Tag Archives: pasta

Roasted butternut and three cheeses ravioli with sage butter

8 May

Roasted butternut ravioli with ricotta, parmesan & blue cheese, drizzled with brown sage butter and topped with pine nuts (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

As the days are drawing darker and colder, all I want for dinner is comfort food. Not necessarily buckets full of mac ‘n cheese, but definitely something buttery and indulgent.

Although pasta is considered a relatively simple staple, it can certainly be turned into something spectacular if you take the time. I confess: making homemade ravioli is not really the fastest way to a great dinner, but it is so very much worth all the effort. Prepare all the different components ahead of time, and you can assemble it quick-quick with minimum fuss.

The rich filling is made with roasted butternut, fresh herbs, ricotta, blue cheese and Parmesan. It matches perfectly against the toasted pine kernels and nutty sage butter, somehow creating a synergy that feels lighter than the individual parts.

We are looking at various components here: 1) roasting the butternut, 2) making the filling, 3) making and rolling out the pasta dough, 4) assembling the ravioli, 5) making the sage butter, 6) cooking the ravioli, and finally 7) plating the ravioli with the butter sauce and some toasted pine nuts. Don’t be rushed – the whole process might take you 2-3 hours, so pour a glass of wine and get someone to keep you company!

This recipe serves up to 6 people.

1) For the roasted butternut: 

  • 500 g butternut cubes (skinless and seedless)
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 15 ml chopped sage
  • 5 ml chopped thyme

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. On a baking sheet, add the butternut cubes, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then toss slightly and add the herbs. Roast for a further 10 minutes until the butternut starts to turn brown and is soft when tested with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2) For the butternut & 3 cheese filling:

  • 1 x batch roasted butternut (see above)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (about 350 g)
  • 125 g blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 40 g)
  • salt and pepper

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, then process until you get a course pulp. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then process again to mix thoroughly. Scrape the filling into a mixing bowl, then wash and dry the food processor for the next stage.

3) For the pasta:

  • 500 g plain flour (or cake flour)
  • 5 XL eggs

Place the flour and eggs in a food processor, then process until it resembles large cous-cous grains (it takes about a minute). Turn the “grains” out onto a wooden board, then press it together to form a ball of dough. Lightly knead the dough to a smooth consistency, then cut it into 5 equal pieces. Using a pasta rolling machine, roll out each piece of dough to a very thin sheet (thinnest setting) of about 12 cm in width. Lay out the sheets on a large floured surface, ready for the next stage.

4) Assembling the ravioli:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • pasta sheets (see above)
  • ravioli filling (see above)

Using a pastry brush, brush half of each pasta sheet lenghthways with water (the reason we do this is to make sure the pasta sticks when we fold it over lenthways after filling it). Using a teaspoon to create “drops” of filling, place a row of filling drops lengthways down the middle of each pasta sheet, about 5 cm apart. Now fold the pasta sheet over lengthways, making sure the gently press out any air bubbles that are forming (press from the fold to the edges). When each ravioli sheet is tightly sealed, used a pastry cutter to create generous rounds of individual ravioli. Place them on a floured tray until ready to boil.

5) Making the sage butter and toasted pine nuts:

  • 250 g butter
  • about 20 – 25 fresh sage leaves
  • 20-30 g pine kernels

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and let it simmer until it starts to turn light brown and starts to smell nutty. Watch it carefully, or otherwise it will quickly burn and you’d have to start from scratch. Swirl it lightly every now and then. When you see that it starts to brown, drop all of the sage leaves into the butter, and fry it for about 10-20 seconds, swirling the butter around to cover all the leaves. The leaves will quickly fry and become crips. Remove from the heat at once and set aside.

In a small pan over medium heat, carefully toast the pine nuts without adding any oil until they turn a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and set aside.

6) Cooking the ravioli:

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. When the water is boiling rapidly, drop about 1/2 of the prepared ravioli into it, then cook for 4-5 minutes. They are ready when they are floating on the surface and the edges are just tender. Remove with a slotted spoon into individual serving bowls.

7) Plating the ravioli:

Working quickly, drizzle each portion of cooked ravioli with sage butter, and top with a few toasted pine nuts. Serve at once – freshly cooked pasta is always best served immediately!

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe and Nicola Pretorius

Pea and parmesan risotto

24 Apr

Pea and parmesan risotto (photographer: Tasha Seccombe)

Risotto is such a versatile dish. It can be a starter, it can be a main meal, it can be lunch, it can be dinner. It can be hearty and rich with exotic mushrooms, or it can contain be fresh and light with young peas that still burst in your mouth.

