Pasta la vista

[Recipe 1] FULL-OF-VEGGIES BOLOGNAISE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LASAGNA with RICOTTA and SPINACH
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A recipe for bolognaise? Meh, I hear you uttering. I’m guessing you probably have a container or two of sauce tucked in your freezer prepared with your own fail-safe recipe. Thought I’d share my Full-of-veggies bolognaise recipe though, as it’s, well, full of veggies strangely enough; including lentils. It’s pretty delicious and my boys inhale it.
Instead of serving up spag bol over spaghetti week after week, I always set aside a portion for an ace Lasagna with ricotta and spinach (look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much sauce to reserve). I love a good lasagna, but wouldn’t dream of preparing one from scratch. With the sauce already made, it’s a cinch to throw this lasagna in the oven within half an hour. So, anyway, my secret bolognaise ingredient is lentils – what kooky ingredients feature in your spag bol?

Full-of-veggies bolognaise

[Recipe 1] Full-of-veggies bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 4 for 4+ meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) beef (not too lean)
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
280g (10 oz) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 cup (250ml) water
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 large carrots, grated
2 zucchinis (courgettes), grated
1 x 400g (15 oz) can lentils, drained, rinsed (or 1 cup cooked brown or green lentils)
1 cup chopped parsley (to taste), plus extra to serve
1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti (or as required for 4 serves)
Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, bay leaves and oregano and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes. Add carrot and zucchini and continue cooking, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for a further 8–10 minutes, or until thick. Remove and discard bay leaves.
At this stage I like to give the bolognaise 2 whizzes (no more) with a stick blender to help it come together – this is optional of course. Stir through parsley, lentils and brown sugar. Season to taste.
Reserve 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) Full-of-veggies bolognaise for the Lasagna with ricotta and spinach.
Divide the remainder of the Full-of-veggies bolognaise into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain. Serve warm Full-of-veggies bolognaise over spaghetti, scattered with grated parmesan and extra parsley.

  • The Full-of-veggies bolognaise recipe will yield four serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four) and a couple of single portions too. I love making a massive vat of spag bol, but if you don’t have the freezer space, it’s easy to halve the ingredients.
  • Full-of-veggies bolognaise can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Besides B vitamins, lentils are high in protein, fibre and a variety of minerals. It’s so easy to plop them in bolognaise sauce. They take on the flavour of the other ingredients and are virtually imperceptible. You can add lots of other vegetables to this recipe – try adding small cubes of eggplant or sliced button mushrooms with the onions. You can also throw in chopped baby spinach with the lentils.
  • I love Australian garlic. The taste is superior to Chinese garlic; and imported garlic is fumigated with methyl bromide and often bleached too. Blech. Interesting article here.
  • Baby tip: while you’re making the spag bol, you can make a small baby-friendly portion in a little saucepan. Use similar ingredients, but omit the canned tomatoes, canned lentils and tomato paste (canned foods are generally too salty for babies). Replace with peeled and de-seeded fresh tomatoes, and water. For a burst of iron, throw in a chopped organic beef liver. Puree until smooth and freeze in ice-cube trays until required.

Lasagna with ricotta and spinach

[Recipe 2] Lasagna with ricotta and spinach

Ingredients (serves 6):
1⅓ cups (350ml) tomato passata (tomato puree)

♦ 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise

3 eggs
2 heaped cups (600g) fresh ricotta
¼ cup (60ml) milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (100g) grated parmesan cheese
250g/10 oz packet frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid completely squeezed out
375g (13 oz) fresh lasagna sheets
1 cup (100g) grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Place tomato passata in a large bowl.
Stir in reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise.
Set aside.
Place eggs, ricotta, milk and salt into a food processor, and process until creamy. Add parmesan and pulse to just combine. Stir in spinach. Set aside.
Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 32cm x 22cm (12½-inch x 8½-inch) oven proof dish. Spoon half the bolognaise/passata mixture over the base. Top with a layer of lasagna sheets, trimming extra sheets to fit if necessary. Spoon over half the spinach/ricotta mixture. Add one more layer of lasagna sheets. Spoon over the remaining bolognaise/passata mixture. Top with another layer of lasagna sheets, then the remaining spinach/ricotta mixture. Scatter with mozzarella. You should have 8 layers in total:
LAYER 1 (bottom): Bolognaise, LAYER 2: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 3: Ricotta, LAYER 4: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 5: Bolognaise, LAYER 6: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 7: Ricotta, LAYER 8 (top): Mozarella.
Cover with a layer of baking paper, followed by a layer of foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove baking paper and foil and bake for a further 15–20 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes (this will help it hold its shape). Serve with a simple green salad.

