Try a yellow ribbon
I love the convenience and versatility of pasta, and these four recipes sing in their simplicity and depth of flavour. With a generous glug of olive oil and a dash of citrus, these comforting dishes add sumptuousness to any dinner table
Pasta is an unrivalled vehicle for flavour and sates the appetite whatever the season
There is no food I can evangelise about more than pasta. The toothsome chew, a silky sauce that hugs each piece … It cooks in little more than 10 minutes, it’s an unrivalled vehicle for flavour and it sates the appetite whatever the season (but most excellently as the months grow colder).
As a young chef, I spent a lot of time in a kitchen that championed Italian cuisine, so my cooking is rooted in that tradition. There are five things I learned there about cooking pasta. For keen cooks, pasta enthusiasts and Italians, none of this will be new, and many will have their own ideas, but these are the things that work for me:
1 Water. Your cooking water should be salted like the sea, and there should be plenty of it – 1 litre for every 100g of pasta. Crucially, it should be at a rolling boil when you add your pasta because the pasta will cool the water.
2 Al dente. Pasta continues to cook in the hot sauce and even more as it sits on the plate. I cook mine to be a minute or so under exactly how I like it, just before it hits al dente.
3 Reserve a cup of cooking water. Before you drain your pasta, keep back a cup of the water to add to the sauce later. The starch in it helps bring the pasta and sauce together.
4 Mix. I always add my pasta to the warm pan of sauce. I mix them together with a wooden spoon or tongs, at which point I add some of the pasta water. I am not a fan of pasta and sauce served separately. 5 Oil. Most of my sauces are vegetablebased so I am generous with the amount of olive oil I add (it’s not needed as much with sauces that contain dairy or meat). It adds flavour, a lush texture and some richness.
5 Slow-cooked leek pappardelle with crispy white beans and lemon Serves 4
4 large leeks
Salt and black pepper
400g tin of cannellini beans, drained 400g pappardelle
A handful of green olives, stoned and chopped
A few sprigs of basil
50g of pecorino, grated
1 Cut the leeks in half lengthways, then wash well under cold running water. Cut way the root and then cut away the tough green top and then cut the leek in half, giving you long lengths of leek not too different to the pappardelle.
2 Heat the butter in a large frying pan, add the leeks and put over a low heat. Cook gently until the leeks are soft, silky and cooked through. Season well.
3 Pat your drained beans dry with kitchen paper and season them well. Put another small frying pan over a high heat, add some olive oil and, once it’s hot, add the beans. Cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time until the beans are crisp on the outside. Watch out as one or two may pop
and bounce out of the pan.
4 Once the leeks are cooked, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente.
5 Meanwhile, add the olives to the leeks and tear in most of the basil, add the zest of ½ the lemon and the juice of the whole lemon and heat gently.
6 Once the pasta is cooked, drain it (reserving a cupful of the cooking water) and add it to the pan with the leeks. Add a good grating of pecorino and toss together. Finish with the last of the basil leaves and some shavings of pecorino.
6 One-pan kale, tomato and lemon zest spaghetti
Set a full kettle to boil. Put 400g spaghetti in a large pan for which you have a lid along with 400g halved cherry tomatoes, the zest of 2 lemons, 100ml olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Add 1 litre boiling water, cover and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, trim 400g of kale and shred the leaves. As soon as the water is boiling, remove the lid and simmer on high heat, turning the pasta every 30 seconds. After 6 minutes, add the kale and cook for a final 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, sit for 2 minutes, then serve topped with grated parmesan.
7 Crisp garlic, broccoli and blood orange pappardelle
Fry 4 thinly sliced garlic cloves in 2 tbsp olive oil until crisp – drain on kitchen paper, and reserve the oil. When cooled, mix the oil with 150g creme fraiche and the zest and juice of 1 blood orange. Season well. Cook 500g pappardelle, drain and reserve a mug of the cooking water. Cook 400g purple sprouting broccoli until it has lost its rawness but retains bite, then drain and mix into the pappardelle along with the creme fraiche mixture, adding a little pasta water at a time until you have a subtle pink creamy sauce. Serve with grated parmesan.
8 Bright-pink pasta
Peel and coarsely grate 300g raw beetroot, and fill and boil your kettle. Fry the beetroot in a drizzle of oil, with 2 tbsp capers for 7 minutes, until there is no liquid left in the pan. Meanwhile, cook 400g wholewheat tagliatelle to packet instructions reserving a mug of cooking water. Three minutes before it’s ready, put the pasta in the pan with the beetroot and 150ml of the cooking water and simmer over a high heat for a further 3 minutes until all the water has evaporated and the pasta is perfectly cooked. Remove from the heat and stir in a small bunch of chopped dill and the juice of a lemon. Finish with a generous glug of olive oil and season to serve.
Cook’s tip Instead of drying the seasoned beans, you could coat them in a little olive oil and roast them at 200C/400F/ gas 6 for about 10 minutes, if you prefer.