You’ll already have heard loads about Padella, I’m sure, but here’s my two cents (pence)! The hype is indeed valid for Padella next to Borough Market – their pasta dishes are fantastic. On a not-so-recent day off a month or two ago, I met my brother there and between the two of us, we split three pastas (most everyone else seemed to be splitting a starter and then having a pasta each).

Their famous pici cacio & pepe (£6.50) lived up to expectations! The thick, chewy pici were coated with the unctuous mixture of cheese and pepper – fabulous.

Pici cacio & pepe

Likewise, there’s quite a following for their pappardelle with 8-hour Dexter beef shin ragu (£8.50). I’m a sucker for a good ragu and this was excellent.

Pappardelle with 8-hour Dexter beef shin ragu

Taglierini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon (£12) was wonderfully fresh and the only thing that could have improved it would have been to be having it al fresco by the sea. I loved the different pasta shapes and the way they’ve been thrust into the spotlights here – I definitely don’t recall seeing pici anywhere else, for example.

Taglierini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon

Even for a weekday lunch, we had to queue but the restaurant is bigger than I expected so it was only a 10 minute wait for the two of us that day. I’m not sure what it’s like on a weekend. Oh, and the menu does change from time to time!

Padella
6 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TQ

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If you follow any of my other social media feeds, you can’t fail to notice that we’ve been consuming a lot of courgettes. Our two plants (one per person, based on advice I read online) having been pumping out the summer squashes and we can’t blink without another flower appearing. So far we haven’t got sick of them; this whole vegetable growing lark is still new and novel to me!

This recipe was initially going to be a courgette carbonara but I then thought I’d rather like to chuck in quite a bit of garlic and some chilli too. And I forgot I had some thyme outside and I reckon it would be quite good with that too. Apart from being quite tasty, it had the added benefit of coming together in about 15 minutes, perfect for a weeknight dinner.

Eggy Courgette Pasta

Courgette and Egg Spaghetti
serves 3 or 2 with leftovers for a lunch.

about 250-300g dried spaghetti
olive oil
3 small-medium courgettes
2 large cloves of garlic, fined minced
a couple of large pinches of dried chilli flakes
4 medium (or 3 large) eggs
about 30g of pecorino romano, finely grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set of pot of water to boil. Salt it well and set the spaghetti to boil.

In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium-low heat and add the minced garlic and chilli flakes. Let sizzle gently for a minute – you don’t want it to colour. Meanwhile, trim and grate the courgettes and then add all the gratings to the pan. Turn up the heat to medium and cook, stirring often.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs and pecorino with salt and lots of black pepper.

By the time the spaghetti has finished cooking, the courgette should be done. Turn off the heat for the courgettes in the sauté pan and add the drained spaghetti. Working quickly, pour over the eggs and then mix altogether well to get a creamy sauce. Serve.

Spaghetti carbonara has to be one of the best store cupboard pasta dishes that one can whip up in the time it takes for the spaghetti to boil. We’ve only just discovered that the addition of something green is absolutely brilliant as it helps cut the richness a little and you certainly feel better about getting your greens in even with such a quick meal.

While I’ve seen recipes for courgette carbonara, we like the addition of broccoli. Broccoli keeps for ages in our fridge and well, I just feel courgette can be a bit boring at times. Adding the broccoli doesn’t add any time to the preparation of the pasta dish as it’s cooked with the pasta. And, of course, as my Italian colleagues are likely to shout at you – no cream! The egg and cheese and pasta water will make it all creamy by itself.

Farfalle and Broccoli Carbonara

Broccoli and Bacon Carbonara
serves 2.

250g dried spaghetti or other pasta shape you need to use up (farfalle in our case)
olive oil
5 slices smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
about 1/2 a small head of broccoli
3 medium-large eggs
about 30-50g grated pecorino romano
salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Set a large pot of salted water to boil and get your pasta cooking.

Crack all your eggs into a bowl and beat them well. Add the grated pecorino romano and season with salt and lots of black pepper and beat well again.

Heat a large saute pan and add a little olive oil. Chop the bacon/pancetta and fry off the pieces slowly. Keep on a low heat when ready.

Chop all the broccoli (the stem too) into small pieces and toss them into the pasta water when the pasta is almost done. When the pasta is ready, the broccoli will be too – drain them both and add to the warm pan with the bacon. Stir and while stirring, pour over the egg mixture, and keep mixing all together. The egg and cheese should coat the pasta without scrambling. If it’s looking a bit too dry, add some of the pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

I came home from Ischia with three giant lemons and lots of ideas of what to do with them. The lemons grown in Ischia are a giant kind that seems to also be famous in nearby Sorrento. I mean, I’m really not kidding – look at the size of them!

