Category Archives: pasta

Bacon and wild garlic spaghetti

The wild garlic season is in full swing here.  It hasn’t flowered yet and the small leaves are beautifully tender and full of that garlic zing.

It grows in great swathes in the shade of the trees.

Last night I made this pasta and a wild garlic bread to go with it.  It was very tasty and full of the essence of spring. Just remember to wash your wild garlic well, you can never be sure how many domesticated and wild animals might have visited the same patch before you ;). Also be sure to have identified it correctly using a hedgerow plants guide.

4 rashers of bacon snipped into bite size pieces
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
frozen or fresh peas
handful of wild garlic leaves, sliced
spaghetti (I used 200g for 2 adult  and 2 child size portions)

Method

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt.  Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente (follow the pack instructions).

Fry the bacon pieces at a high temperature until beginning to brown, add the peas and the crushed garlic cloves and continue to fry but reduce the heat a little to prevent the garlic from burning.  When the spaghetti is cooked ladle a spoonful of the pasta water into the bacon pan and then drain the spaghetti and tip it into the pan.  Add the sliced wild garlic leaves.  Turn everything over to get well covered in the bacon fat and serve in warm dishes.

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Goat’s cheese ravioli with pesto

I am so pleased that this was a success.  Mr OC suggested we should have it for tea on Saturday night and whilst I was all for it in the taste department I wasn’t sure that our pasta making skills had been tested enough for it to be a success.  When I posted about making our own pasta, Wendy of The Omnivorous Bear had commented how her attempt at ravioli had been disastrous.  Bearing all this in mind, I agreed that we would give it a go, but I did avoid the wine until it was on the plate just in case I had to make a last-minute dash to the Indian Take- Away.

I was expecting the seal to not work and the filling to be lost in the water and our dinner to be given to the chickens. But, no, the ravioli was a blinding success, we both loved it and not one of the ravioli split.

The trick is definitely in the sealing; making sure that there are absolutely no gaps.

We made the pasta ahead of time, feeding the girls their portion, getting them to bed and then working together to put prepare the ravioli.  It was a time-consuming exercise and I don’t think we will be doing this on a weekly basis, or for when there are more than two mouths to feed.  But it was therapeutic and the taste of the ravioli was well worth the effort.

I made a pesto sauce to go with it, which was very good, but not really necessary as the ravioli would have been delicious, perhaps more so, without it.

You will find the recipe for the pasta here. I use 200g of plain ’00’ flour and 2 whole eggs (or 4 egg yolks) for 2 servings.

For the filling:

100g goat’s cheese
3 Peppadew peppers
handful of basil leaves

Method

Remove the rind of the goat’s cheese and crumble into a bowl.  Chop the peppers and tear the basil and add both to the cheese and mix well.

Roll out the pasta and cut out into rounds using a 5cm cutter. Place a small amount of filling on to a round and place another round on top and seal very well, making sure that there are no gaps.  Place onto a plate dusted with semolina.  Continue with the rest of the pasta.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and carefully tip in the pasta.  Boil for one to two minutes until the pasta is tender.  Drain and dress with oil or with pesto.

For the pesto sauce:

50g (2oz) basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
25g (1oz) pine kernels
6 tbsp oil (it is usual to use olive oil, but I use rapeseed oil)
25g (1oz) parmesan or pecorino

Method

Place the basil leaves, garlic and pine kernels into a food processor and pulse to a smoothish purée (or use a pestle and mortar). Add the oil and mix briefly. Scrape into a bowl and add the cheese and mix well.

Preparing the ravioli

Ravioli ready to cook

Making our own pasta

I bought my husband a pasta machine for Christmas – well it was a bit of a hint!  Since then we have tried it out a few times.  I think it is something that needs practice to get perfect or maybe it’s just us.  It takes quite a while for the novice to do all the rolling that is needed and it is certainly easier to do if there are two fairly competent adults working together, rather than one frazzled adult and two small children. I need to work out the best way of storing the pasta between making it and cooking it so that I can make it in a more relaxed way, rather than trying to get it done quick because everyone is hungry.  I think the way I need to do this is to hang it over wooden spoon handles balanced carefully somewhere, but I am not sure that with the girls’ high level of interest in homemade pasta that it would stay balanced for long. So far we have placed the freshly made pasta on a plate sprinkled with semolina but this just hasn’t been effective enough, with the pasta inevitably clogging together.

