Eaten enough chocolate to sink a small ship this Easter? Me too… Penne al’arrabiata anyone?
Penne al’arrabiata Serves 2 / Hands on time 15-20 mins / Total time 15-20 mins /V 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp of chilli flakes (½ tsp if you like it really spicy)
1 can of good quality plum tomatoes
1 tbs tomato purée
1 ball vegetarian mozzarella (optional) 130g penne pasta
Fresh basil to serve
As promised, I have returned from my gorgeous holiday in Puglia with more than just a few extra pounds and a sunburnt belly button – believe me, I’m as surprised as you are.
I come bearing gifts and the first one is this utterly delicious braised vegetable orecchiette. I discovered this dish on our last evening in Bari, in a pleasant little restaurant, next to a rather unpleasant fat Australian who moaned about her pasta being ‘too hard’. Philistine.
Anyway, it turned out that most of the vegetarian pasta dishes I had my eye on were unavailable, due to the ingredients being out of season. Eating seasonally is obviously a big part of Italian culture which is nice, but unfortunately for me, this meant that I was left with the rather dubiously named ‘vegetable pasta’. I didn’t want to show my disappointment, so I simply smiled and willed it to be more than just a bowl of vegetables and pasta.
It arrived and it was just a bowl of vegetables and pasta – but it was one of the nicest bowls of vegetables and pasta I had ever eaten. Local orecchiette floating in a salty vegetable broth peppered with seasonal vegetables. Bellissimo!
Braised vegetable orecchiette
Serves 2 / Hands on time 30mins/ Total time 30mins
25g unsalted butter
300g baby mixed vegetables (I used 1 small courgette, 2 chestnut mushrooms, 3 baby leeks, 4 baby carrots, 2 baby parsnips. Although you can use whatever vegetables you like)
100g dried orecchiette* or pasta of your choice
500ml vegetable stock (I used 1 Knorr stock pot)
2 bay leaves
1. Chop your vegetables to your desired size – personally I think the bigger the better, especially when braising. In a large heavy bottomed pot with a lid, add the butter and spread the vegetables out as evenly as you can. Cover with roughly 500ml of vegetable stock (you want to make sure the vegetables are only just covered). Season with salt and pepper and add the bay leaves.
2. Bring to the boil on a high heat before turning back down low and covering with a lid. Let the vegetables simmer for 10-12 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, boil your pasta in slightly salted water and grate the parmesan.
4. Remove the lid off the vegetables, stir in a tsp of dried parsley and turn the heat back up and vigorous boil for another 3 minutes. Meanwhile drain your pasta and put to one side.
5. By now your vegetables will be lovely and soft. Take them off the heat and discard the bay leaves. Pour the pasta straight into the pot and stir through carefully – you don’t want to break the vegetables up too much.
6. Divide into bowls and serve with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of parmesan.
If you’ve had a go at making my orecchiette or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale email@example.com
*Orecchiette is a pasta that’s popular in Southern Italy and literally translates to ‘little ears’. *Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiani) is always made using animal rennet, therefore it is not vegetarian. Substitute for Italian hard cheese if applicable.
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week (in which case, you would probably be dead), you may have noticed it’s been snowing a bit. Okay, so it’s been snowing a lot, but I still don’t think it warranted the levels of hysteria that perhaps the apocalypse would have caused. Yes, I’m aware the ‘Beast from the East’ has been wafting Baltic conditions over our little island, but can we all just put on a jumper and shut up about it? Also, if I see one more Instagram of someone’s snowy back garden, I’m going to throw my phone on the floor and stamp on it.
Anyway, now that the snow has melted, we can all get on with our lives. For me, that was walking to work this morning and passing a handmade sign that read ‘please stop shitting outside our home’… Normality has officially been resumed.
Anyhoo, I love this pasta dish, it’s actually one of the first recipes I ever blogged about, but over the years it has evolved and simplified, so I thought I’d share the updated recipe with you. It’s super-easy, cheap, and takes no time at all. Bon appetit.
