Tag Archives: pasta

Recipe: Macaroni No-Cheese


Sometimes cooking is Art, sometimes cooking is Science, sometimes cooking is Alchemy and sometimes cooking is, well you don’t know what just happened. This is one of those kinds of recipes. There’s no cheese in this recipe. There’s no vegan cheese-substitute in this recipe. It doesn’t taste cheesy. But somehow it carries the same savoury, flavour-punch that you get with a good cheese sauce.

I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll be making it again!

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1 butternut squash, cut into wedges and de-seeded
200ml soy milk
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp mushroom ketchup
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 bay leaf
250g macaroni pasta
cayenne or paprika for garnish

Heat the oven to 200C.
Place the butternut squash wedges on a roasting tin, pour over 100ml of water and cover with tin foil.
Put in the oven and bake for an hour.
When cooked and soft, remove from the oven and scrape the flesh from the skin.
Put the macaroni on to boil.
Add the butternut squash flesh into a saucepan, add the soy milk, bouillon powder, mustard powder, mushroom ketchup, thyme leaves and bay leaf to the pan.
Bring to the simmer and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf and blend to a smooth paste. Add some boiling water from the cooking pasta if the sauce is too thick.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the sauce.
Stir until thoroughly coated.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately with some paprika or cayenne sprinkled on the top.

Serves 4

Recipe: Vegan lasagne


Please say hello to a special guest from Down Under this week! Our friend Julie Carter is a social worker with a serious book addiction and a love of all animals – and she’d rather not see them on her plate, thanks, hence the vegan diet. So, over to Julie …

Well, it looked like it was going to be a disaster, especially when the tin attacked my finger … Here is the basic stuff I used – not a recipe, just some ideas I had and I generally flew by the seat of my pants. I didn’t measure anything and just played it by ear and it wasn’t half bad. More of the sauces next time, though, I think. But it got the thumbs-up from my step-son who is a meativore and my husband who is also a vegetarian, so I was quite chuffed.

Julie's lasagne

I went for the gluten-free fresh sheets of lasagne, which are soft and ready to cook, not the hard stuff in packets.

Sweet potato
Eggplant (aubergine)
Capsicum (peppers)
You can add any veggie you want. I sliced them all thinly and roasted them until they were browning and soft.

Vegan margarine
Gluten-free flour (I used it because I didn’t have any gluten-free cornflour, but it is just as effective)
Coconut cream (place in fridge so that it is all creamy – sometimes the tinned ones are still milky but putting them in the fridge hardens them)
Melt margarine and then mix flour to make a paste. Then add coconut cream until thick but still runny – do all of this whilst still on the stove.  

Basically this is a Bolognese sauce. I used garlic, olive oil, a jar of Dolmio (Garden Vegetables), lots of chopped-up olives and tinned lentils. I cooked it all for about 30 minutes until it was still runny but had boiled off.  

I layered the veggies evenly between each layer of lasagne sheets, pouring a little white sauce and red sauce between each layer. I poured the remaining white sauce over the top of the top sheet followed by the remaining Bolognese, and topped it with slices of fresh Italian tomatoes and vegan cheese. I cooked it until the sheets looked sagging and it was bubbling – about 30 minutes.

Recipe: Spaghetti with Garlic, Chilli and Olive Oil


This is the classic pasta dish Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. All the recipes I’ve seen add chilli to the mix. It’s known in my house as ‘cold cure pasta’. I didn’t know about its curative properties when I first made it, however. I had a streaming cold and was just looking for a quick and easy dinner. This dish takes no longer to cook than the time to cook the pasta, but once I’d eaten it I found that my nose dried up for the rest of the evening!

Even if you don’t have a cold to deal with (or a battalion of the undead to keep away with the garlic!) this is still one of the great pasta dishes. As there are only a handful of ingredients, which are treated incredibly simply, use the best quality you can get. This is one to use the plumpest garlic and the extra virgin olive oil.

I’ve given the quantities for two people here, but this is a solitary dish for me so I don’t need to worry about table etiquette of eating spaghetti dripping with oil and flavour.

Pasta with Garlic, Chilli & Olive Oil photo DSCN1776_zpswoqrh5xn.jpg

Cook 150g of spaghetti according to packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking gently warm 3 tablespoons of good olive oil in a frying pan. Stir in 2 minced plump cloves of garlic and 1 chopped birdseye chilli. Stir the garlic and chilli through the oil but you are only warming and flavouring the oil, do not fry the garlic and chilli. When the pasta is cooked, drain it thoroughly. Put it in the frying pan and stir through the oil until every strand is coated. Season with black pepper and serve, sprinkled with a few chopped basil leaves.

