Pasta e fagioli – One New Recipe A Week

I’ve had a miserable cold this week so was hankering after soup today, whilst ask my 4-year old what she wants for tea and she inevitably says ‘pasta’ so this hearty pasta and bean soup from the Italian Puglia region totally hits the spot. This recipe replaces beans (and i’ve made similar soups before with Borlotti beans which work really well) with chickpeas which my daughter refers to as simply ‘yummy scrummy’. The recipe states that the pasta shapes traditionally used are ‘orecchiette’ or ‘little ears’ but any small-ish pasta shape works well. I actually only had fusilli (twists) in which were fine too.

The recipe is taken from ‘Easy Vegetarian one-pot’ – which is a very handy book including over 100 salads, frittatas, stews, tagines and so on. I amended the amounts from serves 4 down to 3 – it was just me and the 4 year-old this evening so there some left over for my work lunch tomorrow. The chilli flakes give this a lovely warmth and i’d probably add more if it was just for me and my OH. A tasty, filling, healthy and quick to make soup.


250g/9oz dried chickpeas (i just used about 3/4 of a tin of chickpeas)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped (i used half a medium sized onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (i just used one)
a sprig of fresh rosemary (didn’t have this so just used dried mixed herbs)
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli/hot pepper flakes
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree/paste
1.5 litres/6 cups vegetable stock (i cut this down to about half a litre but i like quite thick soups)
100g/3.5oz small pasta shapes such as orecchiete or conchigliette
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve (or veggie alternative. i used a Pecorino cheese)
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

(If not just using a tin of chickpeas…) Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight. Drain and put in a large saucepan with sufficient cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until very tender. Drain and set asaide.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and chilli/hot pepper flakes along with a pinch of salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the onoin has softened.

Increase the heat to high. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree/paste, stock and the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Add the pasta, reduce the heat to a medium simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve sprinkled with cheese and drizzled with olive oil.


Nigella’s Spaghetti with Marmite (or Vegemite) – One New Recipe A Week

Not only have we had unseasonably good weather in Glasgow (meaning salads rather than heavy meals being the order of the day), we’ve also had an extended bank holiday weekend thanks to Queen Elizabeth 2 being on the throne for 60 years. I care not for the Jubilee celebrations particularly but re-quainted myself with the delights of Gin and Tonic; introduced TheYoungLady to lunch at Jamie’s (as in Jamie Oliver) Italian restaurant in Glasgow and had a lovely long weekend seeing family and friends.

So, you’ll forgive the slight cheat here as i actually made this dish for the first time a few weeks ago (before the idea of One New Recipe A Week) but it is just so quick, easy and tasty (though i guess, not so much if you don’t like Marmite…) that i wanted to log it here too. I also tweeted about how much i loved it and how i never wanted to eat anything else ever again and Nigella Lawson DM’d me to say how pleased she was. I like to think it was her rather than someone who just works for her, and given that she tweets pictures of her meals (really!), i think it is but follow her @Nigella_Lawson and see for yourself.

You can find a prettier picture of the dish as well as Nigella explaining more about how the dish originated on her website but if you love Spaghetti and you love Marmite then you can’t go wrong here. My 3 year old loved it too, as did my OH, who is not so much of a Marmite devourer, but the marmite with butter and pasta water is just too moreish and it has become not only a quick-tea staple but a favourite comfort-food too.

Recipe taken from Nigella Lawson Kitchen and Nigella website and any comments of mine in italics.

  • 375g dried spaghetti (i have one of those Spaghetti measurers – they have different hole sizes for 1, 2, 3, 4 people)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon Marmite or more, to taste (i always use more than a teaspoon but you may wish to stick to this for your first attempt)
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

    Serves: 4 -6

    1. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water, according to the packet instructions.
    2. When the pasta is almost cooked, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the Marmite and 1 tablespoon of the pasta water, mixing thoroughly to dissolve.  Reserve 1/2 a cup of pasta water; then drain the pasta and pour the Marmite/Vegemite mixture over the drained spaghetti, adding a little reserved pasta water to amalgamate if required. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese. (i tend to just use whatever cheese i have in…cheddar is fine)
    3. For vegetarians replace the Parmesan cheese with a vegetarian alternative.

Summer Spaghetti with Avocado – One new recipe a week

I have been waiting for over a week for these Avocado’s to ripen which i bought from Asda (serves me right i know..) and after flicking through Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Meals in Minutes, just had to make this dish. Combining two of my favourite things to eat; the aforementioned Avocado and Spaghetti – both of which I could eat daily and never tire of either.

Rose suggests eating this with hot garlic bread and a leafy salad – we just had big bowls of it which were just as delicious without any accompaniements. The amounts here serve 2, so just adjust accordingly if feeding a family. I didn’t try it on TheYoungLady today (she was a bit of a grumpus today so not really in a mood to try anything new…) but certainly will in future. Its quick, taking only as long as the spaghetti takes to cook, healthy and is a lovely light spaghetti dish. My comments are in italics (apologies for rubbish pics – my Blackberry phone camer is starting to show its age – i must use my camera next time!).

