Category Archives: pasta

Slowing it right down.

Spinach ricotta ravioli with burnt butter & sage

Spinach ricotta ravioli with burnt butter & sage

My brain’s not been playing fair lately, racing here and there, dwelling in the shadows, lurking. It’s been nasty, spiteful and mean. Mainly to me. To others I seem fine, my dear friends Eleanor and Mary said I looked “beautiful and serene” when they saw me on Friday night. Currently my favourites. I have a good game face. On the inside it’s a poisonous self-sabotaging dog fight.

Food is my ultimate joy and arch nemesis. I am my happiest in the kitchen. Feeding other people makes me infinitely happy. There is enough subtext in those three sentences to keep me in therapy until my deathbed. And beyond. I’ve been told that at the moment I’m investing heavily in my food currency and while on some levels that gives great dividends I need to broaden my investment portfolio.

A financial analogy. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

roll it roll it roll it

But it’s true and quite indicative of me. I am a fine example of putting all the eggs in one basket so I’m currently trying other currencies to reduce my stress – or at least make me forget the stressors for a while – and find enjoyment from areas that don’t trigger an avalanche of binge eating and self-loathing. Good times!

In the meantime I am still cooking and forcing my racing brain to slow down, to enjoy the process as much as the end result. There’s been some pretty nice outcomes including making pasta for the first time in more than 10 years. Not only did I make it I hand rolled it. Funnily enough, working with the dough was the most enjoyable part. I’ve learnt to stop worrying and fearing about something not working and to just listen to my gut – add a little more flour, a little water, work it some more, it will be fine. Learning that for pastry making was a complete revelation. Just go with it.

Spinach and Ricotta ravioli

From Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy: Food & Stories

For the filling

  • 400g ricotta
  • 90g cooked spinach* (about 250g raw)
  • 3tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper freshly ground

* I sauteed the spinach in some chilli-infused oil and a clove of finely sliced garlic. Let it cool a little and then squeeze as much water as you can from it and very finely chop.

  1. Mix it all together, taste and ensure it’s well seasoned then set aside while you make the pasta. (Or make the dough then make the filling while you’re letting the dough rest.)


For the dough

  • 500g strong flour
  • 3 large eggs and 2 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  1. Have a bowl of water on your bench and put you flour in a mound on a clean work surface and make a well in the middle
  2. Crack the eggs into the well and then move your fingers in a circular motion slowly incorporating the flour until it all gets incorporated into a bit of a shaggy mess
  3. Start working the dough by pushing the heel of your hand into it and pushing it away from you, turn it clockwise and push it away from you again with the heel of your hand and keep doing so for about 10 minutes.
  4. If it’s too dry (which it probably will be) wet your hands and keep working it. Eventually the dough feels springy but quite firm and will become quite difficult to work with. Giorgio tells us not to worry if the dough feels hard, after it has rested it’ll be good to go – and it is!
  5. Divide the dough into 2 balls, wrap each in a damp tea-towel and rest for about an hour.

To make the ravioli

  1. Dust your bench with some flour and semolina. Take the dough and roll it out in a rectangular shape. Always roll the dough away from you and turn 90 degrees after each roll. This has something to do with making the pasta stronger – similar to how when you use a pasta machine you roll it, fold it, turn it, roll it again.
  2. Once you have it very thin – so you can see light through it is ideal – fold the dough in half and then open out again.
  3. On one half brush with a beaten egg then place teaspoons of the ricotta mix in a row about 4cm between each pile.
  4. Fold the other side over the top and then press down around the filling ensuring you’ve got no air pockets around the filling. Don’t get too worked up about it, when you cut them out you can double check there’s no air pockets.
  5. Cut them out. Now if you’re going to get all fancy, using a teeny rolling pin or your hands and press the sides of the ravioli until it’s the thickness of the dough covering the filling. I do a half-arsed attempt at this because quite frankly life’s too short.
  6. If you want to make pretty shapes (ie use a fluted cutter) then go for your life – there’s not meant to be that much pasta around the stuffing but I like that because I’m a heathen, clearly.
  7. If you’re making them ahead of time, keep them in a container on sheets of baking paper dusted with semolina.
  8. Bring a pot of water to the boil, salt generously, then drop in the ravioli and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  9. Serve with a simple tomato sauce or butter you’ve melted until it’s nut brown with fresh sage leaves.



Penne with four cheeses

Make this now.

No really.

You must.


Penne with four cheeses
The Australian Women’s Weekly, August 2010

  • 500g penne
  • 375ml pouring cream
  • 200g grated parmesan
  • 100g fontina*, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 100g provelone, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 100g gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley**
  1. Preheat oven to 220C*** and cook the pasta until just al dente
  2. Heat the cream to boiling point (but do not boil)
  3. Take off the heat and stir in half the parmesan and all the other cheeses and stir until melted (I put it back over low heat to get it all sufficiently melted)
  4. Add some freshly ground black pepper and taste for whether it needs salt 
  5. Combine the cheese sauce with the pasta then stir through the parsley and spinach
  6. Pour into a large baking dish and top with the remaining parmesan  
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until browned and crispy on top
  8. Serve immediately. 

