Dead Simple Suppers

My stab at Nigel Slater’s rib ragu. Recipe here. I followed his recipe exactly except for my addition of copious amounts of fresh herbs from the garden at the end of the ragu cooking process and my use of tagliatelle instead of pappardelle. 

My stab at Antonio Carluccio’s Pork Ragu. Recipe here.

Antonio Carluccio’s Pork Ragu

Antonio Carluccio’s recipe is here. He included red wine and passata in his recipe’s list of ingredients but then accidentally forgot to explain how to use them in his recipe instructions. I’ve amended his recipe instructions to include directions as to how to use the red wine and passata, based on Carluccio’s own ragu bolognese recipe. Carluccio served his pork ragu with handmade Tuscan pasta. I can’t be arsed hand-making Tuscan pasta so I just used some store-bought tagliatelle. Any wide egg pasta, for example, pappardelle, would work fine too.

Please note that this recipe includes bay leaves. I fucking love bay leaves. Bay leaves make the world seem like a better place. They’re also relatively cheap to buy (yup, they can be bought in bulk in some supermarkets) and store for ages in the cupboard. You can chuck them into almost any savoury stew or soup. This is a particularly sensible move if you’re soldiering through a northern winter — guaranteed to give your soup or stew a warming, herby undertone which not only makes your dish taste better, but helps ward off those chills (at least in my food-oriented mind).

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 400g of wide egg pasta, for example, pappardelle or tagliatelle.
  • 80g pecorino or parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 400g pork mince
  • 100ml dry red wine
  • 500g polpa di pomodoro or chunky passata (I just used some passata from Tesco)
  • 5 to 6 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Place a large, deep pan on the stove on low-medium heat.
  2. Add olive oil to the pan.
  3. Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan. Fry gently until soft.
  4. Add the pork mince to the pan and stir to brown a little.
  5. Once your pork mince is browned, turn the heat up to high, chuck the wine into the pan and allow the alcohol to evaporate.
  6. Add the passata to the pan.
  7. Add the bay leaves and some seasoning to the pan.
  8. Cook your pan of pork ragu slowly over a low heat for two hours.
  9. Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions in a big pot of boiling salted water.
  10. Toss your cooked pasta in your big pan of pork ragu.
  11. Grate plenty of pecorino cheese over your pasta.
  12. Serve on warmed plates.
Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo’s pasta with bacon, tomatoes and chilli. Recipe here. I followed their excellent recipe closely, but I had to make a few changes out of necessity:
I didn’t have any guanciale so I used Download Produce's ever exceptional oak-smoked streaky bacon instead.
I didn’t have any San Marzano tomatoes so I used some medium-sized vine tomatoes from Tesco instead.
I didn’t have a whole hot dried red chilli so I used some dried chilli flakes instead.
I didn’t have any bucatini pasta so I used spaghetti instead.

Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo’s pasta with bacon, tomatoes and chilli. Recipe here. I followed their excellent recipe closely, but I had to make a few changes out of necessity:

  • I didn’t have any guanciale so I used Download Produce's ever exceptional oak-smoked streaky bacon instead.
  • I didn’t have any San Marzano tomatoes so I used some medium-sized vine tomatoes from Tesco instead.
  • I didn’t have a whole hot dried red chilli so I used some dried chilli flakes instead.
  • I didn’t have any bucatini pasta so I used spaghetti instead.

Antonio Carluccio’s Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese. Recipe here. I followed it exactly except that instead of prosciutto or pancetta, I used Download Produce's impeccable oak-smoked streaky bacon. 

Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo’s pasta with bacon, tomatoes and chilli. Recipe here. I followed their excellent recipe closely, but I had to make a few changes out of necessity:
I didn’t have any guanciale so I used Download Produce's ever exceptional oak-smoked streaky bacon instead.
I didn’t have any San Marzano tomatoes so I used some medium-sized vine tomatoes from Tesco instead.
I didn’t have a whole hot dried red chilli so I used some dried chilli flakes instead.
I didn’t have any bucatini pasta so I used spaghetti instead. 

Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo’s pasta with bacon, tomatoes and chilli. Recipe hereI followed their excellent recipe closely, but I had to make a few changes out of necessity:

  • I didn’t have any guanciale so I used Download Produce's ever exceptional oak-smoked streaky bacon instead.
  • I didn’t have any San Marzano tomatoes so I used some medium-sized vine tomatoes from Tesco instead.
  • I didn’t have a whole hot dried red chilli so I used some dried chilli flakes instead.
  • I didn’t have any bucatini pasta so I used spaghetti instead. 

Spaghetti Salsa Cruda Recipe

Next up on the roll call of Sicilian classics: salsa cruda. Food doesn’t get any simpler and healthier than this: fresh tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and basil. Mix the aforementioned raw ingredients together with some salt and pepper, chuck in some freshly cooked spaghetti and grate over some parmigiano reggiano. That’s it. 

Cooking and clean-up is kept to a minimum and your body reaps the health benefits of fresh tomatoes: vitamin C, vitamin A, glutathione, p-coumaric acid, chlorogenic acid and carotenoids (including lycopene). Some studies show that tomato consumption may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and improve heart health.

