Tag Archives: Italian

Roasted Tomato and Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato Risotto

This was actually a fabulously tasty dinner borne out a random fridge emptying operation!. You know those times when there doesn’t appear to be anything too interesting and you rustle up what there is anyway, and hope for the best. And actually it was really rather good and has since been made a couple of times, and not just when I’m in fridge clearing mode! What’s more the kids ate it, Jacques in the main because it contained an ample amount of his beloved olives (especially taking into account his sister’s discarded ones), and Francesca who claims to not like tomatoes happily ate these sweet roasted ones. Result. And us big people loved it too, so a perfect family dinner all in all.

Jacques eating Roasted Tomato Risotto

One happy Jacques with his olivey risotto!

To be fair I probably wouldn’t be feeding this risotto to an Italian or Risotto Aficionado. I mean feta in a risotto?. It’s all a bit wrong really. But hey this Greek/Italian fusion worked for my lot and interestingly, while I was stirring away, as you do with a risotto, I couldn’t help but think it all looked a bit like a hot greek salad. And besides, since it has no cow’s dairy but sheep’s milk Feta it’s something I can happily give to Jacques who appears to be dairy intolerant.  It’s certainly one of my healthier risottos and a fab way of getting lots of the good stuff into little (and big) tums!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Even Francesca enjoyed it, tommies and all!

Simply oven roasted cherry tomatoes (with fresh thyme if you have any), roasting while you make the risotto. Then stirred into a super-healthy risotto of  red pepper, courgette, olives (black or green) and blasphemous Feta cheese. De. Lish. Ous.

Since there’s fresh thyme involved I’m entering this post

Cooking-with-Herbsto Karen of Lavender & Lovage Cooking with Herbs challenge. Also as it was a genuine fridge-clearing concoction to Credit Crunch Munch, hosted by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours and this month by Sian at Fishfingers for Tea. To to Javelin Warriors Made with Love Monday’s event, as this is a made from scratch meal. And finally as tommies are now in season to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge. Phew that’s quite a few entries!Simple and in Season

Made with Love Mondays

Credit-Crunch-Munch

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Roasted Tomato & Feta Risotto

Great for: Toddlers & Pre-schoolers, Bigger Kids, Grown Ups, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers, Risotto Fans, Vegetarians. Not for Risotto Aficionados

Serves: A Family of 4

Total Cook Time: 45 minutes

450g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt & pepper

a few sprigs fresh thyme. leaves removed

small onion, finely diced

1 small red pepper, cut into fine strips

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

220g arborio risotto rice

large glass white wine

700ml hot vegetable stock, I use Marigold

1 small courgette, diced

60g green or black pitted olives, halved, optional

120g Feta cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC

2. Place the halved cherry tomatoes cut side up on a large roasted tin. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, black pepper and the thyme leaves. Finally drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the hot oven for 25 minutes.

3. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, prep the risotto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan on a gentle heat. Sweat the onion and red pepper strips for 10 minutes with the lid on, stirring every now and again and adding a splash of water if the veggies look a little dry and are sticking.

4. Stir in the garlic and allow to cook for a moment or two before stirring in the risotto rice, ensuring the grains get a good coating of the oil. Poor in the wine and stir.

5. Allow to simmer (uncovered) on a gentle heat until most of the wine has evaporated/absorbed then stir in a ladleful of the hot stock together with the diced courgette and olives (if using). Continue to stir at regular intervals adding further ladlefuls of stock every time the last one’s almost absorbed.

6. When the rice is tender stir in the roasted tomatoes, together with any juices from the tray, and the crumbled feta. Place the lid back on the pan and allow the flavours to rest and mingle for a couple of minutes.

