This Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake (with Cherry Tomatoes and Chilli) is a ridiculously easy family meal, that can be put together with store cupboard ingredients if needs be.
This is a vegetarian dish that should satisfy most meat eaters. I tend to have meat or seafood with every dinner, but find that iron rich spinach is one ingredient I prefer in vegetarian dishes only (such as Spinach & Feta pie and Fiorintina Pizza).
The key to a good pasta bake is to undercook the pasta prior to baking in the oven, where it will finish cooking.
Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake Recipe
400g pasta (large tubes such as Rigatoni work best)
250ml tub of ricotta cheese
500g frozen spinach (thawed and drained)
Grating of nutmeg
1 tbsp Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
500-700ml sieved tomatoes (Passata)
1 tsp chili flakes, or finely chopped red chilli
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp rosemary (finely chopped)
250g Cherry Tomatoes
Parmesan (to taste)
Breadcrumbs (from a slice or two)
Salt & pepper
In a large saucepan, cook the pasta to 2 mins less than al dente – usually about 4 mins under packet instructions.
Mix in Riccotta, spinach, and nutmeg, then add the cherry tomatoes.
At the same time, in a medium pan on a medium heat, fry the garlic and chilli in a little olive oil for a couple of minutes.
Add the Passata and herbs, stir in, and keep on the lowest heat.
Place the pasta mixture in a baking dish, and then spoon over the tomato sauce to completely cover.
Top with breadcrumbs and grated parmesan.
Bake at 180c/350F for 25-35 mins.
Remove from oven, and leave to settle for a few minutes. The pasta will absorb more flavour and liquid, and will lead to a firmer texture of pasta bake.
This is a delicious and simple gingerbread Death Stars recipe, a cookie with added technological terror.
Makes: 16+ Death Stars
350g (12 oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 heaped tsp all spice
115g (4 oz) butter, cubed
175g (6 oz) soft light brown sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 190 C.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, and spice into a bowl.
Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs; stir in sugar. Beat syrup into egg then stir into flour mixture.Knead the dough until smooth (or user mixer).
Roll out into a cylinder about 30cm long, wrap in clingfilm, and place in freezer for about 20-25mins. This will make the dough more solid work work with.
Divide dough into 3 equal parts, and roll out each one between clingfilm (will prevent it sticking to pin) to about 1cm thick.
Place on a lightly floured surface to cut shapes. I used a 7.5cm circular cookie cutter.
Decorate as per photo. Use the end of a teaspoon or similar to create the curved equator, and the find an appropriate sized circle shape to create the dish. Use spoon handle again to create the ‘spokes’ of the dish, and then gently smooth out the centre of the dish with your little finger. When making impressions, make sure they’re deep but not to cut through the entire cookie.
Bake on lined trays in the preheated oven until golden and puffed, about 10-12 minutes. Let them sit on the tray for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.
This Death Star Cookies recipe is taken from the Star Wars: Darth Vader’s Activity Book, originally published in 1979 by Random House (I have the UK Armada reprint).
Death Star Cookies
Yield: 2 Large Death Stars
There’s nothing evil about these delicious shortbread Death Star cookies. They’re quick and easy to make, especially if you have an adult to help.
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat in Egg well. Gradually stir in flour. Gather into a ball. Divide into two equal halves. Roll each half into a ball.
Place one ball in the centre of one cookie sheet and flatten out to a circle about 6″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick as shown in the accompanying figure. Repeat with remaining dough on second cookie sheet.
For decorating, follow the steps below.
Then bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly. Remove and cool completely.
Now be a hero and destroy the Death Star – by eating it!
You’re a foodie and a film fan who’s seen Big Night. You were wowed by the Timpano. You’ve wanted to make it ever since but find the idea of recreating it daunting. Intimidating. Don’t be silly.
The Big Night Timpano is just a pasta bake. The ultimate pasta bake. I had wanted to make this since I had seen the movie in the late 90’s.
As my daughter’s 1st birthday was approaching, and intended as more of a party for adults, this seemed as special occasion as any to finally get round to making this.
Also known as a Timballo, this Big Night Timpano recipe is based on a family recipe of co-star, co-writer, and co-director Stanley Tucci.
It is a dish that any foodie and/or film fan should make at least once in their life. Everything you need is likely available from your local butcher, deli, or supermarket – except, the 14″ Timpano Bowl. It’s the best thing for baking this in.
I had to order this enamel basin in from US Amazon, and it was perfect for this. Take your time with this dish. To get it right, I would give yourself two days.
Analyse the Timpano recipe. Spend a long afternoon shopping for ingredients. Make the sauce ahead of time. Prepare the eggs, cheese, and salami a day before. Early morning, boil the pasta and cool it ready for assembly. After baking let it rest. And rest.
A good hour will allow this settle nicely and let the treasure trove of flavours be absorbed by pasta inside. But don’t leave it to rest in the kitchen. Have it on display to your guests. Let the anticipation build about what delights await inside.
This is a dish that deserves to be eagerly anticipated, not least because of the effort you’ve put into it. As this ‘Big Night’ Timpano was adapted from Tucci’s American recipe, I’ve attempted to update the imperial measurements with metric ones. Also, confession time – I used meatballs made by the butcher. If you want to be REALLY authentic, you can use Stanley Tucci’s meatball recipe.
The Big Night Timpano recipe
60 ml olive oil
450 g stewing beef, trimmed of fat and cut into pieces
450 g spareribs (pref. meaty shoulder ribs), trimmed of fatmand cut in half Onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
20 ml red wine
170 g can tomato paste
2 x 1kg can plum tomatoes, sieved or blitzed in processor OR 2l passata (much easier!)
