Winter officially made its grand entrance today in Melbourne. It’s been a shade of cool grey 8 (think Copic markers). Thick fog descended upon us in the CBD from mid-morning and decided to stay for the rest of the day. M-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! What happened to the eternal sunshine that we boasted of downunder? Gah!!!!
On days like these, all I want is a plate of comforting carbs to soothe the sadness away. Preferably one that can be whipped up in no time and accompanied by a nice glass of vino. Like this simple and delicious pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil.
I’ve never been a big fan of gnocchi. Just as I’m not a big fan of mashed potato or other mushy potato products. I’d usually enjoy a couple mouthfuls and that’s about it. It’s probably something to do with the cloying texture of mushed-up taters – not my thing. Pan-fried gnocchi however, has a slightly crisp exterior and chewy insides which I recently grown to love.
The standard way to cook gnocchi is to boil them like you would any other pasta before pan-frying them. I like frying them directly, skipping the boiling process. I find that with this method, it produces a puffed up, crispier gnocchi which is super yummy.
Going along with the idea that this is a quick and easy meal, I’ve used store-bought gnocchi and canned tomatoes. Can’t get simpler than this. Prep time 2 minutes. Cooking time 15- 20 minutes. Oh yes.
Pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil
Serves 2 hungry fellas or 4 regular people
1 x 400ml can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
Large handful of basil leaves, torn
2 strips of smoked bacon, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
50g of grated parmesan
1/2 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a pan, add gnocchi (you can pre-boil them first if you wish, but I didn’t) and fry till slightly puffed up and golden (about 7 – 10 minutes). Add garlic and bacon, fry for about 3 minutes or until aroma of fried bacon is wafting through the entire house. Add tomatoes and warm through. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Stir through torn basil leaves. Serve with another drizzle of good olive oil and grated parmesan. Done!
There are days when the hours seem to slip by so quickly and stealthily and soon enough the sun’s setting and it’s time for dinner and oh my gosh, I haven’t prepared anything yet! Yes, yes – this is even when jobless me is at home all day fiddling around. You see, if I’m actually at work, I tend to plan ahead a lot more and usually I have something prepared, defrosted or planned for dinner.
Thank God for pasta. It has got to be one of the easiest and fastest meals to whip up…aside from baked beans on toast of course. Well, this linguini was done in 30 minutes tops, and only because the pasta took time to cook and the prawns needed to be defrosted in the microwave. It’s quick and delicious and pretty much a fail-proof, mid-week, when you’ve-forgotten-to-prep-for-dinner kinda meal.
Chilli Prawn Linguini
400g shelled, green prawns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves
400g tinned tomatoes
salt and pepper
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Cook prawns for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to change colour. Add in chilli and garlic. Cook for another minute before adding in tinned tomatoes, including all the juices. Season to taste and stir through basil leaves.
Drain cooked pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta through the sauce, adding in some of the cooking liquid to get a smooth, glossy coating of sauce throughout.
I have been told that in Sicily, you will rarely eat anything that is produced or grown more than a few miles from where you are sitting. They believe in local, fresh and simple food. Sardines caught fresh in the morning is soon found in a delicious lunch, grilled or cooked in their unofficial ‘national dish’ – Pasta con le Sarde (Pasta with Sardines).
Pasta c’anciova e muddica (Pasta with anchovies and breadcrumbs) is also a very Sicilian dish and it’s a new discovery for me. I’ve always wondered about having breadcrumbs in pasta – it’s like adding carbs to carbs! However, it’s a dish I will definitely be cooking again.
Fresh anchovies are very popular in the Mediterranean, very similar in taste to sardines. However they do not travel well and so almost all exports are cured, packed in salt or oil. Many people I know are not fond of these little flavour-packed fish but I love them! They are really great blended with butter and adds instant flavour to pasta, vegetables etc.
I saw this recipe online a while back and thought it sounded divine. It sat in my drafts folder for the longest time until I finally remembered that I have a few fillets of anchovies left which would be perfect for it.
Fresh hot spaghetti tossed in a delicious combination of melted anchovies, soft, sweet onions and garlic and topped with teeny, tiny toasted breadcrumbs and finished with an added sprinkle of extra virgin olive oil – speechless. So simple, so wonderfully tasty.
Pasta c’anciova e muddica
* 160g spaghetti
* 8 anchovy filets, salted or brined
* 1 large garlic clove
* 1 small onion
* 25-30 g bread crumbs ( I used one slice of regular sandwich bread)
* some dried chilli pepper (to taste)
* chopped parsley
* a teaspoon of grated Sicilian pecorino (optional) (I used parmigiano reggiano)
* 3 tablespoons of good quality extra-virgin olive oil
* salt for the pasta
Coarsely chop the anchovies, slice the garlic and onion paper-thin and set aside.
While you bring the water for the pasta to a boil, heat the bread crumbs in a pan over a medium flame. Stir continuously till the bread crumbs become a nice tan colour. Remove the pan from the flame, pour half the oil into it and stir till all the bread crumbs are coated. Set aside.
When the water boils, salt it and add the spaghetti. While the spaghetti cooks, heat the remaining oil in a pan on a medium-high flame. Once hot, add the chopped anchovies and with a wooden spoon, mash them till they dissolve into the oil. Add the onion and garlic and let it cook till they just start to become golden, then add the chilli, reduce the heat and cook for another two minutes; set aside.