  • If you purchase a 700ml bottle of tomato passata, you can freeze half in a labelled plastic container for next time; for up to 3 months.

  • Grated parmesan and mozzarella (in 1 cup/100g lots) can be frozen in ziplock bags for up to 3 months.
  • Unused lasagna sheets can be frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months.
  • Leftover lasagna can be warmed in a low oven, covered in foil.

Oh ragù, you’ve done it again

[Recipe 1] SPICED LAMB RAGÙ transforms into
[Recipe 2] MINI LAMB and MINT PIES
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With Australia Day almost upon us, I think meat pies are called for, don’t you? Instead of making them from scratch, I make a delicious vat of Spiced lamb ragù. The remainder of this sauce is divided up, refrigerated or frozen as planned overs (look for the  orange diamonds) and used later for beautiful Mini lamb and mint pies. Stick a little Australian flag in each pie and serve on a large platter with a bowl of chunky tomato relish (or tomato sauce) for dipping. Onya.

Spiced lamb ragù with tagliatelle

[Recipe 1] Spiced lamb ragù with tagliatelle and pecorino

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3–4 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) lamb, shoulder if possible
1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3 large carrots, cut into very small cubes
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
½ cup (125ml) red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½–1 cup chopped parsley (to taste), plus extra to serve
400g (14 oz) dried tagliatelle pasta (or approx. 625g fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle)
Shaved pecorino cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. Carefully drain off most of the fat.
Add cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes.
Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, stock and wine and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until thick. Season to taste and stir through parsley.
♦ Reserve 1 kilo (2 lb) spiced lamb ragù for the mini lamb and mint pies.
Divide the remainder of the lamb ragù into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Meanwhile, cook tagliatelle in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve warm lamb ragù over tagliatelle, scattered with grated pecorino and extra parsley.

  • The Spiced lamb ragù recipe will yield three serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four) and, if youʼre lucky, one or two single portions too.
  • Spiced lamb ragù can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Tagliatelle can be replaced with other flat ribbbon pasta, such as fettuccine or pappardelle.
  • Pecorino is a hard Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk, which goes beautifully with rich pasta sauces. If unavailable, replace with Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Mini lamb and mint pies

[Recipe 2] Australia Day mini lamb and mint pies

Ingredients (makes 20):
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 kilo (2 lb) reserved spiced lamb ragù
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2–3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves (about 20–30 leaves)
5 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Tomato relish or Easy spiced tomato chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Grease 2 x 12-hole standard-sized muffin pans (note: you’ll need 20 pans only).
Blend flour with 3 tablespoons hot water to form a smooth paste.
Spoon reserved spiced lamb ragù into a medium-sized saucepan.
Add flour paste and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in worcestershire sauce and mint leaves.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Using a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the shortcrust pastry. Press into prepared pan holes, covering them with a tea towel as you go, to prevent them drying out.
Brush inside pastry cases (this prevents them going soggy), and the edges, with egg.
Divide cooled lamb mixture among pastry cases.
Using a 7cm (2¾-inch)  round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the puff pastry. Place on top of pies. Press edges together to seal. Brush tops of pies with egg, and prick with a fork.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Serve with tomato sauce, chunky tomato relish or Easy spiced tomato chutney.

