Claudia Roden’s Tagliolini with Lemon

Serves: 2 – 4

Nat and I had this Sicilian dish as the starter of a slow lunch and what a way to start.

It hero’s lemon and it is just “incredibly delicious” as Claudia puts it in her book Med. Absolute lemon simplicity, especially with a fresh pasta as we did.

And completely elegant.

P.S. Nat wasn’t entirely sure this dish was type-up-worthy. She very much liked it, though found it very much on the lemon side. Nat suggested adding some fresh chilli to cut through.

I absolutely love lemon so this was a home-run for me, though we both agreed, as a starter only.

Ingredients

200gm tagliolini
Salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 tbsp double cream
Salt and black pepper
Grated Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Cook the tagliolini in boiling, salted water until al dente.
  2. In a serving bowl, mix the lemon zest and juice with the cream and add salt, to taste.
  3. When the pasta is cooked, drain and mix with the sauce.
  4. Serve with plenty of Parmesan and a few good cracks of pepper.

Gordon Ramsay’s Home-made Gnocchi with Peas

Serves: 4

Nat cooked this one for a simple lunch a little while back and the gnocchi is probably the best I have had.

Entirely incomparable to something you would get in a pack, dry or otherwise. We have previously used Anne Burrell’s gnocchi recipe as our go to, though the addition of ricotta here means that when pan fried, the creaminess against the golden, crunchy exterior is just melt-good mad.

The pea sauce is subtle and just a lovely pairing.

A few years ago, this is the sort of thing a hatted restaurant might put up. A real nod to simplicity.

Open a bottle of white, serve with a salad (we served it with this Gordon Ramsay salad) and you have a home lunch you’ll be grinning at.

Ingredients

2 large floury potatoes
50gm ricotta cheese
90gm plain flour
1 large egg, beaten
1 thyme sprig, leaves only
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

For the sauce

Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
150gm peas, podded if fresh, defrosted if frozen
Butter
1 thyme sprig, leaves only
Zest of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Bake the potatoes in their skins for 1 – 1 1/4 hours until tender the whole way through. Remove the flesh from the skins (while still warm) and mash until spoon – use a potato ricer if you can. Mix in the ricotta, a pinch of salt and white pepper and the flour. Make a well in the middle, add the beaten egg and begin to combine the mixture with floured hands. Work in the thyme leaves and continue until a smooth dough has formed. (Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will end up too dense and won’t expand when it goes into the water.)
  2. Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a long cigar shape about 1.5cm thick. Using the back of a floured table knife, cut each length into 2cm pieces to make ‘pillows’ of individual gnocchi. Gently press each one in the centre using your floured finger. The dent will hold more sauce and allow the gnocchi to take on more flavour.
  3. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the gnocchi, tilting the pan from side to side briefly to stop them sticking together, then simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes until they start to float. Drain the gnocchi and leave them to steam-dry for 1 – 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, start to make the sauce. Heat a frying over a medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add the gnocchi to the hot pan with a pinch of salt and black pepper and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes on each side until nicely coloured.
  5. Add the peas to the pan with a knob of butter and the thyme leaves. Toss to heat through, then add the lemon zest. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4

There was furious debate after I served this sauce and pasta in a pasta cook off with Nat.

Nat served the wonderful spinach ravioli and certainly, taking into account effort, presentation and overall yum factors, it nailed the brief and took out the day.

Except that it was a reluctant and technical tie.

Because the absolutely classic Marcella Hazan tomato sauce is simply so simple and classic, it is pretty much impossible not to give it the nod for doing so much more with so much less.

With a sprinkling of Parmesan. What on earth is not to love. It’s just not fair.

P.S. I did give the nod to Nat because hey, it’s 2022 and not 1962. Though Marcela sauce is no lemon at a knife fight.

Ingredients

2 cans of tomatoes and their juices
5 tbsp butter*
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt
Pasta and Parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over the medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with the pasta. Toasts through 500gm of cooked pasta and serve with Parmesan.

* Use a great butter like CopperTree Farms.

Yotem Ottolenghi’s Aubergine Dumplings Alla Parmigiana

Serves: 4

This really is a dish that tells you that vegetables really are better than meat.

Line it up against a chicken parmigiana and hands down the eggplant wins. Even without the shallow fried-breadcrumb.

The basil. The ricotta. The Parmesan. The toasted breadcrumbs.

Brilliant.

I don’t often cook a dish twice in quick succession, though this is now in the repertoire. Make the sauce a few days ahead, the aubergine mixture in the afternoon and bam, with a salad of greens, you’ll have just a marvellous dinner on your hands.

Another Ottolenghi home-run.

