Tag Archives: tomato sauce

Spinach ravioli with smoked mozzarella & fresh tomato sauce

6 Aug

Spinach ravioli stuffed with smoked mozzarella and ricotta, topped with fresh tomato sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

This Friday we’ll be celebrating Women’s Day – a day where we are reminded that women played a big role in South Africa’s human rights history.  Back in 1965, a group of very brave women staged a silent march in Pretoria in front of the Union Buildings, against legislation that required African people to carry a special identification document which curtailed an African’s freedom of movement during the apartheid era.

It’s amazing how far we’ve come since 1965. Today, Women’s Day celebrates the respect, love and appreciation of women throughout South Africa. To me, it is not a political day, it is a day where we can treat each other with a little extra care and indulgence, just because we deserve it!

With the help of Poetry stores, I chose a recipe from the amazing book The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Kaldesi (available from Poetry). Being very sceptical of Italian cookery books (because everyone claims to cook like the Italians!), I approached this book with caution. But after spending a few minutes paging through the beautiful recipes and stories, I realised that this book is very authentic. I just couldn’t put it down. It might be my favourite recipe book of 2013 so far – a real inspiration for anyone who really enjoys traditional Italian recipes and ingredients.

Katie Caldesi was nominated for many awards after writing this book, and I can see why. She captures the soul of the people that feature in the book, and it translates onto the recipe pages. I look forward to spending much more time with this amazing book, and I’ll surely feature more recipes in the near future.

The recipe that I chose to feature for Women’s Day from The Italian Cookery Course, is part of a masterclass feature in the book: “Spinach pasta stuffed with smoked mozzarella with fresh tomato sauce”. It’s a bright green spinach pasta, filled with smoked mozzarella cheese and ricotta, topped with Giovanna’s fresh tomato sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese. It is simply sublime in flavour, rich from the cheese filling, yet light from the fresh tomatoes in the sauce. It is a beautiful plate of Italian goodness, perfect for a Women’s Day celebration.

May every lady out there feel special on Friday. I love being a woman!

Ingredients for Fresh Tomato Sauce: (serves 6)

  • 1kg fresh, ripe and very red tomatoes, quartered
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely grated
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon caster sugar (optional)
  • grated parmesan cheese, to serve


  1. Put the tomatoes, basil, and onion in a large heavybased saucepan over medium heat (no oil!). Cover the pan, shaking it frequently, and leave on the heat for 45 minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and softened. Remove the basil leaves.
  2. Use a stick blender and whizz up the tomatoes to a smooth puree, skins and all.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic. Fry over medium heat until it becomes fragrant, then add the pureed tomatoes.
  4. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes until the mixture has reduced and the flavour has become concentrated. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar.

Ingredients for Smoked Mozzarella Filling:

  • 250 g smoked mozzarella (or scamorza)
  • 150 g ricotta
  • a good pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt, to taste


  1. In a mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients well. Be careful with the salt as the mozzarella is already salty.

Rolling out the green pasta dough with my pasta machine (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for Spinach Pasta Ravioli: (I have adapted this recipe by mixing the dough in my food processor, but you can also mix it by hand)

  • 200 g fresh spinach (or 100g cooked spinach)
  • 2 XL eggs
  • 300 g flour, plus a little extra
  1. Cook the spinach first: I like to sautee the spinach leaves with olive oil in a large pan until it has wilted, then remove from the heat and let it cool. Spinach will lose about 50% of it’s weight after being cooked, so we are looking for about 100g cooked spinach for the rest of the recipe.
  2. When the spinach has cooled, place it in a small mixing jug with one of the eggs, then blend with a stick blender to a smooth green paste.
  3. Add the flour, remaining egg, and green paste to your food processor, then mix until you get a ball of dough that starts to come together (it only takes about 20-30 seconds).
  4. Remove the dough from the processor bowl, then place it on a floured wooden board and press together into a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  5. Using a pasta machine, roll out the dough, one piece at a time, to a thickness of about 1mm (almost thinnest setting). Lightly dust the pasta while working with it.
  6. Placing balls of filling on the pasta sheets (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

    Lay out the sheet of pasta on a lightly dusted surface to prevent sticking. Place heaped teaspoons of stuffing on one side of each sheet (lengthways), then fold it over and press down to stick the 2 layers together. If your pasta sheets look dry, use a pastry brush and water to make the surface a bit sticky before folding it. Make sure to press out any air bubbles around the stuffing.

