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Spaghetti bolognese and variations of it are one of Mr Rigg’s favourite meals.  I’m not so keen on spaghetti bolognese as we know it in this country, made with minced beef – I would rather make a sauce of slow cooked meat.

So whilst trying to be a good girlfriend, last night I used some leftover minced pork to make tiny meatballs to sit on a bowl of pasta and served with lashings of homemade tomato sauce.

I say they were ‘made up’ meatballs, because I just added bits and pieces as I saw fit.  The ‘bits and pieces’ included breadcrumbs, fresh sage, grated Parmesan, an egg and seasoning of salt and pepper.  I mixed this all together and started to make my meatballs.

I made them quite tiny – like a large marble size – and popped them on a tray and into the fridge to firm up for a bit.

Next I fried them in a little oil to brown them – and set off the smoke alarm…which is a regular occurence in our house – our neighbours must think we are terrible cooks!

Then the final stage of cooking them was to pop them into the oven covered with foil whilst the pasta cooked. 

I popped the cooked meatballs on top of the pile of steaming pasta and then ladled over some of my homemade tomato sauce.  Topped with a little grated Parmesan and plenty of black pepper for me, they were scrumy.

I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

So my afternoon at the local food event was good.  It’s always lovely to meet other people who are running similar projects, be inspired by others and generally network.  I would prefer more ‘doing’ at these events and less listening – I come home feeling inspired by what I’ve heard, but I would have liked to do more group problem-solving.

The lunch I must tell you, was really miserable.  Perhaps my work running community events and conferences makes me hyper-critical, but I would have thought that an event on local food should have a vibrant, seasonal lunch of local produce.  The only obvious local produce was the apple juice (from Eddisbury Fruit Farm), but otherwise it was miserable beige food (read: soggy garlic bread with cold melted cheese) and a few token carrot sticks.

But enough of that, tonight I made up a delicious pesto using some slightly-too-old peas and a bag of sugar snap peas that were in desperate need of being eaten.  I was also in real need of green, vibrant vegetables for tea. 

Homemade pea and sugar snap pesto

So I quickly cooked the sugar snap peas and ordinary peas (that I’d podded first – possibly one of my favourite jobs ever) in boiling water.  I allowed the sugar snap peas a few minutes longer, but really only let them turn a bright green before draining them and cooling quickly in iced water.

I popped them into my handy small blender, along with some walnut oil (thought I’d try something different), sliced mint from the garden, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper.  I whizzed it all up, added some more oil to loosen it, adjusted the seasonings to taste and hey pesto (sorry…it was too irresistable!) my pea pesto was finished!

After cooking the pasta, I added the pesto along with a splash of the pasta water and mixed it in.  For an extra dash of colour, and in the spirit of using as much of my edible garden as possible, I added a few lilac mint flowers to finish it off. 

This is not a powerful, punchy pesto like the basil version.  It is subtle, with the sweetness of pea, the earthy nuttiness of the oil, and the savoury-salty flavour of Parmesan.  Lovely, seasonal, and a great way to use up forgotten vegetables.

The other night Mr Rigg made us a delicious dinner of asparagus, mint and lemon risotto.  He found this great sounding recipe of Jamie Oliver’s, and although we did deviate from the recipe Jamie is always full of inspiration.

What did we do differently? 

  • Well, we cooked our asparagus in the oven like we did here
  • We cooked the risotto the way we normally do risotto, rather than learning a slightly different way. 
  • We added lemon zest as we were adding stock.
  • We stirred the sliced cooked asparagus and sliced mint into the risotto at the end.
  • And only added a spritz of lemon juice at the end to taste.

However, without Jamie’s recipe as a starting point I’d have never thought to combine asparagus, mint and lemon together in a risotto.  And you should – it’s divine!

Mr Rigg and I have had a lovely weekend with my family.  Yesterday before we left my mom and I made a delicious pasta dinner using green spring inspired vegetables.  Simply dreamt up with the ingredients we had.  Here’s how we made it…

Spring vegetable pasta

Feeds 2

2 small to medium leeks
Half a bunch of asparagus
Small bowlful of frozen peas
2 handfuls of shelled broad beans
2 spring onions
Long thin pasta for two
2 rashers of bacon (optional)
Parmesan to serve
Butter, olive oil, salt and pepper

Melt a generous knob of butter in a saucepan.  Finely slice the leeks and saute in the butter until soft.  You can also add a couple of teaspoonfuls of the pasta cooking water.  Season with salt and pepper.

