Sometimes, you just want to throw something together for supper that’s quick and easy and uncomplicated but without compromising on the tasty. This is just one of those dishes, and something that Hubby pretty much made up out of whatever was in the kitchen one night. The big show off… However, the flavour is that yummy that I can’t hold his genius ability to cook something out of nothing against him 😉 And for a dish that’s pretty cheap to make it actually tastes anything but thanks to the mascarpone.
Along with our somewhat enforced but surprisingly enjoyable dietary diversion into fish, we’re also trying to cut down on red meat and have started doing Meatless Monday, which this dish is perfect for 🙂
The secret ingredient in this is fish sauce, which I know seems like a strange thing to put in a pasta sauce but it adds a cheeky sneaky bit of umami that really works well. But if fish sauce is just a step too far, or if you’re trying to make this properly vegetarian, porcini mushrooms would also tick the umami box and would go really well with this sauce – rehydrate from dried, chop, finely sieve the water the mushrooms rehydrated in to catch any grit and add a spoon or two to the sauce along with the porcini.
Hubby's Wicked Tasty Tomato & Mascarpone Pasta
Deceptively simple meatless pasta dish that is anything but boring.
Heat 2-3 tsp olive oil in a saucepan over a low flame. Add the diced onions and sweat them for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, without letting them colour.
Once the onions have cooked down, add the minced garlic and stir to mix.
Then add the tomato puree, can of tomatoes, fish sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar and water. Mix well before turning the heat up to medium and simmer partially covered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (if the sauce becomes claggy, turn the heat down and add a little bit of water to thin it).
When the sauce is almost done cooking, fill another saucepan with water for the pasta and put it over a high heat until it’s boiling. Pop in your pasta, and then take the lid off the sauce and let it cook uncovered until the pasta is ready which should be about another 10 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked, take 1/4 cup of the cooking water before draining it, and add that to the tomato sauce, mixing well. Add the marscapone to the tomato sauce, stirring until completely blended.
Return your pasta to the cooking pan, top with the tomato marscapone sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Top with remaining sauce, if desired, and generously grate parmesean cheese all over it. Devour!
Or, in English, Pasta in a Spicy Tomato Sauce! The original version of this recipe came from one of those cooking-pasta-for-dummies type cookbooks, not that I’m mocking it because it elevated my old student cheapy staple of “bacon and tomato pasta” into this, which is just as easy but a wee bit more sophisticated (especially if you go with pancetta) and a lot more tasty.
I also remember the book saying that this dish’s name literally means “angry” pasta because of it’s spicy heat. I promise that “angry” will be the last thing you feel after eating this though 🙂 Despite the fairly economical ingredients, it’s a really tasty little dish. It’s also extremely generous with the olive oil and quite rich as a result.
One last thing, I sincerely believe that lashings and lashings of parmesan make this dish, so don’t be afraid to grate more than what the recipe says – I usually grate about double!
A tangy tomato pasta with lovely kick of spice, and rich with bacon and good olive oil.
1 packet of pancetta/streaky bacon, cut into thin strips
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/8 tsp crushed chillies (or more if you like the spicy)
salt for seasoning
6 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
2 tbsp freshly grated pecorino romano/parmessan
If you're planning to be sociable after eating this then 1 clove is probably enough. And if you don't have a handy herb garden or even herb box to pick your basil from, dried basil or frozen will do just fine. If you don't have any basil at all, you won't miss it overly. Honest.
Finely dice your onion, mince your garlic and cut your pancetta/streaky bacon into thin strips.
Put all but 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the onion and garlic in the pan over a medium high heat, and cook until the onion starts looking transparent.
Then add the pancetta/bacon strips and cook until they are well browned but not crisp.
Next, add the tinned tomatoes, the crushed chillies, a little salt (the pancetta/bacon is already salty so seriously, just a little salt for seasoning will do) and a slosh of balsamic vinegar just to take off that tinny edge that canned tomatoes often have (fifi's top tip... if you don't have any balsamic vinegar handy, a generous pinch of sugar will also work).
Turn the heat right up until the sauce starts bubbling away and then reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 20 minutes without a lid.
Once the 20 minutes is up, taste and season as needed, and add more chillies if the sauce isn’t quite “angry” enough for you. Leave it to simmer away while you cook the pasta, so another 10-20 minutes depending on how much puttering around you do while getting the pasta ready.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, salt generously and add a slug of oil, then tip in your pasta and give it a stir.
Cook per the packet instructions until the pasta is al dente, then drain before tossing the pasta into the tomato sauce in its pan.
Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the cheese (I save a little to sprinkle over the top just before serving) and stir everything together. Serve asap. Simples!
Adapted from a "How to Cook Pasta" book found in my student days.
Adapted from a "How to Cook Pasta" book found in my student days.
This is a favourite mid week/Friday night supper dish, perfect for when you’re tired and want something quick and fairly easy to rustle up that doesn’t skimp on flavour or comfort 🙂 I think it must have started off as a Carbonara, but time (and bad influences!) have morphed it into the boozy creamy pasta it is today that probably shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as carbonara for fear of offending any passing Italians… But what this dish does have in common with Carbonara is that the sauce should coat the spaghetti and no more, rather than be something the pasta is swimming in.
What I really love about the sauce is how the wine gives it a slightly zingy note that really compliments the slight tang in the creme fraiche. For all that I call this a “boozy” sauce, it should be the flavour you taste rather than the alcohol.
