining in Australia out of the dowdy 70s and much closer to the amazing foodie place we have now; first by opening an Italian restaurant of the kind Australia had never seen: then, by starting Australia’s first serious review of restaurants.

Her contribution to Australian food cannot be overstated, certainly by everything I have read.

Sadly, Mietta was killed in a car accident in 2001.

Last Mother’s Day, I purchased Mietta’s book for Nat and gave her the back story.

We have been meaning to cook something from it since then and geez, I wish we had done so earlier.

I’ve said that unique, restaurant-quality pastas really excite me.

This is one of them.

The quality of food – at home and out – is remarkable in Australia. My mother occasionally talks about how expensive chicken was 30 years back.

It was people like Mietta that laid the foundations for such extraordinary change in the culinary scene in Australia over the last 20 years and this pasta really sums up how the simple things she introduced us to led to the amazing foodie place we live in today.

Ingredients

1 medium onion, sliced and soaked in milk
30ml olive oil
1 medium cauliflower, cut into flowerets
100gm pancetta or bacon, julienned
A little chilli
90ml tomato sauce
500g rigatoni
Parmesan, grated

Tomato sauce

300ml olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
80gm ham, chopped
12gm flour mixed with 5ml oil
800gm canned Italian plum tomatoes, drained
Pinch of sugar
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. For the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion and ham and brown over a fairly high heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and mix well; turn down the heat to moderate and add the canned tomatoes.
  2. Season with the salt, pepper and sugar; add the thyme and bay leaf.
  3. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  4. For the rigatoni: fry the onions in oil and add the cauliflower flowerets.
  5. Put the lid on the pan so that the cauliflower can cook through the add the pancetta or bacon and then a little chilli. When the cauliflower is just cooked, add the tomato sauce.
  6. Boil the rigatoni until cooked and strain. Toss the cauliflower mixture through the pasta and serve, sprinkled with plenty of grated Parmesan.

Matt Preston’s Classic Ragu with Polenta Dumplings

Serves: 4 – 6

We’ve typed up a few ragus and slow braises and we have reached a point where unless there is something radical about the dish, it wont make the cut.

This Matt Preston ragu makes the cut.

It is from his book, Yummy Easy Quick, a Christmas gift from Nat.

I’ve never had a failed Matt Preston dish and really admire his wholesome, no-holding-back cooking.

Despite the name of the book, his book – and this recipe – isn’t some sort of magazine aisle ‘I don’t have time to cook’ publication: the book is is just great recipes that are easy enough and certainly fun enough for any night of the week.

Specifically for this ragu, it is the ragu itself and especially the fun of the polenta dumplings that makes the whole thing really work.

Complex it is not, tasty, ragu amazing it is.

We had this the night before NYE 2017 with our friends Woodles and Billy.

It was fabulous and ticked all the boxes.

Happy 2018.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg gravy beef, cut into 4cm pieces
100gm pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 fresh or dry bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine
1 x 400gm can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups passata
1 cup chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Polenta Dumplings

1 cup self-raising flour
2/3 cup polenta
1/2 cup shredded Pecorino or Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp to sprinkle
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Heat the over to 160c.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, oven-proof saucepan. Cook the beef until browned, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in the saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pancetta and anchovies. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the celery, onion, garlic and bay leaves and cook until soft. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
  4. Add the beef, tomatoes, stock and passata. Cover and bake for 2 hours; taste and season well.
  5. 15 minutes prior to this, make the dumplings: combine the flour, polenta and cheese in a bowl. Add the milk and eggs and stir until well combined. When the ragu comes out, scoop 1/4 cups of dumpling mixture on the ragu like golf balls. Sprinkle the dumplings with extra cheese.
  6. Return the dish, covered, to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Spaghetti with crushed peas, mint and pancetta

FullSizeRender (6)
Beautiful colours.

Serves: 4 – 6

I found this recipe in the 2015 Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook.

Having not had pasta for months, I had a real hankering; keen to cook something that wasn’t entirely outrageous and thus setting me back two weeks of walking and running, this recipe was it and what a great recipe it is.

It is one of those nice and simple, nobody is going be upset, Sunday lunch pastas. It’s clean, fresh and children friendly. It certainly looks the part with a big salad or two and some crusty bread.

Yum.

Ingredients

400gm dried spaghetti
50ml olive oil
80gm mild pancetta, diced
¼ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50ml dry white wine
150ml chicken stock
250gm frozen peas
½ c coarsely torn mint, plus extra to serve
Finely grated pecorino pepato to serve

Method

  1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan with a tablespoon or two of the pasta water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large frying pan over a medium-high heat, add pancetta and cook until it starts to crisp (3 – 4 minutes). Add onions and garlic and sauté until tender (3 – 4 minutes). Deglaze the pan with wine, add stock and bring to a simmer. Add peas, simmer until tender (2 – 3 minutes), remove from the heat, season to taste and coarsely crush the peas.
  3. Toss pea mixture through pasta, season again if necessary and serve hot with pecorino pepato and extra mint.

Tagliatelle with shaved parsnip, pancetta and sage

Serves: 4

This neat little pasta is one I found it in Karen Martini’s Cooking at Home. I think she is a really good home cook and everything I have cooked of hers has been a success.

I used fresh pasta and substituted the spicy pancetta (the recipe asked for) for the pancetta I could find at the supermarket.

Tuesday night sorted!

Ingredients

300gm tagliatelle (or fettuccini)
1 parsnip, peeled
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 – 12 slices of (spicy) pancetta (I cut the pancetta into large pieces, though that is not the recipe)
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 handfuls of sage leaves
1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
100ml white wine
150ml pouring cream
50hm shaved parmesan
1 tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Cook the pasta, drain and set-aside; add a little olive oil and keep warm, ensuring it does not stick together.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the parsnips into fine shavings (discarding the fibrous centre).
  3. Heat half the oil in a heavy fry-pan over a medium-to-high heat, and cook the pancetta until browned and crispy.
  4. Add the garlic, sage, chilli and parsnip and remaining oil (if necessary) and cook until the parsnip is crisp.
  5. Pour in the wine and cook for 2 minutes and then add the cream.
  6. Add the pasta and toss.
  7. Add the parmesan and lemon juice, season and serve.

Tartiflette (French Cheese and Potato Bake)

Serves: 4 – 8 as a side

There is a time and a place for dishes like this.

Not every night and perhaps not even every Saturday, but if you are going to cook something as utterly incredible as Orlando Murrin’s Roast Fillet of Veal in Parmesean Crust, well there sir, you have the time and place for a dish like this.

I mean, you can always go for a 15km walk in the morning right?

(If you don’t have pancetta, keep looking. You can substitute but seriously…)

Ingredients

1kg potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
50g unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp chopped thyme
200g Speck or Pancetta
1/2 cup white wine
200ml thickened cream
250g raclette or reblochon cheese grated (substitute, gruyere)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c.
  2. Boil the potatoes for 3 or so minutes; they should be started to soften though not fully softened.
  3. Melt the butter over a medium-low heat in a large frying pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the garlic, thyme and Speck (or pancetta) and cook, stirring for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the white wine, cream, most of the cheese and the potato and stir to combine. Season.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a large baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
  7. Cover with a sheet of baking paper (to prevent sticking) and then foil.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the baking paper/foil and continue cooking for another 20 minutes or until bubbling and golden.