Thursday, May 28, 2009

baked rigatoni with bean sauce

This recipe was inspired by a dish my ex-mother-in-law used to make, and by a recipe in Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cookbook", which I'm using a lot lately.

Nadia, my ex-m-i-l, was/is an excellent cook. We'd go to dinner once a week and get two courses and dessert - lovely. The only problem was the speed at which the family ate, very fast. Nadia's version of Baked Rigatoni with Meat Sauce aka Rigatoni al forno col ragu was absolutely delicious and I'd always make a pig of myself eating as much as I could as fast as I could, then struggle to fit in the next course. Then dessert.

This week given that Tim's away I decided to treat myself to some Rigatoni. Doesn't sound like much of a treat does it, but Tim doesn't like hollow pasta so all we ever eat in the pasta shape way is long flat or long round stuff ... also I've decided to have a meat free week. Why? I don't know, call it a whim.

So I decide to convert Marcella's perfectly good meat filled recipe to a vegetarian friendly one. I could've gone purely with a tomato sauce but thought adding mashed beans would up the protein quotient. Somebody told me once that combining a legume and a grain makes a perfectly acceptable protein, so I work to that theory.

Baked Rigatoni with Bean Sauce


for the Bean Sauce

olive oil
4 rosemary sprigs
2 garlic cloves
1 small onion
2 sticks of celery
1/2 a 425g tin of butter beans (kidney beans might be better ...)
1 425g tin of tomatoes

for the White Sauce

butter - approx 30g
2 tbspns of plain flour
milk - approx 250ml

cheese - approx 4 tblspns grated - I used a combination of parmesan and cheddar
rigatoni - approx 150g
extra butter - approx 20g


Put the rosemary sprigs, olive oil and peeled garlic in a heavy pot and cook over a very low heat. The idea is to get the oil tasting of the garlic and rosemary. It takes about 45 minutes, the rosemary shrivels up and goes brittle when it's done. Remove it and throw it away. You could always skip this step and just fry some rosemary and garlic in the oil for 5 minutes but it's not as good.

Chop the onion and the celery. When the oil is ready and you've removed the rosemary add the onion, up the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes, add the celery and fry for a little longer. Add the drained beans and stir about. As the beans combine with the celery and onion mash them up a bit. Add the tin of tomatoes and stir, cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes or longer.

To make the white sauce melt the butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When it's foaming, add the flour and stir thoroughly to combine, cook the mixture a little, it shouldn't be too soft ... add a splash of milk, enough to cover the bottom of the pan by about 4mm, stir rapidly with a wooden spoon to incorporate the milk into the flour and butter. You'll have a fairly thick paste. Add more milk, and stir again. Each time the milk gets incorporated add some more until you've got a nice thickish sauce. Stir while it comes to the boil. Once it's done you can turn the heat off and just leave it.

Heat your oven to 200C/400F.

Bring a pot of water to the boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and tip into a bowl with the bean & tomato sauce, the white sauce and the two thirds of the cheese, mix it all together, then put it into an oven dish, smooth the top over, sprinkle on the remaining one third of cheese and dot with the extra butter.

Put into the top of the oven and cook for 10 minutes. When it's done you can leave it for about 5 minutes before serving.

I ate this with a very simple salad of lettuce and capers. It was good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

basil >> pesto

big pile of washed basil leaves

Today was the day to dig out the basil plants, pull off the better looking leaves, and make pesto.

As you can see I harvested a goodly amount of the herb. The chickens "helped" by eating the little shield bugs that were living on the plants.

I used Marcella Hazan's recipe for "Pesto made in the Blender" leaving out the cheese and butter because the whole lot is going in the fridge. I'll add it later as required.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

simple, yet delicious

Tonight's dinner was brought to me by Michele Di'Bartolo's The Sicilian Kitchen:

Ricotta and Pasta
Spinach and Chilli

The beauty of this meal is that it is what it says it is - for the Ricotta and Pasta you cook pasta and add it to ricotta that's been mashed with a little salt and some of the pasta cooking water. The Spinach and Chilli similarly is chilli and garlic fried slowly in olive oil with spinach added (actually Michele blanches the spinach first but I'm lazy). And there you have it a very elegant and delicious meal.

reading the kitchen and garden

Today I went into work, briefly, to discuss my return from leave. (I've been off for 3 months - it's been fantastic.) Afterwards I trotted over to Kinokuniya for a browse and found some rather interesting eating and gardening books:

A History of Kitchen Gardening - Susan Campbell
The title is slightly deceptive, it seems to be a history of one kitchen garden in the south of England. It's got some lovely drawings and diagrams and lots of detail about the mechanisms of growing food for a large house. I thought about getting it for Mum for Christmas but she's more into story ... I'll keep it in mind though.

Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn - Fritz Haeg
This looked cool but the copy in Kinokuniya was wrapped in plastic so I couldn't check out the contents. The basic premise is making vegetable gardens out the front of houses instead of lawn. Super!

A Tale of 12 Kitchens: Family Cooking in Four Countries - Jake Tilson
Another groovy book (on sale now at Amazon!) it attracted me because it seemed to be talking about why we eat/cook what we eat/cook where. Thinking about who has influenced what we eat. I might buy it if I can remember my Amazon log in.

Cook Your Own Veg - Carol Klein
This book is the sort of thing I want to do - recipes organised by season made from things you've grown in your own garden. It's English so the summer section is full and winter pretty empty - lovely photos.

I didn't buy anything, but it was fun to check what's out there.

Monday, May 25, 2009

vegetable gardening

On Saturday evening I found a wonderful "when to plant what vegetable and how" website:

It's very good - it's organised by month, and by region, so you get a list of all the things that it's plausible to grow right now. And each of the vegetables has an individual page showing what months to plant it, giving a short description of the best way to plant it, then people can add comments and questions about their experience.

Very cool.

I got to via the Italian gardener - they're a seed supplier and I've discovered that they stock pimentos de padron the Spanish chilies for frying. So I'll be giving some of them a go later in the year.

Most excellent.