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Return to Blogging: Cheesy truffle pasta bake

17 Jun

Yes it is true I have been away for a long time dear readers.

End of last year saw me slaving away over the last of my masters degree, followed by some wrist surgery that took me out of the cooking game for a while, a lengthy trial followed and some further surgery a couple of weeks ago,  this time to remove my wisdom teeth.

While the limitations on my abilities to cook created by my wrist surgery tested my patience, the removal of wisdom teeth accompanied by the inability to eat anything not in liquid form for almost 2 weeks, was almost a killer. I could cook but I couldn’t eat it. Dante never described this level of hell.

The liquid diet has since stopped, but I am still on the softer foods until the gums are all healed. The only good to come from such severe food limitations is that you have an increased appreciation for even the simplest of things.

Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic comfort dishes and as the weather gets colder, comfort food comes calling. This isn’t the kind of mac and cheese you get out of the box, although there is always a place for that too, this is a pasta and cheese bake for a person who has glimpsed gastronomical redemption.

There are so many variations on this classic and the use of  truffle cream brie in this recipe is really just  decadent excess for the sake of it. I know I am usually so restrained 😉 The truffle  just adds a little extra depth of flavour and makes the whole dish feel more grown up and elegant, you could use truffle oil, or actual truffles if you could get your hands on them, but there are times I have just used a good creamy brie instead.

Cheesy Truffle Pasta Bake

An original recipe by The Legal Tart

Serves 2

  • 300 gms Penne
  • 80 gms truffle brief
  • 80 gms of cheddar
  • 100 gms of Mozzarella
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • Plain flour
  • 100 mls cream
  • 150 mls milk (reduced fat is fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Breadcrumbs for topping

1. Boil the penne until just tender and then drain and put aside. Keep in mind that the penne will be baked in the oven, so you don’t want the penne too soft.

2. Put the butter in a small sauce pan and melt,  then add approximately 2 tablespoons of plain flour. Start with one tablespoon and work it in to butter and then add some more until it comes together. Cook for 1-2 mins until the flour is cooked.

Flour and butter

Flour and butter

3.Add 100 mls of milk to break up the flour mixture and use a whisk until the milk and flour is combined and then add the cream. Continue to whisk until the cream thickens and there are no lumps.

4. Add the mozzarella and whisk into the cream mixture until melted and then add the other two cheese one at a time allowing each one to melt before the other one is added.

5. Use as much of the milk as need until the cheese sauce is thinned so that it has a loose dollop consistency that will easily coat the pasta. Season with salt and pepper.

Can be eaten greedily from the pan now.

Can be eaten greedily from the pan now.

6. Toss in the penne until all the pasta is coated.

7. Put the pasta into individual ramekins of a deep baking dish and top with breadcrumbs.

8. Bake for 20-30 mins or until bubbling at the sides and browned on top.

Crunchy and cheesy

Crunchy and cheesy

Reworking an Italian Classic: Pumpkin, Spinach and Goats Cheese Cannelloni

28 Jul

I had a cooking mistress in a class one day lament the acts of terrorism being committed against Italian cooking. Don’t worry no one is hijacking Cannoli for nefarious purposes or dropping gnocchi like missiles from planes, though quite like the idea of gnocchi dropping from the sky 🙂 What she meant was that much Italian food had become reinterpreted and short-cutted to such a point that the craft of the food was undermined. I totally put my hand up for committing some horrible acts and the following recipe is likely to be one of these.

While I like cheese sauce on many things, sometimes I feel that it can overcome the otherwise fresh flavours of foods and those cannelloni dishes I was served as a child in Italian restaurants were often so loaded with cheese sauce they could have filled the cannelloni with anything and you wouldn’t have been able to tell. For this reason I have tried to make a lighter version that is packed with lots of flavour but is also satisfying. I can not emphasise enough how roasting the pumpkin increases the flavour. Boiling it simply isn’t the same, and I quite like anything I can bung in an oven a leave for 30 mins while I get on with a glass of wine and a book, I call it time management. The red onions become sweet from being roasted and the goats cheese adds enough creaminess that you don’t feel that you need a béchamel sauce to cover it. Best of all you are getting a good dose of your vegetable needs in one dish!

Do you sometimes commit crimes against Italian food?

Pumpkin, Spinach and Goats cheese Cannelloni

A Legal Tart recipe

Serves 10-12

  • 1 butternut pumpkin chopped into chunks
  • 1 red onion cut into segments
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 100 gms goats cheese
  • 300 grams of chopped spinach(frozen) defrosted and squeezed of water
  • 100 gms of pinenuts toasted
  • 1 Egg
  • 250 gms Onion and Garlic Pasta sauce
  • Grated mozzarella

1. Roast the pumpkin with the red onion and some olive oil until soft and burnished. Cool the pumpkin. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin

2. Mash the pumpkin and garlic until slightly smooshed but with some texture. Then add the spinach, goats cheese pinenuts, egg and onion and combine with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste

3. Spoon pumpkin mixture into the cannelloni sheets and roll then place in the baking tray. Repeat until all the cannelloni sheets are used.

4. Top with tomato pasta sauce and as much grated mozzarella as you prefer. I used about 2 handfuls.

5. Bake until skewer detects a tender pasta sheet and the cheese is golden and melted, about 30 mins.

*I did have some mixture left over. I used this in wonton wrappers to make ravioli. You can freeze the cooked cannelloni.

Ladies, Jazz and Liquor: The Martini Bar and Restaurant

1 Nov

Yes it was ladies night last week and Miss Wallflower and I went for a movie and dinner. I decided a return trip to Martini in Leichhardt was in order. I had been there once before and recalled the food was good, but my memory of the meal was a bit tarnished by some stressors at the time of my last visit and I wanted to go there under much happier circumstances.

