Lamb ragu with fettucine

I am very much a Summer baby but I am enjoying the fact that it has started to cool down so I can start doing my low and slow dishes! Last time I tried doing a ragu it unfortunately didn’t turn out very well so I was put off a while… (a year or so) but I appeared to have redeemed myself with this one because the meat was succulent, pulled straight off the bone and the sauce was rich as.

I find that with a lot of good tomato based sauces you have a few staple ingredients and it’s just about alternating the ratios to switch over the dominant flavour. This time, I really wanted the tomato flavours to sing through and so you will see based on the measurements below that that is the result you will yield if you follow my recipe.

I chose to serve this dish with pasta but you could easily serve it with mash, roasted veggies or even on a burger.

Lamb ragu with fettucine (serves 6-8)

What you’re going to need

Roasting the lamb

2kg lamb shoulder (bone in)

2 cloves garlic, roughly sliced

5 sprigs rosemary

5 sprigs thyme

1 brown onion, roughly chopped

1 cup chicken stock*

1/2 cup red wine

cracked salt and pepper to season

olive oil

The sauce

2 rashers of middle bacon with fat on, sliced into small pieces

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 carrot, finely grated

500ml Passata

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup chicken stock*

handful fresh basil, roughly chopped

cracked salt and pepper to season

olive oil for frying

For serving

500g fettucine, cooked per packet instructions (I used Barilla’s Collezione range for this recipe found here)

*I used chicken stock in this instance as it was all we had at home at the time. If you have a preference to beef, lamb or vegetable stock feel free to switch it out. 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. In a large baking tray that can hold liquid, place the lamb shoulder inside, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and the herbs. Place the stock and wine in the tray around the meat. Throw the garlic and onion into the liquid. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the outside has browned.
  2. After 45 minutes, remove the tray from the oven and cover with foil (caution, tray will be very hot!). Return the tray into the oven and reduce the temperature to 120-130 degrees Celcius and cook for at least 5 hours. (if you have time to cook it longer, do so!)
  3. Once the meat has cooked in the oven for at least 5 hours, remove the tray from the oven and transfer the meat to a clean chopping board so you can begin shredding. Using two forks, begin to shred the meat (removing any excess fat) until you have collected as much of the tender meat as you can. Set aside.
  4. In a large fry pan or casserole dish, heat up some olive oil on a medium heat. Add in the bacon, garlic and carrot and fry off until fragrant and bacon has changed colour. Add the passata and shredded meat and stir well.
  5. Once the passata and shredded meat are bubbling, reduce the heat and add the wine and stock. Mix until well combined and leave on a low simmer for at least 30 minutes. (The ragu will be quite thick already so this is more about building extra flavour into the meat)
  6. With 5-6 minutes to go, cook the fettucine and add in the fresh basil into the ragu. Serve immediately to ensure best results.

 

 

Spinach, Rocket and Basil Pesto

Went a bit crazy on the weekend and cooked an entire packet of pasta for meal prep. I ended up splitting the mix into six generous sized portions. For quick and easy pasta dishes, I like doing an oil base with cherry tomatoes, basil, feta/bocconcini, olives etc. Unfortunately those items don’t freeze very well alas, pesto made an appearance once again in my kitchen.

Unfortunately due to the seasonality of basil plants, the one in our garden was looking a bit sad. There was enough on there to give me the basil flavour I was after but had to pump up the mix with something else. I had recently bought a mixed bag of baby spinach and rocket and completely forgot about it in the fridge. It had just enough life left that I could still freeze it and use it later. Figured it was a good way to get more veg into my dish so went with that.

I love the versatility of pesto. I have used it in a pasta dish but you can also use it for salad dressings, steak toppers or even on toast.

Spinach, Rocket and Basil Pesto

What you’re going to need

100g baby spinach and rocket mix

generous handful basil leaves

6 walnuts

20g grated cheese

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – adjust if necessary

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. In a pulse blender, add all ingredients.
  2. Blend until mix is well combined and at a desired consistency (I like mine a bit chunky)
  3. That’s it! Use immediately or freeze in portion sizes to use later on.

