Tag Archives: penne

Quick Pork Ragu (serves 6 with Pasta)

Okay, this is a crazy weekend with far too many things on my plate to wax on about how great this easy-peasy (lemon-squeezy!) pork dish tasted. As is pretty obvious I love to cook, but sometimes the pressure of time makes it an activity that is squeezed in between all the other things that are part of my life.

A great speedy ragu

A great speedy ragu

The same goes for the writing. I have only time enough to give the recipe before zooming off to do the million things that very inconveniently came crashing down on me all at one time! I don’t like when my weekend is taken up with things that are not so important to me but still need to be done.

On the bright side, if you only came to my blog for a recipe then it will be convenient as you to not have to scroll through a lots of extra stuff to get to it!

This is a great dish if you too find yourself short on time this weekend. You can also double up and feed a crowd!


You will need:

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 stripes bacon, roughly chopped or sliced

1 medium sweet or yellow onion, small dice

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (chili flakes)

1/2 cup white wine

28 oz can tomato puree

1 tbs tomato paste (regular or smoked)

1 tsp salt

several grinds of black pepper


1 – Put sauce pot or deep saute pan on medium heat and add oil. When it warms add the onions and cook for 2 minutes before adding the chopped bacon. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally before adding the rosemary. Cook for another minute.

saute onions, bacon & rosemary

Saute onions, bacon & rosemary

2 – Season the pork with the sea-salt and pepper and turn up heat. Add the pork and cook for 5 minutes until it takes on a light brown color. Add the wine and turn the heat up to high. Let it bubble for about 1 minute.

add pork

Add pork

3 – Add the tomato puree, paste, and chili flakes and bring to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

et voila!

et voila!

Serve with spaghetti, ridged penne or pasta shells. A salad on the side would also be a nice addition.

Rich Meaty Ragu In Baked Pasta (serves 12-14)

If you love rich pasta dishes, then this is the dinner for you. It seems to please the biggest to the smallest. I made this several times over the holidays (and again last night!) when crowds of people were dropping by continually, and it was a life-saver. It takes a bit of time (and a very large wooden spoon for wielding all of that meat!) but when it is done, you are off the hook for the whole evening, or for several days if you just cook it for the family for future meals.

This is addictive

This is addictive

I made this with a mixture of beef and lamb for extra flavor, and added special things like sun-dried tomato paste and smoky bacon to give the sauce a complex richness. Once you get the hang of making meat sauces they can be used in so many other things, Bolognese, Shepard’s pie, not to mention how they can be made ahead, frozen in 4 serving sizes to be drawn upon when you are in a hurry or you decide to ask the friend that came over for a quick chat after lunch to stay for dinner! All very handy indeed!

serve with lots of greens for balance (and guilt-free gorging!)

serve with lots of greens for balance (and guilt-free gorging!)

When I write about stuff like this I have to admit to feeling like some overly fastidious housewife and I have to scream out loud (mostly for myself) that it isn’t true!!! I don’t spend my days planning meals, and making mountains of food which get stored in Tupperware containers, neatly labelled with the contents. I only make giant amounts of food when I end up with a pile of something unexpected that needs using up (like 3lbs of ground meat last night).

Parsley, lemons, garlic & wine (great combination flavor)

Parsley, lemons, garlic & wine (great combination flavor)

I do however think about food quite a bit. Food just reminds me of everything that is good about the world: the pleasure of eating in the company of like-minded people, the smells bursting from my kitchen when I zest a lemon or chop fresh basil, the people I get to chat with who are drawn in by the activity and energy in my kitchen, cooking with friends, family and strangers, traveling anywhere and everywhere for that perfect meal, knowing that feeding someone who is down and out that day can change them for the better. It is a simple thing and not the most complicated thing to ponder on as I go through my day, but it is something that I can do everyday and it makes me feel good. You don’t need much to make something pleasing to the heart and soul, it can be as simple as a potato with a little blob of butter and salt – bliss.