It was a Thursday night and I had tried to book the restaurant earlier in the day but no one had returned my call, so I wasn’t sure if there would be any tables available. I recall last time I went there for dinner, they were pretty much completely booked out. Martini is in the same complex as the Palace Cinemas in Norton Street Leichhardt, making it a perfect dinner spot before a movie. We arrived shortly before 7pm and we asked for a table for two. When asked if we had a booking, I told the waiter I had left a message making a reservation, but no one had returned my call. To that he very charmingly replied with a wave of his hand, ‘we are Italian we don’t return messages, its ok’ and led us to a table 🙂

The menu is Italian in style, with a good range of pasta, and pizzas as well as secondi’s like lamb and pork. Miss Wallflower and I are both carb junkies and decided pasta was what we were in the mood for. We ordered our meals and some wine and settled in.  Jazz Connection, some very accomplished young musicians were playing that night. The waiter who served us was quite concerned the music may have been too loud, but Miss Wallflower and I enjoyed it. I have absolutely no musical ability whatsoever. I have never learnt an instrument and cannot hold a note, so I really envy young people who have such tremendous talent, and I enjoyed having some live music to add to the ambience and my enjoyment of the night

We had the zucchini flowers for a starter. I love these and I never make them myself. They were stuffed with cheese and herbs, lightly battered, fried and served with a tangy sauce.

The fight for the last zucchini flower

The flowers were not soggy, as sometimes happens and the little baby zucchini attached was firm and full of flavour.

Mis Wallflower had a Garganelli with fried eggplant, capsicum and fresh burrata.

Delish Burrata

The burrata was luscious and smooth and added a lovely freshness to the pasta. The dish was light but filling.

I had a ravioli stuffed with scallops and potato in an asparagus sauce. The sauce was distinctively asparagus in flavour and I had never thought of doing an asparagus sauce for pasta before.The potatoes were firm and it was clear that both pasta dishes contained freshly prepared pasta.

The sauce was such a rich green

We accompanied the meal with a side of insalata mista, the highlight of which was the large green olives, which I started fishing out with my fingers while enjoying the music. The mustard vinaigrette was perfectly seasoned and balanced.

Searching for large green olives....

Jazz, fresh well prepared Italian food and some wine. What more could you want.

Do you like live music when you are out to dinner? Do you play an instrument?

Martini Bar and Restaurant

Level 1, 99 Norton Street Leichhardt, Sydney, NSW, Sydney, NSW. 2040

(02) 9568 3344

Pasta Bake and the Art of Procrastination

24 Oct

Ironing I hate it. I know some people tell me it can be therapeutic, but I can’t think of anything I hate more than ironing. Thanks to Mutti I have an almost pathological need to iron everything, tea towels and sheets included. Despite my absolute abhorrence of ironing I found myself last week looking at the prospect of ironing with pleasure. This radical turn around is not due to any head injury, although I have in the past given myself concussion trying to feed a dog. Talented, yes I am! 🙂  No this embracing of ironing has occurred because in the last week I have had a task, even more horrendous to undertake….a legal essay. That right folks, this little black duck decided just in case she wasn’t extending herself enough, she should undertake a Master’s Degree in Law. People keep telling me how beneficial it will be for me in the long term, but like a child staring at a plate of greens, I can’t think of anything that could make me gleefully swallow that unappetising task

During the first years of recognisable academic effort, I developed a strange means of procrastinating, Cooking. In the early years it was largely baking. Trays of brownies and muffins would be created every day. I felt that despite my imminent failure, I could rely on my ability to produce a tasty brownie.  Over the years my repertoire has expanded. No longer a school student but instead an allegedly ‘fully grown adult’, cooking in times of stress serves a nutritional and time saving purpose as well as a procrastinating one. I so long for a tasty and enjoyable highlight to the day, when I am slaving over a dry legal paper and sitting down for a tasty dinner before trudging back to my computer to write another 1000 words, makes my life bearable. Unfortunately with work and general life tasks this can be difficult to manage, so thinking ahead and cooking something that can be enjoyed for a couple of days is indeed useful and not merely an attempt to escape the inescapable, or so I tell myself.

Large Pasta Shells

I have seen a few recipes for these large style pasta shells. As usual my efforts were dictated largely by what was left over in my fridge. I have to say it is quite a filling, tasty and yet a surprisingly economical meal. The herbs used are just those I grow in my garden and you could of course substitute frozen spinach or Silverbeet for baby spinach

After baking

Pasta bake with Italian sausage and Ricotta Tomato Sauce.

6 serves.

  • 250 gms of large ear shaped shell pasta.
  • 2 italian sausages, filling removed from the skin and formed into small balls.
  • 1 can of cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup of robust white wine
  • 250 gms of ricotta
  • ½ cup of chopped basil, chives and parsley
  • 1 large handful of chopped baby spinach
  • 100 gms of kalamata olives chopped
  • ¼ cup of parmesan
  • ½ ball of mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup of grated cheese to top

1. Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water. Drain once cooked but still firm. The pasta is going to be baked again in the oven.

2. Drain half the can of cherry tomatoes of juice but reserve half with the tomatoes

3. Add ricotta to the canned cherry tomatoes

4. Add wine and stir in herbs, chopped olives, baby spinach and parmesan.

Ricotta and Tomato sauce

5. Remove sausage mix from the skin and form into small balls

6. Put drained pasta in to the tomato and ricotta mix. Pour into a casserole dish.

7. Wedge slices of mozzarella in between pasta shells.

Before Baking

8. Place sausage balls on top of the pasta and top with grated cheese.

9. Bake in oven for approximately 15 mins or until golden on top

Tasty Easy Dinner

 

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