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Earlier this week I happened to catch a few minutes of Economy Gastronomy and I’m glad I did as Allegra provided a recipe that is perfect for clearing out the bottom of your vegetable bin! Pasta e fagioli is basically Italian peasant food (can’t get more rustic than that!) and translates as pasta & beans. Looking in my vege bin I found half a pumpkin, a leek, some odd shaped courgettes from our garden, 1/4 bag of carrot sticks and 3 ears of corn from our PYO session last weekend. Seems like a perfect time to try out Allegra’s recipe as I didn’t need to go and buy anything and when it gets past 4pm on a Sunday you don’t really have a choice other than to make do with what is in the cupboard! Once peeled and chopped my veges came to about 1kg so I added another 300ml of stock and a tin of tomatoes. I am not one for experimenting but this recipe is so easy to adapt to whatever you have in the cupboard. I am getting much better at using what’s in the cupboard and I am trying really hard not to waste anything (it’s taken me a long time to realise this is the same as chucking the money in the bin – sounds obvious I know!) so I am feeling like I am making less trips to the supermarkets and consequently spending less.

We had picked up a fresh wholemeal loaf from the Blackheath Farmers Market which made a perfect accompaniment. It was delicious and filling which is lucky as it made a huge batch and so we will be having it for dinner at least twice this week!!

Izzy was a bit picky at dinner tonight and we managed to cajole her into eating about 10 mouthfuls but I think that on a normal day she would have scoffed it. One of the things James and I both enjoyed was the contrast between the hot soup and the cold chopped tomato on top – gave it an interesting twist.

Pasta e fagioli (courtesy of Economy Gastronomy – Allegra McEvedy)

90ml/3¼fl oz extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, peeled, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, chopped
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
600g/1lb 5oz mixed vegetables (such as courgette, fennel, swede, potato, sweet potato, leek, celery, carrot or peas), chopped into 1cm/½in cubes
3-4 pinches dried mixed herbs (such as rosemary, oregano and thyme)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre/1¾ pints chicken or vegetable stock, preferably home-made
80g/2¾oz dried pasta, such as penne
1 x 400g/14oz can beans (such as cannellini, borlotti, haricot or chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2 fresh bay leaves
50g/2oz freshly grated parmesan
1 large or 2 small very ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

Heat 60ml/2¼fl oz of the oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilli flakes and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until softened. Add all of the mixed vegetables (except the peas, if using) and the dried mixed herbs to the pan. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Fry for 2-3 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.

Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan with a lid and continue to fry for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until the vegetables have softened and are pale golden-brown. Add the stock, pasta, beans, bay leaves and peas (if using), then bring the mixture to the boil. Return the mixture to a simmer and continue to simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the pasta has absorbed some of the liquid and is tender. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly before serving.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the parmesan, chopped tomatoes and the remaining 30ml/1fl oz of olive oil until well combined. To serve, spoon the pasta e fagioli into four serving bowls. Spoon over the parmesan and tomato mixture. Season, to taste, with freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over each serving.

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So Pasta e fagioli finished off a lovely day that included a trip into London on the train (well that part wasn’t exciting for James & I but Izzy loved it!) with our bikes to take part in London’s Skyride. It was great fun taking to the car-free streets with 50,000 others and cycling past many of London’s monuments. A great day out! Thanks Boris!!

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One of the good things about having a Granny (either one!) visiting is the offer of dinner on the table when we get home. I love to cook but now and then it is such a treat to have one of our Mum’s cooking – especially as they live on the other side of the world. On the menu is Tuna Pasta Bake – a great way of getting all sorts of goodies into children!! The only problem I find with this type of recipe is it is a bit more butter & cheese than I like to use in a mid week meal. I particularly like the use of tomato soup in this though – gives it a creamy feel without the cream.

Tuna Pasta Bake (courtesy of Annabel Karmel – Family Cookbook Summer 2009)

Ingredients:-

150g fusilli

25g butter

1/2 onion, peeled & finely chopped

1 Tbsp cornflour

120ml water

400g tin tomato soup

Pinch of mixed herbs

1-2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

200g tin tuna, drained & flaked

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

1/2 onion peeled & finely chopped

25g butter

2 level Tbsp plain flour

300ml milk

50g baby spinach, chopped

85g Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 180C. Boil the pasta until al dente, then drain and refresh in cold water to stop it from overcooking.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the onion until soft. Stir the cornflour into the water until dissolved, then add to the pan along with the tomato soup. Bring to the boil, add the herbs, then cook gently, stirring, for five minutes. Mix in the flaked tuna and heat through. Season to taste.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the onion until transparent. Add the flour and stir well. Gradually pour in the milk and keep stirring until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add the chopped spinach and stir until wilted.

Mix the pasta with the tuna and tomato sauce, then pour into a greased serving dish. Finish with the spinach sauce and top with the grated cheddar cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Granny’s suggestion on this is that you only make one sauce and I can’t help but agree – seems a little fussy to be making two. I would also prefer for the spinach to the be mixed throughout the pasta bake rather than sitting on top. With the 2 sauces it does give a nice topping but for a mid week meal time is of the essence. Next time I will try it with one sauce so will need to experiment with modifications to the recipe above. Some sweetcorn mixed in could be yummy too.

Tasted scrummy and was a hit with Izzy too! Thanks Granny 🙂

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