And if you’re feeling particularly lazy (and who doesn’t mid week) you can sub cubed pancetta for strips, but I do think the strips work better. Streaky bacon also works if you can’t get pancetta strips, or if you just prefer bacon.
Spaghetti in a Boozy, Creamy, Pancetta & Mushroom Sauce
Wine, creme fraiche, pancetta - what more incentive do you need?
1/2 pack of mushrooms, diced (I prefer chestnut, and sometimes use the entire pack rather than just half...)
1 packet of pancetta strips
Small glass or miniature bottle (18.75cl) white wine (or buy a normal bottle of white wine, and drink the rest!)
2 generous tablespoons of half fat creme fraiche
Olive oil for cooking
1/2 pack of spaghetti
Salt and pepper to season
Parsley for garnish (optional)
Heat some oil in the frying pan and cook off the onions and garlic on a medium heat until the onions start to look transparent.
Add the mushrooms (you might need to add a little more oil if it starts to get a bit dry) and once they’ve cooked down too, remove the lot to a bowl.
In the same pan, add a little more olive oil and turn the heat up to high. Once the oil is heated up, throw in the pancetta. I don’t like my pancetta crispy for this dish but that’s a personal thing, so cook your pancetta to suit and once it’s how you like it add the onion, garlic and mushrooms back into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and then give it all a good stir.
Now add the wine. Once it starts to bubble, turn the heat down to medium and leave it to simmer for five minutes.
In the meantime, bring a large saucepan of salted water up to boil and once the five minutes is up drop your spaghetti in and cook per the packet instructions. This should give the wine in your sauce another ten minutes to reduce right down – you really don’t want there to be much wine/liquid left, just the lovely lovely flavour of it.
That said, don’t reduce it away completely! If after ten minutes there’s still a lot of liquid, turn the heat up and until there’s around 2 tablespoons worth of liquid in the pan.
This is when I usually grate up (or should that be grate down?) a very very generous amount of parmesan. It really is a component of the dish rather than a garnish, so don’t be shy. And I’d rather have too much of it than too little.
Just before your spaghetti is ready, stir the creme freche into the pancetta, mushroom and onions and warm through.
When your spaghetti is ready, drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water just in case, before adding it to the frying pan along with the grated parmesan.
Toss everything in the pan so that the spaghetti is coated with the sauce and melting parmesan. If it all gets a little claggy, add some of the reserved cooking water which should sort that right out.
Grind some black pepper over it, garnish with a little chopped parsley if you have any to hand, and dish up!
Delicious with a little home made garlic bread on the side 🙂 NOM!
Spaghetti Bolognese is my go to comfort food, even if it bears little if any resemblance to its Italian ancestor! Like most of my favourite dishes it started off as a hand-me-down recipe from Mum, and over the years I’ve added to it, and taken away from it (pancetta, I’m looking at you!), until it’s settled down to this recipe.
In an ideal world, make it the day before and let it develop overnight. But it’s such a mood thing for me that I usually cook it and eat it the same night, and it tastes just fine. Also freezes really well for another day.
So if you’re ever looking for a hug in a bowl, allow me to heartily recommend this 🙂
Slow-Cooked Spag Bol
My take on a classic British favourite, and my first go to dish when I need comfort in a bowl.
Dice the onions and mushrooms, and mince the garlic. Simples!
Heat some oil in the pot and cook off the onions and garlic on a medium heat until the onions start to look transparent.
Add the mushrooms (you might need to add a little more oil if it starts to get a bit dry) and once they've cooked down too, remove the lot to a bowl.
In the same pot, brown the mince. I find the best way is to push the mince down until it covers the entire base of the pan with no gaps, this helps it to brown rather than broil. Once one side is browned, flip the mince over to cook off the other side.
Turn the heat up to high and tip in the milk, and keep the heat up until the milk has all soaked in to the mince (the milk really helps to tenderise the mince).
Turn the heat back down to medium and squeeze in about half a tube of tomato purée. Stir it all in before adding the onions, garlic and mushrooms back into the pot.
Then, add the can of tomatoes and the stock cube and give it all a good stir. (fifi's top tip - If your canned tomatoes are whole I recommend draining the tomato juice into the pot first, then take a tomato and holding it over the pot squish hard in your hand and drop whatever is left into the sauce. Repeat until all the tomatoes are squished, it's almost as satisfying as popping bubble wrap!! Be warned, though, as the tomatoes do have a tendency to kick back and end up on your clothes if you squish too hard.)
If there’s not a lot of liquid then add some water, about 1/3rd of the empty can of tomatoes.
Season! Salt and pepper, bay leaves, a splash of balsamic vinegar (the sweetness cuts the tinniness that you sometimes get with tomatoes), and a dash (or ten!) of Worcestershire sauce. This last is really a personal taste thing. Me, I like LOADS of Worcestershire sauce so there’s no such thing as too much of it, but it’s easier to add more than remove what you've put in, so start with a little and taste it and work up to the perfect amount of dash for you.
Once it’s all bubbling away, turn the heat right down to the lowest setting and put a lid on it for 1.5 hours, stirring and tasting to check the seasoning every half hour or so.
Take the lid off for the last 30 minutes. If it starts to look a bit dry then add a little hot water. If it looks too wet then turn the heat up a little.
Serve on spaghetti with a generous grating of parmesan. And if you like a little heat in your food, try adding a couple of dashes of Tobasco to the spaghetti. I’m sure it’s the last thing an Italian would add to their ragu, but I’ve been Tobasco-ing mine since I was a kid and couldn't eat Spag Bol now without the hot red stuff!