* If you can’t get fontina then substitute with gruyere, edam or emmental
** Totally forgot to add this
*** I only had the oven on 180C (because I never read recipes properly) and was really happy with how cooked it was. Just keep an eye on it as you don’t want it to dry out.

Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni cheese

So cheesy, so good.

Mrs Woog asked me what you cook a Chef for their birthday dinner. For the Chef in this house the answer to that is very simple: any pasta in a cream based sauce and preferably involving as many forms of dairy as possible and pecan pie.

I KNOW. No having to debone quails or slow roast anything or use pig guts or scour the city for bizarre produce essential for the dish. Make the man macaroni cheese and I almost get out of wifely bedroom duties. Sweet.

This recipe involved no bechamel and a shitload of cheese. Shut up, that is so the technical term for when there is half a kilo of cheese in one recipe that isn’t cheese fondue.

Naturally, this recipe gets doubled in this house (it is made very rarely, the only people who truly enjoy it being Chef and Oscar) even though it is not a winner for some. But for Chef, it forms pretty much all of his diet for the following few days and it cuts me some slack in getting my bits out and shakin’ them all about.

Macaroni Cheese

The start

Cheese for macaroni cheese

The motherload

Macaroni cheese ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

macaroni cheese, half way through baking

We're half way there

Macaroni Cheese done

two four six ate...

Macaroni Cheese
via Smitten Kitchen

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 500g (1pd) sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 250g (1/2 pd) elbow pasta, uncooked.
  1. Heat oven to 180C
  2. Use one tablespoon butter to grease a baking dish
  3. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.
  4. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping.
  5. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta.
  6. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.
  7. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter.
  8. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, until browned.
  9. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Tonight I added about 4 spring onions to the blender and boy, did it add a beautiful subtle flavour to cut through the richness. Sometimes I use a variety of cheeses just to mix it up.



Rigatoni with tomatoes, eggplant and mozzarella

This was one of those recipes I tried when desperate to expand my repertoire – it’s a Jamie Oliver special – and is now a regular when those eggplants are all gloriously firm and shiny and call my name at the fruit and veg shop.

Rigatoni w/ tomatoes, eggplant and bocconcini
Adapted from Jamie’s Dinners, Jamie Oliver

  • 500g rigatoni
  • 1 firm, ripe eggplant
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2x400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • a bunch of fresh basil – stalks sliced, leaves ripped
  • 4 tblsp double cream*
  • 200g cows milk mozzarella (or bocconcini or ricotta or fetta)
  1. Slice the eggplant into 1cm thick slices then into 1cm cubes
  2. Heat a few big glugs of oil in a large saucepan
  3. Add the eggplant and stir as you do so it all gets coated with the oil
  4. Cook for about 8 minutes until it starts to soften up nicely, then add the onion and garlic (every now and then when I make this the onion just doesn’t soften up or colour nicely so I know just cook the eggplant with the onion and garlic together over a lowish heat until it’s all sofened and starting to get those lovely caramel colours on the onion)
  5. Add the two tins of tomatoes, the vinegar and the basil stalks and simmer for about 15 minutes. (sometimes I also add a jar of sugo here as well)
  6. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper – you can add some crumbled up dried chillies at this stage
  7. Simmer for around 15 minutes – cook the pasta during this stage
  8. Add cream to sauce (I don’t do this anymore)
  9. Add pasta to the sauce then rip up the mozzarella or bocconcini or crumble the ricotta or fetta and stir through with the ripped up basil leaves.
  10. Serve w/ freshly grated parmesan – you could, as Jamie suggests, tip the lot into a baking dish at this stage, top with cheese and reheat as a baked pasta if you so wished.


Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds

So my love affair with Nigella continues unabated. Tonight’s dinner is going to feature her sake steak and these sublime noodles.

When she made these I knew I would make them one day. It’s the sort of savoury dish that I adore. And then someone mentioned two-minute noodles as a great afternoon tea option for kids but you see, I can’t come at two minute noodles, they just seem so, so very fake. So refined that the only goodness they’re giving you is the feeling of being full and well, I can eat cake, slice, chocolate, chips to do that.

So I made these instead and you know what? The whole thing took me four minutes – the time it took the noodles to cook. So ok, it was probably more like 10 minutes if you count waiting for the water to boil and then draining the noodles at the end, but still, they are so very good and so very nutritious who cares.

Nigella’s Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
Forever Summer, Nigella Lawson

  • 75g sesame seeds
  • salt
  • 250g soba noodles
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 5tsp soy sauce
  • 2tsp honey
  • 2tsp sesame oil
  • 5 spring onions*
  1. Toss the sesame seeds in a dry pan over high heat until they’re golden brown and then tip into a bowl
  2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add some salt and cook the soba noodles according the the instructions on the packet (mine – from Woollies – take 4 minutes), drain them and then plunge into a bowl of iced water
  3. In the bowl you’re going to serve them in, mix the vinegar, soy, honey and oil
  4. Finely slice the spring onions, add to the dish with the noodles and then give it all a good toss
  5. Add the sesame seeds and toss.

Nigella advocates leaving for half an hour for the flavours to develop, but I have no idea what that would be like as they were eaten immediately in our house.

* The first time I made this I didn’t have any shallots in the house so I used some very finely chopped Spanish onion instead. I think it would be far better with the spring onions and shall report back after tonight if that is the case.

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