Sweet potato pakora

sweet potato pakora


This recipe will probably serve about 4 people as a starter or wee snack! Serve with salad and a wedge of lime or maybe a yogurt, cucumber and mint dip.

Fry the spring onion, chilli and garlic in a little oil until softened. Add the ground cumin and coriander and some salt and pepper.

Put the sweet potato in a large bowl and add the fried onion mix along with the fresh coriander. Season again and add the egg. Mix well.

Then add the gram flour a spoonful at a time, mixing well as you go along. The mixture should be fairly still so if it’s too runny just add more flour.

Shape into small patties and shallow fry for a few minutes each side, turning once until golden and crispy.

You can serve these straight away or make them ahead of time and warm in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180C. They also freeze very well.


Pasta with chickpeas, greens and tomatoes

Pasta with chickpeas, greens and tomato


This recipe uses mafalda corta, a short, flat, ribbony pasta with a wavy edge from the Campania region of Italy. If you can’t find that, any other short pasta (such as penne or gemelli) with ridges to hold the sauce will work just as well.

Put the pasta on to cook.

Pour a generous amount of olive oil in to a cold frying pan and add the garlic and rosemary. Put the pan on a low heat and let the garlic gently sizzle for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the cooked greens along with some salt and pepper and allow the tomatoes to cook down for a few minutes.

Next add the chickepeas. Once they have warmed through, take a fork and roughly mash most of the chickpeas down (I like to leave some whole). Add some of the pasta cooking water a tablespoonful at a time and mix in with mashed chickpeas to make a sauce.

Add the parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce.

Serve straight away with grated parmesan and a drizzle of your very best extra virgin olive oil.


Winter minestrone

winter minestrone


A great lunch for the winter months – warming, filling and healthy. Kale, an under-appreciated member of the cabbage family, is packed with bet-carotene, folate and vitamin C so should keep the sniffles at bay!

Heat some olive oil in a large soup pan and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Fry over a low heat, stirring, for about 10 minutes until soft and starting to colour. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and fry for a few minutes before adding the carrot and pepper. Mix well and cover. Leave to sweat for about 5-7 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Check and stir occasionally.

Next, add the stock and simmer for 5 minutes or so before adding the pasta with another pinch of salt. Stir well and leave to simmer with the lid off until the pasta is nearly done. Add the kale and the beans and simmer until the kale is tender – about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper and more salt if needed. Garnish with the parsley.

Italian pea and basil soup

pea and basil soup


This is such an easy soup to make. The basil gives it a lovely pungent flavour but you could also use mint to give a fresher flavour.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large pan and add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cover and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes.

Add the peas and the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the basil and remove from the heat. Use a stick blender to whizz to a smooth soup. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the parmesan shavings on top and a drizzle of your best olive oil. Great served with crusty bread.

Spiced chickpea and vegetable soup

Spiced chickpea and veg soup


A warming and heathy soup, great for lunch.

In a large pan, gently fry the onion in some oil for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and starting to caramelise.

Add the garlic, ginger and spices and fry for a further 5 minutes.

Next, add the stock and vegetables along with some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.

Add the chickpeas and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Transfer about 4 ladlefuls of the soup to a jug and whizz to a puree using a stick blender. Return this to the pan and stir well. Pureeing some of the chickpeas and vegetables gives the soup a velvety texture.

To finish, squeeze in the lemon juice and taste to check the seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Pasta with tomatoes, butter beans and ricotta



Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan and add the pancetta. Fry over a medium heat, stirring until crispy. Add the garlic and chilli and fry gently for a few minutes. Next, add the butter beans and fry, stirring before adding the chopped tomato and sun-dried tomato. Allow to bubble for a minute or two to let the flavours combine. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce with the herbs. Mix well then drop in little nuggets of ricotta and add the parmesan. Mix gently so as not to break up the ricotta. Serve immediately.

