Favourite Creamy Veggie Pasta

Creamy Veggie Pasta

I spent many years eating a lot of pasta (and I still do eat a lot of pasta) exclusively with tomato based sauces. With melted cheese on the top (I think it was the melted cheese I wanted really, not the tomato based pasta!). And then a few months ago I realised that actually, I enjoyed creamy based pasta sauces too and so my allegiance has switched and this is my favourite pasta of the moment.

To my mind pasta has a lot going for it – reasonably cheap, keeps forever in the cupboard (sprouting, green potatoes I’m looking at you…), is quick and easy to make when I can’t be bothered to think after a day at work and is very versatile in terms of what you can put with it. Admittedly I don’t take advantage of that last aspect so much, sticking to what I’ve found I enjoy.

And this is what I’m enjoying the most at the moment. Soften courgette cut into half-moon shapes until lightly coloured in a little oil. Start the pasta cooking; your sauce won’t take long. When the courgette is soft and coloured, add frozen spinach and roasted peppers (I roast these in batches and freeze them for ease). Add a little water and bash the spinach until it defrosts. Add Philadelphia cheese, salt and pepper. Squash the cream cheese into the rest of the sauce ingredients until it melts and forms a creamy sauce. In the meantime add broccoli to the pasta pan – time depends on how large you cut the florets but I usually reckon about five minutes.

Drain pasta, mix into sauce. Eat. Creamy and delicious. I tend to use Light Philadelphia but I’m sure full fat would be fine. Not sure about the ‘Lightest’ Philadelphia; I have a feeling it’s largely water and stabilisers but I could try it one day to prove myself right or wrong.

I’m going to sneak this into a few blog challenges. Vegetable Palette which this month is your favourite vegetable hosted at A2K. Call me odd but I have a particular love for both broccoli and courgette so this qualifies for me. Pasta Please – asking for any pasta dish hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and this month Jen’s Food. Extra Veg because really, this is just a delicious way to eat four different vegetables without even really thinking about it! Hosted this month by Veggie Desserts. And finally into the No Waste Food Challenge┬áhosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen. I reckon that using frozen spinach and frozen peppers qualifies – frozen vegetables are often fresher as they’re frozen at their peak and you can use exactly the amount you need – no waste ­čÖé

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Favourite Creamy Veggie Pasta

Magic!

I’m really good at starting projects and really quite poor at seeing them to completion. Or in the case of this blog, keeping it going. However, I have not yet given up and it may be that posts pop up more often in the future now.

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I’ve spent the intervening period moving house, well, moving flat. It took a very long time (there was a cross-over period between leaving the old flat and also being in the new one) partly because I moved all of my belongings myself. Fairly eye-opening in terms of how much stuff I actually have and hard work too. And then there was some inevitable decorating and sorting hence the radio silence.

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But I’m moved now and I very much like where I am now, even though half of my life is still in boxes (and probably will be for the foreseeable future – see comment above regarding being poor at completing projects ;-)). And in a week or so I’ve got a pretty major experiment going on which will hopefully result in more blog posts. Fingers crossed for all sorts of reasons there!

In the meantime those who know me well will understand that although many things remain packed my cookery books are happily on shelves and I have been reunited with the joy of browsing through them. Prime candidates for this activity at the moment are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s (HFW) books River Cottage Everyday, Veg Everyday and Three Good Things. Every time I open one of these I invariably want to make whatever is on the open page. Always a good sign.

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I was recently talking to someone who knows me and my love of baking well and they recommended the ‘Magic Dough’ in Veg everyday. Despite currently having the world’s smallest oven (that’s one of the things yet to be sorted in the new flat but I couldn’t be without an oven so I have a Lakeland toaster oven at the moment, and no, they’ve not sponsored this post…) I decided to give it a go.

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Most of my bread recently has had a dairy base so it was a bit of a change to use just flour, water, salt and olive oil here. The recipe is available online here on the Guardian website. Half soft plain flour and half strong flour meant the dough was soft and pliable to work with. I divided the dough into twelve equal balls (yes, I did weigh them…)

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I decided to make six rolls (Hugh recommends this as a versatile dough), a sort-of-pizza and then freeze the remaining five portions of dough for later use. I’ve no experience of freezing dough (I did it after knocking it back) so any comments welcome! Otherwise it’ll be a case of wait-and-see as to whether the frozen dough ever escapes the confines of it’s icy lair…

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So I had my sort-of-pizza for lunch one day when I was in no particular hurry. Thick slices of courgette very slowly softened in a little oil were then allowed to cool before being placed onto the dough which helpfully pushed out to a good size without springing back and was then topped with parmesan. I know mozzarella is more usual but I once had pizza melanzane in Italy with parmesan on it and it was the most delicious pizza ever. And from a practical point of view I always have parmesan on hand and rarely buy mozzarella.

