Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes; and appears in dishes that are simplicity itself to make. Pasta dough can be rolled, cut, stuffed and added to a wide array of sauces to produce a wonderful balance of flavours and textures. It is this variety that makes pasta so appealing –you can throw together a quick meal for the hordes or you can enjoy spending some creative time in the kitchen to produce something quite special.
The following recipes are a mixture of modern and traditional and use a variety of pasta types and shapes. It is worth noting that you should always cook your pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water and it is well worth the extra money to buy good quality brands of either fresh or dried pasta. The more exotic pasta shapes can be found in Italian delicatessens or grocers, larger supermarkets or good specialty food shops.
Tagliatelle with black olives, anchovies, and parmesan wafers
This is an elegant light pasta dish – pretty enough to serve as an entrée. It can also be served as a warm salad, in which case you need to let the pasta cool a little before assembling, and replace the spinach with baby rocket.
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 spring onions
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/3 cup water
2 cups baby spinach
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated Parmesan wafers
80gm parmesan cheese, grated
Place the garlic, anchovies and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saucepan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Slice the spring onions, separating the green parts from the white. Set aside the green parts and add the white to the saucepan along with the water. Continue simmering, uncovered for another 10 minutes.
Place the olives and the remaining olive oil in a food processor and pulse briefly to obtain a chunky texture. Cook the tagliatelle in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain well and stir through the sauce, olives and spinach. Garnish with the green sliced spring onion, season to taste and sprinkle on a little parmesan. Serve with parmesan wafers. Serves 4-6.
Sprinkle the parmesan unevenly on a flat microwave dish lined with non-stick baking paper. This gives the parmesan a ‘lacy’ effect. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Set aside until cool and break into wafers.
Baked gnocchi with pancetta and parmesan
This is a traditional recipe from the Lazio area around Rome, where the gnocchi is made from semolina, otherwise known as durum wheat flour. Unlike other types of gnocchi, which can be stodgy, this recipe delivers a tender, tasty dish that is sure to become a favourite. It makes an excellent accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats.
1 litre milk
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped salt and pepper
* Semolina can be found in the health food section of most supermarkets.
Put the milk into a saucepan and stir in the semolina. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes thick – about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and butter. Add the egg yolks, mustard and herbs. Season with pepper and salt. Line a baking tray with foil and spread the mixture onto it to a depth of about 1cm. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.
1 cup parmesan
2 sprigs fresh sage
150g shaved pancetta
Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Cut the cold mixture into circles using a round biscuit cutter of about 4cm diameter and reserve the trimmings. Butter an ovenproof dish and put the trimmings on the bottom. Scatter over half the parmesan, sage leaves and pancetta and dot with half the butter. Arrange the circles in neat layers over the trimmings and top with the remaining parmesan, pancetta, sage leaves and butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Serves 4-6.
Veal and mushroom cannelloni with cheese sauce
This is a very fine cannelloni dish – definitely good enough for company. The combination of veal, mushroom and cheese is classic and while substantial, it is not too rich or heavy.
Veal and mushroom stuffing 500g mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
500g minced veal
½ cup mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste
Roughly chop two thirds of the mushrooms and onion and place together with the garlic in a food processor. Pulse briefly to obtain a chunky texture. You may have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Gently sauté the onion and mushroom mixture in 2 tablespoons of oil over a moderate heat for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes dry. Set aside to cool. Finely slice the remaining mushrooms and sauté over a moderate heat in the remaining oil. Set aside until assembling the dish.
When the chopped mushroom and onion mixture has cooled, place it in a large bowl and add the veal, mozzarella and egg. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Refrigerate while you make the cheese sauce.
Cheese sauce ingredients
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 ½ cups milk
½ cup mozzarella
Melt the butter in a medium-sizedsaucepan over moderate heat.
Add the flour and cook, stirring for one minute.
Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly until the sauce comes to the simmer. Stir in the cheese until melted and, if necessary, smooth out any lumps with a stab mixer and set aside.
1 packet of fresh lasagne sheets
Preheat the oven to 175ºC. Film a lasagne dish with cooking spray and spread over about 2 tablespoons of cheese sauce. Cut the lasagne sheets into rectangles of 16 × 14cm. Place a tablespoon of the veal and mushroom filling along the long edge, moisten the opposite edge with a pastry brush dipped in water and roll up into a neat tube. Lay the tube seam-side down in the dish. Repeat until all the filling is used up.
Scatter about half of the sautéed mushrooms on top of the cannelloni tubes, pour over the remaining cheese sauce and top with the remaining mushrooms. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6-8.
Braised lamb shank ragout
This makes a hearty, flavourful sauce for pasta – just the thing for those cold winter evenings. Traditionally thick, chunky pasta shapes are paired with robust meaty sauces, but the choice is yours.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3-4 lamb shanks
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup white wine
2-3 cups stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
½ a tablespoon sugar salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Put a film of oil over the bottom of a large casserole dish and add the diced carrot and garlic. Place the lamb shanks on top and drizzle over the remaining oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, season with salt and pepper and add 1 cup of wine and 2 cups of stock. Cover and cook for about an hour or until the meat is starting to fall away from the bone. Remove the shanks and leave to cool.
Bring the casserole dish to the boil on top of the stove and reduce the liquid to a light saucelike consistency. Add the tomato paste and sugar and thin, if necessary, with a little of the extra stock. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove it from the bone and chop finely. Return this to the warm sauce and mix well. Season to taste. Cook your pasta of choice in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente, strain and add to the sauce. Serves 6.
Rather than serving this with parmesan, we have topped the dish with some fresh breadcrumbs sprinkled with thyme and a little olive oil toasted in a moderately hot oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Conchiglioni with a zucchini sauce
Conchiglioni are giant pasta shells, which can be stuffed with any filling you fancy and baked in the oven. If you enjoy stuffed pasta such as ravioli and tortellini, but are not up to all the fiddly work involved, try these instead. This is a great way to use zucchini when it is in season.
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs, chopped
3 cups cheese, grated
1 cup zucchini, grated
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper
Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until required.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups zucchini, grated
½ onion, chopped finely
1-3 tablespoons stock
Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the zucchini and onion. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Puree this mixture in a vitamiser and thin to a saucelike consistency with a little stock.
½ cup of stock
½ cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Cook the conchiglioni in a large pan of salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool for another 5 minutes. Spoon the filling into each of the shells and place in an oven-proof dish sprayed with cooking oil. Pour stock around, scatter with remaining filling and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Spoon a little of the sauce on a plate, place several shells on top and serve the remaining sauce separately. Serves 4.
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