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.

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Two Pasta Dinners from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

When we saw the name of this dish– Carnival Lasagna– it seemed the perfect thing to make as we head into the final weeks/days/hours of Andrew being at home before he heads off to the great adventure that is university life.¬†Who doesn’t love a carnival? And indeed, this dish seems perfect for a big family gathering or a party. More pertinently, a carnival might also be just what we need as we all get a bit wistful about his departure.

We set aside a Sunday afternoon to get this done. You could just tell by looking at the three pages of photographs and one full page of instructions this was going to be a PROJECT. We were fine with that, because after all, isn’t that what Sunday afternoons are for?

It was a team effort. You have to make pasta dough for the lattice on the top, which Tim made. You also have to make meatballs and tomato sauce to layer in, which I made. We both kept an eye on the kilo of spaghetti we had to cook to put inside. Assembly was also largely a team effort.

You can imagine the relief we felt when it was finally time to eat. We figured it would be good, and we also figured that everyone would love it, given the ingredients.

The verdict? “This is just basically just spaghetti and meatballs, in pie form,” Andrew said after one bite. That’s really not the reaction we were hoping for after hours of cooking. But he was right. Even so, it was delicious, and it was even better as leftovers for lunch the next day.

This truly would be the perfect meal for a huge gathering of people. You could make it ahead of time, and put it in the oven when the guests arrive. Then once it’s time to eat, all you have to do is bake it and slice it. The picture above doesn’t really do it justice, but trust me, it’s a dramatic dish.

But when I make it again, I’ll modify some of the more fiddly bits. The meatballs, which are fried and then poached in the tomato sauce, were really good, but it took an age to fish them out of the tomato sauce. So the next time, I’ll just roast the meatballs like I always do, and then toss them in a bit of tomato sauce before layering them in– that will be much easier. Although the pie would be fine without the lattice on the top, it does add something extra to the dish, so I guess I would do that again. The next time I’d also add more prosciutto and cheese to the dish, but that’s just down to personal preference.

All in all, it was an excellent way to kick off a month of Italian eating with Jamie Oliver.

“Carnival Lasagna” from “Jamie Cooks Italy”

“Quick Puttanesca Spaghetti” from “Bosh!”

Maureen: Meat free Monday! This is from the new cookbook.

Andrew (18): What’s the new cookbook all about?

Maureen (cautiously): It’s by two guys with beards. They’re obviously hipsters.

Nicholas (14, Suspiciously): But what’s it ABOUT? That doesn’t tell us anything.

Maureen: It’s all about healthy eating.

Andrew: And?

Maureen: OK. It’s vegetarian. [The table erupts with displeasure.]

Nicholas: A whole month of eating vegetarian? NO WAY.

Tim: I’m predicting this right now: you’re going to make maybe two things, we’re not going to like them, and then this book is going to the charity shop.

Maureen: We don’t know that. Maybe there will be lots of good things in there. This looks nice. Hang on, I have to take a picture before I put some parmesan cheese on it.

Tim: That’s not very vegan of you.

Nicholas: Wait a minute. Not only is it vegetarian, but it’s VEGAN? This gets worse and worse.

Maureen: How very open minded of all of you. Come on, we have to give it at try. It’s the whole point of the blog. This spaghetti is nice.

Andrew: Sure, it’s fine, but it’s better with cheese on it.

Maureen: I forgot how much chopping is involved with vegetarian meals. I’m definitely going to have to factor that into my prep schedule.

Tim: Sure, this spaghetti is good, but I’m still sure this cookbook will be off to the charity shop by the end of the month.

Maureen: We’ll see.

“Quick Puttanesca Spaghetti” from “Bosh!”

“Spelt spaghetti with spicy sesame mushrooms” from “At My Table”

Maureen: It’s like Asian spaghetti.

Kirstin: It’s perfect food for a hangover!

Maureen: I’m wondering if you could use wholewheat spaghetti instead of spelt spaghetti.

Kirstin: You probably could. But I liked the challenge finding it this morning. I almost bought soba noodles when I couldn’t find spelt spaghetti at the first shop.

Maureen: So where did you find it in the end?

Kirstin: Sainsbury’s!

Maureen: Not sure the kids would like it though because of the mushrooms, unfortunately because it is good.

Kirstin: What is it with kids and their whole texture nonsense? GRRRRRRR.

Maureen: And it’s probably delicious cold too.

Kirstin: Unless you ate it all like we did!