3 fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1. Warm olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown beef until coloured on all sides, about 10 minutes. Set aside in a bowl.
2. Add spareribs to pot and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside in bowl with beef. (If your pot is big enough to hold all the meat in a single layer, it can be cooked at the same time.)
3. Stir onions and garlic into pot. Reduce heat to low and cook until onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in wine, scraping bottom of the pot clean. Add tomato paste. Pour 125ml cup warm water into tomato paste can to loosen any residual paste and then pour into pot. Cook to warm the paste through, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes along with additional 250ml warm water. Stir in basil and oregano. Cover with lid partially on and simmer about 30 minutes.
4. Return meat to pot, along with any juices that accumulated in bowl. Cover partially with lid and simmer, stirring frequently, until meat is very tender and tomatoes are cooked, about 2 hours. Warm water may be added to sauce, in 125ml portions, if it becomes too thick.
450 gram 00 flour, more for dusting
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil, more for greasing bowl Butter (for greasing bowl)
1. Mix flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in mixer bowl with a dough hook. Add 3 tbsp water and mix – add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until mixture comes together and forms a ball. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to make sure it is well mixed, about 10 minutes. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes. (The dough may be made in advance and refrigerated overnight; return to room temperature before rolling out.)
2. Flatten dough on a lightly floured work surface. Dust top with flour and roll it out, dusting with flour and flipping the dough over from time to time, until it is about 1/16-inch thick and is the desired diameter. (To calculate the diameter for the dough round, add the diameter of the bottom of your timpano basin the diameter of the top of the pan and twice the height of the pan.)
Grease the baking pan generously with butter and olive oil. Fold dough in half and then in half again, to form a triangle, and place in pan. Open dough and arrange it in the pan, gently pressing it against the bottom and the sides, draping extra dough over the sides. Set aside.
450 g thick Genoa salami pieces, cut into small squares
450 gram sharp provolone cheese, evenly diced
12 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and quartered lengthwise, each quarter cut in half
450 gram small meatballs
1.8 l Ragu sauce (meat removed and reserved for another use)
1.4 kg ziti or similar pasta, cooked very al dente (about half the time recommended on the package)
2 tbsp olive oil
115 gram finely grated Pecorino Romano
6 large eggs, beaten
1. Heat oven to 180c. Have salami, provolone, hard-boiled eggs, meatballs and ragù sauce at room temperature. Stir 125ml water into sauce to thin it. Toss pasta with olive oil and allow to cool slightly before tossing with 500ml sauce.
2. Layering the filling: Distribute 4 generous cups of pasta on bottom of timpano. Top with 1 cup salami, 1 cup provolone, 3 eggs, 1 cup meatballs and 1/3 cup Romano cheese. Pour 2 cups sauce over ingredients. Repeat process to create additional layers until filling comes within 1 inch of the top of the pan, ending with 2 cups sauce. Pour beaten eggs over the filling.
3. Fold pasta dough over filling to seal completely. Trim away and discard any double layers of dough. Make sure timpano is tightly sealed. If you notice any small openings cut a piece of trimmed dough to fit over opening. Use a small amount of water to moisten these scraps of dough to ensure that a tight seal has been made.
4. Bake until lightly browned, about 1 hour. Cover with foil and continue baking until the timpano is cooked through and the dough is golden brown (and reaches an internal temperature of 120c), about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 30 or more minutes to allow timpano to cool and contract before attempting to remove from pan. The baked timpano should not stick to the pan.
To test, gently shake pan to the left and then to the right. It should slightly spin in the pan. If any part is still attached, carefully detach with a knife.
5. To remove timpano from pan, place a baking sheet or thin cutting board that covers the entire diameter on the pan on top of the timpano. Grasp the baking sheet or cutting board and the rim of the pan firmly and invert timpano. Remove pan and allow timpano to cool for at least 30 minutes. Using a long, sharp knife, cut a circle about 8cm in diameter in the center of the timpano, making sure to cut all the way through to the bottom. Then slice timpano as you would a pie into individual portions, leaving the center circle as a support for the remaining pieces. The cut pieces should hold together, revealing the layers of filling you built up earlier.
Unlike actual sea water, dishes that taste of the sea are amazing. There are many ways to infuse your food with the essence of the ocean, such as using stocks or anchovies, but for this sumptuous seafood pasta recipe the key is using the brown crab meat as well as the white.
While white crab meat gives you the expected fresh and delicate flavour, it’s the brown meat where all the seafood flavour is. You must, MUST, include it in this dish. It’s cheaper too.
This seafood pasta recipe has a generous amount of crab. It could probably stretch to twice the amount of servings (while doubling the other ingredients). But this way is the culinary crabilicious treat you deserve…
Crab Linguine with Chilli recipe
Glass dry white wine
Punnet of sweet cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1tsp fennel seeds
100g brown crabmeat
100g white crabmeat
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-low heat and fry the shallot, garlic, chilli and fennel seeds for a couple of minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, let them sizzle a little, the pour in the wine and cook for about 10-15 mins, then stir in the brown crabmeat.
3. While the tomatoes are sizzling, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente.
4. Drain the pasta, reserving a few spoonfuls of the slightly salted cooking water.
5. Stir pasta into sauce along with the white crabmeat, squeezed lemon, and parsley. Add the extra water if the dish seems a little dry.
6. Divide between 2 warmed pasta bowls and serve your crab linguine with chilli immediately.