If you are having bacon, cut it into small pieces and fry until crispy.

Put on a pan of boiling salted water and cook the pasta accordingly.  About 3-5 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broad beans and peas.  Slice the asparagus diagonally into small slithers and add them to the pasta, peas and beans to cook for a few minutes.

Slice up the spring onions and add to the leeks. 

When the pasta and vegetables are cooked, drain the water and tip the pasta into the pan with the leeks.  Stir well, add a little olive oil and season to taste if needed.  Add a little more butter if the pasta is a little dry.

Eat the pasta topped with crispy bacon and shards of Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Better looking photos thanks to the little sister’s camera!

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On Thursday two bundles of squeaky green garlic scapes arrived in my veg box from Northern Harvest.  I’ve had garlic scapes before, but they were thin  and spindly, these were much fatter and incredibly beautiful with their bulging flower heads tightly encased in a wafer thin skin.  Garlic scapes have all the taste of ordinary garlic, but more subtle, and with a fresher, grassier tang.

I decided to make a garlic scape pesto, using a bunch of the garlic scapes (stalks chopped and flower heads), a handful of pine nuts, lots of olive oil, and some grated Parmesan. 

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Blitz up the garlic scapes and pine nuts in a blender, before adding the olive oil.  Add more oil to get the desired consistency and salt for flavour.  Tip the pesto out into a bowl, add the grated Parmesan and some ground black pepper. 

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But what to do with the freshly made pesto?  N was making pizzasusing bases that we’d frozen, so I thought why not try using the pesto to make a sort of garlic pizza bread.  It was gooooooood.  Simply spread the pesto over your prepared pizza base…

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…bung in a hot oven (250°C) for about 6-8 minutes until the dough is golden at the edges and the pesto sizzling.

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Raw this pesto has quite a kick to it, but none of the lingering, overpowering garlicky taste that a clove of garlic has.  But cooked it mellows out, has a softer garlicky flavour and is altogether very enjoyable.  It made quite a lot of pesto so I’ve popped one pot in the freezer for another day, and one in the fridge to use this week. 

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We are ill.  Or getting ill, it seems.  It started yesterday with a sore throat, then this morning N had one too accompanied by a headache.  So we are busily feeding ourselves up on cold-fighting food.  For tea last night we prepared this simple but tasty pasta dish, full of ingredients to help ward off illness.

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Baked Lemon Pasta

Serves 2

185g pasta (we used small penne)
2 spoonfuls of creme fraiche
1 small onion
small stalk of fresh garlic (or 1 garlic clove)
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
handful of parsley, roughly chopped
grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 200°C.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion and garlic stalk (or glove) and sauté in oil and a knob of butter until soft. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Mix in the creme fraiche, the onion mixture, lemon zest and juice, and the parsley. Make sure you taste the mixture and adjust until it pops with flavour.

Spoon into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the Parmesan. Drizzle over a little olive oil and cook for 7-10 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to tinge golden.

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hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

This recipe should be tried by all – it’s delicious.  A fantastic winter soup that will bring a little ray of summer sunshine into these cold and dismal days.  It bursts with rich tomato and zingy lemon, but with deep earthy lentils and hearty pasta twirls.  And what’s more, it is made from store cupboard staples.  We ate large bowlfuls with grated Parmesan and a sprinkling of torn parsley.  For lunch the next day I finished up the leftovers with a pile of sunflower sprouts and a drizzle of oil.

Tomato, Lemon and Lentil Soup

Serves 2
(this is what the recipe says, but really it’s two large bowlfuls and one for lunch the next day)

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
400g tin plum tomatoes
60g red lentils
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable stock
75g fusilli
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Delicious garnishes: torn flat leaf parsley or sunflower sprouts

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and gentle fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft.

Add the tinned tomatoes and break up a bit. Add the red lentils and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta in a separate pan. This is really important – the first time I made this soup I thought I would save on washing up and bunged the dry pasta in with the soup to cook. The soup turned out more like a stew as the pasta absorbed too much of the cooking liquid.

When the soup has had its 30 minutes, use a hand blended to blitz it up a little bit so that it is a mixture or smooth and coarse textures. Add the pasta and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Make sure you taste the soup and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper until the soup bursts with flavour in your mouth.

Serve in warm bowls with plain or with a garnish of your choice.

soup with sunflower sprouts

soup with sunflower sprouts

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from Family Food by Silvana Franco.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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