Ingredients 

  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Roughly 20 vine ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
  • One clove of garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 250g of 100 per cent durum wheat spaghetti
  • One bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • Parmigiano reggiano 

Instructions

  1. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
  2. Crush and dice the garlic.
  3. Chuck the halved tomatoes and crushed garlic into a large non-reactive bowl and add a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Tear approximately three-quarters of your fresh basil leaves and add to your sauce mixture. 
  5. Season the sauce mixture with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  6. Mix the sauce mixture well with your hands. Be sure to squeeze the halved tomatoes with your fingers so that some of the juice comes out.   
  7. Let the sauce mixture stand at room temperate for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Cook your spaghetti according to the packet instructions.
  9. Reserve some of the salted water that the spaghetti was cooked in.
  10. Add your cooked spaghetti to the large bowl of sauce mixture. Mix well.
  11. Add a generous grating of parmigiano reggiano to your spaghetti and ladle over some of the reserved salted spaghetti water in order to lengthen the sauce. Mix well.
  12. Tear the remaining fresh basil leaves and add them to your spaghetti.
  13. Serve on some warmed bowls. Crack some freshly blacked pepper over the spaghetti.

Spaghetti Puttanesca Recipe

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Puttanesca. One of those simple, gutsy Italian classics which every TV chef and home cook has their own recipe for. The origins of the dish are well-explained by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Italian, from puttana ‘prostitute’ (the sauce is said to have been devised by prostitutes as one which could be cooked quickly between clients’ visits)”. One of Italy’s original quick meals designed for consumption between quickies.

Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson, Rick Stein — all the heavyweights of the TV cooking world have their own recipe for puttanesca. I’ve experimented with them all in order to devise my own. First thing’s first, there are four tomato options for the base of the sauce:

  1. canned tomatoes (drained);
  2. canned tomatoes (undrained);
  3. fresh tomatoes; or
  4. passata.

Drained canned tomatoes seemed to be the most popular choice, but I found that it produced a sauce which just wasn’t tomato-ey enough for me. Undrained canned tomatoes produced a sauce which was just too sweet (they really load up that tomato juice in the can with sugar). Fresh tomatoes produced a sauce which was sufficiently tomato-ey, but there were two drawbacks. Firstly, unless you skin the tomatoes (which would defeat the purpose of a simple, quick meal) the tomato skin stays in the sauce once you’ve cooked down the tomatoes — it’s like munching on a liberal sprinkling of cardboard! Secondly, I reckon that, ideally, a simple quick meal shouldn’t require a pit stop at the supermarket for fresh produce and the inclusion of fresh tomatoes certainly creates that requirement.

For me, passata was the clear winner — properly tomato-ey, storable for long periods in the cupboard, and the right smooth texture.

Most recipes don’t include fish or meat of any kind, but I found that the addition of a small quantity of canned tuna (one 112g drained can) enhanced the dish, making it richer, gutsier and even healthier with the addition of protein and omega 3 oils. Be sure to keep the quantity of tuna small — the tuna is not the star of the dish; it’s a background complement and no more.

Sprinkling fresh herbs — basil and parsley seem to be the two most popular choices — over the dish at the end does enhance it, but it isn’t necessary. The dish works fine with just dried herbs.

Ingredients

  • 300g of spaghetti
  • 500g of passata
  • One can of tuna (112g drained)
  • One can or bottle of anchovies in olive oil (50 g undrained)
  • One bottle of capers (100g drained)
  • Three-quarters of one bottle (160g drained) of pitted black olives
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • One lemon
  • Handful of fresh basil or parsley (optional)

Instructions

  1. Drain the tuna, capers and pitted black olives and set aside.
  2. Put a kettle of water on the boil.
  3. Place a large pot on the hob on high heat.
  4. Place a large deep pan on the hob on low-medium heat.
  5. Add a generous helping of olive oil to the deep pan until the bottom of the pan is covered in olive oil.
  6. Chop up the cloves of garlic.
  7. Throw the chopped garlic into the deep pan and fry gently.
  8. Chuck the tuna into the deep pan and spread and mush it with a wooden spoon.
  9. Add the capers and anchovies (along with the olive oil from their tin) to the deep pan.
  10. Add the dried chilli flakes, oregano, olives and passata to the deep pan. Stir well.
  11. Turn up the heat under the pan, bring the sauce to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  12. Add a generous pinch of cinnamon and freshly cracked black pepper to the sauce. Stir well.
  13. Now reduce the sauce to your desired consistency by simmering it.
  14. I usually simmer the sauce for about 20 to 30 minutes. Taste the sauce throughout the simmering process. I usually add more cinnamon and oregano about halfway through the simmering process.   
  15. When the sauce is about 10 minutes from being done, pour the kettle of boiled water into the large pot, generously salt the water and cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.
  16. Once the sauce is reduced to your desired consistency, reduce the heat under the pan to low.
  17. Once the spaghetti’s cooked, chuck the spaghetti into your pan of sauce and mix well.
  18. Squeeze some lemon juice and crack some black pepper over the spaghetti. Mix well.
  19. If you have some fresh basil or parsley, add some of that to your spaghetti. If you’re using fresh basil, just tear some leaves into the spaghetti. If you’re using fresh parsley, you’ll need to chop it up before you add it to your spaghetti.
  20. Serve on some warmed bowls.