7. Taste and season to suit. No added salt for littlies. Serve as is or with a sprinkling of grated fresh Parmesan.

You might also like:

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Spinach, Courgette & Pesto Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Mushroom Pearl Barley Risotto

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Smoked Salmon and Courgette Carbonara

Smoked Salmon & Courgette CarbonaraAs regular readers may know we’re rather partial to a carbonara in our house. In the main because we always have a steady supply of eggs, albeit a dwindling one these days as our ladies are getting quite frankly a bit old. The kids love it and it so happens to be one of the quickiest and tastiest dinners EVER. In essence Carbonara Rocks. And I do love a pasta dish that can be prepared in the time it takes the pasta to cook. We very rarely have the standard bacon and egg version, as ever feeling the compulsion to ‘veg’ things up somewhat. A popular permutation is my Sausage & Courgette Carbonara and in the Autumn a Roasted Pumpkin Carbonara, but for you today I have a pescatarian and seasonal Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara.

swallow-recipes-for-lifeWith Jacques’ adoration of all things smoked salmon and Francesca’s recent approval of it we’ve been eating this quite a bit lately. So when June’s Recipes for Life ingredients were announced to be Salmon, Pasta and Courgette I was delighted to be able to blog another Foti family favourite. To recap on my previous Recipes for Life posts, this is a challenge run by Vanesther of Bangers & Mash on behalf of the Somerset based charity SWALLOW. Each month three ingredients are picked and bloggers are invited to concoct wholesome, easy and tasty dishes that use them.

Simple and in SeasonAs courgettes are now gloriously in season I shall also be entering my recipe to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event. And since this is actually a pretty frugal dinner using smoked salmon trimmings to Credit Crunch Munch, co-hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and Camila of Fab Food 4 All. And this month Anneli over at Delicieux is taking up the hosting.Credit-Crunch-Munch

Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara

Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara

Great for: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Bigger Kids, Growns Ups, Family Dinners, Grown Up Dinners, Quickie Mid-Week Suppers, Carbonara Addicts, Smoked Salmon Fiends (like Jacques – smoked salmon is his new best thing)

Serves: A Family of 4

200g of dried pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 smallish courgettes, sliced lengthways then diced across into 2/3 mm slices

130g smoked salmon trimmings

3 free range eggs, medium

2 tablespoons finely grated Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese

black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Cook the pasta to packet instructions

2. While the pasta’s cooking heat the oil in a (lidded) saucepan and cook the garlic for a minute. Throw in the diced courgette and give everything a good stir. Place the lid on and allow the courgette to sweat for the time it takes your pasta to cook. Stir every now and again and add a splash of water if they’re looking a little dry.

3. While the courgettes and pasta are cooking, lightly whisk together the eggs, then stir in the cheese and a generous pinch of black pepper. Set aside.

4. Once your pasta’s cooked and drained and the courgettes are soft combine them both together and stir through the egg and cheese mix, together with the lemon juice. But don’t put the pan back on the heat or your eggs will scramble!. What you want is lovely glossy eggy coating.

5. Taste and season with more black pepper and/or lemon juice.

Smoked Salmon & Courgette Carbonara Recipe

You might also like:

Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

Tagliatelle with Cherry Tomatoes & Mascarpone

Garden Pasta with griddled courgettes, cherry tomatoes & feta

Garden Pasta with griddled courgettes, cherry tomatoes & feta


A Couple of Summer Crostini for the Four Seasons Food Challenge!

Summer Crostini Recipes

I’m a huge fan of Crostini and Bruschetta, well anything tasty on toast to be honest. Little niblets of loveliness to gobble down between sups of vin blanc on balmy summer evenings (of which admittedly we’ve had precisely one so far this year!). And they don’t just have to be for grown ups, Jacques in particularly gets very excited about crostini, though Francesca’s a little more cautious, as ever. Whenever we have friends over I can’t resist a few toasty offerings and these are my favourite toppings of the moment.

Firstly a Wild Garlic and Cannellini Bean Crostini, a simple mix of cannellini beans, lemon zest and juice, a small bunch of wild garlic leaves and bulbs , a little green chili, olive oil and seasoning. Plus a sprinkling of parsley to finish. No cooking (bar the crostini toasts) just a simple assembly job. And it so happens to double as a deliciously morish dip, which I find requires considerable restraint to not polish off in a single session.

