Tag Archives: pasta

Comforting pasta with tomato and (veggie) sausage sauce


I keep moving back the boundaries of what I call adulthood. It used to be getting a job, and then it was graduating, and then it was moving out of home and getting married, but somehow I never felt I’d got there. But now I actually feel like I’ve made it. In the brief interval of sun on Sunday, I bought potted plants in the hope that this summer I will actually get to spend some time around greenery without being rained on. I think it’s because when you buy a potted plant, it says you are staying put in your current home, and are responsible enough not to kill everything in your care. Very grown up. If I kill the plant, does that mean that I have failed at adulthood? Time will tell. Anyway, I type this on a table that is now shared by a tiny bitter orange tree. But what I’m posting today is not as gloriously sunny as those lovely little oranges, because after stumbling exhausted through a day of rain and fog I wanted comfort in a bowl. And I wanted to put cheese on it. And I wanted to eat it all with a spoon.


250g veggie sausages
1 onion
2 gloves garlic
1 red pepper
250g mushrooms
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 spring rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
220g pasta
grated cheddar, to serve (optional)

Serves 4
Calories: 410
Takes 50 minutes to make

Stage one: Slice the veggie sausages, finely chop the onion and crush/chop the garlic. Cook them with the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat until the onions have gone translucent – this will take 5-8 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and slice the mushrooms and red pepper, and pull apart the rosemary. When the onion is done, add the mushrooms, pepper and rosemary, and cook for a further 10 minutes.


Stage two: Add the chopped tomatoes, season well, and simmer. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. I know 220g doesn’t seem like that much pasta for four, but trust me, it’s a seriously filling dish. Then mix everything together, and serve with some grated cheese.



Carrot and lentil pasta sauce


I missed British summer this year. I was in New York, where it poured with rain almost constantly for the entirety of my visit. There’s a lovely picture I took of Robbie pointing at what we think may have been the Statue of Liberty, although it’s hard to tell through the mist. The man at the foot of the Rockefeller centre pointed up at the thick cloud shrouding the top and told us to give up on getting a view. Ironically, on the days we decided to give up and do things inside, there were suddenly brief periods of sun that we saw through the windows. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind rain. It made the city feel more like home. But now it’s grey and damp in Newcastle and will remain so for the foreseeable future. I think this makes it legitimate for me to make a comforting lentil pasta sauce. The carrots make this sauce bright and cheerful – in fact, it may be the closest thing to real sunlight I have seen today. It is tasty and satisfying. Like most of my lentil-based foods, you cannot identify a single one of the lentils that is in it.


4 carrots, peeled and chopped
250g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
100g lentils
400ml vegetable stock
300g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp chilli powder
parmesan, to serve (optional)

Serves 4
Calories: 440
Takes 30 minutes

Stage one: Prep the vegetables. You don’t need to be too careful about doing this because you’ll be blending them later, this is really just to get them to cook faster. On a medium heat in a medium saucepan, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 3 minutes until the onion is soft. Meanwhile, rinse the lentils.


Stage two: Add in all the remaining ingredients except the pasta, bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Leave for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the lentils have gone slightly mushy. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a separate saucepan.

Stage three: When the lentil sauce is cooked, remove it from the heat. Don’t worry that it looks so uninspiring, just blend to the consistency you prefer. Suddenly it is bright and beautiful! Lentils and carrots do that. Season to taste and serve immediately with a sprinkling of parmesan. This is one of those dishes that you wouldn’t think will be nice cold for lunch the next day, but for some reason it is. Just saying.


Sun dried tomato and spinach pasta salad


Sometimes I find myself heading to work at late notice, and I need to make something quick, satisfying and portable to eat. This salad does the trick. It’s got punchy flavours, a nice range of textures and colours, and some bite. You don’t feel sorry for yourself when you get it out because it looks so pretty. Shaking it around in a tupperware as you get from A to B only makes it better.


300g dried pasta
8 sun dried tomatoes
150g spinach (roughly – as much as you have)
4 tbsp grated vegetarian parmesan
a handful of basil leaves
olive oil
lemon juice
optional extras: toasted pine nuts, capers, fresh tomatoes, avocado, chilli flakes, or really anything you have lying around

Serves 4
Calories: 470
Takes 15 minutes to makeĀ 

Stage one: Fill the kettle and get out the pasta and sun dried tomatoes. I use packet sun dried tomatoes because I find them easier to deal with and store, but that may just be me. I’m telling you this because when the kettle has boiled and you start to boil the pasta, you put sun dried tomatoes from a packet in a ramekin and pour boiling water over them too. This will make the tomatoes plump and go nice and soft, but you don’t need to do this with tomatoes that have been stored in oil. Now leave them to cook/soak.

Stage two: Time to prep all the other ingredients. Wash the spinach and distribute between bowls/tupperwares. Slice the basil. Grate the parmesan. Get out the rest of the ingredients and any added extras. Just before the pasta is done, drain the sun dried tomatoes and roughly chop them.

Stage three: Drain the pasta. Distribute onto the spinach. The sprinkle the tomatoes, basil, parmesan and added extras on top. Drizzle on olive oil (about 1 tbsp per serving) and lemon juice (about 1 tsp per serving), and season.

Oven frittata


This baked frittata is crunchy on the top and soft inside. It’s good hot for dinner, and it’s just as good for packed lunch tomorrow. The vegetables make it rainbow-like in a cheesy kind of way. I like it because you cook all the veg in with the pasta, which allows me more time to think about how much I like baked cheese.

You don’t need to stick to this recipe too closely. Use whatever veg you have that you like to eat with pasta and cheese. If you don’t keep kosher, I hear that folks these days like to add bacon to everything.


300g pasta
1 small tin of sweetcorn
100g frozen peas
1 red pepper
1 large tomato
1 bunch spring onions
1 clove crushed garlic (optional)
4 eggs
250ml milk
100g low fat cheddar, grated

Serves: 4
Calories: 510
Takes 15-20 minutes to prep, and 25 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat your oven to 190C/fan170C.

Stage two: OK, now the way you organise the next bit depends on how fast you chop. The next thing I do when I make this recipe is start to boil the pasta. I used penne, which takes 12 minutes to cook. the reason you need to plan is this: I put all of the vegetables except the garlic in to boil alongside the pasta 3 minutes before the pasta is done. So basically, it’s up to you whether you chop some of the vegetables before you start to boil the pasta, or whether you want to speed chop the veg during the 9 minutes you have after the water hits the pasta. The vegetable prep you need to do is: de-seed and slice the tomato, slice the red pepper, chop the spring onions as finely as you like, drain the tin of sweetcorn, and weigh out the frozen peas. If you’re not confident about doing this in 9 minutes, do it before you start to boil the pasta. However you’re doing it, put all the veg in with the boiling pasta 3 minutes before the pasta is cooked, then drain when it’s done and put it in a rectangular roasting dish.


Stage three: In a bowl, add half the grated cheese, the eggs and the milk. Season well. I add the crushed garlic at this stage. Here is a caveat – only add the garlic if you really like garlic. It will make the dish very garlicky. I’m good with that, but it’s not for everyone. Mix it all together. Pour it over the pasta and mix it all up so the cheese is distributed evenly. Sprinkle the leftover cheese over the top.


Stage four: Yay, the work bit is done! Time for baked cheese. Put in the oven for around 25 minutes, or until the cheese is baked, the centre is set, and the pasta is looking golden and crunchy. Serve with some basil torn roughly over the top. You could put a green salad next to it, but this dish is not exactly lacking in vegetables and I hate to detract from the cheese.