The pasta should be ready and al dente by now: drain it well and dress it with the anchovy-onion-garlic mixture. Add two thirds of the bread crumbs, the parsley and cheese (if using) and stir well. Serve with last sprinkle of the toasted bread crumbs and light drizzle of olive oil.
- 50 ml sweet chili sauce (Thai or Chinese)
- 40 ml dark sweet soy sauce
- 1 orange, juice and sliced rind
- 2/3 lime, juice and sliced rind
- 2 tbsp honey
Place all the ingredients in a zip lock bag, shake it about and make sure the ribs are well coated with the marinade. Place it on the side on a plate, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
To cook – preheat the oven to 200c, lay the ribs in a single layer on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes, turn the ribs over and cook till they are nicely caramelised. I baked mine for another 20 minutes. If you’re using smaller ribs, don’t overcook them, as long as the ribs are nicely coloured and cooked through, you’re good to go.
I served the ribs with a quick and delicious orzo salad.
- 200g orzo pasta, cooked and drained
- 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup cooked garden peas
- 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- a generous splash of white wine vinegar
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Mix the diced shallots in with the vinegar in a salad bowl. Let it sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Doing this with onions of any sort takes away the pungent onion smells and flavour, and leaving behind the sweetness and milder flavours which are a lot more enjoyable. (no onion breath for one!)
Add in olive oil (general rule of thumb is one part vinegar, three parts oil), mustard, salt and pepper and mix dressing well before adding the rest of the ingredients. Toss and enjoy – with or without sticky ribs.
It’s ridiculous how much I’m addicted to pasta. Something as simple as garlic, olive oil and chilli mixed through with freshly cooked al dente spaghetti is to me what a bar of chocolate is to most women. Comfort.
I’ve never really cooked rocket before. I’m totally limited to using this pretty (wild rocket leaves are quite pretty isn’t it?) leaf in salads. So this recipe by none other than my favourite Jamie Oliver, intrigued me. Peppery flavours of rocket wilted through hot pasta, chilli, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan. Check, check, check, check and check!
I had some thinly sliced salami in the fridge calling out to me at that time, so even though not a hint of pig is involved in the original recipe, I added them to the dish and it was goooood. Oh salty spicy salami, you complete me.
WILD ROCKET & CHILLI SPAGHETTI
Adapted from www.jamieoliver.com
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil
3 handfuls of wild rocket
zest and juice of 1 lemon
500g dried spaghetti (okay, I ran out, so I used linguini instead)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
a handful of thin deli salami roughly torn up (my addition)
Heat a wide saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Fry salami till slightly crisp, add the garlic, chilli and the anchovy fillets and fry gently for a minute or so. Add 2 handfuls of the wild rocket with the lemon zest and juice and then remove from the heat. The rocket will wilt from the heat – mix it well with the garlic, chilli and anchovies.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water, according to the packet instructions, and drain. Tip into the saucepan and toss together with the rocket and chilli sauce.
Season well with salt and pepper (although I didn’t use much salt because both the salami and anchovies are salty enough, and I had salt in my pasta cooking water) and serve with some of the reserved fresh rocket and the grated Parmesan on top.
Slow-cooked peppers are to die for.
When you slow cook a bunch of sliced up peppers and red onions, magic happens. This pasta peperonata has certainly made it to my favourite pasta list. The peppers softened first and joined later by the red onions, were almost syrupy sweet. A generous splash of balsamic vinegar cuts through the sweetness and gives the sauce a full, rounded flavour.
The penne that I used in place of the recommended rigatoni, were well coated in the delicious sauce. All cheesy, gooey and irresistibly good. So good both hubby and I overate…again.
adapted from ‘Jamie’s Dinners’
• 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
• 2 yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
• extra virgin olive oil
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
• 2 handfuls of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves finely chopped, stalks reserved
• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
• 2 handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese
• 500g rigatoni, penne or spaghetti
Put all the peppers in a large frying pan over a medium heat with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Place a lid on, and cook slowly for 15 minutes until softened. (This slow-cooking process is what creates the pepper magic, so be patient – go watch TV or something while you wait.)
Add the onion and cook for a further 20 minutes. Then add the garlic and parsley stalks and toss around, keeping everything moving in the pan.
Have a little taste, and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Add the vinegar – it will sizzle away, so give everything a good toss. Then add one handful of the grated Parmesan.
Stir the cooked pasta through this yummy concoction, drizzle with more olive oil and serve with more of the grated parmesan.
Heaven…on a carb-laden plate.
Another one of my favourite Jamie Oliver recipes. Tried and tested quite a few times. There’s no real sauce that goes with the pasta, but the power-packed flavours are in the sausage and coated in the pan while cooking, so all that goodness sticks to the cooked pasta when stirred through.
This was also the first pasta recipe I’ve tried that uses crushed fennel seeds. I have never tried cooking with fennel seeds before, not favouring the aniseedy flavour it produces. However, I’m a convert – this aromatic herb is excellent, and in this dish the fennel seeds are cooked with the sausages and it takes regular sausage meat from normal to special. Jamie calls this dish ‘proper bloke’s sausage fusilli’. Deep down, I must be a bloke then, cos I absolutely love this. It’s a gutsy, earthy dish and very easy to prepare.
This recipe is from the ‘Cook with Jamie’ book but for a full recipe low-down, go to Jamie’s site here.