Secondly there’s my now-favourite topping of all time. Homemade Pesto, Lemony Griddled Courgettes and Feta Crostini. Admittedly this is a little more faffy, but so so worth the effort. And exceptionally crowd pleasing to all ages and tastes. And since all the elements (like the Cannellini Crostini) can be made in advance you don’t have to be faffing when your guests arrive.

fsf-summerI shall, of course, be entering this post to my brand new Four Seasons Food blogging Simple and in Seasonchallenge, co-hosted my myself and Anneli of Delicieux. This month Anneli’s hosting and the theme’s Summer Outdoor Nibbles and Picnics. Cooking-with-HerbsAnd as the ingredients are all in season to Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event. And last but most certainly not least to Lavender and Lovage’s lovely Herbs on Saturday challenge.

Cannellini Beans & Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic & Cannellini Bean Crostini

Great for: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids, grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians, wild garlic foragers, dipping

Notes: Substitute the wild garlic for a crushed clove of cultivated garlic if you can’t forage or source

1 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

zest of 1 lemon, plus a generous squeeze of juice

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 small bunch of wild garlic leaves, finely chopped or 1 clove of cultivated garlic, crushed

½ green chili, finely chopped, optional

salt and pepper

1 dessertspoon finely chopped parsley for the top

crostini toasts – see recipe here

1. Simply mix together the beans, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, chili (if using) and a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. If you’re making for little people avoid the chili (unless they like it) and salt.

2. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt or pepper to suit.

3. Serve spooned onto crostini with a little chopped parsley on top or as a dip with crudités or breadsticks.

Summer Crostini Toppings

Homemade Pesto, Lemony Griddled Courgettes and Feta Crostini:

Great for: Pre-dinner nibbles or appetisers, bigger kids (though Jacques at three adores these!), grown-ups, parties, starters, vegetarians, courgette growers, pesto fiends

Notes: This recipe makes enough for about 12 crostini, feel free to substitute the homemade pesto with shop bought, but homemade is a cinch to make and truly sublime on this recipe, particularly parsley pesto (made with any sort of nut)

Special Equipment: A griddle pan or heavy based frying pan

1 large or 2 small courgettes, washed

2 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

½ lemon, juiced

salt and pepper

12 crostini toasts – see recipe here

2 – 3 tablespoons of homemade parsley pesto, or you could make your own recipe using these mix ‘n match ideas

100g of feta cheese, crumbled

1. Slice across the courgettes into diagonal 2mm thick strips

2. Heat a griddle pan or heavy frying pan until very hot

3. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside.

4. Fill the hot pan with a single layer of courgette slices and cook for a minute or two on each side until char-grilled. Remove the slices from the pan and place in the bowl with the oil and lemon mix.

5. Continue with more courgette slices until they’re all fully cooked and charred. Stir them all around in the bowl with the olive oil and lemon, cover and set aside to marinate until you’re ready to assemble the crostini.

6. When you’re ready for crostini assembly take each crostini and spread on a generous layer of pesto. Top with a small pile of the courgettes and finish with a crumbling of feta.

7. Serve. Eat. Divine with vin blanc.

Summer Crostini Recipes

Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Dip

Smoked Salmon & Red Pepper Dip

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade

A Couple of Winter Crostini: Lovely Cannellini Beans & Homemade Tapenade


Lou’s Lasagne

Toddlers & Young Children, Grown Ups

Doesn’t everyone love lasagne? It’s certainly a favourite in the Foti household. This probably isn’t the most traditional of recipes as I make mine with oodles of oozy cheese sauce, and in so doing would probably be in a good deal of strife in Italy. Rather than just a bechamel I add strong cheddar or even a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan. If the truth be known I have a bit of a thing for cheese sauce. Top tip: try adding a teaspoon of english mustard to your cheese sauce, it really enhances the flavour.

I usually make separate lasagnes for the kids in my Oogaa bowls (being silicone they can amazingly be baked in the oven) and a larger one for the grown ups. The kids just love having their own dish. If you are baking individuals I would advise pre-cooking the dried lasagne for a few minutes before layering. You could obviously bake just the one large lasagne for the whole family, and no lasagne pre-cooking required.