“Spelt spaghetti with spicy sesame mushrooms” from “At My Table”

“Spaghetti Cake” from “Superfood Family Classics”

img_9483I read a lot. (This is germane to this post. Honest. Just stick with me.) For the last several years, it’s averaged out to at least a book a week. I’ve even kept a record of all the books I’ve read, which is either smart or sad, depending on how you feel about keeping track of things. Because I read so much and because I am nearly incapable of giving up on a book I’ve started, I have found myself “Hate Reading” books a few times a year.

Hate Reading is the literary equivalent of Hate Watching a television show. Hate watching is when you’ve devoted time to a series you love, which has taken a turn for the worse but you continue watching it to see how bad it can be. I’ve done the same with books, thus, Hate Reading.

Now I’ve done the same with this cookbook. But instead of Hate Watching or Hate Reading, I’m Hate Cooking from it. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a cookbook on this blog that has forced me to Hate Cook from it. Several times in the past I’ve given up on a cookbook, but I’ve never persevered with one out of pure hate. Until now.

So today’s offering is “Spaghetti Cake.” We love spaghetti cake. I made it before from “Two Hungry Italians” but they called it the far more lyrical, “Frittata di Maccheroni.” We loved it. In fact, if I had to say one nice thing about this version, it’s that it¬†reminded me how much we love Spaghetti Cake, so I will make another [good] version for Meat Free Monday very soon.

Since I was Hate Cooking from this cookbook, I also decided that I don’t have to follow the recipes to the letter anymore. Usually we are pretty strict with ourselves that we stick to the recipes as closely as possible for the cookbooks we’re testing, but given that I already hate this cookbook, there’s no point in giving it a proper test any more. In this case, I ignored Jamie’s entreaties to get wholewheat spaghetti (there’s just no way) and I also used some of the leftover 7-Veg Tomato Sauce rather than making the spaghetti sauce from scratch, as called for in the recipe. But I don’t think following his instructions to the letter would have made it any better.

How was it? It will surprise no regular readers of this blog to find out that it was disappointing. Like I said, we already made a better version once before, but this one definitely fell short. It wasn’t nearly as interesting or fun as the previous version from the two Italians. It seemed that there weren’t nearly enough eggs added to bind it as a cake. It tasted more like reheated spaghetti than a proper spaghetti cake.

Even the photo in the cookbook didn’t do it any favours, because it appears that the food stylist just threw a bunch of rocket on top so people wouldn’t notice how badly it was burned on the underside. No. Just no.

I wish Jamie had given Spaghetti Cake a proper chance, rather than trying to make it all healthy, which just ruined a perfectly good dish.

Thank god this month is nearly over. I should have known better. I was Hate Cooking, after all.

“Spaghetti Cake” from “Superfood Family Classics”

“Wholewheat Spaghetti Sprouting Broccoli, Chilli and Lemon” from “Everyday Super Food”

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Tom: Is this Jamie?

Kirstin: Yes it is.

Ella: Looks like pasta.

Kirstin: It is pasta! Can you eat some please?

Ella: I was just thinking about something. Latin.

Kirstin: Well can you eat and think at the same time?

Miles: I like it!

Tom: I’m not really convinced about this. It feels like lots of separate ingredients in a bowl. They don’t make sense together.

Miles: Yes, that’s what I’m thinking too.

Kirstin: I could have mixed it up more in the bowl.

Tom: I don’t think it would have made any difference. You would still have had to pick out the broccoli to eat it. And is the cottage cheese supposed to have melted?

Kirstin: It’s interesting, isn’t it because we’ve had a friend in Italy show us how to cook broccoli pasta in Italy and it was so much better than this. I would prefer not to eat healthily if it’s going to taste like this. I like the full fat Italian version of this recipe soooo much more.

Tom: This is like having tree trunks in your spaghetti. The brown pasta is alright. But it’s all too worthy.

Kirstin: This is going to be an interesting month.

“Wholewheat Spaghetti Sprouting Broccoli, Chilli and Lemon” from “Everyday Super Food”

“Kale, Tomato and Lemon Magic One-Pot Spaghetti” from “A Modern Way to Cook”

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Kirstin: I saw this recipe on Anna’s Insta stream and knew I needed to try it out.

Tom: Was it easy as it looked on her video?

Kirstin: It really is a super little recipe. One that you could take all over the world and cook for lunch or dinner.

Miles: I liked the spinach!

Kirstin: Definitely making this one again. And possibly adapting it too, which is always a good sign.

“Kale, Tomato and Lemon Magic One-Pot Spaghetti” from “A Modern Way to Cook”