– dry lasagne sheets
– dry lasagne sheets
Technically speaking, of course it isn’t lasagne it’s cannelloni, but practically when you consider it, it is a variation on a theme. So this weeks lasagne is in fact a cannelloni! Cannelloni are dried pasta tubes, that are designed to be stuffed and then baked, like lasagne, in bèchamel. When I make cannelloni I only work in single layers, because I find it sometimes doesn’t bake well in a double layer. The tubes can be stuffed with ricotta & spinach, beef ragu, tricolore (ricotta, spinach & ricotta and ragu).
I haven’t provided the recipe for this as it is the standard bèchamel and beef ragu. Make the meat sauce and allow it to cool a bit before stuffing the tubes with the meat. Then place a layer of bèchamel in the bottom of your baking dish and line the stuffed tubes up in a single layer. Top with more bèchamel, mozarella and parmesan cheese and bake in a hot oven until bubbling. Is it lasagne? No, but it’s just as yummy!
Provençal Inspired Country Style Chicken
ASSEMBLING THE LASAGNEWhen you assemble your lasagne, start with a thin layer of white sauce at the very bottom of the dish. Top this with a sheet of pasta and then chicken and bechamel followed by pasta again. By doing this you will give your lasagne a bottom layer to scoop it up with. I add grated parmesan on top of the bechamel as I make the layers. Bake it in a hot oven, 180°C, for about 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and golden.DO NOT FORGET: you must let your lasagne stand for at least 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. This will allow the white sauce to hold its shape a bit better and will make for easier cutting of the sheets.
I was serious a week a go when I proposed to produce one lasagne recipe a week for the duration of winter. So here it is, week two and lasagne two, I thought I would change things up a but this week and keep the dish vegetarian. But by using loads of mushrooms the lasagne still delivers a meaty richness, I don’t use a tomato sauce when I make a mushroom lasagne I prefer the creaminess of the mushrooms against but you could use one if you liked. I also use a mix of mushroom, starting with a bulk mixed pack, then portabellini, then wild mushrooms. Allowing the cheaper mushrooms to handle texture and volume while the more flavourful mushrooms give the dish its umph!
You can get the recipe for the bechamél here https://www.thesecretjozichef.co.za/?p=422
Spinach, Mushroom & Ricotta Lasagne
Makes a large tray
– 400gms bulk mixed mushrooms
– 100gms portabellini mushrooms
– 100gms wild mushrooms
– 2 medium red onions
– 3 cloves garlic
– 4 sprigs thyme, plucked and chopped
– 70gms butter + 70gms butter for spinach
– 100 mls brandy
– 4 tbsp olive oil
– 1 dry birds eye chili
– 2tsp finely chopped parsley
– 2 bags baby spinach
– 400gms fresh ricotta
– lasagne sheets
– 1,5 litre bechamél
– 100gms grated parmesan
– 150gms grated mozarella
Prepare your white sauce, now heat a large heavy based saucepan on a high flame. Add the butter for the mushrooms, olive oil, finely chopped garlic, crushed dry birds eye chili, thyme and cook the onions until softened. Now increase the flame to high and add the mushrooms, be careful to not over crowd your pan, you want the mushrooms to develop some colour first. If you put too many mushrooms in the pan, they will broil instead of browning so rather split it into two batches. Once the mushrooms have browned and the brandy and cook until it has reduced, the mushrooms should have some liquid in them but not be too wet. Add the fresh parsley and check seasoning. Once it has cooled slightly stir the ricotta in so that it is nicely combined, check seasoning again.
In a large pot add the washed spinach (if its too much put as much as you can and put the lid on, after a few minutes it will have collapsed allowing you to add more) and place on the heat, once the spinach has wilted remove it and place in a colander to allow it to drain. Press gently with a spoon to remove some, but not all of the water. Now return to the heat and add the butter and stir through, check the spinach for seasoning.
To assemble the lasagne start with a thin layer of bechamél on the bottom of the dish, then a layer of dry lasagne. Top that with half of the mushroom mixture and a 1/4 of the spinach just spread the leaves out loosely, top with bechamél and more dry lasagne and repeat with the rest of the mushrooms, another 1/4 of the spinach and this time add half the parmesan, before adding another layer of lasagne sheets. Top this with some bechamél, the balance of the spinach the rest of the parmesan and half of the mozarella before adding some more bechamél and another sheet of lasagne. Top this with more bechamél and the last of the mozarella, bake in a hot oven for 25-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.
I was running late this morning so other than my dragon fruit breakfast was a complete miss. So it seemed logical that I have both meals in one. I love carbonara because it takes 5 minutes and its eggy richness is so decadent and yet it takes as long as it takes to cook the pasta to prepare the whole dish.
– 8 egg yolks
– 250ml cream
– 200g finely grated Parmesan
– 200g pancetta finely chopped
– 1 tsp finely chopped parsley
– 800g cooked pasta
– salt & black pepper
Cook the spaghetti to pack instructions. Whilst the spaghetti is cooking fry the pancetta, use a bit of oil to get it started and then cook on a medium flame slowly to render all the fat out. Whilst the pancetta is cooking whisk the egg yolks, cream, Parmesan, black pepper and parsley together set aside.