  7. Fold the pasta sheets over the filling, then press down around it to get rid of air pockets before cutting it into squares (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

    Use a fluted pastry cutter (or pizza wheel cutter) to cut the ravioli into squares, aiming to leave about 2cm between the end of the filling and the edge of the pasta square. Place the ravioli on a lightly floured tray, spaced apart in a single layer. Set aside until ready to cook, but not longer than an hour otherwise it will start to stick to the surface. You can also freeze them at this stage.

  8. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook the ravioli for 3-5 minutes (until al dente), then drain through a colander – the filling will completely melt on the inside, so don’t be alarmed if the ravioli look “deflated”, just handle with care! Serve with the fresh tomato sauce (see recipe above) and top with grated parmesan cheese.


Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & Ilse van der Merwe

All recipes from: The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi, available from Poetry stores at R295

Bracelet: Poetry stores, R30 (Poetry supports the Ikamva Labantu programme to empower women. Proceeds from this handmade bracelet provide earnings and upskilling for local bracelet-makers as well as enterprise development opportunities in South Africa.)

Large plate, smaller bowls and wooden spoon: Wonki Ware from Poetry stores (ranging from R65-R399)


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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


  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


  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.


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.


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Ultimate deep fried onion rings with spicy ketchup

11 Feb

The ultimate deep fried onion rings with a spicy tomato ketchup (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

The humble onion can probably be classified as the neglected child of the cooking world. It does all the hard work in millions of recipes as the base ingredient for fabulous stews, roasts, sauces and soups, but very rarely features as the main belle of the ball.

The other day, I realised just how much I loved onions. So this is my tribute to you, my lovely onion friends. I drench them in a Cajun-flavoured soda batter, then deep fry them to a crispy golden perfect crunch. You can eat these beauties as is, or dip them in a superb homemade “ketchup”, or tomato sauce as we know it in SA. Mayo will also do a great job.

It’s amazing how far you can stretch an onion with this recipe. One large onion is enough for 2 people as a meal – I promise you won’t be able to eat much else after this. It is filling and utterly delicious. Make the ketchup in advance, then cool it and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge – it should last for at least 2 weeks.

Ingredients for spicy ketchup:

  •  30 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 large ripe red tomatoes (I used roma), skinned and sliced
  • 15 ml white grape vinegar
  • 15 ml soft brown sugar
  • 5 ml salt
  • 2.5 ml black pepper


  1. In a medium size pot, heat the oil on the stove, then add onions and fry over medium heat until they are soft.
  2. Add garlic and chilli, then fry for another minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer uncovered for another 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat, then use a stick blender to puree the mixture to a pulp. Transfer to a glass jar. Allow to cool for an hour, then screw on a lid refrigerate until ready to use. I prefer to bring it back to room temperature before serving it.

Ingredients for onion rings: (serves 4)

  • 2 large onions, skinned
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) self raising flour
  • 3 t (15 ml) Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup (250 ml) self-raising flour
  • 200 ml soda water
  • about 750 ml vegetable oil for frying


  1. Slice onions thickly into rounds of about 7-10 mm thick. Separate the rounds into rings and take out the very small inner rings (use it for your next stew!) – the larger rings work best.
  2. In a wide bowl, mix 1/2 cup self raising flour with the Cajun seasoning. In another bowl, mix 1 cup self raising flour with the soda water – it will be quite a thick batter.
  3. Pour the oil into a medium-sized pot, then heat it to deep-frying temperature (around 160-170 degrees Celsius).
  4. Take one onion ring at a time, cover it with the Cajun/flour mixture, shake off excess flour, then dip it into the batter (it should be covered on all sides) and place carefully into the hot oil immediately. Repeat with about 4 more rings, working quickly – don’t overcrowd the pot. Turn them over after about 2-3 minutes when they look golden on the bottom, then fry for another minute or 2 until they all golden all around. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Serve immediately with ketchup or mayo.