Toss potatoes into parsley butter

Potatoes tossed in parsley butter


You will need:

For meat sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin is fine too)

3 lbs ground meat (beef, lamb or combination of the two – I buy 15% fat content when using beef)

4 or 5 stripes bacon (I used a flavorful smoky variety)

2 large onions, small dice

3 celery ribs, including leaves, diced

3 carrots, diced (I did this in my food processor – much faster!)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 28oz can (793 grams) tomato puree

1 1/2 cups water

3 tbs tomato paste (or sun-dried tomato paste)

1 tsp sea-salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

2 cups white or red wine

For Béchamel sauce:

1 stick butter (4 oz/ 113 grams)

1/3 cup + 1 tbs all-purpose flour

3 1/2 cups milk

1 good quality veggie or chicken bouillon cube (I use Rapunzel Brand)

1/2 tsp sea-salt (I use Maldon sea-salt flakes) – NO salt if your bouillon cube is salty!

freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

3 lb pasta (I recommend any tubular pasta: rigatoni, large penne, ziti)


1 – Prep all veggies for meat sauce and set aside. Put large deep saute pan or large casserole on medium heat and add 2 tbs of the oil. Add the chopped bacon and fry until getting crispy. Pour off some of the bacon fat.

fry bacon

Fry bacon

2 – Next, add the rest of the oil, then the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes.

add veggies

Add veggies

3 – Add the ground meat and cook until it has all browned. sir and break up meat as much as possible during the cooking. This will take about 12 minutes.

add ground meat

Add ground meat

Cook until browned

Cook until browned

4 – Turn heat up to high and add the wine, water, tomato puree, and tomato paste and stir until everything is well incorporated and starting to bubble.

add liquids

Add liquids

5 – Add the salt, several generous grinds of black pepper and cayenne pepper flakes (if using)

add seasonings

Add seasonings

6 – When the mixture is bubbling, cover with the lid partially off, turn down and cook, stirring occasionally for up to 2 1/2 hours. The sauce will have thickened and become deeply rich.

cook for 2 to 21/2 hours

Cook for 2 to 21/2 hours

7 – While sauce is cooking put big saucepan or saute pan on medium/low heat and add the butter. When it melts, swirl in the stock cube until it dissolves completely. Add the salt and several grinds of freshly ground pepper.

melt butter, add bouillon cube

Melt butter, add bouillon cube

8 – Add the flour and stir with a whisk until it becomes a smooth paste. Add the milk 1 cup at a time, and cook on medium, stirring continually until it the sauce becomes thick. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and set side.

Add flour, then milk

Add flour, then milk

Preheat oven to 400*

Boil the pasta noodles right before you want to cook this dish (the rest can be made ahead) Do not rinse with cold water.

9 – Stir Béchamel sauce into meat sauce

add bechamel to cooked meat sauce

Add bechamel to cooked meat sauce

10 – Mix the hot pasta with the ragu. Butter a very large casserole (or several dishes) and pour pasta mixture into baking dish. Top with cheese (if using)

mix with any pasta you like

Mix with any pasta you like

11 – Place in oven until getting crispy on top (start checking after 30 minutes)

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes

Serve with lots of greens, more cheese, pepper flakes and black pepper!

Smokey Pork With Capers & Penne – So Good! (serves 6 in a hurry!)

A few days ago I posted a recipe just to demonstrate how frozen pork tenderloin could be sliced and used handily, (Pork Stir-Fry). Well, here is another one.

I cannot tell you how convenient it is to have ingredients like a quick-cooking meat and baby peas in the freezer. 

Yes, I come off as being boringly organised in the kitchen, but it is because I am just the opposite that I make sure to have food like this stashed away! It rules out a lot of thinking and planning. I will say that I am good at winging-it in the kitchen, so not knowing what I am going to cook each evening is more of a joy than a challenge (my one talent).

So Good

But, if you’re not a fly by the seat of your pants style cook, this is a great recipe for you. It is also ideal for a crowd, so double the amounts and have a party!


You will need:

1 lb pork tenderloin, thinly sliced (if the pork is semi-frozen it is very easy to slice)

3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 good quality veggie or chicken bouillon cube (try to keep Rapunzel cubes on hand)

3 heaped tbs capers with their briny juice

1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup peas (I used frozen baby peas)

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tbs unsalted butter (optional)

1 lb penne, mini penne if you can find it (I use Barilla brand)

freshly ground black pepper

pasta water and cream as necessary


1 – Slice the pork and set aside. Put water on for pasta and when it boils add some salt and cook according to instructions. The pasta should be cooked right about the time you need to add it to your pan. *Do not rinse pasta and reserve about a 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water for use later*

sliced pork tenderloin

2 – Put large saute pan on low/medium heat, (large enough for the whole dish). Add the oil and when it warms swirl in the stock cube and stir until dissolved.

oil and bouillon

3 – Add the capers and stir to cook in for a minute. Add the paprika and pepper flakes and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.