To get a silky carbonara you want to make sure all you elements are ready at the same time. Your pasta should be drained and then immediately added to the hot pancetta and oil and stirred to coat the pasta. Then with the pan off the heat add your egg mixture and stir to combine, return to a very low flame and stir gently till the egg mixture has just thickened, it shouldn’t take longer than a minute or so. Check your seasoning and serve immediately, remember it will keep cooking.
For a delicious vegetarian option, cook up some black mushrooms cut into small chunks till crispy, I add garlic and chili to the oil I cook the mushrooms in, don’t crowd your pan you want the mushrooms to dry cook. The only other change I make is that I add the egg mixture to the pasta in the pasta pot after draining, and then I add the mushrooms, to keep the pastas golden colour.
Some flavours are just meant to go together, like prawns and chorizo. I love the spicey paprika finish chorizo has, and the way a small amount adds so much flavour. I also love pasta sauces that take as long as the pasta takes to cook to prepare, that’s lunch or dinner in 12 minutes tops!
– 24 black tiger prawns, deveined
– 120g chorizo
– 1 clove garlic crushed
– pinch of chili flakes
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 400ml cream
– 150g deseeded and chopped fresh tomato
– 1 tsp tomato paste
– 16 basil leaves, torn
– salt & pepper
– 800g cooked pasta
Start by putting your pasta on to cook. In a pan, pan fry the prawns in the olive oil, garlic and chili. Once the prawns have turned pink, remove from the pan and add the chorizo. Fry the chorizo until the fat has started to render then add the cream, tomato paste, fresh chopped tomato and basil leaves. While the cream is reducing, peel the prawns and add them back to the reducing cream.
Drain your pasta and add it to the sauce, cook for 1 minute till pasta is well coated and serve immediately, topped with some fresh parsley.
HINT: I always cook the prawns in their shell because this imparts a lot more flavour, it’s worth the effort of peeling hot prawns because you get twice as much flavour out of them.
I love mushrooms, they cook in seconds and they are loaded with flavour and when you are looking for a good vegetarian meat substitute some of them deliver flavour and texture. Porcini are undoubtedly my favourites with their chestnut, woody flavour and great meaty texture. But supermarkets are now stocking other great mushrooms like shimeji, shitake, enoki and even occasionally white elf.
Don’t be intimidated by the exotic mushrooms, they want to be prepared as simply as possible to allow all that meaty flavour through. I usually pan fry them in a touch of butter, garlic, olive oil and chili. If you are feeding a large group the specialist mushrooms can get pricey so mix them up, plain old brown with the more exotic ones and you will still get plenty of flavour and texture without having to spend a fortune.
Remember when pan frying mushrooms don’t overcrowd the pan or they will lose their juice and broil, rather fry in batches.
Cloudy with a chance of meatballs!! Definitely! I love meatballs, first fried till crispy and then allowed to simmer in a delicious red wine and tomato sauce. They freeze really well in their tomato sauce and are great on spaghetti, on top of soft polenta or simply in a toasted ciabatta.
To make the meatballs I use lean beef mince, finely diced onion, fresh herbs and that’s it… I then dust them in flour and polenta flour and fry them till crispy, the polenta adds to the crunch.
– 6 tiger prawns in the shell/person (cleaned/deveined/defrosted)
– fresh chopped red chili (to taste)
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 clove garlic crushed
– 2 tsp finely chopped parsley
– salt & pepper
– 100g dry pasta
– 4tbsp pasta water (reserved)
Start by putting the water on, loads of it to make sure your spaghetti has room to cook. While the water is coming to the boil, rinse your prawns off, if have they haven’t been deveined, you’ll need to sort that out. Once the prawns are rinsed, cleaned and patted dry you can finish off the dish.
Start by gently heating the garlic and chili in olive oil (add a tiny piece of butter if you are afraid of overcooking your garlic). Once the oil is hot add your prawns, season while cooking. About 3 minutes a side they should turn a bright pink colour. Add your parsley cook for a second longer.
At this stage we would take all the prawns out, removed the shells of 5 and leave one whole for presentation but that is your call. It is much easier to eat once deshelled.
Toss the prawns, cooked pasta and the reserved water and cook for two minutes till the reserved water has disappeared.
– If you fancy something a little richer add 4/5tbsp cream at the end instead of the water.
– Fry a few capers with the garlic and chilli, remove them and sprinkle on at the end
– Dress about 10gms of baby rocket per portion with lemon juice and olive oil and stir through the pasta right before serving
Deveining prawns: https://youtu.be/uNtpqxAd3eU
Bacon and chili pasta!
Pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, has a delicious strong porky flavour. Unlike bacons which is mostly smoked, pancetta is salt cured and air dried giving a different taste
I love amatriciana, because its simplicity is a great way to make the most of the pancetta a flavour.
– 200g pancetta
– 1 large sprig rosemary
– 1 large onion finely chopped
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 370g can whole peeled tomatoes
– 150ml red wine
– pinch of dried chilli flakes
– salt & pepper
Start by gently frying your diced pancetta, in the olive oil with the sprig of rosemary, until it starts to colour. Then add the pinch of chili flakes, and onion and cook till onions have softened. Add the red wine, drained tomatoes and some of the reserved tomato juice from the can. You want to cook the sauce for up to 60-minutes, but within the first 25 minutes it should be ready. If you need to add some more liquid during the cooking you can, but when uou done this is a thick sauce. The longer you cook the sauce the milder and sweeter the tomatoes are. Cook your pasta to the pack instructions and toss together with the sauce, if you find it a bit dry drizzle with some olive oil.