Today I ate the bolognaise sauce I made yesterday, always helps to leave it overnight, helps the flavour no end.

I have a simple recipe which works for me.

Take some minced beef and brown it off in the pan, vital to get some browning on the mince for flavour.

The next stage will ensure you have a delicious and not a greasy bolognaise  sauce, drain the mince in a sieve and then ensure there is minimal fat left in the pan.

Now add some chopped onion, red pepper and pancetta and cook until the onions are softened. Add back the drained mince and add a tin of finely chopped tomatoes.

I then add black pepper, balsamic vinegar and some tomato puree.

Cook for at least forty five minutes.

I served mine with spaghetti and grated parmesan.

Eat with a good Italian red wine.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

This is a very quick and easy dish with a lovely piquant tomato sauce.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

In a large frying pan, cook off some pancetta, then in the same pan soften a finely chopped onion and red pepper.

When the pancetta, onions and pepper are nearly cooked, add a good splash of balsamic vinegar, then as this boils add a blended tin of tomatoes (or you could use passata if you want to). Add some tomato puree and sliced mushrooms. Leave to simmer for at least twenty minutes and preferably a little longer. Towards the end add some chopped fresh parsley.

When you are nearly ready to eat, cook the pasta. With a tomato sauce I much prefer to use a dried pasta (and use fresh pasta with a cream based sauce). With this recipe I used De Cecco Fusilli.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss the pasta in the sauce.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan and ground black pepper.

If you like to you could add some black olives or anchovies to the sauce, I prefer not to due to the saltiness of these ingredients.

Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms

In a frying pan cook off some pancetta bacon, remove from the pan. Cook the chicken, I usually use chicken thigh (bonless and skinless) cut into a size which is about the same as the pasta I am using. Cook the chicken over a relatively high heat. Remove the chicken and then add the onions, cook until softened. Now cook the mushrooms.

Whilst this chicken and mushrooms are cooking cook the pasta. I used fusilli (pasta twirls) and cooked until al dente.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, add back the pancetta and chicken, add some creme frache.

Mix the chicken mixture with the cooked pasta and a good handful of freshly grated parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.


Pasta with Chicken and Mushrooms

This is a very quick recipe which shouldn’t take longer than twenty minutes from entering the kitchen to sitting at the table and you should even be able to do it in less than fifteen!

Take two pans of boiling water, in one add some carrot, some onion, some parsley, a few black peppercorns (or I suppose you could use a stock cube). Poach four boned and skinless chicken thighs for about ten minutes (you could use chicken breast, but I prefer the flavour and taste of the thighs).

Add the pasta to the other pan of boiling water. I now never add salt or oil to my cooking pasta. All adding oil does is form an oily scum on the top, the myth that it stops the pasta sticking is just that a myth. After cooking if you toss the pasta in olive oil, this will stop is from sticking together, but that is after cooking and it is drained. I also don’t add salt, some add salt for flavour, but as I was using pancetta and parmesan and these are quite salty, there is no need to add extra salt.

So the two pans are simmering away, take a hot frying pan and add a handful of chopped (or diced) pancetta and a splash of olive oil. As the pancetta cooks, add a finely chopped onion and continue to cook until the onion is nice and soft. Now you could remove from the pan, but personally I keep the onions and pancetta in there and add a handful of sliced chestnut mushrooms. After the mushrooms are nearly cooked I add some ground black pepper and half a handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley. Leave for a minute before removing all the mixture from the pan.

Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and slice into chunks. With the frying pan, turn the heat up, add another splash of olive oil and quickly add the chicken to add some flavour. After a minute add three large spoonfuls of creme frache.

Drain the pasta, to the pasta add a handful of freshly grated parmesan, the pancetta, mushrooms and onions. Spoon in the chicken and creme frache and toss the pasta around.

Serve, adding grated parmesan and ground black pepper to taste.

Bella Italia

I quite like Bella Italia, yes I know it is a chain and they use a range of pre-made ingredients in their cooking and it’s all systems and less about flair and passion. Even having said that compared to other places I enjoy the food, the service, the atmosphere and the Italian’ess.

I was there on Monday for lunch and had an enjoyable meal. I started with the calamari and unlike other places which serve pre-cooked rubbery squid rings, at Bella Italia they do use the whole squid. However they do seem to overcook it, it would  be much better if they cooked for half the time that they do. Still nice, but not how I like it. It arrived with lemon and mayonnaise.

I had pizza for my main course, a Quattro Stagioni, the four seasons; pepperoni, smoked ham, roasted mushrooms and artichokes. It was quite nice, I prefer the pizza from Pizza Express, but this is so much better than the pizzas you can get in other (so-called) pizza eateries. The smoked ham was too salty for me, so that went off, but the mushrooms and artichokes were done well. The pizza base was just right, thin and not too crispy or too soggy. The tomato sauce was slightly too salty, but did taste of tomates. I would have liked a little more cheese.

The pasta dish ordered by my other half was very nice as well, Penne Funghi Pancetta. which was pancetta bacon, mushrooms and penne pasta sauteed in a creamy cheese sauce.

We had soft drinks and left before we could have coffee as we were pushed for time.

The service was fine, though it did take a little time for our main courses to arrive, and it felt like they had been waiting for a while.

Overall it was a nice place for lunch and I would make a return visit.

Trofie Pasta with fresh basil pesto, pine nuts and grated parmesan

Trofie Pasta with fresh basil pesto, pine nuts and grated parmesan.

Trofie Pasta with fresh basil pesto, pine nuts and grated parmesan

Fresh Trofie pasta.

Into a pan of boiling water (no salt, no oil).

Cook for ten minutes.

In a blender/grinder, handful of basil leaves, olive oil, blitz and blend. Add more basil leaves and more oil, blitz.

Drain pasta.

Dribble olive oil in.

Toss and coat pasta.

Add basil pesto, handful of pine nuts, handful of grated parmesan.




Linguine with mushrooms, cream and saffron

In an pan of boiling water add the linguine. This will take 11 minutes to cook, but check the packaging to be sure. No need to add salt or oil to the boiling water.

In a pan, heat some olive oil.

Add some cubed pancetta and a finely chopped onion,

Cook until the onion has softened.

Add some sliced mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms are cooked (how long this takes depends on the size of the pan, how hot it is and the quantity of ingredients) add creme frache and a few strands of saffron.

Stir on a low heat until the saffron has imparted a golden tinge to the cream mixture.

You could use cream instead of creme frache, I use creme frache as I like the flavour. You don’t need to use saffron, but it adds a wonderful flavour as well as colour to the dish.

Once the linguine is cooked, drain, add the cream mixture, a handful of grated parmesan, a good twist or two of ground black pepper.

Stir well and serve.