450g/1lb tomatoes (I cheated here and just used a 400g tin of Italian plum tomatoes)
175g/6oz spaghetti
2tbls olive oil (i may have added a tad more.…)
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper (i used sea salt after having acquired a free tube of it from a colleague this week who’d been given two by mistake in her online Waitrose food delivery order..delicious)
1 avocado
lemon juice
6-8 large basil leaves (i used some frozen chopped basil leaves here)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese – optional (or whatever cheese you have handy)

1) First fill a saucepan with 2 litres/3.5 pints of water and bring to the boil for the pasta
2) Put the tomatoes into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for a few seconds until the skins split. Drain, cover with cold water and slip off the skins with a sharp knife. Chop the tomatoes roughly, removing any hard bits of core. (Or you can skip this bit and use a tin of tomatoes like i did – you will have more sauce but thats ok).
3) When the water boils, add the spaghetti and cook, uncovered for about 8 mijutes until al dente.
4) Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the garlic and cook over a moderate heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste and heat gently, just to warm through. Peel, stone and chop the avocado (or scoop/gouge out the flesh as best you can – i find the idea of peeling an avocado messy) and toss it in a little lemon juice.
5) Drain the pasta and return it to the still-warm saucepan. Add the tomato misxture and the avocado and toss well to mix, the tear in the basil (as i was using frozen, i put the basil into the chopped tomatoes at stage 4), check the seasoning and serve. Hand round Parmesan cheese separately, if you like.

Macaroni Peas – One New Recipe A Week

So, spurred on by Saturday’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi i decided to make something from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday which i’d wanted to make since getting the book at the end of last year – Macaroni Peas!

Everyone loves Macaroni Cheese obviously and my OH is the master of it in our house but i really fancied this as it looked quick, had a load of veg in it and thought TheYoungLady would like it (macaroni, peas and bit of cheese – what’s not to like?)

For info – i amended the amounts Hugh suggests for the pasta and peas (as it’s feeding two adults and a 3 year old rather than 4 people) and the amount i ended up with still left enough for us all to have a second serving-spoonful. My amounts and any comments are in italics.

500g Peas (fresh or frozen) or petit pois (i used 300g of frozen peas)
300g small macaroni or smallish pasta shapes such as orecchiette or fusilli, or even risoni (i used 200g of macaroni)
50g butter (i used ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter‘)
1 garlic clove, chopped ( i used one big clove plus a tiny half-clove)
25g Parmesan, hard goat’s cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese coarsely grated plis extra to serve (i just used mature cheddar)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (just used normal table salt *note to self to get some decent sea-salt though!*)
Shredded basil or flat-leaf parsley to serve (optional)

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil, so that you’re ready to cook the pasta while the sauce is coming together.
Put the peas in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender – just a couple of minutes for frozen or very tender fresh peas, longer for older fresh peas.
When the peas are almost cooked, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and add the garlic. Let is cook gently for just a couple of minutes, without colouring, then remove from the heat.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking water. Put about half of them in a blender with 6 tablespoons of the cooking water, the butter and garlic and the grated cheese. (I just used a hand blender here in a pan) Blitz to a smooth, loose puree, adding a little more water if needed. Combine with the whole peas and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss immediately with the hot pea sauce. Serve topped with plenty of ground black pepper and more grated Parmesan. Shredded basil of chopped flat-leaf parsley is a goo, but by no means essential, finishing touch. (i had neither!)

This was SUCH a tasty dish and another success all round. The garlic really makes the dish, as does blending half of it. I added a couple more tablespoons of the cooking water, as Hugh suggests, but this is definately going to be a regular tea in our house. Quick too, with really only taking the time it takes to bring a couple of pans of water to the boil and to cook the macaroni.



Easy Sweet Potato Gnocchi – One New Recipe A Week

We’re a largely Vegetarian household (my OH is the Vegetarian and TheYoungLady doesn’t really like the taste of meat though does eat the odd fish finger or bit of scampi) but like everybody we tend to revert to the half dozen or so dishes that we know well.

However, with a creaking bookshelf of not-touched-nearly-enough cookery books aswell as the aquisition recently of the excellent Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday and The Meat Free Monday Cookbook by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney. Both of these books are crammed with uncomplicated tasty recipes so we have made it our mission to try and do at least one new recipe a week. Naturally this sometimes takes a bit of planning, to ensure you have theright ingredients but we’re also trying to cut down on the Big shop once a week or so and buying what we need as and when, which means a few trips to the shop but has meant our shops are more focussed, less distracted by BOGOFs and other deals and is cheaper overall.

I love Sweet Potato and we tend to have this in curries or mashed so keeping mind our mission, i saw the recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi in The Meat Free Monday cookbook (page 15 ‘Spring’) and was surprised that it only had a few ingredients. Equally surprising was how easy it was to make and we all mucked in, with TheYoungLady loving the mashing and rolling out. We cheated a bit by just using Sacla Pesto but the recipe for the rocket pesto looks easy to do to. This is in the book as a Lunch recipe and we made it for lunch today. We have a quarter of the gnocchi dough left which we’re going to freeze. Easy peasy.

Recipe from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook(my comments in italics)

625g Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced
15g butter (we just used I can’t Believe it’s not…)
75g plain flour (and extra for handling and rolling dough)
100g semolina
freshly grated nutmeg (we just used ground nutmeg)
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Pesto (as mentioned, we just had Sacla Pesto with it instead)
50g rocket
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons pine nuts
100ml olive oil

Cook and drain the sweet potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and leave to cool.

Place all ingredients for the pesto in a food processor or pound with pestle and mortar to make a coarse paste.

Mash the potatoes in a bowl until smooth. Add the butter, flour, semolina, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix to a dough. Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each piece into a long roll about 2cm in diameter (you’ll need flour on your surface here and we certainly needed floury hands/bit more flour onto the dough to handle it as its quite a wet dough), Cut each roll across into equal-size rounds. Bring  large saucepan of salted water to the boil (have to admit, i just re-used the earlier water). Drop the gnocchi into the water in batches (my batches were of 5 or 6) and cook for 3-5 minutes until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you cook the rest. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, stir in the pesto and serve. (we added a bit of cheese over the top and this would work really well with a salad on the side too.)

We three thought it a real success and not complicated to make, probably taking about an hour to make in total. It tasted great, was really filling, healthy and low in fat – one we’ll definately make again.