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Tagliatelle with Napoletana Sauce

I just love the versatility of using a tomato based sauce. It works beautifully on its own as simple passata with seasoning or you can amp it up and throw a heap of veggies in, or pretty much any kind of meat and maybe even some cheese!

So the Sunday night ritual continues and the dilemma of how can I make an amped up sauce that suits one who doesn’t like cheese, one who won’t eat a non meat dish and the other who wants more than “just” bolognese.

I’ve over killed it with mince at the moment so decided not to use it and went with chorizo instead as the meat option. I love the flavour it gives the dish and it’s a bit more substantial than bacon or pancetta. I also used Barilla Napoletana Sauce as my tomato base and added in a heap of veg to make it an even more nutritious meal.

To make this a complete dish, I used Barilla Egg Tagliatelle as the base and to mix through the chunky sauce! I love the texture it has and it holds the sauce really well. It also cooks really quick (5 minutes in boiling water).

So if you’re salivating and to want to give this dish a go, keep on reading for the recipe!

Tagliatelle with Napoletana Sauce (serves 4-5)

What you’re going to need

250g pack Barilla Egg Tagliatelle

1 jar Barilla Napoletana Sauce

125 g chorizo, sliced evenly (1 sausage)

3 medium cup mushrooms, sliced thinly

generous handful baby spinach

1/3 medium zucchini, finely grated

1/3 medium carrot, finely grated

handful pitted kalamata olives

6 basil leaves, roughly chopped

salt and pepper to season

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying

Method

  1. Prepare a large saucepan with salted water and place on a low heat.
  2. In a large frypan, add the olive oil and bring up to a medium heat. Once hot, add the carrot and zucchini and fry for 2-3 minutes. Once softened, add the napoletana sauce. Before discarding the jar, half fill with water and shake with the lid on to get the extra sauce stuck to the sides of the jar. Add the water from the jar to the sauce. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
  3. Once simmering, add the sliced mushrooms and spinach and reduce to a low heat.
  4. In a small frypan, fry the chorizo until cooked. Drain on some paper towel and set aside.
  5. Once water is boiling, cook the pasta as per packet instructions. Whilst the pasta is cooking, add the chorizo and olives to the sauce. With 1 minute to go, add the basil.
  6. Serve immediately on warmed plates. (your choice if you want to mix the pasta through the sauce or serve the sauce on top)

Disclaimer: The Barilla Pasta and Napoletana Sauce were provided as a gift. I only support and endorse products that I have used or cooked with myself. 

 

 

 

Pesto Chicken Pasta with Extra Veg

Want to up the veg but are craving carbs big time and you want more variety than just more baked potatoes?

To make this dish a quick one (~25 mins), you need to choose vegetables that cook quickly in a fry pan. My new favourite kitchen technique for cooking things quickly is ribboning your vegetables! It almost feels like you get more yield per individual vegetable as opposed to slicing them up. Easy as, all you need to do is peel your veggie of choice (usually carrot, eggplant or in this case zucchini) and peel and peel and peel to get long thin slices that will cook in about 2-3 minutes. Amazing!

Next, to pump up the veg even more i threw in some cherry tomatoes and chopped green beans! I added in chicken as well to satisfy the family taste buds but for work lunches i’d probably omit it for cost and longevity in the fridge reasons. This dish is also conveniently dairy free.

Anyway, let’s get into the recipe!