Courgette penne with feta & mint Serves 2 / Hands on time 25 mins / Total time 25 mins /V
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 courgettes, grated
Pinch of chilli flakes
Handful of fresh mint
2 handfuls of black olives
100g vegetarain feta
150g wholemeal penne
Drizzle Pomora extra virgin olive oil to serve
1. Start by boiling a kettle of water and weighing out your pasta. Pop the pasta into a saucepan and season well with salt (don’t cook your pasta just yet).
2. Peel and finely chop the garlic and grate both of your courgettes. On a medium heat in a large cooking pot or frying pan, add the garlic to the oil. Cook the garlic for a minute before adding the courgette. Stir well, up the heat, add a pinch of chilli flakes and season well with salt and pepper. Continue to cook stirring occasionally.
3. Add the boiled water from the kettle to the pasta and cook according to packet instructions. Now is a good time to roughly chop the mint leaves, black olives and crumble the feta, put to one side.
4. Once the pasta is cooked, drain well and add straight into the courgette mixture. Give it a good stir until combined. Incorporate the black olives, fresh mint, and feta before dividing into 2 bowls. Top with a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Lovely jubbly.
If you’ve had a go at making my courgette penne or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org
I really should stop buying horrible cheap tomatoes, I mean they aren’t even red for starters, tomatoes should be red right? These were more of an orange colour. I’ve tried several times to ripen them in a fruit bowl but they stubbornly just stay the same – the little shits. I refuse to be out-smarted by a tomato.
Tasting literally of nothing and with a firm almost furry texture, these ghastly toms are franky not worth the 70p I paid for them… But that’s such a reasonable price I remember thinking, staring down at them on the supermarket shelf. Whatever, I’m sure they’ll taste fine so I chuck them in my basket. NOOOOOOOO! Why do I always make the same mistake?!
Well that’s an easy question, I’m always skint, so spending £2 on Taste The Difference tomatoes (even though they look devine and juicy) makes me wince ever so slightly, especially when I know I could buy at least 4 Snickers bars for the same price. But as I chomp down on my sad, flavourless, sandwich, I realise my 70p tomatoes are duds. Perhaps tomatoes are just one of those foods you should spend the money on? I guess it wouldn’t kill me to eat a few less Snickers bars – cue sad face.
Anyway, so now I’m left with five, unripe, tomatoes so it’s either ruin my sandwiches for the rest of the week, or turn them into pasta sauce. Not only is this a great way to use up unwanted tomatoes but it makes enough sauce to jazz up your pasta dishes for the rest of the week. It’s easy, healthy and turns those rock hard tasteless toms into something rather splendid. Good times.
Tomato penne with greens & butter beans
Makes 1 jar of sauce / Serves 2 / Takes 30-40 minutes / V❄ You’ll need: Food processor or a hand blender Pasta Sauce ½ red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbs tomato puree
4 tbs vegetarian red wine
1 can plum tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp olive oil To serve
140g wholewheat penne
3 handfuls kale
½ can butterbeans, rinsed and drained
Handful mature vegetarian cheddar, grated Pomora extra virgin olive oil
1. Roughly chop the onion and pop it in a large pot or saucepan with a tsp of olive oil, on a medium heat. Cook for about 5 mins until it starts to soften. Once soft, add the chopped garlic and cook for a further 2 mins (add a dash of water to help them steam if they start to sizzle).
2. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan along with the tomato puree. Give it a good stir and cook for a further 5 mins, until the tomatoes start to break down a bit. Add the wine and the can of plum tomatoes. Break the plum tomatoes up with a spoon and give it another good stir. Up the heat until the sauce begins to boil, then reduce down to a simmer. Add the dried herbs and season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 mins, stirring frequently.
3. Meanwhile rinse and drain your butterbeans and put to one side (you’ll steam/boil them 5 minutes before you serving).
4. Weigh out your pasta and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. When you’re sauce is 10 mins away from being cooked, add your pasta to the boiling water and season with salt (follow packet instructions). This is also a good time to get a smaller saucepan ready to steam/boil your kale and butter beans together (I tend to steam mine but it’s up to you, just remember to season them).