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Delicious, can’t wait to see how the frozen dough works out because I’ve got plenty more ideas for toppings!

I’m going to add this to Bookmarked Recipes because I’ve had this book for years and have so many bookmarks sticking out of it to make. The recommendation prompted this to be bumped up to the top of the list!

Magic!

Not Eton Mess

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This really isn’t a recipe, just a record of something tasty that I ate. In the style of Eton Mess (insofar as it contains fruit, dairy and meringue) this was a successful combination of full fat fromage frais, meringue nest (courtesy of Marks and Spencer!) and grapes. Grapes worked well, providing a juicy fresh burst to contrast with the sweet meringue and creamy fromage frais. Definitely something to be repeated with varying combinations. I’m also very much enjoying using my new bowl!

Not Eton Mess

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Risotto

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Obviously, this isn’t a picture of roasted butternut squash and red pepper risotto – it’s mushroom and sundried tomato risotto. I decided that the photo of the former was not particularly attractive so there we have it; I will leave you to imagine what my bowl of sunshine yellow risotto with red peppers looked like.

Risotto is another of my favourite meals to have. I haven’t been all that adventurous with risotto, but regulars at my dinner table are mushroom risotto and courgette risotto, usually with sundried tomatoes added and occasionally bits of sausage or chicken, depending on whether the mood takes me or not.

This was a bit of a departure and featured roasted butternut squash (BNS because I’m lazy) and roasted red and yellow peppers (I roast these in batches and then freeze them – they’re really handy to have to throw into all sorts of meals and add colour and hopefully nutrients too!). And I added the sundried tomatoes too – I like their chewy texture, their flavour and I have quite a few in the cupboard to work through at the moment.

Preheat the oven, peel and deseed the BNS, rub with some oil and roast until tender. I wasn’t really paying attention to the timing for this but probably about 45 minutes at about 170C ish. I started roasting the BNS just before I started the risotto. Soften the onion (I used a red one because when I cut into my white onion it looked a bit weird) in some oil and then add the (risotto) rice. Stir until well coated with the oil and then when it sounds like it’s cracking a bit add some dry sherry. Add sundried tomatoes if you fancy. Add stock, stirring occasionally (it’s too much effort to stir all the time!) until the rice is soft to your liking. l don’t like al-dente rice so the 20-25 minutes on the packet is never long enough. Reserve some of the roasted BNS to cut into cubes to garnish and then add the rest of the roasted BNS near to the end, mashing it in well so that the pot turns golden. I added the roasted peppers close to the end of the cooking time but actually, next time I defrost and warm them through some other way because the stirring made them fall apart completely. Finish the risotto with a generous amount of grated parmesan.

Pretty successful though I still have a preference for mushroom or courgette! Out of interest my stock powder of choice is Kallo at the moment. It doesn’t contain garlic and I really, really don’t like garlic. So it’s a winning choice.

I’m going to link this to ‘Extra Veg’ a blogging challenge to encourage us all to add veg to our diets. I’m lucky that there are plenty of veggies that I really enjoy eating but this recipe would be a great way of getting more veg into your family meals! Hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary this month and founded by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

OK, I relent, photo is below….

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Risotto

Vanilla Cake and Custard

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Life is not logical. I am really not all that keen on drinking milk (well, certainly not at the moment) but thicken that milk with coloured cornflour, add a touch of sugar and heat until it turns into custard and I can eat it all day. I don’t know how obvious my love for custard will become on this blog but there we go.

And to serve with the custard? Vanilla cakes. I made these as cupcakes, using a recipe adapted from this year’s Great Comic Relief Bake Off booklet (buy the booklet, make cakes, eat cakes, make more cakes, sell cakes, make money for Comic Relief – it’s all good!).

Cream 60g butter with 85g caster sugar until light. Add 85g self raising flour, 40g yogurt, 1 egg and a tsp vanilla extract. Beat until well combined, fill six cupcake cases and bake in a preheated oven at about 180C for 25 minutes or so.

I also served my cupcake with some rather interesting looking passion fruit and lime curd from Marks and Spencer. Not sure it was a good combo with the custard but it went well with the cake. I’ll reserve judgement on the curd until I’ve tried it again (or, let’s face it, a few more times since the jar is now open…)

Vanilla Cake and Custard