This risotto is something inbetween – perfect for the beautiful Fall weather that we are currently experiencing in the Cape Winelands. Fresh flavours from the bright green peas with a hint of mint, and then a lingering richness of aged Parmigiano Reggiano.

This is surely one of my favourites dishes all year round.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250 g arborio rice
  • 125 ml dry white wine
  • 800 ml – 1 litre warm chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 250 g young peas (I used good quality frozen peas, thawed)
  • 1 T freshly chopped mint
  • about 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 T butter
  • a few sugarsnap peas for decoration (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium sized pot over medium heat, add butter and olive oil, then fry onions until soft and translucent (about 5-10 minutes), but not brown.
  2. Add rice, then fry for about 3 minutes until they are slightly toasted.
  3. Add wine, then cook until the the liquid has been absorbed. Now start adding the stock, one ladle at a time, and cook on medium to low heat until the liquid is almost completely absorbed before adding more, stirring often. The rice should never cook completely dry. Stir every now and then to make sure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom.
  4. When the rice is almost cooked but still has a slight bite, add the last of the stock and cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the peas, mint, cheese and butter. Cover with a lid and leave for 5 minutes. Remove lid, then stir to combine everything. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately (risotto will thicken on standing, and you still want it slightly runny like lava).

 

Ricotta gnudi with pomodoro sauce

22 Mar

Ricotta gnudi with pomodoro sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

My new business partner, Francille van Tiddens, recently sent me a recipe for ricotta gnudi via Bon Appetit’s online magazine. I’ll reveal more about our exciting new venture soon – Francille is an absolute food fanatic and she is constantly trawling the international online food scene for great recipes and interesting reads. “Gnudi”? I asked. It’s like gnocchi, she said, but larger, and made with lots and lots of ricotta cheese. And you pronounce it “nu-dee”.

It sounded like something right up my street. Italian comfort food, made with ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and a touch of flour, smothered in a bright red tomato sauce. I had to try it.

So I made it for my husband on Valentines Day as part of our wedding anniversary dinner. It was simply out of this world! Just a few basic ingredients, yet so striking on a plate and just meltingly delicious. It contains very little flour, so the trick is to shape the large gnudi balls with 2 large spoons. You place all of them on a big floured tray, then boil them like gnocchi in a large pot of salted water for just a few minutes.

This is probably my best food find of the past year. Gnudi. Nu-dee. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Note: Use the best quality ricotta and Parmesan that you can get your hands on.

Ingredients for pomodoro sauce: (Tip: make the sauce first, then the gnudi)

(recipe adapted from www.bonappetit.com)

  • 2 cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt

Method:

  1. Process tomatoes to a smooth pulp.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan on the stove top. Add garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes over low heat – don’t let it become too brown, because it will be bitter.
  3. Add the smooth tomatoes, sugar, and salt, then simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and set aside.

Ingredients for gnudi:

(recipe from www.bonappetit.com)

  • 450-500g ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano) plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) all-purpose flour plus more

Method:

  1. Mix ricotta, egg, egg yolk, salt, pepper, and parmesan in a large bowl until well combined. Add flour and stir just until combined and mixture forms a ball (mixture will be soft and moist with some bits of ricotta remaining; add a tablespoonful or 2 more if it feels too wet).
  2. Dust a rimmed baking tray generously with flour. Using 2 large dessert spoons, shape heaped tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes, then place on the floured tray and dust with more flour (you should have about 30).
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  4. Carefully add the gnudi, then cook for 4-5 minutes until cooked through and tender (gnudi will quickly float to the surface; continue cooking or they will be gummy in the center).
  5. Using a slotted spoon, remove gnudi from water and divide among bowls. Top with pomodoro sauce and more parmesan cheese.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe and Ilse van der Merwe.

 

Summer linguine with basil & cashew pesto

15 Jan

Fresh linguine with basil & cashew pesto, mixed tomatoes and fior di latte (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Every time I eat linguine or spaghetti with a basic basil pesto, I feel very Italian – in a “pretend” kind of way. It is the opposite of what we grew up on in South Africa, believing that pasta always needs a chunky, heavy meat sauce.

This simple way of enjoying pasta is synonymous with my motto for the new year, keeping things uncomplicated, yet robust. The most basic meal can turn into something fabulous if you use fresh, great quality ingredients, and do as little to it as possible.