  • If you don’t have a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, trace around a lid with a sharp knife (a lid from a 450g tin of Milo is the perfect size).
  • Join scraps of leftover pastry together and make little egg pies for breakfast or lunch. Grease and line standard-sized muffin pans with shortcrust or puff pastry. To make four, mix together 2 beaten eggs, a little chopped ham and grated tasty cheese. Pour into pastry cases (up to ¾ full). Bake at 220°C (425ºF) for 15-20 minutes.
  • The mini lamb and mint pies can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge. If using fresh lamb ragù (not frozen) you can freeze the cooked mini lamb and mint pies, between sheets of baking paper, for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge. 
  • To reheat pre-cooked pies, place the pies on a baking tray and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Rice and easy

[Recipe 1] NO-STIR CHICKEN and ROAST PUMPKIN RISOTTO transforms into
[Recipe 2] CRISPY RISOTTO BALLS
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We’re back from a week on the Mornington Peninsula. All that beach-going and relaxation was rather nice; although I did manage to scorch a large hot pink triangle on my chest region (after forgetting the sun screen on that one darn spot). The 7 year old said it made me look like a super hero. The 4 year old required a trip to hospital after being stung by a bee on his foot, which blew up like a balloon. He consequently spent most of his beach days being dragged around in a blow-up boat. So… we’re home and exhausted.
Time for an easy recipe methinks. Hello No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. A mum from my son’s school (hi Gab!) got me hip to the no-stir method. Risotto purists should avert their gaze. Instead of ladling incremental amounts of hot stock, and stirring and checking every 5 minutes; you can be grating the Parmesan and chopping the parsley while it practically cooks itself. Excellent!
Reserve some of the risotto as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds within the recipe) and whip up a batch of scrumptious Crispy risotto balls the next day.
PS. Had to share my beautiful vintage happy flower fabric, a pressie from my friend Meagan. One day it will become an apron or skirt, but for now it makes a spiffy tablecloth!

Vintage flower fabricNo-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
350g (12 oz) peeled, de-seeded butternut pumpkin, chopped into 1cm (½“) cubes (start with 500g/1 lb unpeeled pumpkin)
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
4 skinless chicken thigh fillets (about 500g/1 lb), chopped into 1cm (½-inch) cubes
2 small brown onions, finely diced
3 cups (650g) arborio or carnaroli rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1 large cob/ear)
8 cups (2 litres) chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh podded peas – see notes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Toss the pumpkin cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast for 20–25 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken and onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through.
Add the rice and garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2–3 minutes.
Add the corn kernels and 4 cups of stock. Stir once, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until stock is absorbed. Sneak a peek after 8 minutes, to make sure it isn’t sticking.
Add peas and remaining stock. Return to the boil and simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Gently stir through the roast pumpkin, Parmesan and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper.
Reserve 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) chicken and roast pumpkin risotto for the crispy risotto balls.
Serve risotto, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Planned-overs (reserved risotto) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Fresh peas can be used, instead of frozen. Add these with the corn kernels.

  • Roast some extra pumpkin with a couple of quartered red onions and you’ll have an instant salad for dinner (or lunch) tomorrow. Toss with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing; and scatter with cracked black pepper and basil leaves.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Crispy risotto balls. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Crispy risotto balls

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 25–30 balls):
♦ 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs, plus 2 cups extra for coating
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup olive oil for shallow frying
Sea salt
Chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, to serve

Place reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto into a large bowl. Break up risotto roughly with a knife, add ¾ cup breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly.
Shape mixture into about 25–30 golfball-sized balls. Dip into beaten egg; then lightly roll in the extra breadcrumbs. Refrigerate up to 4 hours, until required.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan until shimmering. Fry risotto balls in 3–4 batches until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Roll the balls around in the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, to ensure they brown evenly. Drain on paper towel.
Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, and a simple green salad. Yum.

  • You’ll need sriracha chili sauce for sriracha mayo, which is available at Asian food stores. The authentic version, made by Huy Fong Foods in California, is available in Australia at USA Foods.

Porktastic

[Recipe 1] PORK, PINE NUT and PANCETTA MINI MEATLOAVES transform into
[Recipe 2] FUSILLI with PORK SAUSAGE and LENTILS
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Welcome folks. For my inaugural post I figured we’d start with some pork on our forks! The first recipe is for scrumptious (even if I do say so myself) Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves. We call them, ahem, PPP Loaves. They’re kid-friendly as they’re quite sausagey, but the fennel flavour is sophisticated enough for adult palates too. My boys just love them.
The meatloaf recipe allows for a good stash of planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds); in this case a flavoursome pork and pine nut mixture to be set aside for two further meals of Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils. This is a super-quick dish (no chopping up or frying of onions required) and you can prepare it while the pasta is cooking. Delicious!
PS. If you’re feeling energetic you could make the pasta sauce while the meatloaves are baking. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bulk cook-up, and the resulting well-stocked fridge or freezer.
You could also choose to use the mixture for a double quantity of meatloaves (they freeze really well cooked, and are excellent sliced in sandwiches); in which case you’d double all the meatloaf ingredients from the breadcrumbs down.

