Mushroom, pesto and cream lasagne

This great big plate of vegetarian delight comes from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries.

It’s something of a cooking marathon his – I think that beginning to end took about 2 hours. That’s because you have to cook the mushrooms and onions, plus you have to make the pesto, and in our case we also had to make béchamel sauce. None of these tasks are particularly strenuous, but together they add to the time and coordination required.

Once you’ve got everything ready, alternating layers of pasta and mushroom filling are put into a dish, and then topped out with the pesto and finally the béchamel. It takes about 40 minutes in oven at the end, so this clearly isn’t a quick thing to throw together but the end result is a really nice take on lasagne and despite being vegetarian it completely satisfied us two omnivores.

A friend of ours managed to cut down the prep time by using ready made pesto and béchamel sauce which still produced something tasty – you can check out the evidence on his Instagram here.

Pasta with chicken, pancetta and peas

We had roast chicken recently (no photos, sorry!) which once again left us with some cooked chicken leftovers. As ever, we turned to the fabulous book A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry. We’ve cooked quite a few of her leftover recipes and they’ve always served us well (I’ll never forget that bird pie – awesome!).

This recipe really couldn’t be much easier. We’re cooking pancetta, onion and peas, then adding some chicken, lemon zest and double cream. Some chopped mint goes in near the end to flavour the cream, and then it gets served up with some pasta (we used fusilli – nothing fancy).

You can’t really go wrong here. It’s a winning mix of ingredients, and cooked chicken always tastes better the next day. We scoffed the lot and sat feeling very contented with ourselves afterwards.

Pork Bolognese

Looking for a slightly different source of recipes this week, I wound up on the Waitrose website and found this recipe for pork bolognese. Apart from the pork mince, we had everything in the cupboard already so it seemed like an easy option.

An in truth, it is. Chop the onion and carrot and fry them with the pork mince. Once cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, then refill the container with water and add that too. Also add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, some oregano and a chicken stock cube. Then you can leave the whole thing to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and get on and cook some pasta.

The recipe says this is for two people, but I think that may be a typo and it’s actually for four. It calls for 500g of pork mince, which seems a lot, but also for 500g of pasta which makes for a monster of a meal. I actually dialled the pasta back to just 200g and it was still a really substantial meal.

Taste wise? It was OK. Not terrible, not bad, but not spectacular.

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Making a bundt cake recently reminded me of what a wonderful book Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen is, so I went rummaging through it for recipes which I’d still not tried and found this one. I was attracted to it because the picture in the book shows the meal simmering in a yellow casserole dish very similar to the one we own!

The recipe is in two parts – making the sauce is pretty simple because you just blitz some veg in a food processor and then gently fry it for a bit before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and some water and letting it simmer.The rest of the ingredients go to making the turkey meatballs which require very little effort. I’d forgotten how easy Nigella’s recipes can be!

You then gently place the meatballs into the liquid (they pretty much float on top) and let them cook whilst the sauce simmers. Mine took a bit longer than expected because I had halved quantities, but had to use the full amount of water to ensure there was enough liquid for the meatballs to float in. It reduced down to a really tasty tomato sauce, although the meatballs weren’t the most exciting things I’ve eaten. Some pasta on the side and this made for an easy and tasty supper – and relatively low fat with the turkey mince, too.

Mushroom Pappardelle

This was a quick, throw together easy supper found in the September chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s really easy to make. You just fry the mushrooms in some butter and olive oil and once they’ve browned add some chopped garlic and parsley. Finally you add some cooked pappardelle and sprinkle the parmesan in, warm it all through and serve.

End result was… meh. I wasn’t overly impressed. I thought that there was too much pasta and not enough of everything else. Mark seemed to like it, but afterwards it just felt like I’d eaten a massive pile of carbs (well, I suppose I had!).

Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup

We’ve been followers of Dennis The Prescott on Instagram for quite some time now, so when we were looking for something healthy to eat and he posted a link to this recipe for Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup, we thought we’d give it a go.

There’s a mountain of vegetables and healthy stuff in this, so you can’t go too far wrong with it. We had to make a few substitutions but nothing drastic – for example, we had no conchigle pasta so we used macaroni instead.

Somewhere along the line I made a mistake because my quantity of liquid seemed to low. As such, this turned out to be more of a pasta and vegetable stew but still tasted great.

Asparagus, Lemon and Parmesan Pasta

A super quick and easy recipe here from our old reliable Nigel Slater’s The 30 Minute Cook.

Super easy recipe – boil some water and add the asparagus which has been chopped into short pieces. COok for a couple of minutes and then remove from the water. Add the pasta to the water (we used conchigle). Next fry up some sliced garlic in butter, and then add the asparagus and cook for a few minutes. Add some lemon juice.

Once everything’s cooked, assemble – strain the pasta and mix with the asparagus and garlic, plus plenty of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and you’re done. Simple and tasty -not the most exciting meal in the world, but a great result for very little effort.

Four Hour Pasta Sauce

A recipe for tomato sauce doesn’t sound too exciting, but this one comes from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients. Because the pasta is one of those five ingredients, this seems like an incredibly simple recipe! The only caveat is that it takes a long time – four hours!

Skin the plum tomatoes, roughly chop them and sprinkle with a little salt. Fry some chopped red onion and garlic. Add the peeled tomatoes which have been roughly chopped, along with some seasoning, a healthy glug of red wine (John suggests Malbec and we didn’t see any reason to disagree!). Stick the whole thing in the oven with a lid on it and leave to cook for 4 hours.

When it comes out, it doesn’t look too much like pasta sauce but stirring it quickly changes things – the tomatoes fall apart and you suddenly have a rich pasta sauce. We served it with tagliatelle and a little pan friend pancetta, and there was enough sauce to freeze half for a future date. We also found a slug of balsamic vinegar pepped things up.

Pork and Lemon Polpettina

Another Nigel Slater recipe for this meal, this time coming from Real Fast Food. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to put together. We used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs and mixed these with pork mince, lemon juice, grated parmesan and some chopped anchovies. Thyme and parsley are added for some extra flavour.

As recommended, we served this up with some pasta (tagliatelle) and some broccoli for vegetables. Nigel’s recipe uses 500g of pork mince but says that it’s sufficient for 4 people. I made the same amount (just because the supermarket didn’t have smaller packs of mince) for the two of us and it was certainly a big plate of food… the recipe is probably enough for 3 hungry adults.

Creamy Pasta with Sausagemeat

It’s been bitterly cold today, so there was a desire for something warming and comforting. There’s a creamy pasta recipe to be found in Nigel Slater’s Appetite which is basically just pasta, cream, thyme and roast garlic. One of the variations recommended is to take the skin off some sausages, break up the sausage meat and fry it, and then mix that in too so that’s what I decided to do.

Roasting the garlic was fiddly and messy and didn’t work as well as I had hoped. As a result the end dish wasn’t as garlicky as I would have liked. The sausage meat worked well though, ending up a little like mince but not as dry.

The meal was really tasty, but a bit of a calorie overload. The remainder of the evening has been spent recovering with a headache!