Serves 2

Recipe: Mushroom & Broccoli Orzo


Do you ever fancy a mushroom risotto but don’t fancy the standing and stirring that goes with it? Although I thoroughly enjoy a good stir in the kitchen, there are times when I don’t have the time or really can’t be bothered. In those situations I reach for orzo pasta – the tiny, rice-grain-shaped ones. It cooks a lot quicker than rice and will give you a lovely bowl of warm comfort in a short time and for very little effort.

I have used mushroom stock here – from the Italian porcini stock cubes. They are well worth seeking out, but otherwise vegetable stock and some mushroom ketchup will do the job. This is one place where button mushrooms will do well – they hold themselves together well in the cooking process. I think this tastes good enough on its own, but the cheese lovers can add the veggie parmesan substitute of their choice if they feel like it.

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1 clove garlic, crushed
200g mushrooms, sliced
200g broccoli, sliced
200g orzo pasta
750ml mushroom or vegetable stock + 1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
1 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped

Heat a little olive oil in a wide saucepan.
Add the garlic and warm through.
When you can smell the garlic in the oil add the mushrooms and broccoli.
Stir for a couple of minutes and then add the orzo, stock and tarragon.
Stir well and bring to the simmer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer, uncovered, for 8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.
If it hasn’t absorbed all the liquid, turn off the heat and let it stand for a couple of minutes and the pasta will take up more of the stock.

Serves 2

Recipe: Summer pasta


My brother Jon and my sister-in-law Maria are both excellent cooks. They’re not vegetarian, but I always get fed well when I go to stay. And one of my brother’s pasta recipes reminded me of summer, so let’s pretend that autumn’s not sneaking up on us rapidly.

First time around, both Jon and I put mushrooms in, as we happened to have some lurking around and outstaying their welcome. Jon adds parsley as well. I made the recipe again and replaced the mushrooms with feta cheese, and the parsley with basil. This one had a lighter, less earthy taste. But you might want to dial back on the capers and/or olives if you don’t like dishes too salty.

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Clove of garlic, crushed

Couple of spring onions, finely chopped

Half a chilli, finely chopped

Handful of small tomatoes, halved

A dozen small black olives, finely chopped

1tsp of capers

Feta cheese

Fresh basil

While the pasta is cooking (penne or fafalle is probably best), sweat the garlic, chilli and spring onions very gently in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the tomatoes, olives and caper, and warm through. Drain the pasta and mix the topping through it. Add plenty of torn basil leaves and ground black pepper. If you’re veggie rather than vegan, it benefits from feta cheese crumbled on the mushroom-free version or some hard pasta cheese (Tesco’s is very good) on the original. Parsley works better than basil on the mushroom dish.

Recipe: Pasta with Roast Vegetable Sauce


This is a great vegetable-packed pasta sauce that doesn’t feel like you’re eating a lot of vegetables in it. It has a deep flavour (aided by the balsamic vinegar), but the effort required is minimal. You could even roast the vegetables the night before and then this is a quick pasta sauce that can cook while the pasta is boiling.

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1 aubergine, cut into 2cm dice
1 pepper, cut into 2cm dice
1 courgette, cut into 2cm dice
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp basil leaves, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Spread out the aubergine, pepper and courgette over one or two baking trays.
Toss the vegetables in the olive oil until they are all coated.
Season with salt and black pepper.
Wrap the garlic cloves in a square of kitchen foil and put on one of the trays.
Cook the vegetables for about 30-40 minutes.
Once the vegetables are cooked, scrape them into a saucepan.
Squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves into the pan.
Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and one tablespoon of the basil leaves.
Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Serve with pasta, with the remaining basil leaves sprinkled over the top.

Serves 4

Recipe: Beetroot and Walnut Pesto


This has to be one of the weirdest combinations my food-obsessed brain has come up with, but it works. The earthy sweetness of the beetroot is complemented by the dryness of the walnuts, the saltiness of the olives and then highlighted by the fragrant dill.

It is also pink.

If anyone decides to use this as a dinner-party item, please put Barbie Pasta on the menu.

Beetroot Pesto photo DSCN1142_zps6080b047.jpg

150g spaghetti
2 pre-cooked beetroots
1 clove garlic
50g walnuts
6 black olives
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp dill, chopped

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water.
Put all the ingredients except the dill into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it and then return to the warm pan.
Stir in the sauce until all the pasta is coated.
Serve with the dill sprinkled over the top.

Serves 2

Recipe: Pasta with Lemon and Artichoke Sauce


This is a fresh, little sauce, based on my theory that it’s possible to mix up something tasty in the time that it takes for the pasta to cook. This is a great cheat sauce as well – giving you a tangy, fresh taste using mostly store cupboard ingredients. A word of warning – be careful of the lemon zest – this is a pasta sauce not lemon curd!