Enough for a hungry family of four, with a few tasty leftovers:

For the cheese sauce:

50g of butter

40g of plain flour

500ml of full fat milk

a teaspoon of English mustard (optional)

80g of cheddar cheese, grated

pepper

½ quantity of bolognese sauce, either my Classic Bolognese or Kids Bolognese which works out at about 750g of made up bolognese

8 – 10 dried lasagne sheets

125g ball of Mozzarella, thinly sliced

a heaped tablespoon of grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Pre-heat your oven to 180C.

Start with making your cheese sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat over a very gentle heat until melted. With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and stir quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk until combined. Add a little milk and continue to stir or whisk vigorously, gradually add the milk in this way until you have incorporated it all. Don’t worry if you have a few lumps at this stage, they’ll eventually go. Continue to stir or whisk the sauce over a gentle heat until it is fully thickened and starting to simmer, this will take a few minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese, mustard (if using) and a pinch of ground pepper. You probably won’t need to add any salt as the cheese contains plenty.

Now you’re ready to construct. Choose your dishes and decide how many layers of pasta and sauces you need. If making small individual lasagnes for the kids I would suggest just two layers. If making in a deep dish then three. Either way start with a layer of bolognese on the base of your dish or dishes. Cover this with a single layer of lasagne, preferably pre-cooked for small individual dishes. Now pour on a generous layer of cheese sauce. Repeat this layering system once or twice more, finishing with the remainder of the cheese sauce on top.

Place the mozzarella slices evenly over the top or tops and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes for small individual lasagnes or 45 minutes for larger ones, until the cheese is bubbling and golden on the top. Check with a fork that the pasta is soft and cooked through (if not already pre-cooked).

Great served with a salad for grown up folk and a few steamed veggies for the wee ones.

Here’s some other favourite toddler and children recipes: Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes, Kids Fish Pie, Chicken Fried Rice

And other pasta recipes: Pasta & Meatballs!, Roasted Veggie Lasagne, Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara, Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne


Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara

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We seem to eat carbonara way too often in our house these days, it’s my staple no brainer meal-in minutes-supper that we all adore and we’ve almost always got the ingredients in for, especially now we’ve got a ready and usually very abundant supply of eggs!. And what’s not to like about this killer simple combo of pasta, eggs, bacon and cheese?! In an effort to vary our regular dinner I’ve been experimenting with tradition a little lately, by ‘healthying’ up our carbonara’s with various veggies. Mushrooms, courgettes, broccoli, roasted squash and pumpkin all work great. I went one step further this week and bravely ditched the bacon and replaced it with some very good quality toulouse sausage, and together with courgettes we had one very very tasty carbonara variation which I can thoroughly recommend.

I tend not to add any cream to my carbonara, especially since I’ve been using our own deliciously creamy eggs, but feel free to add a little to your eggs if you feel you should. Most dried pasta works well with carbonara but for some reason I usually use penne or fusilli, though I’m sure it’s more traditionally made with spaghetti or tagliatelle.

For a family of four:
a tablespoon of olive oil
300g of good quality sausages
2 courgettes
a large clove of garlic, finely sliced
240g dried pasta
3 free range eggs
3 heaped tablespoons of grated Parmesan plus a little extra for sprinkling
salt and pepper

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large frying pan and heat. Cut the sausages into small bite size pieces and place in the pan. Quarter the courgettes lengthways then thinly slice, add to the pan too along with the chopped garlic. Cook on a medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly so nothing catches. The sausage should be cooked through and a little browned and courgettes soft.

Meanwhile cook your pasta to packet instructions. Try to time it so your pasta is cooked and ready at exactly the same time as the courgettes and sausages.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and lightly whisk, stir in the cheese, plenty of freshly ground back pepper and a touch of salt.

As soon as the pasta and sausages/courgettes are cooked and still piping hot throw into one pan and immediately add the eggy mix. Stir everything around really well. Don’t put the pan back onto the heat or you’ll have pasta with scrambled eggs, what you’re after is a glossy eggy coating. Taste and add further salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve immediately with a further sprinkling of parmesan.

