broccoli, cheese and pasta bake

broccoli cheese

broccoli cheese

It’s been raining now for the past 2 weeks and I, along with my collection of animals, am patiently waiting to board the arc when it floats past.  Until then, I have to make do with cooking up a storm with what’s currently languishing in my cupboards (as I’m refusing to don my galoshes and step foot outside in this weather).  So, with some purple sprouting broccoli and some various odds and ends of cheese I made a little pasta bake which went a little something like this:

Serves 2


Pasta (I used conchiglie as that was what was in my cupboard, but penne or fusilli would work) – enough for two people

Broccoli (I used purple sprouting – again, enough for two people)

Half an onion (finely chopped)

15g butter

15g plain flour

150 ml milk

1/2 tablespoon of whole grain mustard

100g cheese (I used a mixture of grated cheddar, some gorgonzola and stuck in a parmesan-end for good measure) plus additional cheese for the topping (I used some grated cheddar and parmesan for this)


Salt and pepper for seasoning

Cook the pasta, together with the chopped onion in the boiling water.  In the last 3 minutes of cooking, chuck the broccoli into the mix.  When cooked, drain, reserving a tablespoon of the cooking liquid and set aside.  Heat the grill to a medium temperature.

Heat the butter in the saucepan and when melted, add the flour and cook for a minute or so before gradually adding the milk, stirring all the time.  Bring the mixture to the boil and then bring down to simmer for a couple of minutes. Before stirring in the mustard and the cheese (remembering to reserve some cheese for the topping).  Melt the cheese down a little.

Put the pasta mixture and the sauce into an ovenproof dish, scatter over the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, with a little pepper and salt on top and grill for 4-5 minutes or until the top is golden and yummy looking.


meatballs, spaghetti and tomato sauce

I’m really pleased with myself… I’ve perfected a tomato sauce recipe!  Given the use of Worcester sauce, it’s probably not very authentically Italiano, but it is very good.  The meatball part probably doesn’t chime with the whole healthy eating thing, but I do need to use up the Christmas leftovers in the freezer.

Serves 3:

For the tomato sauce:

1 dessert spoon of butter

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 chilli, finely chopped

2 cans chopped tomatoes (although I have discovered Waitrose Cherry Tomatoes in a tin for a fuller flavour)

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 teaspoons dark muscavado sugar

1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2 Knorr Herbal Infusion stock pot (this is optional, although I think it provides a better depth of flavour to the sauce)

150ml water

handful basil leaves

salt and pepper,  to your taste

For the meatballs:

Sausagemeat (I used Waitrose Gourmet Pork Sausagemeat – it seems a bit as though I’m promoting Waitrose today – I’m not, it’s just where I happened to have shopped recently, any sausagemeat will do)

Handful fresh chives, finely chopped

Olive oil

Serve with:



Heat a pot, add the butter and gently fry the onions until softened; then add the garlic and chilli until these are softened as well.  Then add the tins of tomatoes – I usually use the water to swill around the bottom of the tins, to ensure as much juice is extracted from the container as possible.  Add the herbal stock cube if you are using it, add the basil, paprika, Worcester sauce, sugar and tomato puree.  Bring to the boil and then gently simmer for 30 or so minutes, without the lid so that the sauce reduces down a little.  If you are using the tinned cherry tomatoes, rather than the chopped tomatoes, you will need to pop the cherries (so to speak) after about 10 minutes so that they cook down.

Whilst the sauce is on the go, put the chives and sausage meat into a bowl and with your hands knead the meat to ensure the herbs are evenly distributed.  Roll the mixture into meatball sized balls (1-1.5 inches in diameter) and place on a baking tray.  Drizzle a little oil over the top and gently grill (165C) for around 20 minutes, remembering to roll them around every once in a while to ensure they are browned all over.  When they are cooked through, add them to the sauce and continue to heat through.

This needs to be served with spaghetti, so when you’ve cooked some, muddle the sauce and meatballs in with the spaghetti and serve with loads of parmesan cheese.

meatballs and tomato sauce

meatballs and tomato sauce

a simple supper

cheesy pasta supper

5 cheese tortelloni

I am always surprised at how good Sainsbury’s fresh, filled pasta is… perfect for a quick supper when you’ve got back home late and all you want to do is eat as soon as possible.

Tonight was 5 cheese tortelloni with my homemade tomato sauce, (thanks to the vast quantities that I still have left over (as ordered by Allegra and Paul from my Sunday’s efforts) pancetta and plenty of parmigiano. Quick, easy, filling, tasty and ever so mmm.


Mennula is the Sicilian word for almond.  Now, I’m not especially fond of almonds; I like them encased in chocolate but not so much roasted and salted (but will eat them if they are there), and definitely not in the form of marzipan… and the reason that I’m going on about this is because last night saw a few of us at Mennula (on the lovely Charlotte Street, London).  We had been told in no uncertain terms that we had to be seated by our allocated time (or else what? I’m not sure, but they were Sicilian, so we thought we’d better behave).  The restaurant was quite quiet when we got there.  The decor was pretty, although I found the squashed bug on the wall next to my shoulder, less so.  We were having a meal of four courses.  The first course – the stuzzichini – included several small platters of nibbles (including roasted and salted almonds), green olives, arancini rice balls and sour dough bread.

For my primo piatto, I had strozzapreti in a braised venison and mushroom ragout which was quite lovely (although some of my strozzapreti was a little hard in consistency, but I was the only one who had this experience).

For secondo, I had pork belly.  As a bit of background, I LOVE pork belly and it tends to be a benchmark dish of mine (pretty much, wherever I go, if it’s on the menu, pork belly will end up in my belly) and unfortunately this pork belly didn’t really compare.  ES had a plate of fritto misto but the complaint there was that there wasn’t quite enough of it!  Conversely, and unusually for me, I was feeling quite full by this point, so I think my pork belly was gratefully received.

For my dolce, I chose traditional Sicilian cannoli filled with sweet ewe’s ricotta.  It was a bad choice by me and I had definite food-envy over everyone else’s warm Sicilian sfinci (doughnuts) served with honey, vanilla crème anglais and Sicilian granita.

So all in all, I feel about Mennula the same as I do about almonds – good in some respects and lacking in others, and I probably wouldn’t eat there again unless it was put on a table in front of me.