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200g pasta
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 artichoke hearts, drained and sliced
200ml coconut milk
1 lemon, juiced
A few gratings of lemon rind (optional)
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Put the pasta on to boil.
While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a small frying pan and add the garlic.
When the garlic starts to brown, add the sliced artichoke hearts and fry them gently until they start to colour.
Add the coconut milk and lemon juice and simmer.
Taste to see if you need more lemon flavour and if so, add a couple of gratings of lemon rind.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain well, and toss in the frying pan with the sauce until it is coated.
Serve with the basil leaves scattered on top.

Serves 2

Recipe: Pasta with chargrilled peppers, pine nuts and feta


I’m a fairly unpicky vegetarian, but I do draw the line at sun-dried tomatoes. After all, who wants to eat shoe leather? At one point it was all you ever seemed to find on restaurant menus. Now goat’s cheese is the new black (and at least edible!)

So I adapted this recipe from one a friend used to make. Come to think of it, her version had broccoli in as well as sun-dried tomatoes. I love broccoli, but oddly enough, not with pasta very much. So I went off and started fiddling.

I’m always on the look-out for dryer pasta sauces, given I’m not fussed about creamy ones, and sometimes get a bit bored with tomato-based sauces.

I like peppers a lot. I was a lazy minx and used half a jar of chargrilled peppers that I happened to have in the cupboard. And some of the oil from them loosened up the final dish.

If you’re vegan, you could certainly put the broccoli back in and omit the feta.



Serves 2

Clove of garlic, chopped finely

Small red chilli, chopped finely

Tbsp of toasted pine nuts

Chargrilled red and yellow peppers, cut into bite-sized chunks

Feta cheese

Black pepper

Penne pasta


Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan. Once they’re done, set them aside and add a dash of olive oil to the pan. Warm the garlic and red chilli through, but don’t let them colour. It’s up to you whether you warm the peppers through as well, or whether you use them straight from the jar. I tend to warm them slightly. Crumble the feta, then add everything to the pasta and mix well. Serve with plenty of black pepper.

Recipe: Vegetarian Pasta Puttanesca


Pasta Puttanesca is one of those dishes which prompt an ‘Ooooh MATRON’ moment. A puttanesca is a little prostitute. Cue recipes for Tart’s Spaghetti (Delia) and Slut’s Spaghetti (Nigella) or Prostitute Pasta (my inner 12 year old). No one is sure where the name comes from, whether it’s a quick dish to be cooked and eaten between clients or from the hot and gutsy nature of the ingredients. And they are full-flavoured – garlic, chilli, tomatoes, olives, capers and anchovies.

There are two methods of making this dish that I’ve found. You can go for slow cooking with tinned tomatoes and let the flavours build as the sauce reduces, or you can go for quick cooking and fresh tastes. As we’ve got the best of the fresh tomatoes now, I decided to go for the quick cook version here. I’ll do the slow recipe when the weather is colder and wetter.

The main problem with making this recipe vegetarian (and vegan actually) is how to replace the anchovies. You can just miss them out entirely, which is a perfectly acceptable solution, but it misses the background depth of flavour that the anchovies give to the dish. A certain welly is missing. I thought long and hard about what to use to replace it. Marmite? Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce? Mushroom Ketchup? Miso paste? I thought about all of them and ended up discarding them as being alien to the mediterranean flavours of tomatoes, olives and basil. At least, that’s my opinion in the fresh version, I may revisit this for the slow-cook recipe. In the end I went for balsamic vinegar. Now, I’m not going to pretend that it has the same flavour of anchovies, but it does give a background strength of flavour that doesn’t overpower the more delicate version with fresh tomatoes.

A quick note on the tomatoes. These have to be the ripest of tomatoes or you’re wasting your time making a fresh tomato sauce. As far as I’m concerned, if you have to add tomato puree to boost the flavour, you may as well go with tinned tomatoes from the start. A quick tip on preparing the tomatoes as well. If you want to cut down the pain of skinning tomatoes, try grating them. Cut them in half and then use the coarse side of a box grater. This leaves you with the pulp but without the skin. Or you could get with the quick and dirty nature of the dish and just leave the skins on!

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250g pasta (I prefer rigatoni or penne)
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1/3 red chilli, chopped
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp capers, chopped
12 black olives, pitted and chopped
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

As soon as you put your pasta on to boil, heat some good olive oil in a small frying pan.
When the oil is hot add the garlic and chilli.
As soon as the garlic starts to brown add the tomatoes, capers, olives and balsamic vinegar.
Stir for a minute on a high heat and then lower the heat and let the sauce simmer and reduce while the pasta cooks.
Season with salt and pepper.
When the pasta is cooked and draining, turn the heat off the sauce and stir in the basil.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir thoroughly.
Serve in warmed dishes.

Serves 2