For this recipe, I varied from the well-known classic basil pesto with the use of cashew nuts instead of pine kernels – a slightly more economical choice which means that you don’t have to use the nuts too sparingly and can add some as a final topping for extra texture. Cashews still provide a strong nutty flavour, and is in no way a compromise. I also added some fresh halved cherry tomatoes, which I tossed through the pasta while it was still piping hot. The tomatoes warm up slightly, but retain their fresh crunch and flavour.

As a last addition, I also added shreds of fior di latte – wonderfully mild and milky pieces that work so well in the traditional caprese salad of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

This dish makes me feel rejuvenated, inspired and longing for travels abroad. Buon appetito!

Ingredients for pesto:

  • 2 punnets basil (about 40 g in total)
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
  • 50 g cashew nuts

Ingredients for pasta:

  • 500 g linguine (plus water and salt for boiling)
  • about 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved (or use a punnet of mixed small tomatoes)
  • 120 g fior di latte, torn into  shreds
  • 50 g cashew nuts, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. In a food processor or electric chopper (or manual pestle & mortar), process/pound all ingredients for pesto together to a chunky paste. Set aside and start making pasta immediately, otherwise discolouration might occur.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil, then cook pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add olive oil, then toss to coat. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add pesto, then toss to coat well.
  4. Now add tomatoes, mozzarella and cashews. Toss again, then serve immediately with some extra olive oil on the table.

Note: If you want to keep the pesto from discolouring, blanch the basil leaves in a large pot of boiling water for no longer than 3 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and immerse in ice water immediately. Continue making pesto as above, then transfer to an airtight container and top with a thin layer of olive oil before storing in the fridge, covered. Will keep for about 3-4 days, perfectly green.

WIN with SPAR Freshline! One lucky reader can win SPAR vouchers to the value of R200 when you answer this easy question: Name one  ingredient/product from the SPAR Freshline range which featured in this recipe. Leave your answer as a comment at the bottom of this post. Winner will be notified on Friday the 18th of January 2012.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & NicolaPretorius.

Tagliatelle with salmon, vodka and sour cream

19 Jun

Tagliatelle with salmon, sour cream, vodka and herbs (photo by Tasha Seccombe)

Since I bought my pasta machine a few years ago, I make home-made pasta at least once a week. A bit of elbow grease has never been bad for someone who likes to cook as much as I do, so I see it as part of my work-out – a way to justify the massive portion of pasta that I’m about to eat.

My favourite shape of pasta is tagliatelle, and sometimes tagliolini (slightly thinner strips). I like to eat it with rich, creamy sauces like the one below. Sauces like these are really at their best served immediately, because they thicken quite a lot on standing. To time this dish perfectly, make the pasta dough first, roll it out and cut into strips, then make the sauce, then quickly cook the pasta and toss the 2 together.

And the vodka? I once had the most delicious vodka pasta at a proper Italian restaurant in Stellenbosch that has unfortunately been closed for years. I still long for it! The vodka really adds a unique flavour to the dish, giving it a delicious acidity and slightly sour flavour – it goes so well with the sour cream and chives! If you don’t have vodka, substitute with some dry white wine of your choice.

Ingredients for tagliatelle: (serves 4)

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 4 XL eggs
  • 4 litres boiling salted water
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Ingredients for sauce: (serves 4)

  • 15 ml olive oil
  • a small bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 50 ml vodka
  • 250 ml sour cream
  • 1 cup fish stock (or chicken stock or vegetable stock)
  • 1 t tomato paste
  • 400 g canned salmon (or fresh salmon, cooked and flaked)
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of fresh dill and chives, chopped
  • smoked salmon strips for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add spring onions and garlic, and fry for 2 minutes.
  2. Add vodka, then cook to reduce by  half.
  3. Add sour cream, stock and tomato paste, then stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add salmon and simmer on low heat for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat, then add dill and chives and stir through. Cover and set aside.
  6. To make pasta: in a food processor, combine flour and eggs untill the mixture resembles couscous grains. Turn out on a wooden board, then press into a ball. Using a pasta machine, roll out sheets of pasta to a thickness of your choice (I prefer them quite thin), cut into tagliatelle strips, then cook in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes, or until al dente. Drain, then drizzle immediately with extra virgin olive oil.
  7. Return the drained tagliatelle to the pot you cooked them in, then pour hot sauce over (re-heat if necessary), stir to coat pasta well, and serve immediately. Garnish with extra herbs and smoked salmon strips.

