Chicken and bacon pasta bake

When you’re groaning at having to make dinner again make this.

If you’re not already, follow me at Instagram, search the hashtag #everyfuckingnight and you will see a feed of the dinners I am cooking my boys.

Chicken bacon pasta bake 1

This dinner is solely thanks to my dear friend S who knows the best places to have dinner, always checks in on me and is breeding olympians. She’s made this as the kids meal on two occasions we’ve been over for dinner – the second time because they all loved it the first.

It’s a dinner standard in her house and will now be in ours.

Chicken bacon pasta bake 3

 

Chicken and bacon pasta bake
 
A fantastic dinner option even most fussy kids will eat.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 500g packet of pasta - shells or spirals would be my advice
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 6 slices streaky bacon - if using more traditional rashes you get in Aus then probably 3 would do it
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500g jar of pasta sauce - your brand and flavour choice
  • couple of handfuls of grated cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta until almost done - meaning if it's meant to cook for 12 mins cook it for 10. Drain
  2. Saute the onion, garlic and bacon in a glug of oil for about 5 minutes or until there's a bit of colour coming on but not crispy
  3. Add the chicken and brown, don't go crazy because it will cook in the oven
  4. Add the pasta sauce
  5. Tip in the pasta and combine thoroughly
  6. Stir in a big handful of grated cheese
  7. Tip into a baking dish, top with more cheese
  8. Bake at 180C for 30-45 mins - this is basically dependent on how much time you have and how crispy you want the top to be.

 

?

Slowing it right down.

The perfect recipe to make you slow down and enjoy the process. There’s a recipe for the pasta and for the spinach and ricotta filling.

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.)

006

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.

 

Onward!

Spaghetti with cauliflower strascicata and pennies dropping

Jared Ingersoll’s Spaghetti with cauliflower strascicata (but made with broccoli)

Adapted from Danks Street Depot  

 

  • 1 packet spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli (if using cauliflower the recipe stipulates 1/2 head)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 large red chillies, chopped (seeds in if you like it hot) – leave out if making for kids
  • 1 tblsp capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, deseeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, toasted in a 160C oven until golden
  • 200g parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  1. Cook the spaghetti then drain and toss through a little of the olive oil
  2. cook the broccoli in the rest of the olive oil
  3. once it starts to colour add the garlic, then the anchovies, capers and olives (and chillies if using)
  4. cook until the broccoli is nice and soft
  5. add half the parsley and the spaghetti and toss thoroughly
  6. once the spaghetti is nicely reheated add the breadcrumbs, parmesan and left over parsley
  7. As the parmesan starts to stick to the bottom of the pan use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan
  8. Serve with a wedge of lemon – totally lifts the whole dish.

This recipe is taken from the Dank Street Depot cookbook, but they use cauliflower and also put a couple of red chillies in there. I just used what I had, in that I used broccoli not cauli, didn’t have any herbs to speak of and also didn’t put nearly that amount of parmesan in it. But it was delicious and the kids loved it. Shame about the finger I nearly lopped off when chopping the olives.

*****

The boy made eyes at me all day yesterday. It came after I had thought to myself that he’d changed in the last 24 hours. Then those eyes, still deciding what colour they’re going to be, that look like pools of mercury cornered me so. Taking my breath away.
But he has. Changed that is. His face has changed shape ever so slightly and there is intent in his gaze.

 

He’s a screamer too, which has taken me a little aback.

 

He wakes with a good hearty yell and needs several of them before going off to sleep.

 

Tonight, I tried to settle him in his cot as he is very partial to going to sleep and then sleeping on me. And I am very nervy about setting up bad habits now. I know I know, it’s not even three weeks yet. But I know what I need to stay sane.

 

 

 

 

Badger wrote today about not being that much of a baby person and that she’s really glad it’s me here lactating not her. And the thing is, I hear her loud and clear. I guess it seems so contradictory to say that I’m not really a baby person when I’m here with number four (and that suddenly the idea of Chef getting the snip seems so… final, and maybe, just maybe I’m not ready to say goodbye just yet. If you get my drift.)
Like Badger, I enjoy my children the older they get. I suck up everything they write about read Badger, Blackbird and Suse with their older boys as it is so obvious how much they too enjoy each of their children the older they get.

 

I think I said it before, but I really do just ‘function’ through these early weeks and indeed years.

 

Having Jasper has given me the chance to enjoy those younger toddler years that I barely escaped with my life with Oscar and Felix. In fact Chef and I refer to them as the dark years.

 

But being back in the land with a toddler and a neonate ain’t no picnic and I’m not about to perpetuate some earth-mother myth that it is. I find it a bloody hard slog. I internally scream at least once a day. Progress (from the days of Oscar and Felix as toddlers) is that I can now see a bad day as just that and not spiral into an abyss of “holy fuck I’ve really ruined my life and this parenting thing is scary shit that I’m not cut out for and why is Chef just sitting on the lounge over there, Jesus Christ who did I marry and while I’m fuming why don’t I just eat a block of chocolate washed down with a bottle of wine followed by a large packet of chips with maybe half a cake as a digestiv”.

 

But that doesn’t lessen the number of bad days. Or OK days. Or fucking brilliant days.

 

And that scream? Used to be loud. And ugly. And directed at my children or my husband.

