Nothing says Buon appetito like a heart-warming bowl of spaghetti in a rich tomato sauce, creamy ricotta and spinach cannelloni or, well, any pasta dish. There are 600 shapes of pasta each with its own very descriptive name in Italian from fettucine – meaning small ribbons – to penne (quills), conchiglie (shells) and the not so savoury sounding but delicious vermicelli (little worms!) and linguini (little tongues)!
Today (October 25, 2022) is World Pasta Day, created to showcase the cultural and culinary importance of this, the most popular food on the planet. It scored an incredible popularity rating of 84 per cent across 24 countries surveyed in a YouGov poll with Italians giving their own cuisine a staggering 99 per cent. Perfetto!
So why not create your own delizioso vegetarian dishes at home to feast on with the family. We have just one criticism: it should be pasta day every day!
Prep Time: 20 mins Cooking Time: 25 mins Serves 4
4 litres salted water
1 litre ice water
400g spaghetti, cooked as per pack instructions
200g broccoli, cut into florets
4 asparagus spears
100g peas, fresh or frozen
2 Tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small zucchini, diced
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
120ml vegetable stock
100ml thick cream
100g Parmesan, grated
A handful of basil leaves, chopped
Bring 2 litres salted water to the boil in a medium-size pan over high heat. Boil the broccoli for one minute. Add the asparagus and boil for another minute. Add the peas and boil for 30 more seconds. Remove all the vegetables and plunge them into ice water. Once they’re cool, drain in a colander.
Bring the remaining 2 litres of salted water to the boil in the pan (if you cook the pasta in the water you boiled the vegetables in it will be very salty – if that’s to your taste then go for it), add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile in a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is hot, add the garlic and zucchini and sauté for one minute. Add the diced tomatoes and sauté for another two minutes, stirring often.
Pour in the vegetable broth and turn the heat to high to bring it to a boil. Add the cream and toss in all the boiled vegetables, plus the peas. Stir to combine. Turn down the heat until the broth mixture is just simmering, not boiling.
Add the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
Drain the pasta and while still hot, place into the sauce and stir to combine. Add the basil now, and taste for salt. Add salt if needed. Grind black pepper over everything and serve immediately.
Pesto Pasta With Mozzarella
Prep time 10 mins Cooking time 20 mins Serves 4
2 litres salted water
500g farfalle pasta
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp pesto
250g mozzarella balls, drained and broken
Basil, a handful
150g Parmesan, grated
Bring water to the boil in a medium-size pan over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, heat oil in medium-size frying pan over medium heat. Add cherry tomatoes and garlic. Stir until tomatoes are soft and have a chunky sauce-like consistency. Lower heat to simmer.
Once pasta is cooked, drain, reserving 100ml of the water. Add pasta to the tomato sauce in the pan and toss to combine.
Add the reserved water, pesto and mozzarella. Stir well and as soon as the sauce is reduced, remove from the heat. Garnish with basil and Parmesan and serve immediately.
Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni al forno
Prep time 1 hour Resting time 2 hours Cooking time 35-40 mins Serves 4
1 kg spinach leaves
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
100ml cold water
Butter, to grease baking tray
1 box dried cannelloni (around 30 tubes)
300ml extra thick double cream
100g Parmesan, grated
Wash the spinach leaves then cook them in 2 litres of boiling, salted water for 4 minutes. Drain and leave to cool.
Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat until softened and translucent. Add the passata and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Slowly add the cold water until you have a thick sauce-like consistency, then simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Roughly chop the cooled spinach and mix together with the ricotta. Season and stir in the egg.
Grease a baking tray with butter. Now it’s the fun bit – filling the cannelloni with the spinach and ricotta mixture. The quickest (and cleanest) way to do it is to use an icing bag to pipe the mixture into the dried cannelloni.
Hold a canneloni tube in one hand and pipe until it’s full right to the end. If you don’t have a piping bag, spoon the filling into a ziplock plastic bag, snip off a corner, and proceed as above.
Spread a thin layer of the passata sauce in the bottom of a baking dish and then add the cannelloni tubes, making sure they touch each other.
Once the dish is full (which is usually two rows of cannelloni tightly packed in), pour the rest of the passata over the top. Drizzle the cream over and sprinkle with Parmesan.
Cover the dish with cling film and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before cooking. The pasta will then have time to absorb the sauces and be even tastier.
Preheat the oven to 200°C while the cannelloni rests. Allow the dish to return to room temperature, remove the cling film and place it in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Serve with wilted greens and a wedge of lemon on the side.