Pasta with roasted vine tomatoes

Pasta party

It’s probably a bit strange to begin a post about pasta with the admission that I rarely cook it, rarely order it in a restaurant and therefore rarely eat it. It’s not that I don’t like pasta. And when we’re in Italy I’m definitely happy to gorge myself on big, perfectly-cooked, bowls of the stuff. It’s just that years of treading the fine line between being irresistibly drawn to yummy things, yet endlessly afraid of returning to the days of being an overweight, lazy teenager, mean I tend to steer clear of it.

I don’t do it anymore, but years of counting calories, WeightWatchers points, and pretty much any other way you can use to try to control your food intake mean I’m quite conscious of what ‘bang I’m getting for my calories bucks’. You know, how great does it taste versus how many points, calories, hours in the gym it cost you. For me, pasta often isn’t enough of a palate party to be worth all those calories. Call me obsessive, but it’s something I struggle with.

In contrast, Mr M loves it. If he’s in for an evening on his own, he’s fine as long as he’s got some pasta, a sauce, and his own bodyweight in parmesan. If it’s me having a dinner for one, the pasta stays right where it is.

However, despite my misgivings, I’m working on chilling out a bit when it comes to the balance between what I eat and whether it really is going to be the end of the world. Of course, consistently eating too much isn’t great for you, but having the odd bowl of pasta isn’t going to mean health apocalypse is it?

So when I was asked to try some pastas from Garofalo, I thought it would be a good time to remind myself why pasta is pretty much universally loved, whether it be a homemade spag bol or a complex tortellini in a posh restaurant.

Founded in 1789, Garofalo has been making pasta in Gragnano, near Naples, for over 200 years. You can get it in Ocado now and they do a pretty wide range, including long cuts, short cuts, wholewheat and gluten-free pastas. Lucky us were sent a massive haul, so decided to try a few recipes making use of the different types.

Pasta Garofalo

Pasta recipes

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spag Bol is one of those fond faves isn’t it. We don’t have it that often, but I decided it would be a lovely winter warmer. You’ll notice that our love of cheese shines through in pasta dishes. Mr M cannot get enough of cheeses like parmesan or grana padano, so expect regular generous gratings on all these dishes.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Ingredients

  • Spaghetti
  • Lean steak mince
  • Onion, chopped
  • Garlic, crushed
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Bovril
  • Stock cube or stock pot, preferably beef
  • Tomato puree
  • Carrot, finely chopped
  • Celery, finely chopped
  • Seasoning

Directions

  1. Fry the onion and garlic until brown. Add the mince and fry until cooked.
  2. Add the carrots and celery. Fry for a few minutes.
  3. Add tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, the stock pot, a spoonful of bovril and a generous glug of red wine. Season well and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Cook the spaghetti in boiling water until al dente.
  5. Drain, and pile on a plate with a generous spoonful of the bolognese. Oh, and don’t forget a grating of parmesan….

Spaghetti Bolognese

Pasta with pink oyster mushrooms, creme fraiche, and salmon

As a housewarming gift, we were bought a kit that allows you to grow your own mushrooms at home. It happened that our crop of pink oyster mushrooms were ready in time for this dish, so we decided to improvise and make a creamy, mushroomy pasta dish.

Pasta with salmon, oyster mushrooms and peas

Ingredients

  • Pasta (we used Garofalo’s Mafalda Corta)
  • Hot smoked salmon
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Oyster mushrooms (or any mushrooms, I just happened to have oyster mushrooms)
  • Low-fat creme fraiche
  • Seasoning
  • Parmesan or grana padano to serve

Directions

  1. Put the pasta into boiling water.
  2. Fry the onion until soft, add the mushroom and fry both together until soft.
  3. Add the creme fraiche and peas and stir until mixed and everything is hot.
  4. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Flake the salmon in and mix together.
  5. Serve and top with cheese (LOTS of cheese in our case!)

Pasta with oyster mushrooms and salmon

Jamie Oliver’s rigatoni with roasted tomatoes and ricotta salata

Mr M adapted this Jamie Oliver recipe to make us a delicious dinner one night. Basically the tomatoes get cooked twice – in the oven then on the hob – which makes a lovely sweet rich sauce. As you can probably see, we didn’t use ricotta, but whacked on a load of parmesan.

Pasta with roasted vine tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg vine tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • 400g dried rigatoni
  • 80g ricotta salata (or any other cheese if you’re us)
  • Small bunch of basil

Directions

  1. Put the tomatoes in a baking tray and season well. Scatter over garlic cloves, thyme sprigs and bay leaves and bake at 200C for 25 minutes.
  2. Let the tomatoes cool, pull them off the vine then put in a frying pan with red wine vinegar and more seasoning.
  3. Squash with a spoon and simmer for 15 minutes until they form a thick sauce.
  4. Boil a pan of salted water and cook the rigatoni.
  5. Drain and stir into the tomato sauce, along with a slosh of the cooking water to loosen it.
  6. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with shavings of cheese and torn basil leaves.

Pasta dinner

And there you have it, a few homemade pasta dishes from the Mannings. And actually, I really enjoyed them. I think this last recipe was my fave – the sweet tomato sauce coated the rigatoni, which itself is probably my new favourite pasta shape. It’s substantial and big enough to capture sauce inside it. Plus, who doesn’t like torn fresh torn basil and big chunks of salty cheese.

I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who’s happy with a bowl of pasta and tomato sauce topped with a tonne of cheese day in, day out but I’ve been reminded that there’s all sorts you can do with pasta and plenty of flavours you can try out.

Oh, and we’re off to Italy next week, so if pasta’s your bag get on over to my Instagram to see lots of pictures…

We were sent some Garofalo pasta to try for free. I wasn’t asked to write positive reviews about it.

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