Monday, 26 July 2010

Baked Spinach and Ricotta Lumaconi

Following on from my Taste of Italy post about an evening I spent with Bertolli and the lovely Gennaro, I came up with this tasty pasta dish, which is light and just perfect for a summer evening when you have had enough of salad but still needing something healthy! No cheese sauce in sight and packed with flavour, its a little fiddly but fun to fill all the shells and thats about all the effort required, great for a busy week night!

Out of all the Bertolli sauces the Basilico was my favourite, with a really gorgeously fresh tomato flavour and chunky texture, I wanted to make the most of it. Whilst you could make your own tomato sauce for this dish, this is one occasion where I probably would choose shop bought, for convenience and also more importantly, flavour!

Hope you enjoy!

Serves 4 as a starter, 2-3 as a main course


1 jar Bertolli Basilico sauce
16 Lumaconi shells (large snail like pasta shells, allow a couple extra for breakage!),
250g ricotta
260g fresh leaf spinach, any rough stalks removed
½ tsp nutmeg
S&P (lots of the p!)
15 basil leaves, 10 shredded
Handful grated light mature cheddar

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 for main course

1) Boil the pasta as per instructions, when cooked, drain and rinse in cold water. Pre-heat the oven 180 fan/ 200 gas.

2) Rinse and cook 2/3 of the spinach leaves for a couple of minutes until wilted, drain really well in a sieve or colander, pressing out any excess liquid, chop finely and allow to cool slightly.

3) In a bowl, mix the spinach, ricotta, nutmeg, shredded basil and season well, fill the pasta shells with the mixture either using a teaspoon or piping bag, whichever you find easier! I used a foodbag with a corner snipped off with good results.

4) In a deep baking dish, pour in the Bertolli sauce, cover with a thin layer of the reserved uncooked spinach

5) Place the filled shells on top of the spinach. Finely shred any remaining uncooked spinach and scatter over the base, top with the grated cheese:

6) Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbling and golden. Serve with garlic bread or a fresh green salad

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Taste of Italy with Bertolli and Gennaro Contaldo

Firstly, I must admit that I was a little dubious, and yet at the same time curious about attending an event with a well known brand, about ready made Italian Pasta sauces – mainly as I normally make my own from scratch, and I am pretty happy with them! However, as both friends and my brother seem pretty keen on the Bertolli sauces (I had not actually tried them before this event!), there also being the opportunity to meet the delightful Gennaro Contaldo and have a cookery lesson with him, and the fact that I love to eat and cook a lot of Italian food, I really had nothing to lose :)

And so after a very hot train ride into town and my badly written directions (I got confused with different station exits!) I finally found L'atelier des Chefs, which was the venue for the evening.

After a quick get together with the other food bloggers and a perfectly chilled glass of Prosecco, which was very welcome at this point, Gennaro appeared amongst us and we filed into the kitchen area and adorned ourselves with special Bertolli aprons and glamorous hats, please check out Katie’s blog if you want to see what I look like…… no laughing please!

The evening started with Gennaro demonstrating for us the Soffritto technique (onion, carrot, celery all finely chopped, plus a bashed clove of garlic, gently sautéed in olive oil). Bertolli's sauces are now based on this method, resulting in tasty, rustic sauces inspired by 150 years of the brands history.

Me and three other bloggers then went up to the stoves and made our own, by god it was hot with 4 gas burners on, plus the smell of chopped onions which resulted in my eyes streaming and looking like an idiot!  After making the soffritto, we added tinned tomatoes, Gennaro added lots of diced chillies and after a short simmer, we decanted into these cute jars which had our names on:

After the decanting, Gennaro then demonstrated with gusto our dinner meals. I will be honest in that when he was making the starter, it was filling me with dread, I saw capers go in = 1st pet hate, then a jar of the Arrabbiata sauce, lovely, then fillets of mackerel went in = 2nd pet hate! I was not looking forward to this and thought would try a spoon out of politeness… However maybe my taste buds have been deceiving me, as I proceeded to eat nearly all of it! Mackerel is still not on my favourites list, nor capers, however it was still a very tasty dish!

Our main course consisted of penne with a slow cooked chunky beef ragu and the Basilico sauce, something I think my fiancée would love for the meat content alone!

There was also a delicious veggie option made with mushrooms and courgettes, which was pretty tasty for something cooked so quickly, and from a jar!

One main thing I can say about the Bertolli sauces, if the lovely Helly doesn’t mind me stealing her words upon tasting one of the Bertolli sauces – ‘I can’t believe this came out of a jar’. Rather grudgingly I will admit openly the Basilco sauce did not taste like it was from a jar as it tasted far too fresh and tomatoey! Out of all the sauces I will most likely buy this one again. In fact I have since made a delicious dish using the Basilico sauce and it will appear on the blog in a couple of days…in the meantime here is a picture of the linguine bolognese I made recently using the Bertolli bolognese sauce:

The bookshelf has truly finally collapsed in on itself as now proudly sits a copy of Gennaros book, Passione. Definitely in need of a new, bigger bookshelf!