5. Whilst the pasta is boiling and your veg steaming take the tomato sauce off the heat and blitz with a hand blender or pop into a regular blender. Be careful not to over blend the sauce, you still want a bit of texture.
6. Finally drain your pasta and portion onto plates. Top with grated cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the steamed butterbeans and kale. Good times.
If you’ve had a go at making my tomato pasta with greens and beans or any of my recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale email@example.com
❄– The pasta sauce is suitable for home freezing once cooled. Consume within 3 months.
This is one of my favourite recipes and it’s not even mine damn it! It’s easy, full of flavour and has a sneaky little courgette in there. Grated, the courgette does an excellent job of soaking up flavour and bulking out the dish without stealing the limelight from the tomato. Although I’m not a huge fan of the courgette really, I think of them as the slimy wet brother of the cucumber, nothing worse than an over cooked courgette, oh wait there is and it’s called Halloween.
Maybe I’d like Halloween a bit more if I actually got invited to some fun Halloween parties but saying that we all know Halloween parties, especially fancy dress ones, are full of wankers. Also, what would I even go as? These days you have to be all ‘cool’ and go as Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie or Eleven from Stranger Things. Can’t I just go as a slutty cat like I used to when I was 16? To be fair that may have been the only Halloween party I ever went to… I’m sensing I need to get out more.
Jamie’s feta & cherry tomato rigatoni Serves 2 / Hands on time 25 mins / Total time 25 mins / V 1 tsp olive oil
20 cherry tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 medium or 1 large courgette grated
3 tbs tomato purée
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Pinch chilli flakes
Small handful of basil, chopped
150g vegetarian feta cheese
150g rigatoni Pomoro extra virgin olive oil to serve (optional)
1. Half the cherry tomatoes and put in a large saucepan with the olive oil and 1 tsp of oregano. Cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes until softened.
2. Add the tomato purée, chilli, garlic, grated courgette and season with salt and pepper. Cook on a medium to low heat with the lid on for a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni in a large pot of salted boiling water (follow packet instructions).
4. Drain the pasta and pour straight into the sauce. Stir well before adding the chopped basil and the crumbled feta cheese. Stir again until combined and the cheese starts to melt. Serve topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good crack of pepper.
If you’ve had a go at making Jamie’s pasta I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay so this is pretty embarrassing and very shameful to admit but I didn’t know Sicily was a country until Jamie told me yesterday. I’d always assumed it was just another Italian city like Rome or Venice. Although I don’t blame myself entirely for this lack of knowledge, I blame my school. For some reason it was compulsory to study German geography if you studied German. To this day, I still don’t know if we were studying the geography of Germany taught in German or simply geography taught in German. Either way, I couldn’t and still can’t speak German so it made no difference. Thanks for nothing Edwin Gruber.
Anyway enough about Germany, lets talk about Sicily. By chance I wondered into a small Sicilian deli on my lunch hour last week called Casanova & Daughters. It was marvellous, a beautiful shop with shelves laden with imported pasta, jars of sun-dried tomatoes, handsome bottles of olive oil and neat rows of dried basil flowers wrapped in brown paper. I didn’t even know basil plants had flowers? Anyhoo, if you ever find yourself in Covent Garden I urge you to pop in, if only to say hello to the nicest man in London.
Feeling a little tired and uninspired of late, I asked the smiley shop owner to recommend a vegetarian Sicilian dish to make this weekend. He practically jumped out from behind the counter and started sweeping the shop for ingredients. He returned with a bag of capers, sun-dried tomatoes, white fennel seeds, capers and almonds in their actual shells! I’ve only ever seen almonds de-shelled so was shocked when the deli owner crushed one on the counter with his palm and revealed the biggest almond I had ever seen. Why were the almonds in Sainsbury’s so small?
Getting increasingly carried away, I bought everything he put in front of me, including some beautiful pecorino cheese and some pasta called Busiate that look like big dried up mealworms. They tasted delicious. Best £15 I ever spent, although my combat trousers from Tammy Girl I bought in the 90’s came a close second.
Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta Serves 4 / Takes 25 minutes Make it vegan: Don’t sprinkle with cheese
(you’ll need some kind of food processor) Ingredients: 70g of pasta per person
15-20 sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs capers
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
16 large almonds (or 30 small)
Pinch of fennel seeds
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Pecorino cheese to serve (optional) You can use parmesan if you like but don’t use too much as the capers make the pesto very salty
1. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes for a minute in a bowl of boiling water. Fish them out and pop them straight into the food processor (keep the water). Add the almonds, capers, fennel seeds, garlic and the extra virgin olive oil. Don’t season with salt, the capers are so salty that you don’t need to add any extra seasoning.
2. Add 6 – 8 tablespoons of the tomato water and blitz until you get a thick pesto. Meanwhile start to cook your pasta and follow the cooking instructions on the packet, 8 minutes should do it though.
3. Finally drain your pasta and pop back in the pan off the heat. Stir in the pesto and serve immediately topped with grated pecorino and a good drizzle of olive oil.
If you’ve had a go at making my Sicilian Sun-dried Tomato & Caper Pasta or any of my other recipes I’d love to hear about it. @corrieheale email@example.com
Lumaconi what now? Don’t worry, I didn’t know what is was either until I stumbled across it in my beloved Sainsbury’s and thought “that pasta looks like snail shells, I MUST HAVE IT!”… But you can use any shape of pasta you like, normally I’d use wholewheat but I’ve had a crappy week so thought I’d go wild and treat myself. I know, I’m out of control.
I actually make this meal a lot during the week because it’s healthy, easy and versatile, like a Birds Eye Potato Waffles. Okay so maybe not THAT versatile but I do like to turn this meal into a delicious pasta salad the next day.
Also, I think it’s worth noting that I find the humble courgette, the soggy wet blanket of all the cooked vegetables, that’s why I prefer to grate it. A cold pre-cooked courgette makes for a rather unpleasant slimy pasta salad situation.
Courgette & Spring Green Lumaconi (pasta) Serves 2 / Takes 20 minutes / V🌶 Make it vegan: Leave out the feta cheese
Half a white onion, finely chopped
1 Courgette, grated
4 Handfuls of spring greens (Kale, leeks, cabbage… Anything green really)
2 Garlic cloves, crushed
1 Medium red chilli, chopped
Pinch of chilli flakes
140g Pasta (I used lumaconi but any will do)
Half a pack of feta cheese
Handful of pitted black olives in brine, roughly chopped
Half a bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
TIP: Add these ingredients to your shopping list if you want to turn your leftovers into a pasta salad the next day…
Half a packet of rocket
Avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs houmous
1. Chop your onion, half the red chilli, garlic and soften in a pan with a bit of spray oil on a medium heat. Once the oil has absorbed fry in a bit of water until soft. Grate your courgette and add to the pan along with the spring greens. Season well and keep adding a bit of water to keep the ingredients moist (sorry, gross word but necessary).
2. Boil the kettle and add it to around 140g of pasta. I like my pasta really soft like an old woman with no teeth but if you prefer it al dente then follow the packet instructions.
3. Whilst your pasta and greens are cooking half your olives and chop the mint, feta and the rest of the chilli. By the time your pasta is cooked your greens should be done so take them both off the heat and drain your pasta. Pour straight into the saucepan with the greens and mix well.
4. Finally top with the mint, feta, olives and chilli and combine as best you can without getting it all over the floor… No, that didn’t happen to me and no I didn’t get a dog hair in my mouth when I ate a pasta shell off the floor… I need a bigger pan.
5. Pour into a bowl, sprinkle with chilli flakes and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
PASTA SALAD: I’ve saved half of my pasta to turn into pasta salad tomorrow, this is how you make it… Take your refrigerated pasta, put it in a big bowl and combine it with half a packet of rocket and chopped avocado. Pour onto a plate, drizzle with avocado oil and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. Serve with a dollop (or half a tub) of houmous. You don’t have to use avocado oil but I think it tastes better if you do.
If you’ve had a go at making my Lumaconi or any of my other recipes I’d love to hear about it. @corrieheale firstname.lastname@example.org