Spaghetti cooked Risotto-Style

A few nights ago, I had dinner at my cousin Elena’s house in Milan. She is the sweetest, most gorgeous girl, but, notoriously, she can’t cook to save her life! Lucky for all the guests, she also invited her bother Giorgio along, who was born with the cooking gene. Giorgio has always been a flamboyant wine connoisseur and a passionate amateur cook and has certain savoir-faire in the kitchen, it always is a pleasure for me to watch him at work and exchange tips and recipes. That night he made Italy’s most loved summer classic, Spaghetti con Pomodorini (with fresh cherry tomatoes), with a little twist. He cooked the pasta “risotto style”: forget about boiling, draining and then dressing the pasta with your sauce! When you do it “risotto-style”, the spaghetti cooks in a rich and velvety fresh tomato liquor, slowly absorbing all the flavors, while the starch released by the gentle and constant stirring motion creates a luscious sauce.

INGREDIENTS, serves 4

2 shallots

4 tablespoons of EVOO

1 garlic clove, skin on, bruised with the back of a knife

2 tins of tomatoes (to 2 lb of Passata)

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved

basil leaves

salt, to taste

1 packet of Spaghetti

Freshly grated Parmigiano to serve

HOW TO

1. Heat up the oil in a heavy-based frying pan or large saucepan. Stir fry the shallots and garlic over medium-low heat, for 1-2 minutes or until the onion is soft and the garlic smells fragrant. Add the tinned tomatoes or passata, season with salt, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat to low.

2. Cook the sauce for 20 minutes.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook th spaghetti in it for 1-2 minutes or until the pasta has softened. Using kitchen tongs, lift the spaghetti straight into the tomato saucepan. Cover with enough pasta cooking water so that all the pasta is submerged with liquid. Stirring gently, continue cooking until the pasta is Al Dente and the liquid has been absorbed and you are left with  thick, rich sauce. This will take 5-7 minutes, according to the size of spaghetti you use. When the pasta is al dente, add the cherry tomatoes and basil leaves. Turn the heat off. Taste for salt and adjust accordingly.

4. Serve hot, with a generous dusting of parmigiano and plenty of bread to mop up that delicious sauce.


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Pasta Bake

This pasta dish tastes as good as it looks.

A generous amount of al dente pasta, layered with melting mozzarella, oven-baked sweet tomatoes, oregano, Parmigiano and crispy breadcrumbs.

What’s not to love about it?

It’s a family favourite and you will find most of you at the table will be fighting over the crunchy pasta bits of top!
It is the ideal meal to prepare if you have left-over pasta or left-over sugo, or both.

The other day I cooked a pork stew and I intentionally cut off the bones of the ribs to add to a garlic and tomato slow-cooked sauce to have the following day.

We Italians don’t waste anything when it comes to cooking!

All I had to do yesterday was boil up some pasta until just before al dente, as it will keep cooking in the oven, mix the sauce through, throw in a good amount of bocconcini (any melting cheese you have in the fridge will do), Parmigiano, dried oregano, black pepper.

Ingredients for 4 people

500 ml (2 cups) of tin tomatoes

250 ml (1 cup) water

2 garlic cloves, bashed

3 pork rib bones

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

400 gr (3/4 packet) of Fusilli or Rigatoni

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 cup of mozzarella cheese

1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup of parmesan, grated

1/4 cup of dried origano

salt and pepper to taste

How to

Sautee’ the garlic in oil, add the bones, the tomatoes and the water and bring to the boil. Turn th wheat down, add 2 teaspoons of salt a 1 bay leaf and slow cook for 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Drop in you pasta and cooked until 3/4 done.

Pour the pasta onto an oven dish generously smeared with sugo (tomato sauce) and dusted with bread crumbs. Cover with tomato sauce.

Top it with halved tomatoes, more Parmigiano, mozzarella, dried oregano and more coarsely chopped bread crumbs.

I covered it in foil and baked it for 20 minutes at 200 Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit), then uncovered for a further 15 minutes to create a crunchy crust.

My teenager niece and nephew polished off their plates so well I needn’t have put them in the dish washer…

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