The lemons here are massive!

They’re very flavourful and not too sour. My first thought was pasta. I was going to recreate the lemon linguine I had by the beach. Of course, scampi (they looked like what we know as langoustines) are difficult to come by and my little supermarket only had cooked prawns. They would have to do. And they did fine! I love how refreshing the lemon is, especially in the recent hot weather.  I didn’t manage to get as much liquid as they had in the dish I had in Ischia but I’m confident that this is just some of the pasta water added to the sauce.

Of course, if you don’t have the giant lemons, a regular lemon will do!

Linguine with Lemon and Prawns

Linguine with Prawns and Lemon
serves 2.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
zest from 1 regular lemon or 1/2 a huge lemon
juice from the lemon
200g cooked prawns
250g linguine
2 tbsps butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
basil

Set a pot of water to boil and then boil your linguine until al dente.

The sauce will come together in a snap. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic and watch it sizzle. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and the prawns and let the prawns heat through. Take off the heat and melt in the butter. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice if you feel it’s necessary.

Add the linguine and toss through with some torn basil and serve.

I felt like I lost my cooking mojo a couple weeks back (caused in part by the summer weather and also my being ridiculously busy at work and I’m tired when I get home) but after forcing myself into the kitchen recently, I do feel like it’s back and now I’ve got a few recipes ready for the blog. Reading other blogs helped too and one recipe that helped get me out of my funk was this creamy carrot pasta that Donny cooked on his blog Eat to Blog. A creamy pasta dish isn’t necessarily what one might make in the summer but the weather lately hasn’t been exactly summery, eh?

This recipe made a feature of carrot, a vegetable that I have no particularly strong feelings for and one I’d never thought of combining into a pasta dish – but the idea of combining it with cream sounded fantastic. I couldn’t help playing around a bit with the recipe and used a leek instead of the onion and crumbled the sausage into the sauce too. The result was very tasty with the sweetness of the leeks and carrots and cream playing nicely with the savoury sausage and the greenness of the parsley. And it’s very quick to put together for a weekday dinner.

Creamy Carrot, Leek and Sausage Pasta

Carrot, Leek and Sausage Pasta
adapted from Donny’s recipe on Eat to Blog.
serves 2.

250g pasta
1 medium-large carrot, thinly sliced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
3 sausages, chopped roughly
50 mL double cream
2 tbsps olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Set a large pot of water to boil.

Set a large saute pan over medium heat and add about 2 tbsps of oil when hot. Throw in the chopped sausage and let the pieces brown well. When cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage and set it aside.

Pour in a little more oil if the pan is looking dry. Add the leeks and saute for about three minutes. Toss in the carrots and continue cooking until they soften. If the vegetables start to stick, add a little water and scrape up the goodness stuck to the pan.

When the water is boiling, salt well and add your pasta (we used fusilli). Cook until al dente.

Return the sausage to the pan and then add the double cream. Stir through and let bubble together for a few minutes. Thin with water if desired and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Add in the cooked and drained pasta and the chopped parsley and stir well to combine. Add some of the pasta water if it’s looking too dry and if it’s difficult to stir. Serve.

I’m submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Amy of Very Culinary.

Hey, it’s another quick pasta dish suitable for busy weeknights! As usual, no time to cook plus a tiny kitchen that needs some new organisation results in fast meals. I do pride myself on making do with what I have though and what I did have a while ago was quite the bounty of mushrooms and only little ol’ me to feed that night. It was pasta I was craving and I came across a Jamie Oliver recipe online that would suit. There’s a lot of hate going around for him and say what you like but his recipes are ideal for the small kitchen.

Spaghetti with Mushrooms

This dish really highlights the flavour of the mushrooms so do branch out from the regular white button ones. I’ve made this spaghetti a few times already, each time with a different combination of interesting mushrooms (the photos are from two different days). Oyster mushrooms and shimeji mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and Portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms and enoki mushrooms – endless combinations! And hey, if you can afford it/find them, wild mushrooms would be superb.

Spaghetti with Mushrooms

Spaghetti with Mushrooms
adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver.
serves 2.

200-250g spaghetti or spaghettini
300-400g assorted mushrooms, cut or torn into bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced finely
a large pinch of chili flakes
2 tbsps olive oil
splash of white wine
large pat of unsalted butter
juice of half a lemon
a small handful of parsley, chopped
salt to taste

Set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil, followed by the garlic and chili flakes. Stir briefly and then add all the mushrooms. Continue stirring. When the mushrooms start exuding water, add the splash of white wine and continue cooking until the mushrooms are as done as you like. Add the pat of butter and the lemon juice and stir through. Salt to taste.

