Posts Tagged ‘italian’

Tagliatelle Aglio Olio e Peperoncino

We were in Italy a couple of weeks ago – a couple of days in Venice followed by a few days in Florence. While we were in Florence we took an organised day trip to San Gimignano, Siena, Castellina and finally a vineyard. On the way to Siena we were offered the option of having lunch at a place they’d chosen; we declined, hoping to go and find somewhere nice ourselves. Unfortunately, when we arrived we discovered that we’d have to find somewhere, eat and get back to the coach’s lunch spot in just 40 minutes!

We raced, somewhat aimlessly, down the streets and stumbled upon Trattoria La Tellina. The place was empty which is never a great sign, but it was still a bit early for lunch and we didn’t really have any choice so we went in. I ordered spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with garlic, olive oil and chilli) while Rob went for an arrabiata pasta dish. Mine was really tasty and very different to anything I’ve come across in Italian restaurants in London, but I still got food envy because Rob’s arrabiata sauce was the best I’ve ever tasted – absolutely divine!

We decided to try and recreate my dish – the final result was nowhere near as oily as the original (you decide if that’s a good or a bad thing) and was a little too fiery, but it was lovely nonetheless!

Tagliatelle Aglio Olio e Peperoncino
Serves 2
Prep time: 30 seconds
Cooking time: 10 mins

150-200g tagliatelle (depending how hungry you are)
2 cloves garlic, sliced four-ways
3tbsp good extra virgin olive oil (we used some we’d picked up in Lucca, mmm!)
2 whole dried chillis
salt and pepper
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a large pan with 2l of salty water to a rolling boil, then add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the packet. When there are 5 minutes remaining, put the olive oil and chillis into a small frying pan and cook over a low heat for a couple of minutes, to bring out the flavour of the chilli. Season, then add the garlic and continue to cook for a couple of minutes taking care to ensure that it doesn’t burn as this will affect the flavour of the dish.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it then stir in the sauce and serve onto warmed plates, garnishing with the parsley.

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Quorn Lasagne

Vegetarian Quorn Lasagne

Every week, especially in the colder months of the year, we try to cook a few dinners that will serve well as leftovers for lunch the next day. Lasagne is a perfect example of such a dish and even having to heat it up in the microwave can’t spoil the wonderful flavours that have only intensified overnight. The difficulty is making sure you actually have some left 😉

We occassionally have roasted vegetable lasagne (for which I’ll one day share with you a truly delightful recipe courtesy of my boss’ mum!), but usually go for a “meaty” version – beef mince for Rob and Quorn mince for me. I tend to just throw various things in a pan when I make my mince, but I wrote down today’s version so I could at least give some idea!

I’ve tried to give quantities, but I don’t actually measure any of it because it doesn’t really matter.

Quorn Lasagne
Serves 2 (plus leftover mince for freezing)
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 55 mins

For the mince:
1 medium onion, diced (my onion was about the size of a grapefruit (!) & I used half)
1 tbsp mild olive oil
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 very heaped tbsp tomato purée
300g bag of quorn mince (don’t worry about defrosting, but bash it around a bit to break it up)
300g passata
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes (try and get good quality ones or they’ll be too watery)
white sugar
salt and pepper

For the white sauce:
20g butter
20g plain flour
250ml semi-skimmed milk
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

3 “non-cook” lasagne sheets
50g cheddar cheese, grated
15g grated Grana Padano (or Parmazano to make it properly veggie!)
Ovenproof dish (the internal dimensions of mine are: l:18cm w:12cm d:5cm)

  1. Heat both types of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion and stir to coat it in oil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and leave for a couple of minutes.
  2. Crush the garlic into the pan, recover and sweat the onions & garlic, stirring occassionally, for 10-15 minutes or until the onions are soft (if they start to stick, add a tablespoon of water).
  3. Stir in the oregano and thyme followed by the tomato purée. Leave for 30 seconds or so before stirring in the Quorn mince followed by the passata and the chopped tomatoes.
  4. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C and make the white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan then take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour until smooth.
  6. Place the pan back on the heat for a few seconds, stirring continuously then remove from the heat again.
  7. Add the milk bit by bit, stirring continuously.
  8. Back on the heat, gradually bring the sauce to the boil, stirring continuously – it should end up satiny smooth.
  9. Reduce the heat as low as it’ll go and leave the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occassionally.
  10. Add the nutmeg and season to taste.
  11. Go back to the mince, stir in a pinch of sugar and season to taste.
  12. Spoon 1/3 of the mince evenly in the bottom of the dish and place a pasta sheet on top (snap it to fit and avoid overlaps). Pour in some of the white sauce and spread evenly. Repeat, then top with the cheddar cheese and finish off with the Grana Padano.
  13. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes – the mince should be bubbling and the cheese turning brown.
  14. Serve and enjoy. (You’ll notice I didn’t use all the mince, put the rest in a freezer bag and you’ll have a quick veggie bolognese to hand next time you can’t be bothered to cook!).
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Spaghetti bolognese

Bolognese is a staple in the grub’s up household. However, despite the regularity that we have it, I’ve never attempted to modify (and document) my recipe so I thought it was about time to begin.