Many thanks to Bertolli for inviting me, the ever lovely ladies at Wildcard and of course the wonderful Gennaro Contaldo who was a real pleasure to meet, so full of life and character, and last but not least the team at L'atelier des Chefs.

Also additional thanks for the fab little ‘Supplement to the Italian dictionary’ book, I’ve had good fun testing out the hand signals on the family this week!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Baked Haddock with a creamy Spinach & Prawn sauce

Whilst I love eating fresh fish its not something I cook very often and when I do cook it, I tend to stick to the limited dishes I know (salmon with a simple marinade or home made fish fingers!), however yesterday I had my lovely niece Alice (and keen foodie!) around for dinner after school, and after a trip round Sainsburys putting random stuff in the basket, we came up with this gorgeous fishy dish for our dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed it and sure you will all too!

Its perfect for a weeknight or even for when entertaining guests, easy to make and the sauce would work just as well on other similar style of fish.


3 Skin on boneless haddock fillets
10 cherry / pomodorino tomatoes or similar (we had a mix of red and yellow)
1 big handful grated mature cheddar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
4 heaped tbsp ½ fat, preferably organic crème fraiche
150g small cooked peeled prawns
140g fresh spinach leaves
S & p
Fresh basil leaves, torn to garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 170 fan/ 190 normal

1) Wilt the spinach leaves in a saucepan, place into a sieve and squeeze any excess water out, chop finely and leave to one side, save the pan for later

2) Place the fish fillets skin side down on a lightly greased baking tray with the tomatoes, baked for about 9-10 minutes until almost cooked through

3) Gently heat the oil in the pan, add the garlic and warm through for about 30 seconds, add the chopped spinach and creme fraiche and warm through for 2-3 minutes without boiling, add half the cheese and the prawns, mix well and season. Spoon the mixture over the fish, top with remaining cheese

 4)  Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden on top, serve immediately.

We served ours with these lovely chilli cheese wedges but simply boiled new potatoes would work equally well.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Baileys Chocolate cheesecake..

I'm torn with this one whether its a success or not. Yes it does fill the title description but at the same time it had me slightly hungover, repeatedly bending down to the oven, to check if it was cooked yet (not good for a sore head, too many cocktails the night before!), it took a total of 1hr 40 minutes to bake in my oven, which is fan assisted...and is usually quicker than a normal oven, the recipe states about 1 hour.

The cheesecake itself is relatively straight forward to make, so am tempted to try again...I don't have a hand mixer as stated, just used my electric whisk as was nearest thing to it, I wonder if that made much of a difference as my mixture was very runny going into the tin..

The recipe was adapted from a BBC Good food recipe for Kahlúa Chocolate Cheesecake, the adaption being that I used Baileys as they had sold out of Kahlúa, I think it was a little over done in the end as the outer side was more cake like in texture but end result was a very dense, chocolate, calorie laden treat. The topping with creme fraiche and Baileys* in was a nice finish and helped to moisten the cake.

Friday, 2 July 2010

An evening with Tilda..

Last Wednesday, I spent a gorgeously hot summers evening with a lovely bunch of food bloggers at the gorgeous, quirky location that is Food at 52 in London, I believe most of us had serious house envy during our visit! It had a real homely feel, with lots of random jars lining the shelves (reminded me of my windowsill!) and big deep sofas to get lost in!

The evening was hosted by Camilla from ‘Tilda’, the ‘rice people’ who have just launched a new range of stir-fry rice’s that are already cooked and flavoured, all you need to add is your meat or vegetables and cook through, great for when time is short! All the packets serve two which is ideal for us. The range currently has Kung-po, Peking, Thai green and Thai red rice.

Whilst you can use the packets just as they are, we were very lucky to have Jo Pratt demonstrating other uses, including a delicious prawn and rice broth, gorgeous Thai chicken toasts with a nutty cucumber relish, which were a real crowd pleaser, tasty duck & rice pancakes and last but not least, a tasty and fragrant lamb rice dish.

After Jo’s demonstration, I teemed up with Kavey and Gary, and whilst Gary expertly stirred everything me and Kavey rounded up goodies to add into the wok, this was our final dish using Tilda’s Peking rice:

Tilda select only the best grains of pure basmati rice, and following a little talk, I have strange visions now of a big red laser zapping all the baddies out, but no wastage is involved as this goes into animal feed. Tilda also works closely with over 10,000 farmers, providing them with the seed to ensure they receive the best market prices and ensuring a better future for them so you can buy with confidence.

All of the rices are gluten free, suitable for veggies and with no nasties in. They will be available via Waitrose or Ocado imminently.

Big thanks to the ladies at Wildcard for arranging the evening, the great hosts at Food at 52, Tilda and the lovely Jo Pratt for taking the time to discuss her chilli con carne recipe with me (one of my favourites !) and her really fab book In the Mood for Entertaining, which I plan on cooking the entire book through! Oh and most definitely a big thanks for my lovely new wok, I will try really hard not to kill this one - have gone through 5 so far on our ceramic hob, I must get one of these portable gas cookers:

P.s. don’t stand near MiMi when she is armed with a wok and hot oil! ;-)
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