Ingredients

90gm fresh breadcrumbs (preferably sourdough)
4 aubergines (eggplants) roughly cut into 2 1/2cm cubes (1kg)
150ml olive oil, plus extra for shaping
100gm ricotta
75gm Parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
10gm parsley, finely chopped
1 egg, plus 1 yolk
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
6 garlic cloves, crushed
15gm basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 x 400gm tins of peeled plum tomatoes, blitzed until smooth (600gm)
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
3/4 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped
45gm pitted Kalamata olives, roughly torn in half
Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes, until lightly browned and dried out. Set aside to cool and turn the oven temperature up to 220c.
  2. On a large, parchment-lined tray, toss the aubergines with 75ml of oil, 1/2 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spread out as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until golden brown.
  3. Roughly chop the aubergines not a chunky mash, then transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until cool. Once cool, add the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, egg, yolk, flour, breadcrumbs, a third of the garlic, 10gm of the basil, 1/4 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well, then with lightly oiled hands, shape the mixture into 16 golf-ball-sized dumplings, about 55gm each, compressing them as you go so they hold together.
  4. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. In two batches, fry the dumplings for 3-4 minutes, turning them until golden-brown all over. Adjust the heat if they’re browning too much. Add another 1 tbsp of oil and fry the remaining dumplings in the same way. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the remaining 2 tbsp of oil into a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, chilli flakes, paprika, oregano, 1 tsp of salt and a good grind of black pepper and cook for 8 minutes or until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Pour 400ml of water, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Pour the sauce into a medium baking dish, top with the dumplings and bake for 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven, scatter over the olives, the remaining basil and a grating of Parmesan, and serve.

Bianca Zapatka’s Spinach Ravioli with Mushrooms

Serves: 4 – 6

This is probably one of the most comfortable pastas I have ever eaten, though calling it comfortable is an understatement.

It’s simplicity is its sophistication.

This is 2-hat sort of stuff. And yet, so simple.

Nat served this as the first course of a slow, Sunday afternoon of pastas and wow.

She adapted the dough slightly and I cooked the mushrooms for longer because mushrooms only improve with time in the pan.

We discovered some time ago that pasta assembly is best accompanied with a few flutes of good Champagne. A celebration of sorts that you have hit the final straight!

As the first course for a late autumn lunch, people would be blown away. A crisp Pinot Grigio, a fire and some good music and here you have all the pieces to start a very good afternoon.

Well done Nat.

Ingredients

For the Ravioli

1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 00 flour
1/4 semolina flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c water
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

For the Spinach Filling

225gm frozen spinach, thawed
125gm cream cheese
5 tbsp Parmesan Cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300gm brown mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh herbs and/or grated Parmesan to serve

Method

Pasta Dough

  1. Mix the flours, semolina and salt. Heap into a pile and press a well into the centre. Pour in water and olive oil and knead to a smooth dough. (We used the dough hook on a KitchenAid.)
  2. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling foil and place in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour.

Spinach filling

  1. Squeeze the spinach to remove all excess water and chop.
  2. Add the Parmesan, cream cheese, season and mix until combined.

To make the Ravioli

  1. Roll out the prepared pasta dough thinly on a lightly floured surface. (We used a pasta roller down to setting 2.)
  2. Cut out 7cm circles with a round form.
  3. Place approximately 1 tbsp of the spinach filling in the centre of each circle. Brush the sides with a bit of water and fold over the filling into semicircles. Carefully seal with your finer and then press down lightly with a fork.
  4. Bring salted water to the boil in a large pot. Let the ravioli slide in a simmer for 3 – 4 minutes until they have floated to the surface.
  5. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.

Fried Mushrooms

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the mushrooms until browned and all the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Deglaze with the soy sauce and sauté for at least a few more minutes.
  3. Serve with the drained ravioli. Season and garnish with fresh herbs and/or grated Parmesan.

Pasta Genovese

Serves: 4 – 6

This classic pasta really is brilliant.

Nat found it in my mother’s collection of recipes and alongside a focaccia Nat cooked, nobody ate a better lunch in our part of town that day.

I love the cooking of the potatoes with the pasta. Which together with the wonderfully simple pesto and the prosciutto, it just so wonderfully rustic.

Just add plenty of Parmesan, open a bottle of white and there you have it… classic.

Ingredients

Dried linguini or tagliatelle
6 small baby potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
100gm baby green beans, trimmed
Grated Parmesan
Thinly sliced prosciutto
2 c tightly packed basil leaves
50gm pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
150ml olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Method

  1. Process the basil, pine nuts and garlic to a paste, stir in the olive oil and 100gm Parmesan: season.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water and 5 minutes before the cooking time is done, add the potatoes.
  3. Just before draining, add the beans and cook briefly. Drain, retaining 100ml of the pasta water.
  4. Add a generous amount of the pesto to the pasta water together with some additional Parmesan, toss together all the ingredients and serve with prosciutto slices draped over.

Antonio Carluccio’s Salsa di Funghi (Mushroom Sauce)

Serves: 4

How good is Northern Italian food?

And how good is simplicity?

Which when combined, begs the question, just how good was Antonio Carluccio?

I absolutely love mushrooms and cooked down slowly, with just a bit of olive oil and rosemary; the addition of the porcini stock, butter and then Parmesan. My word.