Pork, pancetta and pinenut mini meatloaves

[Recipe 1] Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; ie. 1 serve meatloaves, 2 serves pasta sauce):
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks, white parts only, sliced lengthwise, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) pork
500g (1 lb) good-quality sausage meat
(see notes)
1 cup (70g) fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices day-old sourdough, processed)
1 medium carrot, finely grated on zester holes
½ cup (60g) pine nuts, toasted

2 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8–12 large thinly-sliced pancetta pieces (approx. 150g/5 oz)
To serve:
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought tomato relish)
Green beans with toasted pinenuts

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the leek for 6–8 minutes, until soft. Add fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes until aromatic. Allow to cool in a large bowl. Add the pork mince, sausage meat, breadcrumbs, carrot, toasted pine nuts and eggs. Mix well with your hands until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper and mix lightly.
This mixture will yield 2 kilos (4 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture. 1 kilo (2 lb) is required for the pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves.
Reserve the remaining 1 kilo (2 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture for the Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils (yields enough sauce to serve 8).

Grease eight ⅔ cup (160ml) capacity mini loaf pans (or friand, muffin or cupcake pans). Line each pan with pancetta, allowing the sides to overhang.
Divide 1 kilo (2 lb) of the pork and pine nut mixture among the prepared pans, pressing mixture down firmly. Fold pancetta over to enclose the filling.
Bake meatloaves for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
Drain any juices from the pan and carefully run a knife around each loaf to loosen.
Serve sliced, with easy spiced tomato chutney and green beans with toasted pine nuts. You can toast the pine nuts for the meatloaves and the green beans at the same time.
Makes 8 mini meatloaves.

  • For good-quality sausage meat, slit open free-range pork sausages and squeeze meat from the casings.
  • Pancetta is cured Italian bacon made of pork belly meat, and is available at delicatessens. Replace with very-thinly sliced bacon or prosciutto if unavailable.
  • Refrigerate and use Recipe 1 planned-overs (uncooked pork and pine nut mixture) within 3 days. Uncooked mixture can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Meatloaf leftovers are excellent for lunch. Serve sliced in a sandwich with tomato chutney and cos (romaine) lettuce. Yum!
  • You can use any type of bread to make fresh breadcrumbs: white, rye, wholemeal (wholewheat) or – my preference – sourdough. Save scraps of leftover bread and freeze for up to 3 months, removing large pieces of crust before processing.
  • Dark green leek offcuts can be used in stock.

Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils

[Recipe 2] Fusilli (spiral pasta) with pork sausage and lentils

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, grated

♦ 1 kilo (2 lb) reserved pork and pine nut mixture
2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste/concentrate
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see notes)
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g (14 oz) dried fusilli (spiral pasta) per 4 people

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, and add grated carrot.
Add reserved pork and pine nut mixture.
Cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Break up large lumps with a spoon, retaining a few mini meatball-sized chunks for texture.
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, lentils, cinnamon sticks and ⅔ cup of water and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 15–20 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks. Stir through parsley and season with salt and pepper.
If serving four people, divide sauce into two portions of 1 kilo (2 lb) each. The remaining 1 kilo batch of pasta sauce can be refrigerated or frozen for another meal (see notes).
Meanwhile, cook fusilli in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Stir pork and lentil sauce through fusilli. Serve, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Left-over tomato paste can be frozen in 1 or 2 tablespoon lumps, individually-wrapped in cling film; ready to plop into your next pasta dish.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups cooked lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 or 2 cup portions to use when required.
  • Although this sauce is lovely served as is, feel free to add extra veggies such as grated zucchini (courgette), baby spinach leaves or chopped silverbeet (Swiss chard).
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.
  • Reserved pasta sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Note: if you’ve used frozen planned-overs of pork and pinenut mixture, pasta sauce should not be frozen.