Pappardelle with mushrooms, lemon and sage

“99, column 2”

As statements go, that has to be, when taken out of context, one of the most random and mysterious comments ever.

If you had been following our adventures in Cookery Lotto, you would have known instantly that this was the answer we had been waiting for.  We had (great team effort there, everybody) managed to get a number that led us to finding the cookery book that I was to cook from, but to make sure I couldn’t deliberately pick something that I knew I liked, or that was easy to do, someone had to suggest a page and column number.

I said at the time I was glad it was column 2 – column 1 involved making a ragu from a kid goat’s shoulder. I would have tried, of course, but I was almost certain that Mick, our butcher, didn’t have any on his meat counter.

Luckily Caron picked column 2, which led to me making pasta yesterday with two little girls.

It  just goes to show that if we three could make pasta successfully in less than an hour then anyone could do it.

The girls set off home with their tagliatelle and I was left with, as instructed by the rules of Cookery Lotto, a bowl of pappardelle.

I wanted to make something delicious with this, my beautifully soft and silky, hand-cut pasta ribbons. And I didn’t have any part of a goat at hand.

I did, however have mushrooms, a lemon , some garlic and sage.

Which, as Good Food pointed out, was exactly what I needed for a “light but filling Italian supper, ready in just 20 minutes”

And even better, delicious though this sounded, gave me just 386 calories per serving. That meant it could be included in my 400 and Under category – diet food that tastes divine but with minimal calories. Things were just getting better and better.

On with a large pan of well salted water to get it to a brisk boil, while I chopped 250g of mushrooms.

They needed to saute in 25g of butter and after a couple of minutes, stir in a crushed clove of garlic

Squeeze a lemon and chop a handful of sage

Stir in the sage and add the lemon juice.

Check the papparedelle – as it is fresh pasta it will only need a couple of minutes cooking – drain it but leave a tablespoon or so of water in there.

And then toss it in the delicious lemon and garlic sage-scented buttery mushrooms



Last week, bored with the usual choices and needing inspiration, we played Cookery Lotto, a game guaranteed to introduce an element of randomness into the proceedings. Anything could have been chosen but the rules are that once chosen, it had to be cooked.

We ended up with a pasta dish from the Australian Gourmet Traveller Cookbook of 2008.

But this wasn’t going to be pasta from a packet – this was start from the beginning and make it from scratch pasta.

And I was glad because I knew how easy it was to do and this was my chance to show you.

The Bear and I have a pasta machine  and we love making pasta. It wasn’t expensive at all (under £10 in a famous designer clothes, shoes and houseware clearance shop…it had been £29,99 . Look there in the kitchen section – I’ve seen them lots of times. Failing that you can get them for under £20 on Amazon)

The first time we did it we were carried away with the idea that we could produce perfect pasta. The pasta was fine…. it was the ravioli we attempted to make that were an utter disaster. Perhaps more skill was required for that. Perhaps we should have read a recipe properly. Anyway, the ravioli burst open and the fillings weren’t so great.

Straight forward pasta was fine though. Good, even. We have made tagliatelle and lasagne sheets and today we are making papardelle.  When I say we, it is not me and my partner in life and crime, the Bear. He’s off travelling again and is on the other side of the world so he won’t be here to help.

We, today, are me, my friend M and her daughters. OK so the nearly-two year old won’t be much good, but I have high hopes of  training the ten year old to be a willing kitchen slave.

I have looked at the recipe and it says 4 eggs and 560g of flour…. seems a lot I thought, and then I realised it was to make enough pasta for 8. Time to scale down. My amazing mathematical skills come to the fore as I rapidly divide everything by two… then thought I’d better divide again.

How much pasta do I need? I’m not intending to feed everyone I know. We shall use one egg and 140g of flour. That will be enough for us.

You do your own maths to work out how  much you will need.

And…. off we go.

Weigh 140g of “00” Italian flour and lightly whisk one egg.

Put that in a bowl and add 3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt  and 15 ml of water.

Then start to mix it. I’m using my KitchenAid mixer because I can. (And every use of it makes the overall cost per use drop. Use that argument when you are plea bargaining for one of your own) If you haven’t got an electric mixer, then you will have to stir it all by hand.

This is no bad thing – after all people were making pasta by hand for centuries before electric mixers were developed.

It will all come together quite easily and form a coherent dough. Now because eggs come in different sizes, you may need to add more flour to the mix if it looks too wet. We had to because we used an extra large egg.

You will need to knead it now – just put it on a floured board and stretch and pull and roll and knead until you feel it becoming smooth and springy. L, who is ten, really took to stretching and pulling the dough.

The girls had a great time helping to knead it. That’s the two of them, sharing the job. The nearly-two year old loved getting her hands on to the dough because she saw her big sister doing it. That’s the best way to get children to enjoy cooking… letting them get their hands in to it. It’s not the best way to keep the kitchen clean and tidy but it is the best way to have fun.