If you like this how about trying my Pasta & Meatballs, Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne, Pumpkin Macaroni Cheese or Roasted Veggie Lasagne recipes?


Pasta & Meatballs!

Everyone loves meatballs don’t they, veggies aside obviously? I really should make these more often as they’re such a savoured treat in our house and always put a smile on the dinner table faces. A perfect weekend family dinner. We had these last Saturday and they went down a storm with all of us, even Jacques managed to munch his way through THREE WHOLE meatballs (and he’s only 21 months old!). Totally delish.

The recipe I’ve always used for Meatballs is actually based on Nigella’s (from her Nigella Bites book) and to be honest you can’t really fault it! Wonderful half pork, half beef ever so slightly cheesy meatballs. All cooked and served in a lovely tomato sauce on a bed of pasta. Nigella makes her sauce with tomato passata, but as I rarely have it in I tend to make my own from a can of chopped tomatoes and a little tomato puree. I also like to add the merest touch of chilli to my tomato sauce, but feel free to omit if you don’t like the heat.

She also makes her own tagliatelle in the recipe. In my pre-children days I often used to make my own pasta, but I simply don’t have the same luxury of time these days and tend to use dried as a perfectly good substitute. But if you do have a little more time than me GO FOR IT, homemade pasta is unbeatable, and actually pretty simple when you’ve made it a few times.

I haven’t specified any weight for the dried pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine all work particularly well) as I find pasta is such a variant and my family have particularly enormous appetites for it!. Just cook the same amount you would normally for yourselves for a bolognese or similar.

Makes about 14 small meatballs, and enough for a family of Four:

200g of good quality pork mince

200g of good quality beef mince

2 tbsps finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

1 egg

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp of dried oregano

2 heaped tbsps of breadcrumbs

salt & pepper

For the Tomato Sauce:

olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp of dried oregano

the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

a pinch of sugar

1 desert spoon of tomato puree

1 400g can of chopped tomatoes

200ml of water

100ml full fat milk

salt & pepper

and Pasta of your choice, fresh or dried spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine

Start with making your meatballs. Simply add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix very thoroughly, the best way to do this is by hand squidging the mix through your hands and fingers (and if feels soooo lush!). Once well combined shape into smallish balls, by taking a little of the mixture and rolling it around in your hands a little. They should each be a smidgen bigger than a walnut. Aim for about 14 balls. Once made place on a layer of cling film on top of a plate or tray. Cover with another layer of cling film and place in the fridge until ready to cook.

Now for the sauce. In a large wide saucepan or casserole dish (that you have a lid for) add a generous glug of olive oil and heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Now add the chilli (if using) and oregano and cook for a moment or two more. Then add a pinch of sugar, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Take off the heat and whiz the sauce up, preferably with a stick blender straight into the saucepan. You could obviously use a food processor too but that creates too much washing up for me!. Taste the sauce and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to suit. Now add the milk and stir well.

Place the sauce back on the heat and bring to a simmer again. Now it’s time to add the meatballs. Carefully drop them individually into the sauce. Don’t stir them at all at this point, you must wait until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown as you don’t want them to break up.

Cook for 20 minutes with the lid partially covering the pan. Towards the end of this time you can stir the meatballs a little to turn them over.

Whilst they’re cooking cook your pasta to packet instructions.

Have a final taste check of the sauce and serve the meatballs and sauce immediately on a bed of pasta with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.


Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne

An extremely simple and extremely quick pasta supper for all the family today that’s oh so yum. Our kids love it, but then they really like fish, and broccoli’s interestingly both their fave veggie.

Unknowingly I think I may have used the last of our lovely Chez Foti broccoli in this dish. I went out to pick some more today thinking we had loads to eat up, only to find our new feathery residents have stripped all the heads bare!. They’ve also nibbled up all my baby savoy cabbages and uprooted the lovely beetroot. Hmmmm. Me thinks it’s time to fence off the veggie plot.