Tip: If your sour cream is very thick, add more stock to the sauce. If the sour cream is thin, start by adding less stock.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius, Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe.

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni: a step by step guide

29 Jul

 

I’ve always been a huge fan of Italian food. It is the way that Italians value food, the way they celebrate life with food, the simple way they cook with great ingredients. Colourful, full of flavour, calorific, rich and indulgent. Just the way I like it.

Making cannelloni at home is not difficult, but I would admit it takes a bit of time to prepare and to assemble. So if you have the time to cook something really worth while, give it a shot. You need to make the tomato sauce, make the spinach and ricotta mix, roll out your pasta dough, and then assemble the little rolled pasta pockets before you bake them in the oven. You can also use store-bought dried cannelloni tubes, but they take more time to bake. I always prefer the soft freshly rolled version, but use whatever you feel like!

This is a step by step guide to making your own cannelloni. My recipe is enough for around 20 cannelloni rolls (I bake them in individual pasta dishes, 5 rolls in a dish) or 4 main portions.

Ingredients for tomato sauce:

1 x spicy tomato sauce (or use a store-bought pasta sauce like arrabiata, at least 750 ml)

Ingredients for spinach & ricotta stuffing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

400 g baby spinach or soft spinach leaves (don’t use swiss chard, because you need to remove the hard white inners, and then you’ll lose half of your spinach in weight)

400 g ricotta cheese

pinch of ground nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

half a cup grated parmesan/pecorino cheese

Method for spinach and ricotta stuffing:

In a very large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat, add spinach leaves and fry lightly untill spinach begins to wilt. Turn/toss leaves regularly while frying. Remove from heat when all the leaves just wilted and still green. Do not overcook. Add cooked leaves to a food processor, along with the ricotta, salt and pepper, nutmeg, and grated parmesan. Process to a smooth paste. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Set aside. (You can also just mix this roughly by hand – the texture will be different but it will taste exactly the same!)

Ingredients for pasta dough:

250 g flour

2 whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk

Method for pasta dough:

Put the flour, eggs and egg yolk in a food processor and mix untill it resembles cooked couscous grains. Turn out onto a surface and knead lightly into a ball. Cover with plastic and rest for at least 30 min. Roll out sheets of pasta in your pasta roller/machine, cut into squares of roughly 10 x 10 cm, and set aside (single layer, otherwise they’ll stick to one another).

Extra ingredients for final assembly:

1-2 cups grated mozzarella

1/2 cup grated parmesan/pecorino

Method for assembly:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. On a big surface, lay out the freshly rolled pasta squares. With a small spoon, fill each pasta square with a horisontal layer of spinach and ricotta stuffing. Roll the square into a tube.
  2. In a shallow ovenproof dish, spoon a thin layer of tomato sauce to just cover the base. Arrange the rolled pasta tubes in the prepared oven dish next to each other.
  3. Cover the rolled pasta tubes with another layer of tomato sauce, just covering it. Do not use too much sauce.
  4. Cover the top of the assembled canneloni with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes or untill golden brown. Serve immediately.

Really good macaroni and cheese

21 Jul

Macaroni and cheese, the way I like it

Mmmmmmmmacaroni and cheese. Everyone’s favourite lazy comfort food. You have to be in your pyjamas or other “slap” good-for-nothing clothes, in front of the TV, with a big chunk of macaroni and cheese, heated exactly to speed-eating-temperature, ready to hoover every creamy cheesy morsel of it. […]

Spicy tomato sauce for pizza, pasta and meat

3 Mar

Meatballs with my versatile spicy tomato sauce

Yes my darlings, it is true: I’ve created a fantastic spicy tomato sauce so versatile, you can practically use it on anything. I started making it as a tomato sauce for my pizza bases, and then realised that it also tasted great on pasta. It also works very well with meat and chicken. Lo and behold, it can even be turned into a soup! […]

It ain’t cheating if it tastes this good

7 Feb

It’s a beautiful drive to Lourensford Farm in Somerset West for their monthly farmer’s market weekend. But once you enter those gates, the view is just breathtaking: perfectly kept green vineyards surrounded by the most majestic blue mountains. It’s really spectacular.

Once parked on a shady patch of grass, we made our way over to the coffee stand on Saturday morning and ordered refreshing iced coffees to sip on while strolling through the food isles. I’ve been there many times before (my brother-in-law is the local rainbow trout farmer, and I have to say his trout is epic) so I kind of knew what to expect. But this time I found 2 new products that are just fantastic. […]

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