Pesto Chicken Pasta with Extra Veg (serves 4)

What you’re going to need

3 cups spiral/fusilli pasta (I use Barilla)

1 small chicken breast, sliced into strips

1 medium zucchini, sliced into ribbons with peeler

handful fresh green beans, chopped into even pieces

handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways

Pesto

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1 cup baby spinach

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I use Cobram Estate)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1 clove garlic, grated with microplane/crushed

zest of 1/2 lemon, grated with microplane

salt to season

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add pasta and cook based on packet instructions.
  2. In a pulse blender, add all the pesto ingredients and blitz until at the desired consistency (not a paste but not too chunky). Set aside
  3. In a lightly oiled fry pan on a medium heat, cook the chicken until 90% cooked. Remove from pan and place in a bowl.
  4. Add the beans and tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini ribbons, cook for 1 minute.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the chicken and pesto. Stir well ensuring the pesto coats all ingredients.
  6. Strain cooked pasta and add to the fry pan of ingredients. Mix well to coat pasta in pesto. Serve immediately.*

Chicken Pesto Pasta

*Can be served cold. Will keep in the fridge for ~3 days (with chicken) and ~5 days (without chicken).

 

Sausage Pasta Bake

Even though the weather is getting warmer, I am still persistent on baking most of my meals! Especially coming towards the end of the year with my first accounting exam and last colour belt grading for martial arts, I am willing to do just about anything to make the cooking process more efficient. I would love to spend hours in the kitchen but at the moment, I just can’t. Alas, I still want to create tasty meals for my family and keep up with my Sunday family dinner routine.

If you trawl back through some of my older posts, you’ll see I have already shared a few pasta bake recipes however this is my first tomato based one. I kept it simple and whipped up the sauce and ingredients all in one pan! (separate saucepan for boiling pasta though). If you’re super hungry and want to eat it quicker, you can skip the baking step! However if you’re all about the gooey cheese factor, then would strongly recommend finishing it off in the oven. It also makes it easier to portion for leftovers (which I accidentally catered for 6 people instead of 4 so now I have enough for lunches, yay!)

Sausage Pasta Bake (serves 4-6)

What you’re going to need

300 grams large spiral pasta (I used San Remo)

6 medium sized beef sausages

1 400g bottle Passata

1/2 zucchini, finely grated

1/2 carrot, finely grated

1 clove garlic, grated with Microplane or minced

4 small cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

handful basil leaves

salt and pepper to season

olive oil for frying

grated cheese for topping

Method

  1. Boil a large pot of water with salt and cook pasta until just under al dente (still a bit firm as it will further cook in the oven). Set aside.
  2. In a large fry pan, heat up the olive oil on a medium heat. Brown the sausages in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Remove and set aside on a chopping board.
  3. Reduce the heat in the pan to low, add a bit more olive oil and then add the carrot, zucchini and garlic. Stir and leave to become fragrant. Whilst this is happening, go back to the sausages and cut them into 2 cm sliced chunks.
  4. Once pan is fragrant, add the Passata, sausages and mushrooms. Mix well and season. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Whilst simmering, turn on your oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  5. Once the Passata has reduced, add the cooked pasta and basil. Stir well to ensure all pasta is adequately coated in the sauce.
  6. In a large baking dish, carefully spoon all the pasta mix into the dish and spread evenly. Top with a generous helping of grated cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Serve hot. *

Sausage Pasta Bake

*Recipe is freezer friendly if there are leftovers.

 

Chicken Pasta Bake

Meal prep madness continues once again. I’m sure you’ve probably noticed that I cook a lot of pasta and have absolutely no regrets. I’m all for carbs and I do eat them in moderation even if it might not seem like I do.

What I love about pasta for meal prep is its ability to freeze. For people who want to prep but are relatively time poor or just lazy, something you can bake and cut into even portions works a treat. Alas, pasta bake is a staple meal for me.

I parked the tinned tuna for the time being and moved onto chicken. My second favourite cooking technique (after baking) is poaching! Poached chicken is a no fail technique for perfectly juicy chicken. I elevated this dish by poaching my chicken in chicken stock! If you do have the time, I would recommend making your own chicken stock (I will put a recipe below in case you’re interested***). Poaching in water will still render you with perfectly juicy chicken so don’t fret if you don’t want to use stock.