Toast me something and pile those mushrooms on that! Polenta equally so!

Again, it’s simple, though cook those mushrooms as slowly as possible and live the Northern Italian life.

(We did the white sauce… which is not what you might expect.)

Ingredients

25gm dried porcini mushrooms
150ml water
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400gm fresh mushrooms (mix it up!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan to serve

For white sauce

15 butter

For red sauce

2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp tomato pulp (passata)
1 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Soak the dried porcini in tepid water for 30 minutes and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquor.
  2. Heat the oil and fry the rosemary and garlic for 20 seconds. If you are making the red sauce, add the extra virgin olive oil at this point. Add the fresh mushrooms and soaked dried mushrooms and continue to slowly cook for no less than 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. (I cooked for 45 minutes and wow!)
  3. Cook your pasta, reserving a small amount of pasta water for the sauce.
  4. For the white sauce, stir in the soaking liquor and the butter and cook for another 15 minutes. Add some of the pasta water and check the seasoning.
  5. Serve with the pasta and a good amount of Parmesan.

Method

Lucas Hollweg’s Spinach Gnudi

Serves: 4 as a starter

Geez I wish I took a photo of this cracker of a starter plated by Nat as part of a long Italian lockdown lunch we felt we needed.

(We needed it.)

There is a little time in it, though it’s worth it.

Ricotta and parmesan, burnt butter and more parmesan?

Yes please!

Reminds me of a very similar dish I had at Otto Restaurant on Sydney’s Woolloomooloo Wharf with a cracking bottle of Italian white and the sun dancing on the water.

If only…

Ingredients

250gm ricotta (we used smooth)
Olive oil for frying
200gm baby leaf spinach
1 small garlic clove, crushed
50gm parmesan grated, plus extra to serve
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 nutmeg, freshly grated
250gm fine semolina for dusting
50gm butter to serve

Method

  1. Place the ricotta in a fine plastic sieve over a bowl and let it drain for a few hours.
  2. Heat a splash of olive oil in a saucepan and add the spinach and garlic. Stir over the heat until the leaves are completely wilted. Set aside to cool and then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can with your hands. Very finely chop and then squeeze again.
  3. Put spinach in a bowl with the ricotta and parmesan. Season, add the nutmeg and mix well. Taste and add more seasoning/nutmeg if needed.
  4. Spread half the semolina over a large plate or tray. Shape the the ricotta mixture into 16 – 20 balls, rolling them between damp hands. Place on the semolina and carefully roll until coated on all sides. Cover with the remaining semolina, then chill (don’t cover with anything else) overnight. This creates a semolina ‘skin’ that holds he gnudi together.
  5. To cook, bring a large saucepan of water to a gentle boil. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and slightly brown/burn. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Drop the gnudi into the boiling water, turn down the heat and gently cook for 3 minutes or until the gnudi float to the surface. Carefully remove with a slotted spoon, drain off the excess water then toss in the butter.
  7. Divide the gnudi among 4 bowls, drizzle the butter over and shave over plenty of parmesan to serve.

Pear, Rocket and Parmesan Salad

Serves: 4

Nothing compliments pizza and pasta better than a salad.

This rocket, pear and Parmesan salad is right down the line and reasonably healthy.

You may actually eat it when the pizza runs out!

Ingredients

2 pears (Beurre Bosc if you can), cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
125gm baby rocket leaves
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Combine the oil, vinegar and a good squeeze of lemon juice, season and whisk well.
  2. Lightly toss together the pear, rocket and Parmesan, drizzle over the oil combination and toss once more.

Casarecce with Pork Sausage, Cavolo Nero and Chilli

Serves: 4 – 6

It has been a busy couple of months for us.

Moving house, overseas, work, kids, weddings, kids and more kids.

We’ve also been super calorie focused, with no meal exceeding 300 calories. No kidding!

But now we’re done.

And with a new courtyard, a new kitchen and Spring finally feeling like Spring, we’re back into cooking wonderful weekend lunches.

Like this one, which is as good as you would get in a restaurant.

It is surprisingly light, with the garlic, chilli and fennel creating a really sophisticated base. The casarecce is a great pasta (found at Harris Farm) and the cavolo nero (kale) fills the whole thing out in a really clever way.

This is definitely a pasta you should try and one that we would cook again.

9 out of 10.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
6 thick pork and fennel sausages, skins removed, broken into bite-sized pieces
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 cups (firmly packed) roughly torn cavolo nero (1 bunch)
500gm dried casarecce (or penne or rigatoni)
50gm finely grated Parmesan plus extra to serve
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a large casserole over a high heat, add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until well browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic, rosemary and spices to the pan, season to taste and stir for a minute or two until fragrant. Deglaze with the wine and reduce until almost evaporated, then return the sausage to the pan together with the stock and cavolo nero. Cover with a lid and cook until the the cavolo nero is just wilted.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Toss with with the sausage sauce, Parmesan and parsley, season to taste and serve, topped with extra Parmesan.
  4. And wine.