 

Now, just as there are bad days and good days, the scream is just a scream, simple frustration at trying to reason with a child to young to understand that watching Thomas the Tank Engine for six hours straight is ENOUGH ALREADY and tiredness from helping a newborn work out what on earth has happened to his safe, warm cocoon and negotiate his first few days in the world and exasperation with a nine year old asking “what next Muma” for the upteenth time.

 

But I know this time will pass quicker than it currently feels it is and that indeed I won’t ever really remember what it was like (hell, isn’t that why we all go back and do it more than once?).

 

And I look at my bigger boys with that swelling chest kind of pride.
Oh sure, they can shit me big time.
But it’s the honour in being a part of forming a person. Of being there each and every day and seeing their passions develop, of helping them through the rocky parts and of just hanging out that just rocks my world.
So while I am a pretty utilitarian when it comes to me as the mother of a newborn and toddler, while I tend to just clench the jaw, grit my teeth and beligerently tackle each and every day one by one I do so now with a quiet peace that the days I truly get a kick out of, dare I say enjoy are not that far away.

 

And in a funny way, knowing that makes me enjoy this time with Jasper and Grover in a way I never did with the first two.
Perspective is a wonderful thing isn’t it?

 

But this realisation? Which softens me ever so slightly has made me realise and recognise some other things about myself…

– that I always say I love change and really? I don’t. Sure it depends on the situation but in all honesty I like order and structure and knowing what I’m doing today, tomorrow and where I’m headed beyond that. I write endless lists. I concoct six month, 1,2 and 5 year plans. On everything.

– that I’m easy going. I put this in the same category as all fat people are jolly and all black people can dance. I like things done certain ways and I get antsy when people do it differently. Even if it’s in their own home. This is bad. I know. I am better at not caring or being such a control freak these days, but that’s just because I’m tired and more focused on ensuring one of my kids isn’t drowning eating all the junk food playing doctors and nurses missing.

– that I’m taking it one day at a time, but I always have my eye on the horizon (I’ve been talking to people about work for goodness sake… and I don’t go back until February).

– I really need to learn how to relax. Without it involving eating or consuming alcohol.

– I can be perceived as exuding confidence and self-assuredness but in reality am plagued by self-doubt and need a lot of reassurance and positive affirmations from those around me. Not everyone mind you, I have particular people, mentors if you will, in all aspects of my life whose opinion I seek out and use as a kimometre.

– While in my work I adhere to the policy of “not a word too many” here I waffle on and on and on…

 

I saw my shrink today and we both agreed that I’m travelling ok considering the baby isn’t even three weeks old. I told him how on the days I feel like I’m being swallowed by the relentlessness of the routine (or lack thereof) of domestic oblivion I adhere to the policy of ‘just achieve one thing’. So instead of being overwhelmed by the “I have to clean the house” I work to the “just get one load of washing done”.

 

He told me about how today there is this absolute focus on “outcomes” and that it is such a bankrupt mindset in that it pays no heed to the effort put in to get to that outcome, the quality of the work along the way and so on. And that my attitude was the right way to go – I mean, what is the point of me having the outcome of “I must have the entire house cleaned and pristine” if reaching that outcome turns me into a suicidal mess?

 

Instead, I focus on just one aspect of the outcome, and the sense of achievement in getting that done probably gets me closer to the goal intact than if I started at our ensuite and worked my way through the house to the back doors. We also talked – a lot – about my mother. But that is for another time.

I don’t think I’ve said anything well here. I can almost hear the pissed-off-ness of those who are trying to have children or would love to have a brood and thinking how ungrateful I am or how different they would be if they had four children and the rest of you? Well the collective head tilt is going to give you all a stiff neck. Just take it as the ramblings of a tired woman who had baby vomit on her shoulder for so long it dried and went crusty before she noticed it and almost cut off a finger tonight when trying to make dinner with a crying baby and a toddler demanding The Woefuls Wiggles and Thomas on alternately after each story and whose favourite activity is now climbing onto the coffee table, then standing on the arm of the chair and taking flying leaps onto the lounge and two bigger boys being absolute legendary angels.

*****

Tuna pasta

You see that title – that would normally make me gag. But one of the crew at work bought her leftovers in for lunch last week and I basically craved it until I made it.

Tuna Pasta

  • 500g large penne
  • large nob of butter
  • 1-2 tbsp plain flour
  • 3-4 cups milk (or 1/2 milk and 1/2 water from the pasta (I only did this because I didn’t have much milk left and it made me feel good it was kinda lowfat)
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • a few button mushrooms, diced
  • 1/4-1/2 green capsicum, diced
  • 1x376g tin of tuna, drained
  • parmesan
  1. cook the pasta
  2. melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook off.
  3. Stir in the milk gradually and then the water until thick but not too gluggy – it should be runnier than you would make for say lasagne. (this time around I added some pesto – you know, to be a bit fancy)
  4. Saute the onion and carrot in a little olive oil then add the garlic, zucchini, mushroom and capsicum – cook for a couple of minutes (corn kernels would also be good here) <- you could also just blanche these to reduce fat content
  5.  Break up the tuna and gently stir through the white sauce
  6. Combine the tuna sauce with the pasta, grate some fresh parmesan over the top and eat.

Seriously people, it was SO good.