Add capers, then smoked paprika

4 – Turn heat up to close to high and add the pork. Arrange on the pan in an even layer and let it cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes, (it will get liquid-y).

add pork

5 – Turn and allow to cook for another 3 minutes or so, after which point it should be nice and tender.

saute pork for 4 or so minutes

6 – Add the peas and cook for another minutes. Turn heat down to low (or just above) and add the cram and water. Cover and cook for about 4 minutes. Taste for addition of salt and pepper and add accordingly.

add liquid

7 – Add the cooked pasta and the optional butter and mix together. If you need to loosen up the pasta you can add a little more cream and/or the reserved pasta water until you are satisfied with the consistency.

add pasta

Serve in warmed bowls or put one large bowl on the table and let everyone help themselves.

add things like black pepper and chili flakes

If you are a condiment-type person I suggest more pepper flakes and black pepper. Some grated Parmigiano Reggiano would be delicious too.

Late Dinner of Penne with Parslied Olive Oil & Garlic (serves 4)

After we got home from our momentous visit to Pisa and Lucca in the province of Tuscany, it was late, and I was tired. I was also hungry, so dinner had to be made despite my lack of enthusiasm.

The cathedral at Pisa (along with a strange leaning tower in the background?)

As I struggled to figure out what I could make in lightening speed, my man Dave (who had lingering in town to grab a bottle of wine), walked in followed by two buddies, Chris and Shawn. Hmmm….judging by the bags and bottles of wine under their arms I sensed an Aperitivo was imminent.

The earth on each side of this beautiful marble path (which joins the two buildings which house the graves of affluent and important Pisa citizens) contains 5 shiploads of soil from the Holy Land, making this some of the most holy ground in Italy.

For those of you that don’t know; an Aperitivo is a little party before dinner with drinks and appetizers. The drinks traditionally served in Italy are Campari, Aperol, Negroni, and sparkling drinks like prosecco. They are often mixed to make aperitif cocktails (see my post on Aperol Spritz).

The beginning of our impromptu Aperitivo

We made some spritz-y drinks, had a couple of bottles of great red wine (which Chris splurged on!), and an array of cheeses and cured meats.

By the time I got dinner started it was very late indeed. I managed to cook something that can be ready in about 12 minutes (if you are not distracted by friends, chatting, and alcohol). It was the perfect dinner to soak up all of those lovely drinks, and I wouldn’t hesitate doing it all over again.


You will need: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp sea salt (I used Maldon), 2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, (use 1 tsp if you are shy of heat), 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, 4 eggs (optional), more seal salt, black pepper & hot pepper flakes to taste, 1lb Penne (I used Barilla brand).

1 – Put pot of water on for pasta. When it comes to a boil, cook according to instructions. Before draining scoop out a 1/2 cup of pasta water, and reserve.

2 – While pasta is cooking, quickly get the rest of your dish together. (The object is to have this done by the time the pasta is ready). Put a big saute pan on low/ medium heat and add the oil. When it warms, add the oil and garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds before adding the parsley and cayenne pepper flakes.

Pasta with strong flavors

3 – When pasta is cooked and drained, immediately toss into the oily pan, along with the salt and several grinds of black pepper. Swirl together, and toss in a little of the pasta water to loosen everything up.

* If you want a softly fried egg with this (I did!), fry it in a little olive oil just before the pasta is cooked.

It is great topped with a softly fried egg and some cayenne pepper flakes

Divide between shallow bowls and dress with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, some more pepper flakes, black pepper, AND a fried egg.

Shawn’s Christmas Visit, Penne with Bacon, Peppers, & whole Baby Onions (serves 6)

 This was a very fun and special evening. Our dearest friend Shawn makes a trip to our house every Christmas, and it is much-anticipated. My man Dave and I look forward to the food, and to trying out wines a little more special than the usual nightly offering, and, my kids look forward to sitting with a person who has known them since the day they were born, the man who gives them a sculpture or a drawing for their birthday or Christmas, instead of toys. In short, we love him.

Beautiful bowl filled with Penne, with Bacon, Peppers & Whole Baby Onions

I always want it to be a feast, an event, and this past visit was no different. This recipe was only part of our little feast. We also had appetizers, salmon, chocolate and numerous other delectable treats. 

This pasta dish was amazing on so many levels. I had actually never cooked baby Vidalia onions before, but knew they had to be cooked whole. The entire dish came about to highlight these glorious onions, and I think I did them justice.

Can’t wait for us all to get together again; another excuse for a wonderful dinner.


