Lidia Bastianich’s Shepherd’s Rigatoni

Serves: 6

I am now two for two with Lidia’s recipes.

Two pastas down – two incredible pastas down – and both needing to be typed up.

I’m going to put her into the Antonio Carluccio class of chefs where everything will be brilliant.

Indeed, his rustic pasta is yet more proof that the simplest pastas can not only be the best, though can be the most sophisticted. Long Sunday-lunch sort of stuff.

This will most definitely be cooked again.


500gm sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
500gm rigatoni
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c grated Parmesan
1/2 c loosly packed basil leaves, shredded


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil to cook the pasta.
  2. For the sauce, crumble the sausage meat in a bowl, breaking into small clumps with your fingers. Pour the olive oil into a skillet and set it over a medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the chilli flakes and toast for a few seconds., then scatter the crumbled sausage meat in the pan. Cook the sausage, stirring and breaking up any clumps, for 10 minutes or so, as the meat juices are released and cook away, until it is all well browned and crispy.
  3. Meanwhile, while the sausage is cooking, drop the rigatoni into the boiling water, stir and cook to the boil. When the sausage is browned and crisp, laddled about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water into the skillet, and deglaze the pan bottom, scrapping up the browned bits. Season the sausage meat with the salt, and stir with the bit of moisture in the pan.
  4. When the pasta is al dente, lift it from the pot, drain briefly and drop in into the skillet. Toss the rigatoni and sausage together, then turn off the heat and stir in the ricotta and Parmesan. Scatter the basil on top and toss well to dress the pasta evenly. Heap the ragatoni in warm bowls and serve immediately with extra Parmesan.

Royale of Asparagus with Speck Dressing

Elegant and clear you've spent the time, especially if you mention the 30 minutes of steaming!
Elegant and clear you’ve spent the time, especially if you mention the 30 minutes of steaming!

Serves: 4

This is a Guillaume Brahimi recipe and I think it is rather impressive.

It take a bit of time and his instruction to peel the asparagus (!!!) is too far, though it looks and tastes the part if served as an amuse-bouche; in fact, it looks really quite elegant.

I have a few recipes like this where people really appreciate the cut above home cooking and if you are cooking to impress, you really should give this a go.


20 spears (2 ½ bunches) asparagus
100gm butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 garlic glove, thinly sliced
500ml (2 cups) chicken stock
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
200ml pouring cream

Speck Dressing

50ml extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
¼ long red chilli, finely chopped
150gm speck, cut into 5cm dice
100ml chicken stock
25ml sherry vinegar


  1. Trim (and peel! – no, do not peel) 8 asparagus tips and set aside. Slice remaining asparagus into thin rounds, discarding the woody ends.
  2. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat, add butter, shallots and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally until tender though not coloured; a few minutes.
  3. Add the sliced asparagus and stir until the asparagus starts to soften (2 minutes) and then add stock, season to taste and simmer until asparagus is tender; around 4 – 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and strain, reserving the cooking liquor. Blend asparagus in a blender until smooth. Add a small amount of cooking liquor if necessary in order to form a smooth puree. Pass puree through a fine sieve and refrigerate until chilled; 220ml is required for the recipe.
  5. Whisk eggs, yolks and clear and reserved 200ml asparagus puree in a bowl to combine and season. Pass through a fine sieve. Pour 125ml into four 185ml heatproof bowls (or ramekins) and cover with plastic wrap. Steam in a steam oven (90c) or steam very gently in a steamer basket placed over a saucepan of simmering water and steam until just set (25 – 30 minutes).
  6. Remove and cool to room temperature or refrigerate until needed.
  7. Blanch asparagus tips in boiling water and then refresh.
  8. For speck dressing, heat a saucepan over medium heat, add 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, then shallots and chilli and stir occasionally until tender though not coloured. Add speck and stir until light golden brown; around 5 – 6 minutes, then add chicken stock and sherry vinegar and reduce by half (3 – 4 minutes). Add remaining olive oil and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.
  9. To serve, bring asparagus custards to room temperature (if chilled), then spoon the speck dressing on top, garnish each with 2 asparagus tips and finish with a few grinds of freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

Serves 10

Pulled pork has been a bit done to death, though there are times that call for it.

And that time was Courtney’s 25th birthday when 30 or so of her closest friends came for a casual, winter’s BBQ dinner and drinks.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart and whilst it’s the pork that does most of the talking, the rub makes a great difference. Shredded and mixed through with a good BBQ sauce, who could want more?

I should note that I have varied significantly from her method; she seals the meat and doesn’t focus on the crackling.

Having cooked 12-hour pork so many times, I reckon the crackling is half the point and whilst sealing the flesh would add another dynamic, once shredded, I’m not too fussed.


5kg pork shoulder (I cooked it without bone in, though bone in would be ideal)
3 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp dry mustard
½ ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil


  1. Place the pork shoulder on a baking paper lined tray. Combine the rub ingredients and rub all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and ideally, overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250c or as hot as possible.
  3. Pull out the pork and bring to room temperature; 30 minutes. Pat the skin dry with paper towel, score if necessary and rub the skin all over with olive oil and salt.
  4. Cook the pork in a baking dish at 250c for 30 minutes or so to allow the crackling to start to form. You could add the grill if necessary; really anything you need to do to get that crackling proud!
  5. Drop the oven to 150c and let the pork cook for another 6 hours. Check to make sure it is not dry every hour or so and add water as necessary to the dish.
  6. Remove the pork and it should start to fall apart under its own weight. If not, return to the oven for however long is necessary.
  7. Remove the crackling and cut up; remove the fat and shred the meat with two forks.
  8. Run through a Texan BBQ sauce and serve on brioche buns, slaw, all the good stuff.