fish mediterranean pasta recipes

Orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

Sprrrrrrrrring!!!! Ted’s back in Melbourne after three and a half weeks in the US, we’ve had a weeks’ holiday together at home, and we’ve sat in the sunshine, gone walking in the Dandenongs, worked in the garden, read lots of books, and eaten the first asparagus of the season. I am so, so refreshed. (I am ignoring the results of last night’s election. La la la la, it never happened, don’t think about don’t think about it, just make lots of donations to family planning and refugee charities.)

I spent quite a bit of the last week lolling around thinking about the things I should be doing, and instead just lying on the couch reading novels. But after eight days off work I am finally full of energy, so have made kimchi and torshi left, planted out seeds for summer (nine varieties of tomatoes, lots of greens, herbs, chilis, many other things), cleaned up my bike in preparation for riding in to work tomorrow morning, and even done some of that yoga I’ve been planning to do for the last several months. Oh man I love spring in Melbourne.

We made this dish for lunch today after spending the morning out under the sunshine in the garden. I know the proportions of pasta to sauce are reversed from what they traditionally should be here, but I just really love cauliflower. Sorry, Italian grandmas.


Sicilian-inspired orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, pine nuts and capers

600 g cauliflower, cut into small florets (1-2 cm)
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
2 large golden shallots, finely sliced
4 anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
aged red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts, gently toasted
2 tablespoons currants or small sultanas
1 generous tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
1 tin good sardines
100 g orecchiette
large palmful each of finely chopped dill and parsley
chili flakes, optional

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Toss the cauliflower with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and roast for about 20-30 minutes, until golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a small pan and saute the shallots and anchovies for 5 or 6 minutes or so, until the shallots are golden and the anchovies have melted. Add a good dash of aged red wine vinegar, and continue cooking for another minute or two. If the shallots need to soften some more (they probably will), add a slosh of water (preferably from the pasta that will be cooking, if you’ve read all the way to the end of the recipe before beginning) and let them cook further until the water has evaporated and the shallots are done.

Cook the orecchiette in boiling water until al dente, then drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

Tip the drained pasta back into the pot in which it was cooked, then add the shallots, cauliflower, pine nuts, currants and capers (and chili if you want it), and mix together. Break up the sardines very slightly, and add these and the herbs to the pot, and mix through gently so as not to turn the sardines to paste. Serve at once.

Serves two.


dinner mediterranean pasta recipes

Tuesday pasta for ten

Luciano is in Melbourne for a workshop, so we gathered up most of the old lab from UQ to come over to our place for wine and chat with him this evening. He was eating dinner at the workshop, so I wanted to make something for the rest of us to have before he arrived, but I also wanted to avoid any frantic or stressful cooking on a Tuesday night. Solution: a giant pot of pasta, served with a not-quite-so-giant side dish of green beans. Ted and I got home and started cooking a bit after 6 pm, and served this up a bit after 7 (and had loads of time to sit about on the couch for a while in between).

I really like the way the eggplant is cooked here. I think cutting it into long wedges and then slices, so that each piece of eggplant has skin on one side and so holds together nicely, works well. And then just chucking it in the oven to roast, rather than sauteeing it, leaves each piece with a little bit of crispy-chewiness, and doesn’t result in it soaking up litres of olive oil. The fact that it requires no stirring or other attention while it cooks is just an added bonus.


Fusilli with tomato, chorizo and roast eggplant

4 medium-large eggplants
olive oil
aged red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
2 onions, peeled, quartered and sliced
4 cured chorizo (Saskia Beer’s Black Pig chorizo is great)
1 sachet tomato paste
1 ultra-gigantor glass of red wine
3 x 400g cans of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 x 700g jar of passata
1 kg good quality fusilli

Heat the oven to 180 C. Cut the top off each eggplant. Slice each eggplant into quarters lengthwise, then cut each quarter into half lengthwise again. You should have eight equal-sized long wedges. Cut the wedges crosswise into pieces about 1.5 cm wide. You should now have lots of little triangular pieces of eggplant, each with skin on one end. Spread the eggplant out across four oven trays (you might need to do this in a couple of goes unless you have a very large oven). The pieces can touch each other a bit, but should not be piled up, or they will steam rather than roast. Drizzle the eggplant with some olive oil and red wine vinegar, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Note that the eggplant doesn’t have to be drenched in oil! Just a decent drizzle is fine. Put the trays in the oven and  leave to cook 20-30 minutes, until the pieces are cooked through and browning on the edges. No need to toss them part way through cooking. Once they’re cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the onions and cook for about 10 minutes, until they’re soft and golden. Cut each chorizo in half lengthwise, and then into 1.5 cm pieces. Add the chorizo and the tomato paste to the onions, and cook another couple of minutes. Then add the red wine, tinned tomatoes, and passata. Stir together, bring to the boil, then turn down to a rolling simmer. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce has come together and is a bit reduced. Add the cooked eggplant and cook another minute or two.

Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Combine the pasta and the sauce, and serve at once.

Serves 10-12 people with a vegetable on the side or salad to follow.

chitchat lunch pasta recipes vegetarian

Our apparently regular weekend chat

I went to the Powerhouse markets with my mum this morning. She likes markets; Ted doesn’t; why didn’t I think of this obvious pairing-up before? Good call mum.

I brought back a lovely wintery haul: cavolo nero, young kale, parsley and dill, a bunch of plumping-up dutch carrots, a potkin pumpkin, Tenterfield apples, a German rye loaf, a boudin noir (plus a couple for Jean and Edwige), and two very large and meaty smoked ham hocks.

I bought the potkin in hopes that it would be something like a kabocha, the pumpkin that stole my heart away from butternut squash when I lived in Dublin. Kabocha (at least in Ireland) have dark green thick but edible skin, and intensely orange flesh that is firm and sweet. The middle-aged couple selling these pumpkins at the Powerhouse markets had two kinds on offer: “These ones are potkins, and these other ones, we don’t know what variety they are so we call them bobkins, after Bob here”. They’d never heard of kabocha but the potkins looked a plausible match so I bought one. (“How much for this little one Bob?” “Oh, about two dollars.”) Once home I checked the interwebs: many sites claim that potkins are a kabocha hybrid. Hurrah, perhaps! But alas, when I split mine, its flesh was much paler than a kabocha’s, and when I quartered, seeded and roasted it the flavour was fine but nothing spectacular. So as you can tell it’s been an emotional whirlwind of a day, pumpkin-wise, and maybe I need to have a sit down and have a glass of wine to settle myself.

Fortunately, lunch gave me something else to think about, which was emptying out various bits and pieces from the fridge so that new bits and pieces could go in. Not that much in the crisper – a few zucchini and some herbs. In the big tupperware that holds the cheese stash, there were several scraps and rinds and forgotten last chunks of various cheeses each wrapped up in paper, one of which was a small piece of Roaring Forties blue cheese that had seen better days. It was very mildly suspicious-looking on one edge, but as regular readers will know, this blog sometimes ought to be subtitled Slightly Dodgy Things I Have Eaten, so after submitting it to the taste-a-tiny-bit-it-won’t-kill-you test, I passed it as edible but for immediate consumption only. Hence this pasta, variants of which we make pretty frequently. I love the way that the zucchini cook down to a sweet, luscious softness, losing about 70% of their original volume. Even after making it a dozen times, I still doubt myself when I see the towering pile of raw zucchini. Don’t – you will regret not having more if you skimp.

Strozzapreti with zucchini, thyme and blue cheese

8 slender zucchini (why bother buying fat, watery zucchini?)
3 large brown shallots
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
leaves from quite a few sprigs of thyme
a palmful of leaves of flat-leaf parsley
150 g strozzapreti
smallish piece of blue cheese, about 10 x 2 x 2 cm

Slice the zucchini into rounds about 2-3 mm thick. Peel and halve the shallots, and slice very finely. Heat a small glug of olive oil in a non-stick pan over moderate heat, add the zucchini, shallots, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring more or less frequently, for about 20 minutes. The zucchini will cook down until they are very, very soft. They shouldn’t pick up much, if any, colour though – turn the heat down if they start to brown more than the tiniest bit.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta, then drain it, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta in with the zucchini, loosening the sauce with drizzles of cooking water if needed. Toss through some chopped parsley, then serve with more parsley and crumbled cheese sprinkled on top. Stir through the cheese before eating.

Serves 2.

pasta recipes vegetarian

Orecchiette with peas, zucchini and lemon

Greetings from the land of frantic work panic! This is my 15 minutes of web time between dinner and getting back to an analysis. But I still had time to make this extremely tasty (and simple) pasta tonight, which was so good I want to preserve it for future remaking. I bet it would be even better with a mixture of mint and parsley, rather than parsley alone.

150 g orecchiete
1.5 cups frozen peas
3 slender zucchini
garlic-infused olive oil
finely grated zest of one large lemon
2 dessert spoons of the best creme fraiche
a piece of feta about 10 x 5 x 1 cm , finely crumbled
leaves from a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
sea salt and black pepper

Cook the orecchiete in boiling salted water.  Defrost the peas by putting them in a bowl with hot water.

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini finely with a mandolin or slicing side of a grater. Saute it with some garlic-infused olive oil for 5 or 6 minutes, till it is soft.

Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the peas to the saucepan in which the pasta is cooking. Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the frypan with the zucchini. Toss together for a minute over low heat with the lemon zest, creme fraiche, feta, parsley and salt and pepper.

Eat up. Serves 2.

pasta recipes vegetarian

Saturdays are not for work

No work today! None! And I feel I ought to record, for reminding myself later, how awesome a work-free Saturday can be. This morning Edwige and I went to a sewing class at Gardams, where we cut out our skirt patterns, adjusted them in tissue, and chose fabric. After a lot of dithering I went for an abstract red and black number that looks like a cross between curtains and QANTAS uniforms from the 1960s – it’s going to be either horrific or really great. Cutting out and sewing begins next Saturday!

Back to Edwige and Jean’s for lunch, which translated to 5 hours on the couches in front of the pot-bellied stove, eating pate and rillettes with good bread (delivered from Chouquette by Ted, along with pastries) and salad, drinking wine, and chatting.

And finally home in the twilight, and much later a dinner of pasta and mushrooms, as below. This is a wintery tangle of nutty spelt linguine, mushrooms with an edge of garlic, green herbs and slightly sweet comté cheese. I would happily make this many times again – hopefully always after such an enjoyable day.

Spelt linguine with mushrooms, herbs and comté

200 g spelt linguine
a dozen or so swiss brown or other tasty mushrooms, sliced
a dash of garlic-infused olive oil
fresh thyme and flat-leaf parsley, chopped
100g comté cheese, coarsely grated

Cook the linguine in boiling water until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a  pan and saute the mushrooms until brown and soft. Add a dash of the garlic-infused olive oil a bit before finishing. Season with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain and toss with the mushrooms, herbs and cheese. Eat at once.

Serves 2.

mediterranean pasta recipes vegetarian (almost)


And today I found out that I got ARC funding for 3 years so now I am suddenly relaxed like the floppiest thing ever.  Perhaps I can stop being a drama queen about my stress levels for a while!  Here was tonight’s really quite rocking dinner, serving 4, adapted from Karen Martini’s Cooking at Home:

 Rigatoni with roasted cauliflower, saffron, currants, pine nuts and caramelised onion

Slice 2 brown onions, and cook in olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat for 15 minutes.  Add 4 sliced garlic cloves and a handful of fresh thyme leaves, and cook for a further 15 minutes or more until everything is delightfully caramelised.

Cut a medium cauliflower up into florets, toss with olive oil, and roast at 180C for around 25 minutes, or until golden.

Cook 400 g of rigatoni until al dente; drain.

Add to the onion mixture 4 chopped anchovy fillets, 80 g of currants, 2 pinches of saffron threads, and half a cup of water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add 70 g pine nuts, a dash of red wine vinegar, 150 ml white wine, the cooked and drained pasta, and a slug of olive oil.  Cook over low heat for another couple of minutes, until the sauce has adhered nicely to the pasta.

Check seasoning, add some chopped flat-leaf parsley and toss to combine.

Eat with lots of wine and a glorious, overwhelming, muscle-loosening feeling of relief.

fish pasta recipes

Fusilli with smoked salmon, spinach, lemon, creme fraiche, etc etc

We had good company tonight, and good pasta to go with it.

Ian, Lisa and Caroline came over for dinner, and we all caught the bus to New Farm from Toowong together.  So there was no time for fussy cleaning up or doing dinner preparations before people arrived.  But we’d planned for this, and I am growing less concerned about mess as I get older, so there was no drama.  We arrived, cracked open beers, and set out olives, brie, grilled eggplant and crusty bread, to sit and chat for an hour.

Then I headed into the kitched to make the main meal.  Two big pots of water on the boil, one for pasta and one for green beans.  Some cherry tomatoes halved and put in the oven for a quick roast.  Wash a big bag of baby spinach, flake about 300 g of smoked salmon fillets, take the zest and juice of one lemon, chop a bunch of dill. Put 500 g of pasta on to cook.  When it comes off, drain it and put the pan back on the heat.  Add the spinach, wilt for a minute, then add back the pasta, together with the salmon, lemon, dill, a couple of spoonfuls of baby capers and several spoonfuls of creme fraiche.  Stir over low heat until the creme fraiche is melted.  While doing this, chuck the green beans in to cook for 3 minutes, then drain and refresh under cold water.  Pull the tomatoes out of the oven and dress with garlic oil, salt, pepper and the leaves from a bunch of oregano.  Serve up the pasta, and on the side the roast tomatoes and the blanched beans.  Open the third (or fourth?) bottle of wine and dig in.  Pretty good for less than 20 minutes’ cooking.

Afterwards, retire to the lounge room for more wine and, a little later, gelati. Think about how lovely your life is and how much you like your friends.  Enjoy.