I love pasta dishes. The first is my take on what they call mac ?n’ cheese in America, a classic comfort food. It is tasty, quick to make and will work with any pasta. I always keep some macaroni or fusilli in the cupboard. Sometimes when I make this, I add some shredded chicken or some leftover ham. Another possibility is to add some prawns and it is delicious.
Simply Better has some very good Bronze Die pastas in its range. For each of these recipes, this pasta catches the sauce and it makes for great texture. I believe that, even in Italy, fresh pasta is becoming rarer.
This chicken rocket and pine nut pasta is one of my go-to recipes. Some people are not keen on rocket. You could try spinach instead.
Cheese, tomato and basil macaroni
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C (425°F/gas mark 7). Remove the cherry tomatoes from the vine and place in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle with half the garlic and drizzle over the olive oil. Season to taste. Roast for 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened slightly and the skins have started to split, tossing once or twice to ensure even cooking.
2 Meanwhile, cook the macaroni in a large pan of boiling salted water for 8–10 minutes or according to the packet instructions, until al dente (tender but firm to the bite).
3 Place the mascarpone in a bowl and beat in the Parmesan, basil, mustard and the remaining garlic.
4 Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Stir in the mascarpone cheese mixture until it completely coats the pasta, then fold in the roasted cherry tomatoes. Season to taste. Tip into the ovenproof dish that you used for the tomatoes (or you could put it into individual ovenproof dishes) and bake for 10 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown.
5 To serve, let the cheese, tomato and basil macaroni stand for a few minutes, then garnish with the basil leaves and serve straight from the dish onto warmed plates.
Chicken, rocket and pine nut pasta
about 4 tsp chilli oil (optional)
1 Plunge the penne into a large pan of boiling salted water and cook for 8–10 minutes or according to the packet instructions, until al dente (tender but firm to the bite).
2 Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the pine nuts. Cook for a few minutes, until toasted, tossing occasionally to prevent them from burning. Tip into a bowl and set aside.
3 Add one tablespoon of the oil to the frying pan and sauté the onion, garlic and thyme for 2–3 minutes, until softened and just beginning to colour. Tip into a bowl and set side.
4 Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the frying pan, then add the chicken strips. Cook for 2–3 minutes and season lightly, then turn over and cook for another 2–3 minutes, until cooked through and lightly golden. Return the onion mixture to the frying pan, stirring until well combined. Stir in the crème fraîche and mustard, then bring to a gentle simmer but do not allow the mixture to boil.
5 Drain the pasta and return it to the pan. Pour in the creamy chicken mixture and add the rocket or watercress. Toss lightly together to combine and season to taste.
6 Divide among warmed bowls and sprinkle over the toasted pine nuts. Drizzle over the chilli oil, if using, and garnish with the Parmesan shavings to serve.