Note: The colour of the ketchup will very much depend on the colour intensity (and ripeness) of the tomatoes that you are using. Don’t be alarmed if the ketchup is not bright red like the commercial variety, we are working with real fruit and veg and they can vary quite a lot. Orange ketchup is also really cool!


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

Food & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Nicola Pretorius and Tasha Seccombe.

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Mediterranean seafood soup

17 Dec

A hearty, chunky, tomato-based seafood soup with saffron and paprika (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Every December, we go to Keurboomstrand on the Garden Route to spend our holiday – one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have a long family history at Keurbooms: my Mother started going there when she was only 2 years old. When I was only a month old (in 1977), I was Christened under the ancient milk-wood trees in the camping site – one of the most magical spaces that I have ever seen.

A few years ago, an Italian man named Enrico opened an authentic Italian restaurant at Keurboomstrand. Ristorante Enrico’s has now become one of the most popular (and most scenic) spots to eat on the whole of the Garden Route, and it certainly is one of my favourite restaurants in the whole of SA. They serve simple food, cooked with passion and great ingredients. One of the dishes that I order regularly is a seafood pasta, made with fresh linguine and served with a glorious tomato-based seafood sauce brimming with mussels, cubes of locally caught fish and calamari.

While we were on holiday at Keurbooms in January 2012, I wanted to make a festive seafood soup/chowder for the family, so I based my recipe on the taste of the seafood sauce that I love so much from Enrico’s. It is a chunky, hearty, Mediterranean-style tomato-based seafood soup that works best with the freshest seasonal seafood. My soup is also made with lots of passion, so at least I got the secret ingredient right!

Tip: Add any seafood that is sustainable, fresh, and to your liking. Prawns also work really well. Try not to use frozen products – it really makes a big difference in the taste!


  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 x medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bottle dry white wine (sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc)
  • a pinch of saffron threads (or half a teaspoon of turmeric)
  • 500 g fresh mussels in shells (rinsed and beards removed)
  • 4 cans of whole tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 60 ml tomato puree
  • 1 litre fish stock
  • 5 ml paprika (I use smoked paprika)
  • 2.5 ml cayenne pepper
  • 250 g fresh calamari/squid
  • 800 g hake fillets
  • 500 g of prawns (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • handful of freshly chopped Italian parsley (as garnish)


  1. In a large stock pot over medium heat, add olive oil and gently fry celery, onion and carrots. Fry until translucent (not brown), then add garlic and fry for another minute.
  2. Add wine & saffron, then turn up heat and bring to the boil.
  3. Add fresh mussels, then cook for 5 minutes. Remove mussels with a slotted spoon, and discard any unopened ones. Set mussels aside.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato puree, fish stock, then bring to the boil. Add paprika & cayenne pepper and stir well.
  5. Add all seafood (including mussels), then cook over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes until just cooked (do not overcook!).
  6. Season with salt & pepper, then remove from heat and add chopped parsley just before serving.
  7. Serve with crusty bread and side plates for the shells – it can be a messy affair, but that’s part of the charm!


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

Food & recipe: Ilse van der Merwe.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling:  Nicola Pretorius & Tasha Seccombe


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Meatballs with fresh herbs in rosa tomato sauce

4 Nov

Meatballs with herbs baked in a rosa tomato sauce

I have a list of 5 pantry essentials that I cannot live without. They are:

  1. Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil – the best I can find.
  2. Fresh garlic – I have a new mincing gadget that takes the effort out of chopping garlic.
  3. Canned whole tomatoes – big roma tomatoes or small rosa tomatoes (they are on special often, and are SO versatile).
  4. Salt flakes – I prefer Maldon, because the flakes are just the right size.
  5. Fresh cream – these days I buy cream in 1 litre containers; the 250 ml’s just don’t last in my house.