Enough for a family of four:

A smallish broccoli, separated into bite size florets

200g dried penne pasta, or similar

5 spring onions, sliced

olive oil

3 tbsps of creme fraiche

zest of one lemon, plus a little juice

a large handful of parsley, finely chopped

180g smoked salmon, cut into small strips

salt & pepper

grated Parmesan to serve

Steam the broccoli florets until they’re al dente – cooked but with a tiny bit of bite to them. At the same time, but in a different pan, cook the pasta to packet instructions, again so it’s al dente. Once cooked drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan or large saucepan and add the merest dash of olive oil and the diced spring onions. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Add the steamed broccoli florets, creme fraiche, lemon zest, chopped parsley and the salmon. Give everything a good stir around and heat until bubbling and allow to cook for a couple of minutes more.

Taste the sauce and add plenty of freshly ground black pepper, salt if necessary (the smoked salmon’s pretty salty so you may not need to add any more), and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.  Taste again and add more of each to suit.

Stir in the pasta and serve immediately with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan over the top.

Simple as that!

Like this? Have you tried these other recipes – Kid’s Bolognese, Pumpkin Mac n’ Cheese, Roasted Veggie Lasagne or Salmon Fishcakes?


Roasted Veggie Lasagne

Everyone loves lasagne don’t they?  Even the most dedicated of meat eaters might just tuck into a vegetarian dinner if it happened to be lasagne?.  I make this quite often as the kids like it about as much as we do, and it’s much quicker to put together than a bolognese one.  Plus it’s a fab way to use up the excess veggies that always seem to be lingering.  You can add pretty much any veggies you want; once they’re roasted and covered in cheesy pasta layers they all taste pretty damned fab (and I’m sure your kids will agree).  I used in mine a possibly odd combination of red peppers, mushrooms, celery, french beans, aubergine, baby beetroot, carrots and a little swiss chard (the latter I added raw, finely chopped), but it worked very nicely!  A handful or two of cherry tomatoes work particularly well if you have them, as do courgettes, squash, pumpkin, mushrooms, spinach (no need to roast)…..the list could go on and on, but just chuck it in!

I tend to add quite a few fresh herbs to my lasagne as I grow them in abundance.  If you don’t have them to hand, don’t go to the trouble and expense of buying any especially to make this as it can manage without.  I either roast my veggies with lots of fresh thyme, or as I did today added a large handful of chopped parsley and basil to the veggies once they were roasted. I also used Grana Padano rather than it’s more expensive cousin Parmesan.  When making cheese sauces I always add a little english mustard. It somehow managed to eek out a stronger cheesier flavour, but it’s not essential and again if you don’t have it to hand don’t worry.

Serves 4 – 6

olive oil

a red onion, roughly diced

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

750 g of mixed veg, cut into a rough 1cm dice

a handful of black olives – roughly chopped (omit if you’re cooking for kids who really don’t like them)

a handful each of fresh parsley and basil – roughly chopped (optional)

salt & pepper

50g butter

40g plain flour

500ml milk

50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, plus extra for the topping

½ tsp of english mustard (optional)

220g dried lasagne sheets – normal or green

2 balls of Mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.  Place your veggies, onion and garlic on a large baking sheet or tray, and combine with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a generous grinding of black pepper and a little salt. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes (turning at least once) until the veggies are all cooked through and starting to brown a little.  Once roasted turn down the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Meanwhile make your sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat over a very gentle heat until melted.  With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and stir quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk until combined.  Add a little milk and continue to stir or whisk vigorously, continue to add the milk in this way until you have incorporated it all.  Don’t worry if you have a few lumps at this stage, they’ll eventually go. Continue to stir or whisk the sauce constantly over a gentle heat until it is fully thickened and starting to simmer, this will take a few minutes. When simmering, take the pan off the heat and stir in the mustard (if using) and Parmesan or Grana Padano.

Now you’re all ready to assemble.  Into a large ovenproof dish add about a third of your veggies and about a third of the olives and a generous sprinkling of basil and parsley (if you’re using). Layer the lasagne sheets on top and spread a third of the cheese sauce over plus a third of the Mozzarella slices.

Continue with another couple of these layers until you’ve used all your ingredients up, and you’ve finished with a thick layer of cheese sauce and plenty of Mozzarella.  Now add a fine layer of grated Parmesan to finish.

Place the dish in your preheated oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until the lasagne is cooked through and the cheesy layer on the top is nicely browned.


Jamie’s Baked Pasta with Tomatoes and Mozzarella

A lovely pasta bake that according to Mr Jamie Oliver is the most standard school dinner that exists in Italy.  Taken from his Italy book, this is a winner in our house, and so very very easy to assemble.  I’d happily eat school dinners if they were this good, interestingly it’s Italian law that it only be made with organic pasta and extra virgin olive oil! English schools take note!

Apart from the Mozzarella it can be made from standard store cupboard stuff, which is precisely why I came to make it last night as we desperately need a big shop, though I do sneakily keep Mozzarella in the freezer incase an impromptu pizza night comes about.  I used penne pasta and Grana Padano cheese rather than Parmesan.

Enough for 4 very hungry grown ups:

salt and pepper

olive oil

1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

1 or 2 dried red chillies, crumbled

3 x 400g tins of good quality plum tomatoes, chopped

a large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

optional: 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

400g/14oz dried orecchiette pasta

4 big handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

3 x 150g balls of Mozzarella, sliced

Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Add a couple of tbsp of olive oil to a large high sided saucepan and place on the heat, add the onion, garlic and chilli. Fry for a few minutes on a gentle heat, stirring regularly, until the onion is softened.  Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil, allow to simmer gently for about 20 minutes.  Blend the sauce with a stick blender or place in a food processor.

Add your basil to the sauce as well as the red wine vinegar (if using), and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook your pasta according to packet instruction in a saucepan of boiling salted water.  Once cooked drain and stir in half the tomato sauce and a handful of Parmesan.

Into a large baking tray or earthenware dish place about a third of the pasta.  On top of this add some tomato sauce, a handful of Parmesan, and one of the sliced up Mozzarella balls.  Repeat these layers twice, ending up with a lovely cheesy layer on top.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes or so.

Lovely served with a nice crisp green salad and a hunk of bread.


A couple of Pizzas: Salami, Courgette & Blue Cheese, Griddled Veggies & Goats Cheese

Griddled Veggies & Goats Cheese Pizza

We had our first pizza night in ages at Chez Foti last night. We’re very lucky to have an original bread oven in the house that makes the most excellent wood fired pizzas, though I have yet to use it to actually make bread – it’ll be this Winter’s challenge!  Over the summer it’s just too hot to fire up as it’s stays warm for days, so homemade pizza is a cold weather treat for us.  And the still hot oven is great the next day for warming up bread and croissants for breakfast, plus any lucky leftover pizza slices (an amazing hangover cure I find!).  I think we gorged ourselves on pizza virtually every Saturday night last winter!  It’s such a fun thing to do, and really not at all tricky.  I would say it’s great for kids too, but it doesn’t really work for ours, at least not yet anyway!  Francesca who’s three doesn’t like pizza, a very strange phenomenon for a child I know!  And little Jacques’s in bed by the time the oven’s hot and ready to bake (it takes about two hours of wood burning). I’m sure almost all other kids would love to help with the kneading, topping and scoffing though.

The roaring inside of our pizza oven

Obviously you can make pizzas equally well in a domestic oven, just make sure the oven is set to the highest temperature it will go it and has been preheated for a good while before.   Also important is that you bake the pizza on a pre-heated baking tray or special pizza stone….so that the dough starts cooking during assembly.

The great thing with pizzas is that you can put almost anything on them; you can keep them as simple or be as inventive as you want.  I find sticking to just two or three key ingredients in the toppings however usually works best.
Last night I made a couple of pizzas, the first a Salami, Courgette & Blue Cheese Pizza and the second Griddled Veggies & Goats Cheese – see my previous blog  for some blurb on griddled veggies.  If you don’t have a griddle pan, just roast the veggies in the oven instead.  I’ll blog lots more pizza topping suggestions after I’ve made and eaten them over the winter!