So pasta, chicken… what else? This time around I threw in some bacon, spinach and mushrooms to balance out the dish. Then comes the sauce that combines this altogether. My go to for pasta bakes is bechamel. So if this is all sounding like it will tantalise your taste buds, here is the recipe below.

Chicken Pasta Bake (serves 4)

What you’re going to need 

2 heaped cups of Fusilli pasta (I have used San Remo)

1 small chicken breast (~150-200 grams)

2 slices short cut bacon, thinly sliced

3 small cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

handful spinach, thinly sliced

cheddar cheese, grated for topping

Bechamel

2 tablespoons margarine

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  2. In a large saucepan, bring the chicken stock (or water) to a simmer. Place the chicken breast in and ensure it is fully submerged. Cook for 25 minutes
  3. Whilst the chicken is cooking, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Set aside once cooked.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the liquid and set to cool slightly on a clean chopping board. Once safe to touch, use a fork to shred the breast meat. Set aside.
  5. For the bechamel, in a small non stick saucepan, melt the margarine on a medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until flour has dissolved. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk until well combined. Add back to the heat and whisk until mixture has thickened.
  6. Using the large saucepan used for the chicken (rinse first), add all the ingredients except for the cheddar cheese. Mix well until all ingredients are covered in the sauce.
  7. In a large baking dish, pour the mixture and spread evenly. Top with grated cheese. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and darkened (note that the bacon, spinach and mushrooms go into the mixture raw and require cooking whilst in the oven).
  8. Remove from the oven and either serve immediately or allow to cool completely before packaging up for the freezer.

Chicken Pasta Bake


*** Basic chicken stock recipe

What you’re going to need

1/2 kilo chicken wings/chicken drumsticks/cheap cut chicken with bones

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 carrot roughly chopped

3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

12 black peppercorns

salt to season

Method

  1. In a large pot, heat up some olive oil on a medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned.
  2. Add all the other ingredients as well as ~2 litres of water (enough to cover the ingredients but not too much excess as this will dull down the flavour).
  3. Place on a lid then set and forget! (well not completely but for a while). This gets better with time so give yourself a couple of hours minimum to develop a strong flavour!

Chicken stock is freezer friendly so save your leftovers!

Spinach and Feta Pasta Shells

Another weekend, another opportunity to stock my freezer with prepared meals for work lunches! Yes there is more to my life than meal prep I promise but I have always found cooking quite therapeutic so it’s always a breeze for me to prepare my own food for work and not worry about foraging every lunch time!

I find at home that we end up with bits and pieces leftover from where we have tried new recipes or have just decided to experiment with different ingredients. As a result, we at my household tend to end up with random portions of ingredients which often get neglected or unfortunately thrown out if they’re there for long enough…

Alas, leftover meal prep is my favourite. Ideally with this approach, you only need to purchase maybe one or two ingredients to make a complete dish. In this case, I only bought some basil as it is a seasonal herb and our current garden supply has died off. Our lovely next door neighbour kindly donated some of her homegrown spinach which I put to use straight away. An ingredient that goes perfectly with spinach, feta! Feta is basically a staple in my house. With these and a couple of other bits and pieces, we have a dish!

Let’s get into it!

Spinach and Feta Pasta Shells (serves 2)

What you’re going to need

12 giant pasta shells

1 bunch spinach, stems removed

150 g feta

1/4 cup walnuts

6 basil leaves

cheddar cheese, grated for topping

salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celcius.
  2. Cook pasta shells as per packet instructions until al dente.
  3. In a pulse blender/food processer, add the spinach, feta, walnuts, basil, salt and pepper. Blitz until well combined and a chunky paste is formed.
  4. Have a medium sized baking dish ready. Carefully hold a pasta shell (as they are still very hot) and place a spoonful of mixture inside. Place inside the baking dish. Continue until all shells and mixture have been used. Once all in, place as much or as little grated cheddar on top as you like.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until cheese on top has melted and darkened.
  6. Serve immediately or allow to cool completely and then package up in the freezer.

Spinach and Feta Pasta Shells