What we all agree on though is that the pasta that we make tastes much more delicious than any dried pasta or indeed any fresh pasta that we have bought from the supermarket.  It has a much denser but somehow silkier texture and you can really taste the eggs.  The girls love making it, they stamp out their own choice of shapes, ranging from teddy bears to hearts (see the pic below).  They love eating it too, which is great because they are always asking for pasta and this is so much better for them than the dried variety and a good way to sneak some more eggs into their diet.

We just need more practice to perfect our technique and find a way of storing the pasta for that short amount of time between it being finished and it being cooked. If anyone has any advice that they can offer I would be very grateful.

The recipe I use is based on that in The River Cottage Family Cookbook which advises 1 whole egg per 100g (40z) flour or for a really egg-rich pasta use 2 egg yolks per 100g (4oz) flour.  However, because I use eggs from our own chickens they tend to vary in size and be a little smaller than supermarket bought eggs so I find that for two adult and two children portions I use 300g (12 oz) flour to three whole eggs plus one yolk. What you need to achieve is a slightly sticky dough that with kneading will become smooth and elastic.

Now, I am far from an expert pasta maker but this is what we have been doing to make some very delicious pasta, if not exactly as perfect as we hope it will become with a bit (or maybe a lot) more practice.

300g plain flour (or use ’00’ flour if you can get it)
3 whole eggs (or 6 egg yolks, see my note above)

Method

Place the flour into a bowl and make a hole in the centre.  Crack the eggs into the hole and using your hands mix the dough to combine, it should be very slightly sticky. Knead the dough for about seven minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough into a bowl and cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for fifteen minutes. If you are using a pasta machine put it on its widest setting and roll the dough through, fold and roll through again and repeat this a few times and then roll the dough through each setting until it is as thin as you want it.  You can now make it into whatever shape you crave.  You can, of course, roll the pasta using a rolling-pin, but it is quite hard work.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and when it is boiling plunge in the pasta.  If it is freshly made it will take a minute or two to cook, if you made it a few hours previously then it may take a little longer.  When it’s cooked, drain and dress with your favourite sauce.

The pasta shapes that the girls made

Standby pasta sauce

stirring the ingredients

pasta sauce

I call this my standby pasta sauce because it is the dinner I always turn to when I have failed to plan what to cook for dinner and it is already 5 o’clock. I put in whatever I have in the cupboard or fridge.  The base is a couple of cloves of garlic and a tin of tomatoes (or if it’s the summer and the greenhouse is in full flow a handful of fresh tomatoes whizzed to a passata in the blender), then I add a chilli if I have one or ½ tsp of dried chilli flakes, basil leaves or ½ tsp dried oregano. There is usually a chorizo sausage lurking in the fridge, and if I feel like it ( and have them in the cupboard) I add caper berries and olives. Tonight I had an aubergine that needed using up.  It is really adaptable and is quick to cook. The girls, of course, won’t consider spoiling their favourite dinner of plain pasta with anything that resembles a sauce, so this dinner has something for everyone!

The recipe below is the one I served tonight.

1-2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes (whizzed with a hand blender until smooth, but this isn’t absolutely necessary)
small handful of basil leaves, or ½ tsp dried oregano
1 chilli, chopped finely or ½ tsp dried chilli flakes
chorizo sausage, sliced into bite sized chunks
1 aubergine
salt and pepper

Method
Chop the aubergine into cubes and fry in a pan with a little olive oil for two minutes over a medium heat.  Add the chorizo sausage and fry for another two minutes until both are browned.  Turn the heat down a little and add the garlic, chilli and basil leaves and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes and simmer for about ten minutes until the tomato sauce is thick.  Season to taste and serve with the pasta shape of your choice and plenty of parmesan cheese.

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Macaroni Cheese

mac cheese

I had a tub of creme fraiche in the fridge last night that needed using up so I did an experiment with macaroni cheese, replacing the usual white sauce with a creme fraiche base.  It was good, adding a little zing to the dish. I served it with slices of ham and it made a good meal and saved wasting that tub of creme fraiche.

200 g macaroni pasta
200 ml creme fraiche
1 tsp Dijon mustard
a pinch of cayenne pepper
50 g mature cheddar, grated

25g breadcrumbs mixed with 25g grated cheese for the crunchy topping

Method
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add salt if you like ( I tend not to, which is probably a heinous cooking crime), add macaroni and cook for 7-8 minutes or as advised on the packet until al dente. It will cook a little more in the oven so don’t overcook at this stage. Drain well.

In a bowl mix the creme fraiche with the Dijon mustard and a pinch of cayenne. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the drained pasta and stir to combine.  Pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and cheese over the top and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c (400°f, gas mark 6) for 20-25 mins until bubbling and golden on top. Serve warm with crusty bread and a salad.