Ravioli with walnut sauce

First make the walnut sauce:

The walnuts need to be shelled which is quite painstaking but necessary to remove the bitter flavour. There are two ways to shell them:
1. Cover them with boiling water, leave to stand for 3 minutes and drain. Rub in a clean tea towel which will remove some of the skins, peel the rest off with a small paring knife.
2. Place walnuts on a baking tray and place under a hot grill for a few minutes. This should make the skins crispy and easy to rub off in a clean tea towel.
Once the walnuts are shelled, place in a food processor with garlic, olive oil and cream and whizz to a creamy consistency. Season to taste. Set aside until required (when needed just warm through in asmall pan adding a few spoonfuls of pasta cooking water to thin down to the required consistency.

Next, make the pasta:
Put flour in food processor and add eggs. Whizz until it starts to come together. Tip out onto clean worktop and knead for 5 minutes. Roll into a thick sausage shape, wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.

Make the filling:
Mix all ingredients together and season to taste.
Make the ravioli:
Once pasta is chilled, roll out using a pasta machine and make into ravioli using the filling (the shape is up to you – the ones in the picture are simply large squares folded over to make triangles, edges moistened with water to seal). Cook in gently boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes depending on the size. Warm the sauce and serve with the pasta.

Roasted Cherry Tomato and Rocket Salad

Preheat the oven to 190C.  Arrange the halved tomatoes cut side up in a roasting tin, drizzle 2 tablspoons of the oil over them and sprinkle with the garlic and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 mins turning once.

Cook the pasta until al dente.

Put remaining oil in a large bowl with the vinegar, sundried tomatoes, sugar and a little salt and pepper. Stir well. Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl of dressing and toss to mix. Add the roasted tomatoes and mix gently. Before serving, add the chopped rocket, toss lightly and taste for seasoning.  Serve at room temperature.

Tomato and butter spaghetti

spaghetti with bacon and toma

This recipe was cooked for us by our good friend Marino Benedetti who owns a hotel in Malcesine, Lake Garda. It is a great quick lunch or tea dish.

Tip the tomatoes into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer quite rapidly until well reduced – it should almost become a thick, tomato paste. If using whole plum tomatoes, you’ll have to break them down slightly with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty salted water until al dente.
When ready to serve, melt the butter through the tomato sauce and season if necessary.
Mix the sauce well with the spaghetti and serve in bowls. Grate plenty parmesan over the top and enjoy with some bread and a glass of wine.

Tortellini with potato and mint

Make the pasta: Sieve the flour into a food processor and add the eggs, egg yolks, salt and oil. Pulse the mixture until it looks like fine breadcrumbs then mix on a higher speed until it starts to come together. If it looks too dry, add another egg yolk. Dust a clean worksurface with flour and tip out the pasta dough. Divide the dough in half (this will make it easier to work with) and knead each half by hand for about 5 minutes until completely smooth and shiny. Wrap each ball of dough in cling film and chill for 30 mins – 1 hour. Remove from the fridge and pass through a pasta machine, starting at the thickest setting and working down to the thinnest setting. The pasta is then ready to make into tortellini.

Make the filling: Boil the potatoes whole in salted water until tender. Leave to cool slightly then scrape off the skin. Discard the skin and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer. Add the mint, Pecorino and nutmeg, mix together with a fork and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary and leave to cool before using.

Make the tortellini: Using a 5cm fluted biscuit cutter, cut out as many discs as you can from the rolled sheets of pasta. Using a teaspoon and your finger, place a very small amount of the filling in the middle of each disc. Brush a little water round the edge of each disc. Fold the disc in half over the filling so that the top and bottom edges do not quite meet. Press to seal. Wrap the half moon shape around your index finger and pinch to seal. If this gets too complicated you can leave them as semi-circles and call them agnolotti! Place the made pasta shapes on a floured tea towel until ready to cook.

To cook: Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and place in the pasta shapes. Lower the heat to a simmer. The pasta will rise to the top after about 30 seconds but will probably require 3-4 minutes cooking. test one to see if it is al dente. Drain.