I recently started using great quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil as a condiment instead of an “ingredient” – that means you add it to your food after plating up, and not while cooking. It turns most pasta dishes, salads and breads into the stuff dreams are made of. That obviously means you have to use the best. I can recommend Tokara Olive Shed’s range of olive oils – my favourite is their Frantoio varietal: really fruity and robust with a wonderful green tinge. Other locally produced extra virgin olive oils that I love are Morgenster, Vesuvio, Kloovenberg, Willow Creek and Saint Sebastian Bay.

Coincidentally, I used 4 out of 5 of my listed essentials for my meatballs (I could have sneaked in the cream as well, but the sauce don’t really need it).  The great thing about canned tomatoes is that you can blitz it up to make a smooth sauce, or keep it chunky for stews etc. And you are skipping all the effort of boiling fresh tomatoes in order to remove the skins. Instant bright red moreishness without any of the canned taste, available all year round.

I was inspired to make meatballs after reading an amazing recipe for “Classic Meatballs” on www.saveur.com . The recipe generated a lot of negative comments on their site – people thought they used too many ingredients and that the recipe wasn’t “classic” at all. I say: do whatever you need to do to make your food taste great. If your “classic meatballs” contain 100 ingredients, that’s cool too. Food is meant to be enjoyed, people! Lighten up!!

So here is my meatball recipe with lots of ingredients, but there is a reason for every single one. And they taste bloomin’ fantastic – ask my husband.

Ingredients for meatballs:

500 grams lean beef mince

2 slices of bread, processed to fine crumbs (I used whole-wheat, but white is also good)

about 6 sprigs of spring onion, finely sliced (white parts only)

a handful of fresh basil, finely chopped

a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, lightly mixed

Ingredients for rosa tomato sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large cloves of garlic (or 5 small cloves), minced or finely chopped

125 ml (1/2 cup) red wine

2 cans whole rosa tomatoes (you can also use the bigger canned roma tomatoes and chop them roughly in chunks)

50 g (about 2 heaped tablespoons) tomato paste

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (or regular paprika)

salt and pepper to taste

For serving:

Great quality extra virgin olive oil

Spaghetti or ciabatta.

Extra basil leaves and chopped parsley.


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs together with clean hands. Now roll balls of around 4-5 cm in diameter, arranging them in a medium size oven-proof dish. I used a 25 cm round dish.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180 C.
  3. In a medium size sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium to high heat. Add one of the raw meatballs to the oil, breaking it up. Add the garlic and fry with the meat untill golden brown.
  4. Add red wine and deglaze. Cook on high heat untill the wine is reduced by half (should take about 2 minutes).
  5. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Give the oven dish a carefull shake to distribute the sauce evenly.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-45 minutes, or untill the sauce starts to darken on top.
  8. Remove from the oven, sprinkle generously with extra herbs, and serve with spaghetti, crusty bread, and lots of great cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.
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Tomato and chicken casserole for lazy cooks

28 Jun

Tomato and chicken casserole

Yesterday I was a lazy cook. Me, the greatest proclaimer of “you cannot spend too much time in the kitchen”. Normally I would create reasons why I should be baking one more batch of chocolate chip cookies, or a third and fourth sponge cake (just in case) or take the long route in drying my own wild mushrooms, just to be able to rehydrate them and use them later in a carefully prepared risotto. No effort in the kitchen is too much in my books. […]

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Baked vegetables with a gruyere and parsley crumb

10 May

Vegetable bake with a gruyere and parsley crumb

This fantastic vegetable dish was 100% inspired by fellow blogger Sam Linsell‘s brinjal & courgette bake with a garlic & parmesan crumb. Sam’s blog is called Drizzle & Dip, and she is a professional food stylist who also presented one of the food styling workshops at this year’s Food Blogger Indaba. If you visit her site, you’ll see why she’s called a pro. […]

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Pizza my way

15 Mar

Pizza my way with spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, salami, feta cheese and basil

I started making pizzas at home about 3 years ago. I got the recipe for the pizza base out of “Huisgenoot Top 500 Wenresepte”, and I haven’t looked back since. I now prefer my own homemade pizza to restaurant pizza, unless it is made by a proper Italian establishment who can provide me with the real thing!

I like my pizza to have a very thin crust, with really tasty tomato base spread generously, then mozzarella cheese and the toppings of your choice. […]

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