My Favourite Recipe: PASTA perfection

Between work, online uni study and preparing a guest post for the beautiful Flavoured Lemons blog (what a treat and honour!), I’ve fallen a bit behind with the weekly ‘My Favourite Recipe‘ challenge. Better late than never, though, am I right?

Had I not had the wonderful opportunity to spend four amazing days in Tuscany (nearly two years ago now, *sob*), learning how to cook delicious Italian food with Chef Claudio, this would be a completely different post!

Pasta is such a versatile ingredient – whether you use dried, fresh or handmade, you’re pretty much assured a quick, easy and – best of all – relatively cheap meal (unless, of course, you choose to lace it with champagne, lobster, and freshly shaved truffles and the like). I’m not ashamed to admit that if it wasn’t for those jars of ready-made pasta sauce you can buy at any supermarket, I probably would have survived on little more than scrambled eggs or tinned spaghetti when I first left home…we all have to start somewhere!

However, with the help of the Super Food Ideas magazine, countless Australian Women’s Weekly recipe books and the likes of Donna Hay, Nigella and Jamie, it wasn’t long before I discovered just how easy it is to turn a humble bowl of pasta into something delicious using fresh ingredients and home-made sauces. With Chef Claudio, I had the opportunity to take it one step further and learn how to make fresh pasta with an egg, plain flour and my own two hands (no machine required). Although we declared at the time that we would never cook with packet pasta again, I must confess it is still a staple item in our pantry (or fridge, when we get the fresh pasta).

But I digress – I’m here to talk about my favourite pasta recipe!

I was first introduced to the salty-but-sweet, rich, creamy goodness of Spaghetti Alla Carbonara while I was working in a lovely little Italian cafe-restaurant in my late teens; several years later I started looking for recipes in order to try it myself, aware of the fact that it would never measure up to Chef Jan’s beautiful dish.

Over time, my versions of this dish have changed quite considerably, based on the recipes I’d sought out, and whatever ingredients I had in my possession at the time. Once again, Chef Claudio came to the rescue.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to throw away the cream, tins of evaporated milk, and any preconceptions you had about what constituted a true Carbonara…

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara (alla Chef Claudio)

Ingredients:
  • 400g spaghetti (or other pasta of choice – I sometimes use fettucine or spiral pasta)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 200g prosciutto (or bacon)
  • 2 TBS milk
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Note: Besides the measurements (I tend to use less eggs), the only variation I make to this recipe is to cook chopped mushrooms with the prosciutto…they work beautifully in the recipe.

Method:

Thanks again to B.TX for setting up this challenge! Please join in and support this wonderful weekly event!

My Favourite Recipe: Lemon CHEESEcakes

Where does one start when it comes to cheese? With countless options for preparing and serving the extensive types of cheese offered at varying levels in maturity and style, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint my absolute favourite! Rather than fry my brain trying to make a decision, I thought I was best to go with the easy option – cheesecake.

A few years ago I picked up this great little book called Nibbles, which contains recipes for sweet and savoury ‘finger foods’ that are ideal for serving at parties and other special occasions. To this day, I don’t think I’ve tried any other recipe apart from the one I’m about to share with you, but I have already gotten my money’s worth on this one alone. It’s a keeper, for sure!

Not only are these mini cheesecakes delicious (and the perfect size for entertaining a small crowd), they are extremely easy to prepare. Also, unlike full-size cheesecakes, you only need one packet of cream cheese…bonus!

Lemon Cheesecakes

(from Nibbles: 100 sweet and savoury finger foods by Hardie Grant Books.)

Note: I’ve omitted the blueberry sauce portion of the recipe you’ll find in the book – I believe the cheesecakes work just as well without it.

Ingredients:
  • 90g gingersnap biscuits*
  • 40g unsalted butter, melted
  • 250g cream cheese at room temperature
  • ½ C caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ TBS plain (all purpose) flour
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 150g (1 Cup) fresh blueberries**

* I use Butternut Snap biscuits – not sure if that’s a fair substitute, but it works for me

** Frozen is fine if – like me – you freeze punnets of fresh berries as soon as you buy them (they’re never on special when you need them!) I can’t vouch for the success (or otherwise) of pre-packed frozen berries, though.

Method:

I’ve made these little gems enough times to feel confident enough to try slight variations on the recipe, including:

  1. adding passionfruit syrup to the mixture and omitting the blueberries; or
  2. adding crushed strawberries to the mix, replacing the blueberries with fresh strawberries and drizzling white chocolate over the cooled cheesecakes.

Thanks again to B.TX for setting up this challenge! Please join in and support this wonderful weekly event! I look forward to seeing your cheese-a-licious recipes!