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Bacon, mushroom and spinach tagliatelle. Recipe here.

Bacon, mushroom and spinach tagliatelle. Recipe here.

Bacon, Mushroom and Spinach Tagliatelle Recipe

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A recipe I came up with based on what I had in my kitchen on a weeknight. Turned out alright.

Ingredients

  • Good quality smoked streaky bacon: I buy Downland Produce’s dry cured thinly sliced oak smoked streaky bacon (pictured) from an independent local grocery shop. As you can see from the photo, a pack costs as little as £1.73 and it’s bloody brilliant — infinitely better than supermarket bacon or pancetta.
  • Fresh mushrooms: I used a £1 pack of mushrooms from Tesco.
  • Fresh spinach: I used a £1 twin pack of pre-washed, ready-to-eat baby spinach from Tesco.
  • Tagliatelle (approximately 300g).
  • Olive oil.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Black pepper.
  • Parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat a large fry pan on high heat.
  2. Put a kettle of water on the boil.
  3. Cut up your bacon into small bits.
  4. Cut up your mushrooms into chunks.
  5. Pour some olive oil into your large fry pan. Do NOT use extra-virgin olive oil at this stage — it gets too hot and spits.
  6. Dump your bacon bits into your large fry pan and fry until crisp but not burnt.
  7. Once your kettle’s boiled, pour the boiling water into a large pot, add plenty of salt, turn the heat up to high and bring your pot of salted water back to the boil.
  8. Once your bacon’s crisp but not burnt, turn the fry pan heat down to medium-low and throw in your mushroom chunks.
  9. Add some extra-virgin olive oil to your fry pan full of bacon and mushrooms.
  10. Continue gently frying the mushrooms on medium-low heat in the fry pan full of bacon and mushrooms until cooked.
  11. Cook your tagliatelle according to the packet instructions.
  12. Once your mushrooms are cooked, chuck the spinach into the large fry pan full of cooked bacon and mushrooms, turn the heat up to medium-high and wilt the spinach. This should take approximately a couple of minutes.
  13. Once your spinach is wilted, chuck the cooked tagliatelle into the fry pan of cooked bacon, mushrooms and spinach. Mix well.
  14. Grate a generous helping of parmigiano reggiano over the top. Mix well.
  15. Serve immediately with a generous helping of black pepper cracked over the top.
My take on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pasta, sausage and spinach. Recipe here.

My take on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pasta, sausage and spinach. Recipe here.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Pasta, Sausage and Spinach

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Here’s my take on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pasta, sausage and spinach recipe from Hugh’s Three Good Things … On a Plate (2012).

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Four large butcher’s sausages
  • 300g pasta (I went with tagliatelle because that’s what I had in my kitchen, but Hugh suggests “pasta shapes, such as fusilli or penne”)
  • One supermarket pack of pre-washed, fresh spinach (Hugh says that you can use any greens in this recipe including cabbage, spring greens, kale, cavolo nero and Brussel tops)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Notes

  • I’ve tried this recipe with cabbage. It was ok, but it’s much better with spinach.
  • I’ve tried this recipe with penne. It was ok, but I reckon it’s much better with an egg pasta such as tagliatelle. Egg pasta likes meat and meat likes egg pasta.
  • Hugh’s recipe says to fry the sausages until “pretty much cooked through”, remove them from the fry pan, “cut them into bite-sized chunks, then return to the hot pan and fry for another 5 minutes”. I couldn’t be bothered doing all that — I just fried the sausages until nearly cooked in the pan, cut them up in the pan with scissors and kept cooking the sausage chunks until they were fully cooked.

Instructions

  1. Pop a kettle of water on.
  2. Put a large fry pan on the hob on medium heat.
  3. Put a large pot on the hob.
  4. Add olive oil to your fry pan.
  5. Start frying your sausages. Turn them regularly.
  6. Pour the kettle of boiling water into your large pot and turn the heat onto high.
  7. Add a generous load of salt to your pot of boiling water.
  8. Bring your pot of salted water to the boil.
  9. Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions.
  10. Once your sausages are golden brown all over (this takes at least 10 minutes), cut them into bite-sized chunks in the pan with a large pair of scissors.
  11. Keep cooking your bite-sized sausage chunks until they’re fully cooked through and the meat oil has rendered out into the pan.
  12. Add your spinach to your fry pan of sausage chunks.
  13. Wilt your spinach per the packet instructions.
  14. Add the cooked pasta to the large fry pan of cooked sausage chunks and wilted spinach.
  15. Toss well, season if required and serve immediately. 

Mark Ladner’s Cacio e Pepe. Recipe here. I followed it exactly.