To serve: This type of pasta goes well with a homemade tomato sauce with garlic and dried chilli or just drizzled with really good extra virgin olive oil and more grated pecorino.

Butter and cheese spaghetti

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.  Grate the cheeses while the pasta is boiling. Drain the pasta, reserve 4 tbsp of the cooking water.

Put the reserved water and the butter back into the hot pan and simmer gently over a low heat. Stir until the butter melts.
Remove from the heat and stir in half the cheese. Add the spaghetti and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve with more of the cheese.

Butternut squash ravioli with sage butter

Place the squash in a roasting tray, skin side down. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle on the fennel, chilli, oregano, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture into the squash. Roast in a hot oven (abot 200C) for 20-30 minutes or until the squash is cooked (see Cook’s tip).

Once cooked, scrape the flesh into a bowl and discard the skin. Mash the flesh with a fork and add the nutmeg and parmesan. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. If the mixture is quite wet and sloppy you will have to place it in a sieve over a bowl to drain off excess water.

Make the pasta by putting the flour and eggs into a food processor and whizzing until it starts to come together. Tip onto a worktop and knead for about 5 minutes until you have a shiny dough. Roll into a sausage shape and wrap in cling film. Chill for half and hour. Roll out using a pasta machine.

Make the ravioli by placing small teaspoons of the squash mixture along a length of rolled out pasta, leaving 3-4cm between each spoonful. Using your finger dipped in water, moisten along and between the spoonfuls of filling. Place another sheet of pasta on top and gently press the pasta around the filling, trying to squeeze out any air pockets. Cut around each one to make the ravioli using a knife or fluted cutter .

Cook the ravioli in a large pan of gently boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a warmed serving plate. To make the sage butter heat the butter in a frying pan with the sage leaves and let it bubble until it turns foamy and then nutty brown. Pour straight onto the ravioli and serve at once.

Cacio e pepe (spaghetti with cheese and pepper)

Cook the spaghetti in plenty salted water until al dente. Once it is cooked, drain it leaving behind a little of the cooking water. Return to the pan and add the cheese, pepper and salt to taste. Toss well to mix then moisten with olive oil if you like. Serve straight away with a glass of chilled Frascati.

Fresh pasta

Place the flour and eggs in a food processor and whizz until the mixture just starts to come together.  Tip out onto a clean worktop and using your hands, bring together into a dough.  Knead for 5 minutes until it feels quite firm and is glossy, it will stick to your hands but just keep working it fats and it will come together.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Roll out using a pasta machine and use to make any fresh pasta

We have found that making fresh pasta involves a bit of trial and error. The egg to flour ratio can vary depending on what make of flour you use, the heat of your kitchen, the size of the eggs etc but the amounts above (usually!) work for me. I have also tried adding salt and olive oil to the mixture as suggested in some recipes but I don’t think you always need to. If you have never made fresh pasta before then just have a go and feel free to adjust the amounts if you don’t think it’s working out. It may take more than one attempt!

Rolling it out is quite easy when you get used to it. Cut the dough into 2 or 3 pieces and roll out one piece at a time. Keep the remainder covered up until you need it or it will dry out and become difficult to use. Start off at the widest setting on the machine and work your way down.

You can make it without a food processor, I just find this method quicker and easier. It also creates less mess! The traditional method is to place the flour in a bowl or on a worktop, shape it into a mound, make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Use you fingertips to slowly mix the egg into the flour, working from the inside to the outside.

Pasta al cartoccio

Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper, each about 30 x 20cm. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat, toss in the garlic and saute for 2 mins. Fish out the garlic, then tip in the tomatoes and chilli and season. Simmer for 20 mins, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Cook the spaghetti for half the time given on the packet, then drain well. Add the olives and half the parsley to the tomato sauce and stir in the pasta. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Divide the spaghetti mixture equally between the pieces of paper. Scrunch the edges of each packet together to seal tightly. Put the packages in a roasting tin and bake for 7 mins until the pasta is al dente.

Transfer each package to a serving plate. Open up and sprinkle over the rest of the parsley and parmesan.