Now you just cover it with a damp tea towel and leave it to rest for a while. Ten minutes or so if you are wanting to get a move on, and hour or thereabouts if you have the time to wait.

Time for a nice cup of tea and teach young kitchen slaves how easy it is to wipe down the benches.

Now for the fun bit – cut the dough into two or three pieces and, having made sure your pasta machine is firmly screwed onto the bench, start feeding the first bit through. Give each piece a light sprinkling of flour so it doesn’t stick.

(If you haven’t got a pasta machine, don’t worry, just get ready to start rolling it out with a rolling pin. Make sure you have divided it out, though, before you start rolling it. Just dust it lightly and get cracking.)

You start off on the widest setting, and fold the first piece over on itself so it gets a really good pressing. Think Grandma’s mangle… you just turn the handle and the pasta goes through.

Got to the next notch sprinkle lightly, very lightly with flour and put the pasta through again. The girls loved this and took turns winding the handle.

Keep going until you have gone through all the settings and are down the last one.

Now my machine has setting for cutting pasta so I can either use them, feeding the thin sheets of pasta through the cutting attachments to make tagliatelle or cut the sheets free hand.

If you are cutting free hand, dust the surface lightly and roll the flattened sheets of pasta up like a giant swiss roll. Then simply cut down through the roll to get your pasta strips. Easy, huh? 

Now, if I were going to be making pasta all the time, and I wanted to make it in advance of cooking it,  then I would buy one of those pasta drying racks, but I’m not, so I haven’t. You can dangle it from clothes racks to let it air off or you can simply dust lightly with flour again or maybe fine polenta and start getting the pan ready to cook it in.

See? Within ten minutes we had a huge mound of tagliatelle for the girls to take home to their brothers to have for their supper

.. and some hand cut, broader strips of pappardelle for me.

We all sat around, gazing with pride at our beautiful  pasta – a few minutes work and a huge amount of fun and laughter.

It was a wonderful afternoon’s work and at the end of it we had made food for everyone. It wasn’t difficult and it cost pennies to make. Some flour, an egg, a pinch of salt and some oil all came together to make delicious home made pasta. And two little girls now think they want to cook again… and again… and again!

My cunning plan will work – give them a few years and I can spend my time lolling on the sofa while my willing kitchen slaves toil for me.

Another success chalked up to the random selection of Cookery Lotto.

Cookery Lotto – we’re making pasta!

Caron was first to pick a number and a column…

Page 99 of Australian Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook, 2008 is in the pasta section and the second column  is papardelle.

We’re making pasta!  And the only ingredients are 4 eggs, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 560gm “00” durum wheat flour.

Pappardelle is broad flat strips of pasta. Broader than fettucine.

All I can say is thank goodness she didn’t choose column 1… because we’d have been searching for  a kid’s shoulder on the bone to make a ragu with.

That’s a goat’s kid’s shoulder, obviously.

So, this weekend is pasta time! Goodness knows what sauce I will make to serve with it – I shall cross that bridge when I get to it.

Lasagne loveliness

You know sometimes when you feel like no matter what, you deserve a treat? Yes, I have been good on my diet and yes, I have lost weight… and yes, I would have carried on with it. In fact, I have every intention of going back on the diet. But not tonight.

The constant snow and darkness, now followed by the miserable rain; the cold and disruption to everything is getting everyone down. Added to that, the nasty fall where I banged my head…

Oh and my camera has broken. I have to use my BlackBerry, or the Bear’s camera. And I had just (as in the day-before-just) bought a new battery, and two chargers (one for the car) for my camera. Insult piled upon injury!

Well, do you really think that some steamed vegetables, say, or maybe some celery would make me feel better?

Or would this…….?

A steaming dish of lasagne… or as the lovely Saucy Smith , from lobstersandwich calls it, Faux-sagna. Read her description and recipe and then you will see why I just had to do it….

Hot, steaming pasta with delicious ragu, bound together with a cheesy bechamel sauce?

Easy to eat…. so very easy to eat while curled up on a sofa…. perhaps with some garlic bread?

Surely, after the week I have had… and the bump on the head that I got, it would be not only right, but, in fact, eminently sensible to have lasagne? I’d been reading how Saucy made her her free-form lasagne and it seemed so right.

The essence of this recipe is that you don’t use pasta sheets and build it up.. you use what you have and you make it quickly. Saucy used penne but I didn’t have any. I had half a bag of lumaconi and a jar full of macaroni. I could work with that. I’d have to… I just needed  to put the two sorts together to get enough.

I had some beef mince in the freezer, some tinned tomatoes, some Parmesan cheese. I had half a pint of milk. I had two eggs. I had everything I needed!

First of all, saute some onion until it is soft and fragrant, then

…add the mince and brown that off.

Take the pan off the heat.

Add the chopped plum tomatoes and stir it all round

And put it all in a big bowl and mix it round.

While that was going on, I had cooked the pasta… I had to do it separately as I was using two different sizes. Big bits first, then while they are draining, do the littler bits of macaroni.

