“Pappardelle with fennel sausage ragu” from “Trullo”

Borough Market, a 15 minute train trip from us has been the source of many a foodie adventure. It’s easy to pop up there and find oysters for a meal. Or curious fruit and vegetables I often have to ask advice about. A few years ago, it was also where the London Bridge Terrorist attacks occurred. For a while the restaurants and market were closed, boarded up. There were little reminders of the tragedy that struck in a place of happiness, the fence that was crashed into, the hastily shut restaurants. I remember travelling around London at that time; there was a strong police presence but also that determination from everyone that everything would be OK. When Padella reopened I was jubilant. My favourite Italian restaurant outside of Italy was finally serving its delicious pasta again!

Of course with Lockdown, it’s all closed up again. When this is all over, which restaurants will have survived? All those livelihoods affected. It’s incredibly heartbreaking. London will look so different. It will feel so different. It will BE DIFFERENT.

And so late last week I started to source all the ingredients to make this recipe as my way to feel close to London before Lockdown. It is my favourite of Padella’s. I always made a point of ordering it when we visited. (although seriously who would have thought it would be that difficult to find sausage meat, but there you go?).

This recipe really is a labour of love. It takes HOURS!
It is worth every single second if nothing else because it was a lovely distraction from it all. But especially the toasted fennel and chillies. And also the soffritto. And also GAH ALL OF IT.

And to all those London Restaurants and the people who work in them and for them. This pasta was made with you in my thoughts. I think of you often and I hope to see you soon. xox

“Pappardelle with fennel sausage ragu” from “Trullo”

“Roasted Broccoli & Bacon Conchiglie Bake” from “The Quick Roasting Tin”

To give this recipe its full due, it’s actually, “Roasted Broccoli and Bacon Conchiglie Bake with Lemon Creme Fraiche” , or, as I described it to Nicholas when he arrived in the kitchen and asked what was for dinner, “A Broccoli, Bacon and Pasta Bake.”

I chose this recipe not only because this family loves roasted broccoli, but also because we still had some leftover holiday stilton and unused pancetta sitting in the refrigerator, and this was the perfect vehicle for them both. (An aside: The quandary of using leftover holiday stilton is not limited to just our family, since I was discussing this very recipe with a friend who had the same problem. Ah, January.)

The eagle-eyed among you may notice that I did not actually use conchiglie here. I decided to use this fun swirly shape instead (apologies for not noting the technical name) because this pasta is much better than Sainsbury’s own-brand, which has an overwhelming tang of nutmeg that none of us are fond of. Given the pasta was such a main component of the dish, we pushed the boat out and got the fancy kind.

Like many recipes in this book, this is very straightforward. Roast the broccoli and the pancetta while the pasta is cooking on the stovetop. Once the pasta is done, mix it in, along with a few handfuls of spinach and the lemon creme fraiche. Finish the whole thing off with some breadcrumbs and the aforementioned stilton on the top.

The recipe calls for parmesan but she says in the notes that stilton and cheddar would work equally well. But I’m here to argue that I think using stilton is actually a little better, because it makes the whole thing more interesting that bog-standard parmesan. (Sorry, parmesan, but it’s true. Ya Basic.)

We all loved this. It was the perfect cheery meal for a grey January night. The fact that it was so easy was a brilliant bonus.

“Roasted Broccoli & Bacon Conchiglie Bake” from “The Quick Roasting Tin”

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

One of the things that Jessica Battilana encourages people to do in this cookbook is not to be afraid to alter the recipes to fit their needs. The whole point of “Repertoire” is to create your own dishes for your own repertoire that will work for your family. For this recipe, I followed her advice, partly because I altered the recipe to make it what our family would like, and partly because our local supermarket didn’t have the ingredients I needed when I went shopping at 6:30 pm for dinner that night. Life is all about being adaptable.

In the first instance, I changed the recipe a little bit to fit what we would like. I was fairly sure that the rest of the pack would not be keen on mint in their pasta, no matter how good it might be. So I subbed out mint and replaced it with basil. (This is in the spirit of full disclosure, since you’d never be able to tell either way in the picture above.) I also didn’t have rigatoni, but I figured this pasta was just as good, so that’s what happened there.

Now on to the 6:30 pm supermarket sweep. Usually, I can count on our local Sainsbury’s to have ricotta, but alas, on this night it did not. I didn’t have time to get to the other local supermarkets since it was already so late, so I decided to sub in a mild goat’s cheese for the ricotta. I’ve got to say, that was a result. I’m sure the ricotta would have been good too, but this was delicious. Add to the fact that she recommends you warm it up a bit in the oven, and it really was spectacular.

One final suggestion that she made that I will definitely do again: presenting it all on a big platter. Usually for pasta dinners on Meat Free Monday, I’ll just load up the food on to each individual plate. But by putting it on the big platter and allowing everyone to dig in, it really made dinner more convivial and communal.

All in all, it was an excellent Meat Free Monday.

“Rigatoni with Roasted Tomatoes” from “Repertoire”

Artichoke, Tagliatellle from “Greenfeast”

Nigel would like us all to eat more vegetables, thus this book. But this edition, “Spring, Summer,” is just part one of “Greenfeast,” with part two “Autumn, Winter” hitting your local bookstore on Oct. 3.

This seemed like the perfect Meat Free Monday feast: relatively easy, quick and interesting. It was all of those things, but unfortunately, it was also a fourth: bland.

