“Roasted Salmon, Asparagus and Pancetta with Caper and Basil Mayo” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Anna: Oh wow! Ok. This is my new favourite salmon dish. And given we have salmon at least once a week, I’ve been through a lot of recipes…

Peter: Yes it is very nice. Not a lot of it though. Where are the carbs?

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Anna: There are no carbs. We haven’t been having many carbs recently. I’m surprised you haven’t noticed.

Peter: I have noticed.

Anna: This reminds me of old school Jamie. Jamie when the recipes were simple and worked and not accompanied by a load of waffle. He’d call it “Roasted salmon with pimped up mayo, my way” or something. The only thing I would change is to have more asparagus as it did shrink a lot when it was cooked. Yummy asparagus crisps. Yummy!

“Roasted Salmon, Asparagus and Pancetta with Caper and Basil Mayo” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

“Onion, Tomato and Pancetta Soup” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

CBAMSoupOr, in Italian (as it is in the book): Zuppa di Cipolle e Pancetta

Maureen: As you can see, the boys have opted out of this one.

Tim: Why is that?

Nicholas (10): I am just not in the mood for soup. I think I have to be in the right mood so I would like it, and today is not that day.

Andrew (14): I’m with Nicholas. I don’t feel like having soup either. So I’ll have pasta.

Maureen: Well, I think it’s great. Perfect for a blustery autumn day.

Tim: You know what this reminds me of? French onion soup.

Maureen: That’s funny. He says in the introduction it’s his favourite soup recipe EVER and is a variation on an onion soup recipe.

Tim: I really like it.

Maureen: So do I. This could *almost* be a meat-free Monday special if you took out the pancetta, but I think I like having the pancetta in as it gives you a bit of a yummy surprise every few mouthfuls. I’m sure you could make it without the pancetta, but I don’t know if it would be as good.

Tim: Yes, I know what you mean. But it has a lot of onions, so it’s nice to have other things in there as well.

Maureen: I also have to tell you that I added one more can of chopped tomatoes than called for in the recipe. It just looked a little sad to me with just one can in there, so I went for another one. I’m glad I did.

Tim: We should have this again.

Maureen: Agreed. Maybe the boys will be in the mood for it next time, so they can have it too.

Google Books has helpfully catalogued this book, so if you’d like to give this soup a go, you can find the recipe by clicking through this sentence.

“Onion, Tomato and Pancetta Soup” from “Gino’s Italian Escape”

“Farfalle with Ricotta, Pancetta and Peas” from “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”

I’m sorry. No dialogue for this one. It obviously got lost amid the hoopla of Christmas.

But this could be the perfect run-up-to-Christmas-weeknight dish. First, it’s got green and red. OK, not red exactly, but pink pancetta, but close enough. The green is provided by the peas. Everyone liked this, but frankly, it’s like so many other pancetta and pea pasta dishes we’ve ever had that it was hardly an adventurous night of eating.


For creaminess, Gordon adds ricotta and creme fraiche. I hate to tell you Gordon, but I was on the creme fraiche in pasta bandwagon years ago, in a quick kids weeknight dinner which I called “Cheat’s Alfredo.”

To make my Cheat’s Alfredo, all you do is cook pasta, add the peas in when there’s about three minutes left of cooking, drain the pasta, add creme fraiche and copious amounts of dried parmesan cheese. Done. Bob’s your uncle.

This one is slightly different in that you add pancetta. Frankly, I think whenever you add a bacon product to a dish you are guaranteed a win. You also add ricotta, which is a slight variation on my Cheat’s Alfredo, but it works.

Finally, you will notice from the photographs that the pasta is decidedly not farfalle. Here’s what happened: I bought the farfalle but also some fusilli at the store. While I was making dinner amid about a million other Christmas jobs, I just opened one packet of pasta which happened to be the fusilli. As a result, we’re having Fusilli with Ricotta, Pancetta and Peas. Next time I will use the farfalle, but I don’t think it makes a bit of difference.

Will I make it again? Maybe. I still think Nigella’s orzo with peas and pancetta is better, but this one is good too, especially if I don’t have any orzo in the cupboard. We now all know how difficult it can be to find orzo in the shops.


“Farfalle with Ricotta, Pancetta and Peas” from “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”

“Venetian Stew” from “Nigellissima”

Anna: I knew this was going to be yummy.

