Orecchiette with Tofurky Sausage and Broccoli

Orecchiette is one of my favourite pasta since I was a child. It actually means ‘small ears’ and originated from the Italian region of Puglia (the heel of the boot). It is traditionally paired with rapini (Orecchiette alle cime di rapa) or a tomato based sauce with horse meat (Orecchiette con ragu’ di cavallo). However, since these ingredients are rarer and/or not appetising, I often see it paired with sausage, broccoli and chilli.

This is a veganised version of a recipe by Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef, which was adapted from Lidia Bastianich’s recipe found in  Lidia’s Italian TableI used Tofurky Sauage in place of Italian sausage as well as a salted organic vegan butter and vegetable stock. Jenn also uses Pecorino Romano, which is my favourite Italian cheese, but I held back, as I’m trying to go completely dairy free right now. There is plenty of flavour in this dish, so you really don’t need cheese or even a vegan cheese substitute. Of course, I tested this recipe on my meat and dairy loving partner, who approved of the flavours and didn’t add any sneaky cheese when I wasn’t looking. This recipe is quick and easy and of course delicious as well.

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Pasta with Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce, Mushroom and Zucchini

This recipe was not meant to be the star of lunch today. It was just meant to accompany the Roasted Carrot Hummus from my new amazing cookbook, Chloe Flavor: Saucy, Crispy, Spicy, Vegan, however, it was just so delicious I had to share it.

 

 

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Good Friday for Pasta

I hope you’re having a great Easter weekend. We are spending the weekend at home, cleaning, toilet training and cooking. On Good Friday I decided to was a great opportunity to make fresh pasta, while I had a couple of grandparents home to watch my tot. I love making pasta, but its something I don’t do often. However,  recently I was catching up on Gastropod episodes (my favourite podcast channel) and I listened to Remembrance of Things Pasta: A Saucy Tale. This really got me yearning to make homemade pasta.

So I finally got out the handwritten Italian recipes that I learned while studying in Milan. As part of our Food and Culture course at the university, we had about five cooking lessons that taught us how to make regional dishes. We actually had to write the recipes in Italian, while we watched and help the chef making the dishes. So with a little help from my Italian dictionary, I refreshed my memory on some of those delicious and more unusual dishes we made.

One of the dishes I prepared was Culurgiones Campidanese. This regional Sardinia filled pasta, typically containing potatoes, pecorino cheese, casu ‘e fitta (Sardinian cheese), mint and pepper, but it varies from town to town. It is served with a tomato sauce or butter and sage and can also be grilled or fried. The town of Ulassai  (Ogliastra, Sardinia), until the 1960s, only prepared this filled pasta on the day of the dead (sa di e ir mortos). Other towns throughout Oglisstra and Barbagia regions also served this dish for special occasions, such as giving thanks at the end of a wheat harvest and to honour their ancestors. The culurgiones is a symbol of esteem, respect and friendship.

The recipe that we made at the university didn’t contain cheese, possibly because some of us were dairy free. Since I’m a big lover of Pecorino cheese (a hard sheep cheese), next time I would add it for a bit more flavour. The culurgiones were filled with potato, mint saffron and black pepper. So I have shared my translated and hopefully accurate account of this recipe for you today.

For the shape of this pasta, I consulted this Youtube video. I’m not sure I nailed the shape but I haven’t had as much practice as these ladies.

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Chickpea pasta with Cherry tomatoes and Pecorino rind

Today I bring you another 15min meal, which is easy to put together. I used one of my favourite ingredients that I recently discovered, pecorino cheese rind. I remember reading a while ago to keep Parmesan rind for sauce and soup. It’s meant to give great depth of umami flavour.

I try to stick to sheep and goats cheeses since I have an intolerance to cows milk and cheese.  So my cheese of choice is always pecorino, which is a hard Roman sheeps cheese. I buy the imported cheese from Costco, rather than then Australian blends that usually have cows milk in them. I have been saving my pecorino rinds for a while and adding cubes of them to red pasta sauces. I recently found they are delicious to add to fresh tomato or olive oil to coat the pasta. They melt a little and have a chewy texture and nice cheesy taste.

For this dish, I also used Chickpea fusilli pasta, which has extra protein and fibre, then regular pasta and gluten-free. Semolina fusilli pasta would also work fine, which is my usual go-to. I had organic cherry tomatoes, which were so full of flavour. Cherry tomatoes are usually sweeter and delicious then regular tomatoes, but you could always use diced tomatoes instead.  For the vegetables I just used some zucchini and silverbeet, which complement the pasta. You could use your favourite veggie combination to add to this dish or no veggies at all if you prefer.

Chickpea pasta with Cherry tomatoes and Pecorino rind

(vegetarian, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

200g Chickpea Fusilli Pasta (I used San Remo Pulse Pasta)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 zucchini, diced

1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, quartered

1-2 garlic cloves (optional)

5x5cm piece pecorino rind, cubed

3-4 silverbeet leaves, spines removed and sliced

Sea salt & Black Pepper to taste

Method:

  1. First, boil the pasta water and cook according to packet instructions. To cut down time boil the water in the kettle first. Add sea salt to the water. Drain when ready.
  2. Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, garlic Cook for a few minutes or until they start to soften. Add 1/2 a ladle of pasta water to make a little juicy.
  3. Add the pecorino rind and cook another couple of minutes.
  4. Add silverbeet leaves and allow to wilt, before turning off the heat. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Add pasta to the hot pan and coat with ingredients. Serve immediately.

*Serves 2

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Vegan Ricotta and Veggie Lasagne

All this recent celebrating has left me feeling heavy and tired. It all started with Marco’s birthday Feast of the Seven Kingdoms, continued with Christmas, New Years and Serbian Christmas. All that delicious food was meat and dairy heavy, which are the two things that I don’t run well on. They were also not great for eating during the heat of summer. So as part of my New Years goals, I am going to start eating lighter. I still wanna enjoy my favourite homely dishes, but I need to modify them a little.

This lasagne is a quite light and guilt free. It has no dairy and is packed full of protein and flavour. Tofu has been used in place for real Ricotta. I adapted the ricotta recipe from Chloe Coscarelli’s Rockin Ricotta. The blend of ingredients doesn’t have that typical soy flavour. It tastes light and bright. There is no need for cheese substitutes either.

Feel free to make alterations to the lasagne sheets or vegetables. Gluten-free pasta can be used instead if semolina pasta doesn’t agree with you. Shredded carrot, shaved broccoli or baby spinach would all work nicely.

I made this dish for my daughter and her little cousin, who is seven. Octavia gladly gobbled it up because lasagne and tofu are her favourites. My niece, however, isn’t a big fan of tofu, but she still gave it a try. She was very happy with it. The only thing she complained about was the mushrooms, but since there weren’t many she agreed to eat them. I admit it’s not the prettiest lasagne, but if the kids liked it, mission accomplished.

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Hot Smoked Salmon and Ricotta Ravioli

As promised I have written for you today my recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon and Ricotta Ravioli. I prepared this dish for my family on New Year’s day, using my new Kitchen Aid attachments that I received for Christmas. I was lucky enough to get the Pasta Roller and Ravioli Roller from Santa, which I had been dreaming off for years.

I first used an electric pasta machine when I did a cooking class in Milan.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was and wished someday I would get my own. Since then I have been using a manual pasta machine, but I needed a second person to help me. Now I can do it all myself and lucky for little Octavia I can cook her favourite pasta anytime now.

For this recipe, I prepared the pasta from start to finish using my KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Pasta Roller and Ravioli Roller. If you don’t have these items, you can still prepare the pasta dough by hand, use a manual pasta machine to roll the pasta sheets out thin and then fill and cut the ravioli by hand. The ravioli attachment does give you some half-sized ravioli, that you wouldn’t have if doing completely by hand. I still cooked them since they are great for checking if your pasta is cooked through enough. In the KitchenAid Ravioli Roller booklet, it does recommend the setting to use with the Pasta attachment. I did go a bit thinner when I made my pasta sheets since I had already done a trial. The setting they recommended gave me ravioli that was so thick that the filling didn’t shine.

If your dairy free, you don’t need to use ricotta. In the future, I would probably use an alternative, as it doesn’t make much difference with for the filling. You just need something that will help make the salmon a little bit creamy when blending. If you don’t have eggs, you could always use soft tofu for the pasta dough. This is something I am yet to try but wouldn’t mind seeing how it turns out. I recommend the New Zealand  King smoked salmon fillet, which I bought from Aldi. Otherwise wild or organic smoked salmon filet would also be great. If you can’t get smoked you can always use good quality freeze or frozen salmon, which you could and cool in preparation.

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Happy New Year!

I hope you all had amazing New Years celebrations. My evening was pretty quiet. I was going to let O stay up but she was getting cranky, so put her early to bed. I had a relaxing night colouring and drinking Rekorderlig.

I was able to finish my only New Years themed picture. I was hoping would be done in time for today. It is from the Japanese Disney Coloring to decorate the four seasons (Boutique Mook no.1255). I used Prismacolor Premier pencils, Mungyo Pastels and gel pens. I was a fun one to do, but after colouring so many Mickey pictures for my Christmas Colouring, I’m excited to start some of my new books. I can’t wait to start Serene, Inklings 1 and 2, the Romantic Country series. If you would like to see more pictures from this book, see my gallery Disney Coloring to decorate the four seasons.

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Green Split Pea and Broccoli Pasta

I am always trying to find quick and nutritious ways to cook broccoli and legumes in an interesting way for my daughter. Broccoli is probably the only vegetable she will outright say is yucky. However recently she has been saying she wants to eat it in between meals. I’m not sure if she is joking or shes finally coming around due to the daily exposure. Legumes have also been a challenge to serve in their whole form. Split peas and lentils are great introductory legumes for little people because they are small and soft when cooked and don’t have that skin that can get stuck in their throat (like chickpeas). I like to add them to pasta sauces, lasagna, curries and stews, for more fibre and protein.

I’ve made this recipe a couple of times and it has gone down without a fight. I have left the option of adding organic free-range ham, for carnivores or flexitarians. My daughter loves ham, which she discovered at Kindy. My local organic butcher makes their own leg ham, so it’s the only one I let her eat occasionally. She would seriously choose ham over sweets any day. If you’re a grown-up vegan you could use some liquid smoke or vegan ham. Although this recipe is delicious and healthy without these additions. If you still don’t use salt in your toddlers’ diet, you can always skip the liquid stock or just make your own salt free version. I use to do this and freeze them in baby freezer pods. You could also use the first part of the recipe of green split peas mixture as a healthier alternative to potato mash.

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Como: panoramic lake views and splendid villas

After staying Milano it was time to go further north to visit my family. On the way, we stopped at the north Italian town of Como. This idyllic town sits on Lake Como and the Swiss-Italian border. The amazing panoramic views of mountains and the lake is a little piece of paradise and is known for its’ rich and famous residents.

I’ve always wanted to visit Como, but for some reason or another never got here while I was living in Milano. Luckily we were able to drive to Como and up through Switzerland to visit my family in Luino, Italy. This took roughly the same amount of time as it would be to drive directly north. So we made a stop for a couple of hours to see the majestic lake and have some lunch.

 


 

Our first impressions of Como was the gorgeous old architecture and bustling narrow streets full of shops and cafes. Nearly every directions you look had a beautiful mountainous backdrop.

 


 

Like every Italian town, there was a beautiful Duomo in the centre of the city. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is a very special duomo because it is last Gothic cathedral built in Italy. It was built between 1396 to 1770.

 


 

The Lago di Como (Lake Como) is a huge body of water and is the third largest lake in Italy. Many wealthy people have built and resided in homes along the shore of the river, as far back as Roman times. It really is so spectacular to see in person and feels like your looking into a beautiful landscape painting. The lake is actually shaped like a wishbone and the city of Como is situated on the bottom left of the fork shape.

 


 

We continued walking around the Giardini del Tempio Voltiano and up to the Aero Club Como to see new perspectives of the lake. The garden itself is quite beautiful and plush and has many war memorials. If you have the time, you can take a small water plane from the Aero Club and see even more amazing birds eyes views. You can also visit the museum Tempio Voltiano, which is dedicated to the inventor of the electrical battery, Alessandro Volta.

 


 

The Passeggiata Villa Olmo is a scenic pedestrian road along the river. This walk will take you past the splendid villas, all the way to neoclassical Villa Olmo. Unfortunately on our visit we were not able to walk all the way to the Villa Olmo, as there was work being done on the grounds and the garden beds were all taken out. I wish the tourist office had mentioned that after they recommended we visit it. I imagine doing a tour of these villas would be amazing, to learn their history and see their interiors.

 


 

After all that walking we were really hungry. So we walked back towards to centre and headed to a hidden gem. L’Ora della Pasta is a small fast-service lunch bar that serves fresh pasta and ready made meals. They use organic and high quality ingredients and offer vegetarian and vegan options. You only need to choose your pasta and sauce and they will whip you up a lovely authentic meal that is reasonably priced and really delicious. We ordered Gnocchi al pesto and Ravioli con mozzarella di bufala.


 

So that was my short visit to Como. I hope you enjoyed revisiting it with me. If you would like to know more about this beautiful town, see Visit Como website for more information.

Veggie Pasta Bake with Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

Trying to get my toddler to eat vegetables every day is a really challenging. Considering I have been giving her green vegetables every day since she started eating, she still decided that green foods are yucky. I’m not sure how she got so picky, but I guess it’s normal for most toddlers. She also isn’t a fan of chewy her food, so if it’s not soft it comes back up. She also hates anything pureed, since she isn’t a baby anymore. Strangely pasta, rice, meat and biscuits seem to get chewed and never come back up. Despite this not eating vegetables in this house is non-negotiable. So I’m trying to normalising it as much as I can, so it doesn’t become an issue. I try not to hide the veggies, but rather serve them in a way she would prefer. Sometimes that means having something else on the table that she likes and can eat between bites. Other times we reward with stickers or shovel it down while she watches her favourite Disney song clips or TV show.

So this recipe was created to get my daughter to eat her most despised vegetables. Cauliflower and broccoli seem to be the most disliked. Green beans get choked on and leafy greens are picked out. Now when I prepare pasta or noodle dishes I try to steam the vegetables first and put them in at the last minute. That way they are soft enough but still retain their nutrients. The crunchy bread top is her reward between eating all her greeny mouthfuls. This is also a great recipe if you need to empty the fridge.

This is also a great recipe if you need to empty the fridge or just want to incorporate many vegetables into one dish. You can add or subtract depending on what you have or like to eat. If you like your cheese you can always add some grated pecorino, crumbled feta or your favourite vegan melting cheese before baking.

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Spaghetti Squash with Sun dried Tomato, Olive, Red Wine Sauce

Just because your trying to skip gluten, grains or just want a more nutritionally dense meal doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Italian flavours. Spaghetti squash is an amazing vegetable that when roasted has an amazing stringy texture that can lend itself as a pasta substitute. I love big bold pasta sauces with wine. This sauce doesn’t take long to prepare and will go perfectly with any other pasta or substitute.

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Spaghetti Squash with a Sun Dried Tomato, Olive, Red Wine Sauce 

(vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 Spaghetti Squash (90g -100g)

olive oil

sea salt to taste

black pepper to taste

1 small brown onion, diced

2 garlic, cloves diced

1 red chilli, diced

6 sun dried tomatoes, chopped

1 can good quality tomato pulp (I used Mutti)

1/2 can filtered water

sea salt and black pepper to taste

pinch raw sugar

2 tablespoons red wine (I used Lambrusco)

8-10 black olives

8 basil leaves, chopped

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees.

2. Cut off the stem of the squash, then cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds and remove some of the guts. Sprinkle some sea salt and black pepper and roast for 30-40 minutes or until cooked.

3. Heat a pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and add onion, garlic and chilli. Saute for a few minutes until the onion starts to brown.

4. Then add sun dried tomato and saute for another couple of minutes. If you like add some of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes or olive oil.

5. Add the tomato pulp, water,  sea salt, black pepper, raw sugar. Bring to a light boil, then leave to simmer.

6. Add the red wine and black olives. Leave to cook for 20 minutes or until the spaghetti squash is cooked. Add more sea salt and pepper if you need to the sauce.

7. Once the spaghetti squash is cool enough to handle, run a fork through the flesh to produce small strains of spaghetti.

8. Before serving, add the basil leaves to the sauce and stir it through to them let it wilt.

9. Top the Spaghetti Squash flesh with the sauce.

*Serves 2

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Crazy for pasta at Spaghetti House

Recently we visited a restaurant I haven’t been to in a long time. The Spaghetti House Trattoria is a family-run Italian restaurant in Southbank. They were previously situated in West End, which is where we used to frequently visit them.

They offer a great selection of Italian fare, including bread, small share plates, pizza, pasta and main dishes. The dishes are a collection of regional favourites prepared very traditionally. Over the years we have tried many of their dishes and they never disappoint in taste and quality.

Over the past couple of years, they moved from Westend to Southbank on Little Stanley Street. The new location does feel a bit more formal than the previous one and is styled like a modern trattoria. From the polished floors, beautiful rustic table settings, lighting and gold framed mirrors, everything is perfectly elegant, yet cozy.

On the day we visited we were all really hungry and were craving pasta. We all ordered the thicker kinds of pasta with simple sauces. I had the Pappardelle Boscaiola, which had pancetta, porcini mushrooms and olives in a fresh tomato sauce. The fresh pasta was cooked perfectly al dente and the sauce had a full depth of flavour. My companions had Pappardelle Carbonara and Fettuccini Ragu alla Bolognese. They were also very happy with their dishes. We all ordered the larger size plate, which were generous and very filling. If we ordered more food, I’m sure a small portion would have sufficed.

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