I’ve always used a few core ingredients – onion, garlic, lean minced beef, oregano, good quality tinned chopped tomatoes, tomato pureé, salt and pepper – but have little variations every time I cook. I’d add some worcestershire sauce, red wine, marmite or beef stock. Sometimes I’d add them all. I do believe that the longer you cook it the better it tastes but I’m not sure that hours and hours of cooking results in something much different to what you would get after an hour on the hob.

When searching the internet for some inspiration I came across a few suggestions that I thought I’d try in tonight’s dinner. The first is using both pork and beef mince. This gives the dish more flavour and makes it more authentic than using beef on its own. The second is milk: adding it during the early stages of cooking helps tenderise the meat. Next is carrot, which I don’t usually add but is present in the traditional soffrito to which the meat is added. Finally, red wine. However I didn’t want to open a bottle just to use a splash for dinner so I looked for an alternative, without much success. In the end I settled with red wine vinegar – I’m trying to justify this now with some well-researched facts from cookery but I’m drawing a blank. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

I chose to grate the carrot so it would cook quickly; I attempted to grate the onion too but this resulted in a strange watery mush so I diced it instead.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Serves 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1hr 20mins

350g lean beef mince
350g pork mince
2 carrots, grated
2 small onions, grated if you can, else dice finely
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato puree
2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (optional)
salt & pepper
olive oil
grated cheddar (optional)

Firstly brown the mince in batches in a dry pan then drain the excess fat and set aside.

Put 1tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the carrot, onion and garlic. Fry over a low heat for 5 or 6 minutes until they have softened, being careful not to let them brown. Add the oregano, bay, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and cook briefly before adding the mince. Stir the mince through then add the milk and red wine vinegar before cooking for a few minutes. Next add the tomato pureé and cook it off briefly then stir it through.

Leave everything for a couple of minutes, then add both tins of tomatoes to the pan, bring to the boil then simmer, covered, for at least an hour to allow the flavours to combine. Check the seasoning just before serving and serve with spaghetti and grated cheese if you like.


This turned out surprisingly well. The meat was tender and flavourful and the sauce had a wonderful beefy-tomatoey depth to it. It actually tasted like I’d added the wine, so perhaps the red wine vinegar wasn’t a complete mistake. I was worried the vinegar would result in a tangy dish but it was nothing of the sort. A good thing that it tasted so great as there’s a huge amount of leftovers. I cooked enough for an entire family – think I’ll be having this for lunch a few times next week.

I’m not sure whether the mince should be drained after cooking or not. The beef mince is lean so it doesn’t release so much fat, but there’s still quite a bit of it. One side of me thinks that not draining will add to the flavour, the other side thinks that it’ll end up too greasy and oily. Only one way to find out – next time I’ll skip this step.

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Chicken arrabiata

We’re trying to use up things in the freezer at the moment and needed some way to use up a lone chicken breast. We reasoned that it would probably stretch furtherst in a pasta dish and decided upon making an arrabiata sauce to go with it.

A quick Google search tells me that our sauce wasn’t entirely authentic, but we just chose to make up a spicy tomato sauce and go with it!

Chicken Arrabiata
Serves 2
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins

1 chicken breast
160g pasta (we used conchiglie, but would have used penne if we’d had any!)
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, minced (red’ll do too!)
1tbsp tomato purée
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp dried oregano
olive oil
salt & pepper
Grana Padano/Parmesan, to serve (optional)

1. Put the chicken breast in a pan and cover with boiling water. Bring to a slow boil and poach for 10-15 minutes or until cooked. When cooked, remove it from the pan and leave on a plate to rest.
2. Meanwhile, soften the onion in olive oil for 5 minutes before adding the crushed garlic and minced chilli. Cook for a further minute.
3. Add the herbs and then stir the tomato purée through. Leave it for 30 seconds or so before adding the chopped tomatoes. Season to taste and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
4. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to the instructions.
5. When everything is ready, shred the chicken with your hands (or a couple of forks if it’s still too hot!), drain the pasta and then mix everything in together before serving with a sprinkling of Grana Padano/Parmesan.

This was the first time we’d poached chicken and it worked really well, cooking it through whilst keeping it soft and moist. The sauce had a pleasant warmth from the chilli (if you want more of a kick, you’ll want to add more) and was all in all a really nice, quick and easy meal.

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