Monday, 25 May 2015

easy tomato chilli garlic pasta

An easy pasta dish with fresh rigatoncini, tomatoes, garlic, chilli, herbs and parmesan.

I love going to the farmers' market, but I tend to stick to fruit and vegetable purchases when I visit. Recently, however, a fresh pasta vendor caught my attention as I was strolling past his stall. He was down to his last few containers of fresh pasta and he was willing to get rid of them quickly for a good offer. I bought two containers for five dollars, and opened up the one of them as soon as I got home to make a delicious fresh pasta lunch. I am not quite sure what this variety of pasta is, but it looks like it may be rigatoncini, a smaller version of rigatoni. Ridged, slightly curved, and with straight-cut ends. Lovely and rustic.

The idea for this rigatoncini recipe started with the basic ingredients of aglio e olio pasta - olive oil, garlic, chilli, salt and pepper. I embellished it with fresh tomatoes and dried mixed herbs, stretched the sauce further with cooked pasta water, then crowned the final dish with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Simple! To make it vegan, simply omit the Parmesan, or substitute it with vegan cheese or nutritional yeast instead. Also, feel free to use other types of pasta - other medium-sized ridged tubular pasta such as penne rigate or tortiglioni will work well, and spiral pasta such as fusilli or rotini should also be suitable.

You can easily modify this tomato chilli garlic pasta recipe to make a good vegan pasta dish, too.

easy tomato chilli garlic pasta
(serves 2 as a main)


350g / 12oz fresh pasta or 200g / 7oz dried pasta (ridged tubes and spirals work well in this recipe)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chilli, thinly sliced (use less chilli and/or remove the seeds if you want it less spicy)
4 tomatoes, sliced into eighths
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until just slightly shy of al dente. Exact cooking times depend on the type of pasta used - different shapes and sizes have different cooking times, and fresh pasta cooks faster than dried pasta. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and halt the cooking process with cool running water, then drain again and set aside.

Warm up the olive oil in a pot or saucepan with low heat. Gently cook garlic and chilli in the olive oil for 2 - 3 minutes or until the garlic is soft and golden. Add tomatoes, dried herbs and the reserved pasta water. Turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil and then turn down the heat and allow it to bubble moderately for approximately 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender and disintegrating, and the liquid thickens to form a light sauce. It should not be too watery, but it is also not very thick. There should be just enough sauce to thinly coat all the pasta when you add it.

Turn up the heat and then add the cooked pasta along with salt and pepper. Stir the pasta through the sauce for about 30 seconds or until everything is warm. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if you like. Ladle the pasta into bowls and top with grated parmesan.

Fresh rigatoni with tomato, garlic, chilli and parmesan.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2015

quick pear and lime jam

Quick and easy lime and pear jam.

Overripe pears, almost wasting away in their basket, were the inspiration for this pear and lime jam. I enjoy soft, ripe pears, but these pears had softened to such a degree that they were no longer appealing, even to me. I tried slicing one up and using it in a salad. The pear slices broke up as I tossed the salad, so fragile they were.

Zesty lime and pear jam. Deliciously tangy.

I gave one of the pears to a bandicoot who hopped into our garden, and he ate it with gusto, but I did not feel the same enthusiasm that our cute little marsupial visitor displayed.

Cute bandicoot eating an overripe pear.

So there the pears were, languishing away. On a whim, I chopped them up and threw them into the saucepan, drizzled lime juice all over the pieces, mashed them up with a fork, covered them in sugar, and cooked them into a translucent jam. The taste of the pear is subtle, perhaps almost unnoticeable, but it gently tempers the dominant lime flavour. The delicious sourness, along with the pretty bits of lime zest, make this jam creation feel like a milder, less intense form of marmalade.

The gentle pear softens the sharp acidity of the lime, but this jam still packs a sour hit.

quick pear and lime jam
(makes only a cute tiny portion - feel free to multiply the recipe)


2 overripe medium to large pears (Williams/Bartlett pears or any soft, creamy, overripe pear will work)
1 medium to large lime, or at least 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice and 1 teaspoon lime zest or slightly more
1/4 - 1/3 cup granulated white or raw sugar

Peel and core the pears. Roughly chop the flesh and place the pieces in a saucepan.
Grate the zest of the lime. Set aside.
Thoroughly squeeze the juice from the lime into the saucepan. Using a fork, toss the pear chunks through the lime juice, then mash up the pear pieces. (This is why you need really soft, overripe pears for this recipe!) They do not need to be perfectly mashed; a little roughness can add interest to the texture of the jam.
Allow the mixture to bubble over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes, or until it is thick and no longer runny. Test with a spoon by scooping up the jam - if it is done, it should form a glob that slowly slides off the spoon.
Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in lime zest. Since this is a tiny portion, you can just pour the jam into a small ramekin and allow it to cool completely. Cover securely with cling wrap and store it in the refrigerator. It can stay fresh for at least a week this way.
Feel free to multiply the recipe, and if you do, you may want to extend the life of the jam by keeping it in a sterilised glass jar with a secure lid.

Spread this marmalade-like jam on bread or toast... and enjoy!

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