Nigella's Meatballs

I’m not a big fan of pork, so I was a bit suspicious about these meatballs from a recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. However, the husband’s sister had raved about the recipe, and I thought I could probably bear the taste of pork if mixed in with the beef mince. I’m glad I tried them – while I think I’d prefer them made with just beef mince, they are delicious, with a lovely thick sauce, and a gorgeous accompaniment to spaghetti or fettucine.

For the meatballs:

250g minced pork
250g minced beef
1 egg
2 tbspns freshly grated parmesan
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tbspns semolina or breadcrumbs
good grind black pepper
1 tspn salt

For the sauce:

1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tspn dried oregano
1 tbspn butter
1 tbspn olive oil
700g bottle tomato passata
pinch sugar
salt and pepper
100ml full fat milk

Dump all the meatball ingredients into a large bowl, mix with your hands (not something I enjoyed doing – I’m not crazy about raw meat, especially when it’s minced), and then shape into small balls, using approximately a teaspoonsful of mince (although it’s not necessary to actually measure it). This is a little time consuming, but not fiddly. Place the meatballs on baking sheets or plates that you have either lined with gladwrap or lightly oiled, and put in the fridge as you finish them.

Nigella recommends blitzing the onion, garlic and oregano in a food processor – I didn’t bother, and just finely chopped it all together. Heat the butter and oil in a deep wide pan, add the onion-garlic mix and cook over a low-medium for about 10 minutes, letting the mixture become soft. Add the bottle of passata and then fill the empty bottle half full with cold water. Add this to the pan with the pinch of sugar, some salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes.

Stir the milk into the sauce, and then carefully drop the meatballs in one by one. Don’t stir the pan until the meatballs have turned brown to avoid breaking them up. Cook everything for about 20 minutes, with the lid only partially covering it. Add any additional seasoning necessary, then serve over pasta.

Ham & Onion Spaghetti

This dish is one of the boyfriend’s creations – a fragrant mixture of spices, herbs and ham tossed through spaghetti, and served with plenty of cheese – inspired by a rather bare refrigerator.

dried spaghetti (this is also great with fettucine – I’ve been using Barilla pasta recently, which is really nice, and I like the boxes it comes in)
100 grams ham slices
1 onion
small tin of crushed tomatoes, or several cubed fresh tomatoes
mountain pepper berry
(a native Australian spice)
fresh thyme
fresh oregano
olive oil

Put the water onto boil for the spaghetti, and at the appropriate time pop it in to cook. I generally snap my spaghetti in half – dreadful, I know – to make it easier to fit into the saucepan.

Chop the ham and onion, and pop them into a gently heated and oiled frying pan. While they’re cooking, grind the mountain pepper berries in a mortar and pestle, adding several good pinches of fresh thyme and oregano and a slosh of olive oil to make a peppery pesto-type mixture.

Add the tomatoes to the ham mixture, followed by the ground herbs. Stir well. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it, and add it to the frying pan. Using tongs, carefully mix the sauce through the spaghetti (this is a rather delicate procedure in our small frying pan), and continue mixing over the heat for several minutes. Serve immediately with a nice sharp cheese grated over the top.

Roast Garlic Pasta

This is a delicious recipe from The Daily Bread, which I’ve altered a little, and renamed. It’s a very garlicky pasta dish, and is also fairly oily – in a lovely way, but it mightn’t suit delicate stomachs. Good both warm and cold, this is a wonderfully versatile dish. I can foresee it appearing in many dinner menus in the future.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 head of garlic – excess paper removed
500g small pasta
1 bunch fresh basil
200g bacon
200g Tasmanian feta cheese
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1 punnet cherry tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 160C. Put the head of garlic in a small heatproof pot – I used a big coffee mug – and pour the olive oil over the top. Bake for about an hour, until it’s golden and soft.

While the garlic’s baking, chop the bacon into small bits and fry until nicely crisp. Set aside. Slice the sundried tomatoes into small pieces, chop the cherry tomatoes into quarters, and roughly chop the basil.

When the garlic is nearly ready, cook the pasta until tender. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

When the garlic is baked, remove it from the oil. Squeeze the soft baked garlic from its cases – it may be easier to slip the cloves free with a fork. Pour the oil over the pasta – if you want the pasta to be less oily, don’t pour the entire amount on. Add the bacon, sundried and cherry tomatoes, and basil. Mix well. Crumble the feta cheese over the pasta, and mix in. Add pepper to taste, and eat immediately.

Leek and Ham Cannelloni

This is the first time I’ve attempted to make cannelloni, and I decided to try after reading a recipe of Rick Stein’s, which this recipe has been rather loosely adapted from. It’s an easy recipe, using fresh lasagne sheets to roll up the filling – very cheesy and satisfying. It is fiddly, wrapping up each individual little roll, and I’ve found it’s much easier with two people – one to dollop on the filling, and the other to roll up the pasta and put it in the tray.

3 leeks, thinly sliced
1 capsicum, chopped into small pieces
A few handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
200g of ham, cut into strips
A handful of fresh oregano, chopped (or a few good shakes of dried herbs – oregano, basil and chilli are good)
About 250g of ricotta or aged cheddar
Salt and pepper
1 pack of fresh lasagne sheets
Bottled tomato pasta sauce
Extra cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 200C. In a large saucepan, melt a little butter, then saute the leeks, capsicum, mushrooms and ham for about 10 minutes, or until it’s reduced down. At this stage, if there’s a little excess liquid, pour it off. Season well, to your taste, and then take off the heat. Stir in the cheese. We used cheddar, but Rick Stein uses ricotta, which would probably give them quite a different texture.

While the leek mixture is cooking, put the lasagne sheets in a deep tray, and soak in boiling water for 5 minutes. Just before you’re reading to begin rolling the cannelloni, transfer the pasta to a plate, tearing the sheets in half. If they begin to stick together while you’re making the pasta, pour a little hot water over them.

Oil a large tray with sides to bake the cannelloni on, and then pour in a reasonable amount of bottled pasta sauce, spreading it evenly around.

In order to prepare the cannelloni, you’ll need the plate with the lasagne sheets, a plate to roll the canneloni on, the leek mixture, and your oiled and tomatoed tray. Tear the lasagne sheets in half. Grab each half-sheet on at a time, and place on your spare plate. Spoon some of the leek mixture along one edge, and roll up the sheet, placing it in the tray. Continue, until you’ve filled your tray, used up all your lasagne sheets, or run out of leek mixture.

Pour a little more pasta sauce into the tray, and spread it generously over the cannelloni. Sprinkle over a little extra cheese, and bake for 20 minutes. Delicious.

Variations are endless, as you can use practically anything for the filling, and change the flavour quite dramatically if you use different cheeses.