Peter: Why?

Anna: Because it is beany and pancetta-y, salty and a bit sweet. What I didn’t realise was how quick and easy it was going to be.

Peter: You did russle it up pretty quickly. It’s perfect for a cold autumn night.

Anna: Monster portions though! You will have plenty for lunch tomorrow while I’m out.

Peter: I’m happy with that. How did you manage to stop the polenta from going hard immediately?

Anna: Another Nigella tip. She increases the normal proportions of water to polenta in this recipe to ensure it stays soft and creamy. Genius. I would like this again.

Peter: That’s good, as so would I.

“Venetian Stew” from “Nigellissima”

“Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta” from “Nigellissma”

Maureen (looking at Andrew’s empty bowl): Wow. You really hoovered that.

Andrew (13): I did. I like it! Is it from this month’s cookbook?

Maureen: Yes. Another Nigella offering.

Andrew: I really liked it. Please make it again.

Nicholas (9): Same! I liked it.

Maureen: I think I know why you like this so much. It’s just like the pasta that Kirstin used to always make, with pancetta and peas. The only difference is the pasta shape.

Andrew: Hey, you’re right. It is!

Continue reading ““Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta” from “Nigellissma””

“Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta” from “Nigellissma”

“Stack’s Carbonara” from “Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter”

Nicholas (9): (Looking suspiciously at his plate) Do you remember that time you made white bean soup and it tasted of nothing so we had cereal instead?

Maureen: But I don’t think that is going to apply in this case. This definitely does not taste of nothing.

Nicholas (skeptically): We’ll see about that, won’t we.

Maureen: I think it will be delicious. What do you think?

Nicholas (with great surprise): It’s quite good!

Andrew (12): Yup. I agree. It’s pretty good.

Maureen: This is a very strange way to do carbonara because you use cottage cheese. But it’s so good, I don’t care. This is great.

Tim: Of course it’s good! It’s got bacon and cheese in it.

Maureen: Well, actually, it’s not bacon. It’s fancy bacon– pancetta. But I think the addition of the cottage cheese almost makes it healthy.

Tim: You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s good, but it’s rich.

Maureen: I am definitely making this again.

Stack’s Carbonara from “Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter”

Serves 4

300-400g spaghetti (depending on appetite)

50g butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

140g pancetta, cubed

2 garlic cloves, crushed

500g cottage cheese

300ml single cream

A good grating of Parmesan cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of slated water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until al dente following the instructions on the packet.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large frying pan and melt the butter. Cook the union until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the pancetta and the garlic. When softened and browned add the cottage cheese. Keep stirring until the cottage cheese has melted and the mixture has come together. It will look watery at this stage, but don’t be alarmed!

Add the cream, keep stirring and reducing until it has thickened to your liking.

Grate in the parmesan, add a good crack of black pepper and cook until thick and cream. And in Stack’s words, ‘BOOM!”

Stir the sauce into the cooked spaghetti and serve immediately.

This is what it looks like after adding the cottage cheese– all watery and slightly strange. Do not despair. It works out fine.

“Stack’s Carbonara” from “Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter”

“Farfalle with savoy cabbage, pancetta, thyme and mozzarella” from “The Return of the Naked Chef”

Peter: This smells like the broccoli pasta.

Anna: That will be the pine nuts. He puts pine nuts in almost every recipe in this book.

Peter: Are pine nuts very turn of the century then? What’s in now, during these recessionary times? Quinoa?

Anna: Dried things. And things you grow yourself. You can’t grow pine nuts. But, you can grow cabbage if you’re so inclined. I don’t think we’ve done this recipe before. And it’s rather nice.

Peter: You’re right, I can’t remember having it. But it’s a proper meal. And this is an easy way to sneak cabbage into someone’s diet.

Anna: Yes, hide it behind the saturated fat and salt of the mozzarella and pancetta. I think we’ll be having this again. It’s good for restoring your energy after your swimming lesson with Louis.

Peter: All that splish-splashing around in a circle and up in the air certainly takes it out of you.

Anna: I should mention that there’s no photos as the camera ran out of battery just as I was serving. This isn’t the sort of dish that can sit around while searching for an replacement.  Next time…..

“Farfalle with savoy cabbage, pancetta, thyme and mozzarella” from “The Return of the Naked Chef”