Tag Archives: Mozzarella

The best Garlic Bread, and a Chorizo, Potato and Rosemary Pizza

Garlic Bread

It’s most definitely pizza weather here at Chez Foti. We’ve had seemingly ceaseless rain, gales and miserable cold for way too long now, since New Year’s Day to be exact. And it’s getting kind of depressing now, in a British wintery kind of way. Our garden is one big muddy swamp and the wee pond a lake, just a shame we don’t have any duckies to appreciate it. Bet they’re the only ones happy round here. And the forecast for the next week is still more rain, a little snow, and grey, grey, GREY. AHRRRRRR. Where’s that gorgeous south of France sunshine and glorious blue sky that amazed and cheered me through the last two winters?  OK, enough said, weather rant over (well I AM English!) and on with a couple of recipes to insulate against the outside nasties.

You really can’t get much better winter warming and cheery fodder than a homemade pizza, especially a heftily insulating one with a gutsy topping of Potatoes, Chorizo and Rosemary. Admittedly not one of my healthiest of recipes, but hey ho everything in moderation, and it is rather good. And if you want to omit the Chorizo it’s equally as tasty with just Potatoes and Rosemary. Don’t be put off by the way with the idea of potatoes on a pizza (and try not to think about the carb overload), they really work!

Chorizo, Potato & Rosemary Pizza

Living so close to Spain Chorizo is cheaply abundant in these parts and I cook with it regularly, though much more so in the winter. It’s one of my staple store cupboard ingredients and gets used to liven up many an Omelette or Tortilla, Salad (Chorizo & Manchego Salad), Veggie Side ( just a little is fabulous sauted with Cabbage, Chard or Spinach and even roasted with Pumpkin or Butternut) or Soup (Butternut Squash & Chorizo Soup with Chorizo Croutons, Caldo Verde). And then there’s obviously Paella and other rice based dishes that it works so well with. But there’s no qualms about it, Chorizo’s not the healthiest choice of ingredients, but a little really does go a long way in the flavour stakes and it can be used remarkably sparingly. Though perhaps, ahem, not so sparingly on this particular pizza!

And I also have my favourite Garlic Pizza Bread, made exactly in the same way as pizza but simply containing a topping of Garlic (lots of), fresh Parsley or Rosemary (lots of) and good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (again LOTS OF). It’s that simple. Whenever we have a pizza night I always start with one  or two of these naughty little herby numbers to get things going. And it’s equally as delish with rosemary or parsley, just go for what you fancy or happen to have in, but be generous!

I shall be entering my herby post to Karen of Lavender & Lovage’s February Herbs on Saturday challenge.

Herbs on Saturday

Garlic Pizza Bread with Parsley or Rosemary

The Best Garlic Bread!

Serves 4 as an appetiser

One quantity of Pizza Dough (I use this Jamie Oliver recipe, using part semolina flour when I can get hold of it)

2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

Salt & Pepper

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus a little extra for drizzling

a few sprigs of Parsley or Rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped, be generous!

Special Equipment: a Pizza Stone, Pizza Baking Tray or an ordinary Baking Tray

Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place your pizza stone or baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Start with making your oh so simple topping. Crush the chopped garlic with a little salt using the flat edge of a large knife. Mix the garlic with the olive oil, a generous amount of black pepper and the parsley or rosemary. Leave to infuse while you prep the pizza base.

Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I like mine very thin, particularly as this is only an appetiser. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Evenly spread over the garlic and herby oil and place in your very hot oven for a few minutes until golden and crisp. It should only take about 5 to 8 minutes and watch as it can burn very easily.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil, slice and serve.

 Chorizo, Potato & Rosemary Pizza

Chorizo, Potato  & Rosemary Pizza

Serves 1 to 2 (depending on how much of a pizza monster you happen to be!)

One quantity of Pizza Dough (as per Jamie Oliver recipe if you wish)

2 – 3 tablespoons of Tomato Pizza Sauce (see below) or my slow cooked fresh tommie sauce (which I so happen to have half a freezer of still!) A Glut of Tomatoes Pasta Sauces

150g of small Potatoes, washed but with skins on, waxy ones work the best but any will do really!

80g of Chorizo, skin removed and finely sliced

2 or 3 sprigs of Rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped

a 125g ball of Mozzarella, sliced

Salt & Black Pepper

Special Equipment: a Pizza Stone, Pizza Baking Tray or an ordinary Baking Tray

Pre-heat your oven to as hot as it will go. Place your pizza stone or baking tray in the oven to heat up.

Cook the potatoes until almost tender. Once cool enough to handle slice.

Now for the pizza. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I personally prefer mine very thin. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Smoother the base with your tomato sauce, followed by an even scattering of the chorizo, potatoes, rosemary and mozzarella. Finely add a generous grinding of black pepper and a little salt.

Place in your extremely hot oven and cook until crisp, golden and bubbling all over. This could be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes! Our woodfired bread/pizza oven usually takes less than 5 minutes and the electric oven around 10.

Slice and enjoy. With a salad if you want to feel just a little less indulgent!

Tomato Pizza Sauce

Enough for two large pizzas:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

a 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes (or fresh obviously!)

a generous pinch each of sugar, salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on a gentle heat and fry the garlic for a few moments, ensuring you do not burn the garlic. As soon as it takes on any colour and you can smell it cooking throw in the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and give everything a good stir. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit. You can either use the sauce as it is or blitz with a stick blender or processor for a smoother texture (I rarely bother!).

You might also like:

Pizza Puttanesca

Pizza Puttanesca

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza Recipe

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza


Pizza Puttanesca

Pizza Puttanesca

We do eat quite a few pizzas at Chez Foti, probably too many. Well about once a week if the truth be known. But in my defense they are always homemade. And I’m not being a ponsey foodie by saying that. Believe me I’ve absolutely nothing against good quality take away pizza, but we do live in distinctly rural SW France and without wanting to be too rude, the quality of the take away pizzas in these parts is considerably below par. Bordering inedible. Which is a shame as the only two fast food joints in a 25 km radius both happen to be pizza take aways!. And once or twice bitten I won’t be going back. Just don’t get me started on the supermarket offerings either. Think 80s Britain, say no more. Hence I’ve become a bit of geek at homemade pizza ….. and homemade Thai/Chinese/Indian to boot!. And we do happen to have an original bread oven in our lounge that bakes the most perfect pizzas.

I love playing around with inventing toppings and this recipe so happens to be one of my favourites of the moment. Think Puttanesca Sauce but on a pizza. Puttanesca, in case you didn’t know, is a tomato based sauce revved up with oodles of garlic, anchovies, capers, chilli and olives. And it’s sublime on a pizza with the addition of Mozzarella and a little Parmesan. Pizza simplicity at it’s best.

Pizza Puttanesca

Made with Love Mondays

I’m also delighted to be entering, for the first ever time, my Pizza Puttanesca to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays, a weekly series promoting, sharing and celebrating foods made entirely from scratch. Foods without any of the nasties and all the good stuff!.

Pizza Puttanesca

Serves 1 to 2 (depending on how much of a pizza monster you happen to be!)

One quantity of Pizza Dough (I usually stick to this Jamie Oliver recipe, using part semolina flour when I can get hold of it)

2 tablespoons of Olive Oil

2 cloves of Garlic

a Red Chili (or go wild with 2 if you like your heat), finely sliced

4 Anchovy Fillets in oil

a 400g can of good quality Chopped Tomatoes or 450g of ripe and flavoursome Fresh Tomatoes (I’m still using up my frozen stock from The Great Chez Foti Tomato Harvest!)

a very large pinch of Black Pepper

a pinch of Sugar

a dessertspoon of Capers, rinsed

40g of stoned Black Olives, halved

80g of Mozzarella cheese, finely sliced

a heaped tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Special Equipment: a pizza stone, pizza baking sheet or an ordinary baking tray/sheet

Pre-heat your oven to the hottest it will go and pop your pizza stone or baking tray in to warm up.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a gentle heat. Fry the chili, garlic and anchovies for a few moments  until the anchovies are almost disintegrated. Slide in the tomatoes and add a very generous pinch of coarsely ground black pepper and a small pinch of sugar. Give everything a good stir. Allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes.

The sauce is ready when it’s considerably thickened and very flavoursome. Stir in the capers. Have a taste check adding more black pepper to suit. Obviously you could add salt but there’s a fair whack already in there from the anchovies so it’s unlikely you’ll need more.

Now for the pizza. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size and thickness. I personally prefer mine very thin. Place on your hot pizza stone or baking tray.

Spread the puttanesca sauce evenly over the base. Place the halved olives and slices of mozzarella. Scatter over the parmesan or grana padano.

Place in your extremely hot oven and cook until crisp and golden. This could be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes! Our woodfired bread/pizza oven usually takes less than 5 minutes and the oven at it’s hottest around 10.

Pizza Puttanesca

You might also like: 

Roasted Wild Mushroom Pizza            Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Thyme

Butternut, Feta & Red Onion Tart with Pine Nuts and Thyme

Jacques mushroom picking

 


Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

It’s really REALLY cold here. Bitter. Wet. Icy. Windy. Needless to say I’m avoiding leaving the snugly fires of our house as much as possible, even to go shopping. And being the frugal month of January I’m attempting a fridge, freezer and cupboard blow out using up a whole host of lurking need-to-be-used ingredients. On a recent inspection I handily discovered a tub of almost-out-date ricotta as well as a ball of just-out-of-date mozzarella, dried cannelloni that I’ve had for too long to mention, frozen spinach that somehow never gets used in our house and frozen chopped tomatoes that are still cramming up the freezer from last summer’s enormous glut, plus some pumpkin (I still have six to munch through!) and a random red pepper. So I set to to make stuffed cannelloni placating any requirement to leave the confines of Chez  Foti and brave the weather.

So a vegged and healthied-up version (I can’t help it!) of a Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni (flavoured with a little Parmesan and Nutmeg) was born, covered with oodles of Tomato Sauce enriched with Celery, Carrot, Pumpkin & Pepper. Then topped with a little Mozzarella and Parmesan and baked in the oven.  And the kids ate it. Even enjoyed it. Admittedly not without a good deal of ‘encouragement’ at first, but that was to do with the off-putting (to them) abundance of green in the cannelloni, which on tasting they did actually like. Job done. Oodles of veggies filling those precious wee tummies. And one happy Mummy. And us grown up folk enjoyed it too!

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Incidentally this is a great tommie sauce to serve on it’s own with pasta, I’ve been making a version of it (Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce) for years for my monsters and they always love it. It’s also a great way of ‘healthying-up’ a homemade pizza, and they’ll never know!

I’m entering my blog, for the first ever time to the first ever Pasta Please, a monthly blogging event held by Jacqueline of the wonderfully inspirational Vegetarian blog Tinned Tomatoes. This month’s theme happens to be Cheese and since my dish contains a trio of Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan I think I qualify!

pasta please

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Vegetables Tomato Sauce

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni with Hidden Veggies Tommie Sauce

Perfect for Toddlers and Young Children, Bigger Kids, Family Dinners, Mid-Week Suppers

Serves 4 hearty appetites (or a family of 4 with plenty of tasty leftovers):

For the  Hidden Veggie Tommie Sauce:

a tablespoon of Olive Oil

a small Onion, diced

2 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

a large Carrot*, diced

a stick or two of Celery*, diced

200g of Pumpkin or Squash*, diced

half a Red Pepper*, diced

600g of Chopped Tomatoes (a can and a half)

a heaped dessertspoon of Tomato Puree

130ml of water

a teaspoon of dried Oregano or a dessertspoon of chopped fresh Oregano

Salt & Pepper

a pinch of Sugar

* Please use whatever veggies you happen to have in, though to aid your disguise it’s best to stick to neutral or orange/red coloured ones!

For the Stuffed Cannelloni:

160g of dried Cannelloni

350g of frozen Spinach, defrosted (or finely shredded and steamed fresh spinach)

a 250g tub of Ricotta

40g of Parmesan (or Grana Padano), finely grated

a large pinch of Nutmeg

a large pinch of Black Pepper

a squeeze or two of Lemon juice

For the Topping:

a 125g ball of Mozzarella

30g of Parmesan (or Grana Padano), finely grated

Pre-heat your oven to 190ºC.

Start with making your sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add the onion. Fry for 5 minutes before adding the garlic and all other veggies bar the tomatoes.

After 10 minutes throw in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, dried oregano (if using), water and a pinch each of pepper, salt and sugar. No salt for very little littlies! Allow to simmer away for 20 minutes or until all the veggies are very tender.

Once cooked take off the heat and stir in the fresh oregano (if using). Blitz the sauce with a stick blender or in a processor until smooth. Taste and season if necessary.

Meanwhile prep the cannelloni. Mix together the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and pepper. Season with a squeeze or two of lemon juice. Now for the messy business of filling up the cannelloni tubes!. I found a very good tip on Jamie Oliver’s site of using a plastic bag with a snipped corner to pipe the filling in. It worked wonderfully and was no fiddle at all.

Filling cannelloni

Filling the Cannelloni with the snipped corner of a plastic bag!

Place your filled cannelloni in the bottom of a greased (with a little olive oil) small baking tray or oven dish. The pasta should fit snugly.

Now smother in the Tommie Sauce. Top with the mozzarella slices and the parmesan. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 to 40 minutes until the pasta’s cooked through and the cheese golden and bubbling on the top.

Go eat. My kids ate there’s as is, but us grown up folk had a simple green salad on the side.

Here’s some of my other spectacularly well Hidden-Veggie dinners that go down well with the wee folk!:

Kids Bolognese
Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie
Cheese, Courgette & Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding
Chicken & Apricot Tagine
Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice
Super-Vegged Up Chilli
Kids Fish Pie
Noodles with Pork & Veggies
Cream of Veggie Super Soup
Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes
 
Cheese, Courgette & Cherry Tomato Bread & Butter Pudding

Savoury Bread & Butter Puddin

Kids Fish Pie in Oogaa bowls

Kids Fish Pie

Super Vegged Chilli con Carne

Super Vegged-Up Chilli con Carne


A Couple of Tomato Tarts

We’ve been having many a tart lately, which has made my husband a very happy man. He likes a nice tart (of the foodie variety obviously). And as it’s tomato season we’ve been using up oodles of cherry tommies on our tarts.

Not exact recipes here, but just throw it all on (in a couple of minutes tops), on bought ready rolled puff pastry (obviously you could make your own if you were so inclined and had more time than me) and bung in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. And voila you have a very tasty little tart for minimum effort. Great served as a main with a large leafy salad on the side, or a tasty wee nibble, appetiser or starter. Good party food too….and great for kids!

Cherry Tomato, Pesto & Goats Cheese Tart

A pack of ready rolled puff pastry (or a de-frosted block rolled out)

Pesto  (enough for a fine smear all over your pastry)

About half a log of goats cheese

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

Unroll the puff pastry and lay on a suitably sized baking tray (or roll out to size if using a block). Smear a fine layer of pesto over the surface. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and scatter over (cut side upwards). Cut a few slices of goats cheese and place evenly. Grind over a generous amount of black pepper and drizzle on a little olive oil. Throw in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry’s golden, tomatoes wilted and cheese bubbling.

Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella & Tapenade Tart

A pack of ready rolled puff pastry (or a de-frosted block rolled out)

Tapenade (enough for a fine smear all over your pastry)

A ball of Mozzarella

A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes

A little finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC.

Unroll the puff pastry and lay on a suitably sized baking tray (or roll out if using a block). Smear a fine layer of tapenade over the surface. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and scatter over (cut side upwards). Slice the Mozzarella and place evenly. Sprinkle a fine layer of Grana Padano or Parmesan over and a generous grinding of black pepper, drizzle on a little olive oil. Throw in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry’s golden, tomatoes wilted and cheese bubbling.

If you like this, how about trying my Courgette & Cherry Tomato Garden Pasta, Cherry Tomato & Mascarpone Tagliatelle, Leek & Goats Cheese Tart, Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta, Griddled Veggies & Goats Cheese Pizza, Salami, Courgette & Blue Cheese Pizza


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


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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