The water should be boiling by now. Salt well and then boil your spaghetti until al dente. Drain and add to the mushrooms along with the chopped parsley and toss. Serve.

I’m submitting this post to Presto Pasta Nights, this week hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Or, How I Tried to Make Heston Blumenthal’s Bolognese with a Few Shortcuts. Have you seen the recipe for his perfect spaghetti bolognese (featured on his book and show In Search of Perfection)? Spaghetti Bolognese is one of Britain’s favourite dishes and I’m sure every household has their own recipe for it. I also grew up eating it, my mother making vast quantities of the delicious meaty sauce at a time. However, the recipe I remember and still use involves frying off the ingredients in the same pot, chucking in wine and tomatoes and simmering it all down – easy peasy.

Kok Robin had a go at Blumenthal’s recipe last year and it was a massive three day undertaking. As I only had a day to spare (plus I wanted to make pasta and biscuits on the same day), I thought I’d take ideas from the original recipe and use them to improve the bolognese I usually make. I wanted to use the caramelised onions idea with the star anise. That sherry vinegar at the end looked good too. The list of unconventional ingredients added to the tomato base also seemed intriguing. I had to simplify the meats though (didn’t want to spend all day cooking oxtail) and so stuck with pancetta, pork and beef. Even with the shortcuts though, I spent a whole afternoon and evening on the sauce.

Pappardelle Bolognese

Upon first tasting my finished bolognese (tossed with freshly made pappardelle), a gentle sweetness from the caramelised onions was apparent and was countered well by the acidity from the sherry vinegar added at the very end. However, it didn’t blow my socks off. But after a day of maturing in the fridge (yay for leftovers!), the bolognese really came together. It was incredibly rich and meaty but still there was that hint of acidity that tempered it. A second day in the fridge improved things further. So in the end, it really did take all of three days to make a superb bolognese! Now all I need is a trip to Bologna to compare it to the original…

I’ve divided my modified recipe into six steps, each very doable. Something I’d do next time is also add some freshly grated nutmeg at Step 4. I’d also like to fry the ingredients in Part 5 into a thick, rich paste and perhaps use fresh tomatoes instead of passata.

Ragù alla Bolognese
adapted from Heston Blumenthal’s recipe.
serves 6-8.

Part 1
500g minced beef
250g minced pork
50g pancetta, chopped
30mL olive oil
200mL white wine

Get a big pot ready (I used a stockpot, you can also use a Dutch oven or casserole). For Part 1, heat the pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. When it’s hot, add the meats and brown them. When they’re all cooked, add the white wine and simmer until reduced by at least half. Turn off the heat and set the pot aside.

Part 2
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1.5 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
30 mL olive oil

For Part 2, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the oil. When heated, add the chopped onion, carrot and celery add fry until they’re soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the mixture to the meat in the big pot.

Part 3
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 star anise
20 mL olive oil

For Part 3, reheat that frying pan over medium-low heat and add the oil. Add the chopped onion and star anise and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelised and brown and sweet. Remove the star anise and add the cooked onion to the big pot.

Caramelised

Part 4
350mL whole milk
2 bay leaves

Add the milk and bay leaves from Part 4 to the big pot and stir to combine all the ingredients. Set the pot over medium heat and then reduce the heat when it’s bubbling. Leave to simmer, half-covered, for an hour.

Simmering the Bolognese

Part 5
3 pinches dried thyme
8 drops Tabasco
8 drops fish sauce
1.5 tsps Worcestershire sauce
1.5 tbsps ketchup
400 g tomato passata

After the hour is up, add all the ingredients from Part 5 to the big pot, stir well to combine, and then leave to simmer for an additional 3-4 hours (the longer the better). I’d originally wanted to cook down these ingredients together in the frying pan but sheer laziness prevented me from it – I wonder how much of a difference this would have made to the finished product. Anyway, try to reduce the mixture as it’s simmering (so no cover) – you want a very thick sauce.

Part 6
a couple tablespoons of butter
a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sherry vinegar

When the bolognese has simmered down to a consistency that you’re happy with (I like it super thick), add the olive oil and butter and stir through until melted and combined. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then give it a little splash of sherry vinegar. This really cuts the richness of the sauce and prevents it from being too cloying. Add a little at a time until you’re happy with the flavour, making sure to stir well after each addition.

Serve with spaghetti or fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle.