Tag Archives: mozarella

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


Mastering Polenta with Eggplant and Mushroom Ragu

14 Nov

I had a meal some months ago at the Wine Library in Woolahra. It was a great meal and I liked the dining room with meats like salami and prosciutto etc hanging on display in a little glass room near where we were eating.  The food consists of antipasto and small sharing plates, a way I really enjoy eating, but a style of eating not suited to the small tables of the restaurant. In an attempt at showing some lady like characteristics, I suggested only ordering 3 share plates including a salad for my companion and I. At some point into eating the second plate and I stress not at my initiation, we ordered another plate. We needn’t have bothered. The third plate, that had yet to arrive and did so shortly after us placing an order for additional food, was a gorgeous polenta bake with a bolognaise with melty cheesy goodness. Now I admit anything with melted cheese in it is likely to draw gasps of appreciation and lustful looks. But this was more than merely good melted cheese. It was rich, robust and smooth on the palate. Needless to say the meal has stayed with me.

Polenta was not something I really grew up with in my house, but I have started to use it more and more in my in cooking. It is fantastic with stews in the winter and I have even baked cookies and cakes that contain it. But baked savoury polenta has eluded me. I can never quite seem to get the consistency right. But with the inspiration of that remembered meal and  eggplant to use. I decided I would try a vegetarian version of the meal I had so enjoyed.

Do you over order food at restaurants?

Baked Polenta with Eggplant and mushroom Ragu

Serves 6-8

  • 2 medium Eggplants
  • 250 grams of Polenta
  • 300 ml of Passata
  • 1/2 cup of kalamata Olives chopped
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1/2 cup sliced Button Mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup of sliced Shitake Mushrooms
  • 100 gms of Dried Porcini
  • 1/4 cup of chopped basil
  • Chopped onion
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 150 gms Mozzarella sliced

1. Add polenta to boiling vegetable stock as per packet instructions, add parmesan when cooked.

Polenta comes away from the sides when cooked

2. Pour half the polenta into a baking dish and smooth to form a 2 cm layer of polenta.

First Polenta Layer

3. Place in a fridge while preparing the sauce. Leave the remaining polenta in the pan, this will top the bake.

4. Peel and chop eggplant into 1 cm cubes. Place in Paper towel lined colander, salt well and leave for 20 mins. The bitter juices should drain out.

5. Pour enough boiling water over dried porcini mushrooms to cover and leave to soak

6. Heat oil in pot, add onion and then garlic. Fry until starting to soften

7. Add cubed eggplant to pan and toss in oil onion and garlic. Cook until starting to soften.

8. Add fresh mushrooms and red wine.

9. Allow liquid  to reduce slightly. Add rehydrated porcini to the ragu and then add the water that the mushrooms were soaking in.

10. Reduce liquid until it is thickening. Add passata and reduce heat.

11. Allow to simmer for approximately 15 mins. Then add basil and olives and season to taste. Simmer for a further 20 mins.

12. Pulse with a stick blender for a minute to get a smoother consistency. Allow to cool

13. Pour an equal proportion of sauce in the dish on top pf the polenta. Top with sliced mozzarella and then pour a further equal proportion of polenta . Top with parmesan.

Covering the eggplant sauce with mozzarella

14. Bake for 20 mins or until golden on top and sauce is starting to bubble at the side.

Golden Baked Goodness

15. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

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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