That only takes a few minutes, just drain each pan full and let it dry off.

While that’s drying, make the cheesy bechamel sauce.

To make a good base bechamel, you need equal quantities of butter and flour.

 I like to use Italian ’00’ flour, which is extra fine. (I make pasta from it when I have the time, but today is not the day for that)  If you haven’t got the Italian flour don’t worry, just use plain flour.

I melted 30g of butter and then stirred in 30g of flour.

This really is the work of moments… a gentle stir round to bring it together, let it cook for a couple of minutes or so then start to add milk.

Lumpy? Yes, of course, but it just needs you to stir it quickly, consistently and well until it becomes a smooth and silky sauce

Keep going and add the milk slowly. I used the half pint. I wanted it to be thick and creamy. A sprinkle of salt and a grating of pepper freshens it up.

Once it is smooth, add handfuls of finely grated parmesan – I used maybe 80g because that was what I had (and I did need some for something else…)

The thing is, you must taste it. Does it suit you? Do you like the taste? You’re the one that is eating it.

Take it off the heat and add a couple of egg yolks (the whites can be used maybe tomorrow in scrambled eggs or an omelette. Tomorrow is another day, another meal)

Stir it in, making the sauce rich and delicious.

The rest of the grated parmesan?

Just to prove how quickly this can be done, I had started making some foccacia when I was getting the other ingredients together. Possibly the easiest bread to make in a hurry.

I tweaked it by adding chopped garlic to the dough so it was kneaded through the dough (at Christmas I made it with snippets of bacon on the top and garlic puree in it ) and then,  when it was beautifully plumped up, I scattered the fluffily fine grated parmesan over it.

That can bake when the lasagne goes in to the oven.

That’s not a great photograph but that is using my phone… trust me, it is beautifully bouncy and when I prodded it with my fingers they just sank in, the dimples just ready and waiting for a drizzle of oil.)

Back to the lasagne…

That mixture of pasta will have dried off by now so add it to the bowl with the meat and tomato mix

(Actually I am liking the look of this with the two different sizes)

Then, pour three quarters of the cheesy bechamel into the bowl and stir it through.

Don’t use all of it… I said, three quarters. The rest has to be blobbed on the top, so you must leave some

See how it makes a creamy, tomatoey mix?

How it seeps and fills the pasta?

Butter a good sized baking dish and pour the mix in

Then blob what is left of the bechamel over it. Don’t cover it… this is a random splodging of sauce!

Oven on…175 degrees

Free-form lasagne in on one shelf, foccacia on another

Quickly wipe down the benches, open some wine and prepare for bliss

The bread will take about 15 minutes and the lasagne maybe 30. That’s good because it means the foccacia has time to cool slightly before you start eating it.

Break the bread so you can both get at it

Get the lasagne out and scoop out a big bowlful

(Do you like the sound, as I do, of a spoon pulling up a portion… that first spoonful comes out with a sort of sucking popping noise.. maybe a sticky squelch… you know what I mean? It just tells you this is going to be good)

That’s not a great photo but I have to say, there’s only so long I was going to stand around, pointing my phone at it, while I breathed in the smell of lasagne.

There were delicious little morsels of macaroni and big shell like lumaconi, filled with a glorious mix of meat and tomato and cheesy bechamel.

Lovely garlicly, cheesey foccacia alongside it.

Now THAT made me feel better.

The Bear steps in

Today has not been a good day for me – my arm is hurting and I have just idled around, wanting sympathy. Thinking of what to cook for supper was beyond me so The Bear (who got home at midnight, last night) took matters into his own hands and rummaged through the cupboards for something to make.

I haven’t been shopping for ages so the cupboards and fridge are empty……. except for basics….

Bear steps in 005

He grabbed some pasta – a lovely large, snail shaped pasta shell that catches the sauce you serve with it – and then started to look for something to make sauce with.

In the fridge he found the last few baby pomodorino tomatoes and some parmesan cheese. There were chillies growing on the balcony, some garlic in the vegetable box and… on the shelf at the back of the fridge

Bear steps in 002

Of course, the tin wasn’t opened then.

That was it. He started boiling the pasta and while that was going, he roughly chopped the tomatoes and garlic, with half a chilli (to give it a bite) and sauteed them in some chilli flavoured oil. Then (this is the hidden masterstroke) he put in half the tin of anchovies and stirred them all together

Bear steps in 001









By now the pasta was ready so he drained that, adding a couple of spoonfuls of the pasta water to the tomato sauce to loosen it all up a bit

Bear steps in 003


A quick stir round, then into the bowls with the pasta, and then top it with the sauce and a grating of parmesan

Bear steps in 004

And there you are. A perfect supper. The anchovies dissolve away and give the sauce a gorgeous depth of flavour and the chillies give it a bite. All from scraps and bits and made in minutes.

Delicious. Everyone should have a Bear who can serve up dinner in minutes from the bare scrapings of the larder.