You will need: 1 lb bacon, 10 to 12 baby Vidalia onions , chop off bulb where the stalk turns green, 3 green Vidalia onion green stalks, thinly sliced, 1 red pepper, cut into thin stripes, 1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes, 1 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth (or 1 1/2 cups water & bouillon cube), 1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, sea-salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste, 2 tbs unsalted butter, Fresh Avocado slices (optional), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated, (optional).

1 – Cut bacon into smaller pieces and place in big saute pan on low/medium heat. Cook until starting to get crispy. Drain off most of the fat and add the onion bulbs. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

cook bacon, add onions

2 – Add peppers and chopped Vidalia onion greens. Continue to cook for another 10 minutes (you may have to add some extra-virgin olive oil and/or turn down heat).

add peppers

3 – Add the broth or bouillon cube and water, along with the pepper flakes and rosemary. Stir everything together and bring to a simmer. Cover with lid and simmer for about 8 minutes.

add pepper flakes and liquid

4 – In the meantime, put the pasta water on and cook penne according to instructions.When draining reserve about 1/2 a cup of pasta water (you may need it to loosen the sauce).

add penne, parsley and butter

5 – Add the drained penne directly into the pan (do not rinse penne with cold water after draining!), along with 2 tbs of butter and the parsley. stir everything together until the butter has melted. Turn off heat. If you think the sauce is too thick, you can loosen it up with the reserved pasta water.

food is ready

I served this in a big warmed bowl and let everyone help themselves. You can also pass some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to anyone who likes it!

I also served this dish with avocado slices, which added a lovely creaminess

Roast Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce (serves 4 – 6)

I can’t believe I turned the oven on in 90* weather, but I did! I think the oven can coax amazing amounts of flavor out of chicken, (along with the help of a few fresh herbs from my garden). I can put up with a little heat if my reward is great tasting food. I make dinners like this when I want good food but I don’t actual want to spend time over the task. The only thing required of me is to put raw ingredients into a pan and turn on the oven. The key is good quality ingredients.

Roast Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce

I had a lovely chicken, and all sorts of herbs in my garden to choose from. What more did I need? I had spent the best part of my day experimenting with gobs of blueberries I had picked earlier that morning (expect to read about “blueberry picking” in the near future!), and so, the enthusiasm required for dinner had been spent on fiddling with blueberry jam and possible blueberry ice pops!

I was so happy that dinner tasted as good as it did. The basil and cream worked magic together and I was praised to no end for another great meal. The funny part is, when I teach my son and daughter how to make this, they will realize I’m not such a hero after all. I feel quiet sure at the ages of 10 and 12 they could make this dinner for me tomorrow! But for now perhaps, I will hang onto the title of amazing cook/hero for a little bit longer.


You will need: 1 cut-up chicken (between 3 1/2 – 4lbs), 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 1 cup sweet basil leaves, left whole, 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, left whole, 1 sweet onion, diced, 6 garlic cloves, left whole in skin, 4 tbs unsalted cold butter, cut into 6 pieces, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup water, 3/4 cup heavy cream, 6 basil leaves for sauce, chopped, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1 lb ridged penne (optional)

Preheat oven 400*

Scatter basil, thyme and onions in bottom of pan

1 – Scatter onions, thyme and basil in bottom of pan and place chicken on top in an even layer. Tuck garlic cloves between pieces of meat. Tuck a cold butter slice under the skin of each piece of chicken except for the wings. Season with salt and pepper and add the broth. Drizzle with the extra-virgin oil and place in oven for 35 minutes.

lay chicken on top of herbs

2 – Take chicken out and spoon juices over meat and add another 1/2 cup water. Place back in oven for another 20 minutes.

.* While chicken is in the oven for the last 20 minutes water on and cook pasta according to instructions. Try to time the pasta to be done when the chicken comes out of the oven.

Transfer chicken to a plate.

3 – Take out of oven and transfer chicken and garlic to a plate. Tent with tin foil and set aside while you finish the sauce.

Add cream,water and basil to pan juices

4 – Put pan on stove-top on low/medium heat and add cream and a 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and add the chopped fresh basil leaves. Taste the salt and add additional salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Cook for 2 minutes. If you want more sauce, just add more water a 1/4 cup at a time. The sauce is so flavorful it can withstand a little diluting. Turn off heat.

Add penne to sauce

5 – Add penne to pan with sauce. Put chicken on top and serve, OR, divide pasta and chicken between shallow bowls and serve.