What you do for this recipe is essentially you make a pesto-type sauce with the artichokes, basil and garlic. So far, so good. (Though a caveat: this step can get a bit greasy, given that all those artichokes are swimming in oil. Not a dealbreaker, but good to know that you should keep some kitchen roll to hand.) You toss it in some fresh pasta. Again, fantastic.

The problem was that the artichoke-pesto, as I decided to call it, was a bit on the bland side. We quickly solved this problem with a scattering of chilli flakes over the top, which did the trick.

Would I make this again? I probably would. I just would have kitchen roll and chilli flakes to hand.

Editor’s Note: Apologies for my lack of posts of late. We were in GCSE hell and I also had a literary festival to help run, so things have been a bit busy over here. Normal service has now resumed.

Artichoke, Tagliatellle from “Greenfeast”

Two Pasta Dinners from “Jamie Cooks Italy”



To the surprise of no one, this cookbook, which has Italy in the title, is very strong on its pasta dishes. I mean, I would expect nothing less, though history has shown us here at Cookbook a Month that not all cookbooks deliver what they promise. In this case, at least, Jamie in Italy knows how to cook pasta.

We loved both these dinners. Roll on Jamie.

Sausage Linguine: As previously discussed, anything in this house that has the addition of pork products– be it bacon, sausage or otherwise– is a winner. For this recipe, you fry up a sausage, then add tenderstem broccoli, garlic, anchovies, chilli flakes and small glass of white wine. Toss linguine into the pan once cooked and then sprinkle cheese over the top (of course). Perfection.

Bucatini Amatriciana: This is also delicious. Essentially, you fry pancetta, add a sliced red onion, smash up a can of plum tomatoes, stir it into spaghetti and then eat. As Andrew is now in charge of cooking for himself at university, I’m going to send this recipe to him. It’s delicious, it’s quick, it’s easy: the holy grail of student/new cooks everywhere. Dinner FTW.

The fact that I could simplify both of these recipes into one sentence each is a real plus in my book. Don’t get me wrong– multi-page recipes have a time and a place, too, but it’s usually not on a weeknight when I’m trying to get dinner ready fast. Both will be winging their way into Andrew’s inbox. We’ll see if he actually makes them.

In the meantime, we can add these to the FTW weeknight dinner rotations.

Two Pasta Dinners from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Semolina Teardrop Dumplings” and “Nonna Merdedes’ Fonduta” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

This dinner was very much a team effort. It had to be, because when Tim told me what he wanted to make, I said, with all the loving support you can imagine, “I don’t think that’s going to work.”

He had decided upon making the dumplings, which looked intriguing but seemed to require either special Italian equipment or a colander with 1/2 centimetre holes, neither of which we had. But what we do have (in abundance) is piping bags, so Tim decided he’d use one of them, and after considering all the available tips I had, he went with a star one. This was why I was skeptical.

But guess what? I was wrong! It worked! I’m not sure if Jamie would approve, but using the star tip to make small pasta tubes worked fine. The pasta was undoubtedly bigger, but it still tasted good. The cheesy fontina sauce that went with it was also a hit, and a nice reminder of fondue season, which will soon be upon us. (HUZZAH)

Would we make it again? Maybe on a rainy Sunday afternoon. But it was definitely delicious.

“Semolina Teardrop Dumplings” and “Nonna Merdedes’ Fonduta” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Pasta al Ragu” from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”

Really, this is just a fancy meat sauce for pasta, but oh my goodness, this was so good that this cookbook has already paid for itself in good eating just in this one recipe alone.

Like all good long-and-slow recipes– it took about four hours in all– it was bit of a faff up front, especially with all the chopping for the soffritto. But it was utterly worth it. I was surprised to see that the chopped up onions, carrots and celery and almost disappeared into the meat sauce by the time it was done cooking. The long and slow method also enabled all of the ingredients to really get to know one another to become one delicious unit.

However, and this is a biggie, I need to add a caveat: I really was utterly confused by the size of the citrus zest required. It said I needed a 28cm by 8 cm strip of zest– one of lemon, another of orange. I’m sure it was a typo. At least, I hope it was a typo. How in the world would I be able to get a lemon or orange that size? (Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.) I did look high and low on the Internet for some sort of clarification or correction on this, but couldn’t find anything. In the end, I cut about eight strips of zest off of both a lemon and an orange. It certainly seemed to work, though I’d still like to know how much I really need.

This does reintroduce the question of what happens when a book has a typo. I know it’s been tested and edited and proofread, but hey, mistakes happen. But in this day and age, you’d think the publisher would be able to put out some sort of notice somewhere. When Gizzi Erskine had a typo for her Black Velvet Cake in “Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite”, she put a correction on her Instagram account. For me, the correction came too late and the cake was an utter disaster, but at least the correction was out there.

That problem aside, this was utterly amazing. Sure, it took about four hours, which is not the sort of time commitment you can make on a weekday afternoon. But on a rainy Saturday, it was the perfect thing to have bubbling away on the stove while we got on with other things. (Some of us watched the Master’s. Some of us went to the pub. I’ll leave it to you to decide what I did.) Also, we had enough leftovers to have it again, though I did have to bulk it up a bit with a can of chopped tomatoes.

Sure, there are loads of other beef sauce recipes out there that can be done easier and quicker. But they couldn’t possibly be better than this. We thought it was perfection. Highly recommended.

A Question for our American Readers who have this book: Can you please check the recipe that’s in your addition? Anne from Australia said that in her edition it calls for the same zest measurements, but she guessed– and I agree– that perhaps they ran into problems when they converted it to metric. So I’d be curious to hear what it says in the U.S. book. I’ll post the answer here if anyone has it. Thank you!

“Pasta al Ragu” from “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”