To make the pizza dough, enough for two largish pizzas:
350g strong white bread flour, plus a little extra for kneading and dusting
1 tsp salt
6g dried yeast
1 desert spoon of honey
about 220ml warm water

Place the salt and flour in a large bowl and combine.  Add the yeast, honey and water to a jug and mix. Leave for a few minutes for the yeast to act.  Once the yeast is bubbling start to add the wet mix to the flour, at first stirring with a fork, then using your hands.  Once the dough starts to come together place on a floured board or work surface and knead.  Knead until the dough is soft and springy, about 10 minutes.   Flour the dough all over and place in a bowl to rest.  Cover with cling film and put in a warm place for about 30 – 60 minutes.  The dough should be about double it’s original size.  Once risen divide in two and either immediately roll out into your pizza shapes, or place the dough in the fridge until you’re ready.

Salami, Courgette & Blue Cheese Pizza



To make the tomato sauce, enough for two large pizzas:
olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a handful of fresh basil leaves
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper

Add the oil and garlic to a saucepan and cook very gently for a moment or two, ensuring you do not burn the garlic.  Add the tomatoes and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes then stir in the basil, sugar, a good grinding of pepper and a pinch of salt.  Taste and adjust seasoning to suit.

Salami, Courgette & Blue Cheese Pizza
½ the above pizza dough quantity
½ the above tomato sauce quantity
90g salami or french saucisse seche, sliced thinly
60g strongish blue cheese (Gorgonzola, Saint Agur, Roquefort, Stilton for example), cut or torn into small chunks
½ ball of Mozzarella, sliced thinly
1 small courgette, cut lengthways into 4mm strips (if griddling), or halfed lengthways and sliced into  4mm pieces (if roasting)
handful of black olives
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 250°C/gas 9, or as hot as it will go.  Once hot preheat your pizza stone or baking sheet.

Firstly prep your courgette by cooking the strips in a very hot griddle pan.  Cook on both sides until they are charred.  Marinade the courgette in a little olive oil, good grinding of pepper and a pinch of salt.  If you’re roasting the courgette instead, rub the slices with a little oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in a hot oven for about 10 minutes or so.

Roll out your pizza dough to form a large circle.  Place either on the pre-heated pizza stone or tray, it should sizzle a little as the dough starts to cook.  You should now quickly assemble your pizza, as you don’t want the stone or tray to cool down much.

Spread the tomato sauce, evenly place the salami, then the courgette and finally the cheeses and olives.  Add some extra pepper if you wish.  Place in the hot oven for about 5 to 7 minutes until the pizza looks golden and crispy.   The underside of the pizza should look a little golden.  Slice and serve immediately!

Griddled Veggies and Goats Cheese Pizza

½ the above pizza dough quantity
½ the above tomato sauce quantity
1 small courgette, cut lengthways into 4mm strips (if griddling), or halfed lengthways and sliced into 4mm pieces (if roasting)
½ small aubergine, cut lengthways into 4mm strips (if griddling ), or quartered lengthways an sliced into 4mm pieces (if roasting)
½ red pepper, cut lengthways into narrow strips (if griddling or roasting)
90g goats cheese, sliced thinly
½ ball of Mozzarella, sliced thinly
olive oil
a good squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper
a few torn basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 250°C/gas 9, or as hot as it will go.  Once hot preheat your pizza stone or baking sheet.
Firstly prep your veggies by cooking the strips in a very hot griddle pan.  Cook on both sides until you have charred stripes. Marinade them in a little olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon, a large pinch of freshly ground pepper and a pinch of salt.  If you’re roasting the veggies instead, rub them with a little oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in a hot oven for about 15 minutes or so.  Add a squeeze of lemon once roasted
Roll out your pizza dough to form a large circle.  Place either on the pre-heated pizza stone or tray, it should sizzle a little as the dough starts to cook.  You should now quickly assemble your pizza, as you don’t want the stone or tray to cool down much.
Spread the tomato sauce, evenly place the veggies and cheeses, and then scatter the basil leaves.  Add some extra pepper if you wish.  Place in the hot oven for about 5 to 7 minutes until the pizza looks golden and crispy.   The underside of the pizza should look a little golden.  Slice and serve immediately.

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