Rigatoni pasta bake

Sometimes, you just want a simple family crowdpleaser that uses store cupboard ingredients and can be scaled to feed more hungry mouths just by tweaking the amount of pasta you use. This is that dish. I’ve used chorizo as the main protein component here as it adds so much flavour but you could just as easily use chopped bacon, a can of tuna or tuck in chunks of raw cod into the pasta at the same time as the mozzarella balls – just reduce the baking time in the oven if you use fish so that it doesn’t dry out.

pasta bake

Serves 4

  • 1x 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, cored and chopped into 1/2cm pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Spanish chorizo ring, casing removed and chopped into 2cm pieces
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 300g mezzi rigatoni pasta (I use Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range)
  • 1x150g pack of mozzarella minis (I use Essential Waitrose)
  • 6 large sun dried tomatoes – halved
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 1 tbsp Panko breadcrumbs

To make…

  • Prepare the chopped pepper, onion and chorizo pieces.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over a medium heat. Add the chorizo pieces, cook for about 5 minutes and allow them to render their oil. Add the chopped onion and pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Stir thoroughly and cook for 8 minutes or so until softened and golden.
  • Cook the rigatoni in plenty of boiling salted water for 10minutes.
  • Add the paprika, canned and sun-dried tomatoes, chilli flakes, sherry and milk. Stir and cook through until the pasta is ready.
  • Lightly grease a medium sized baking dish and preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the drained pasta into the sauce, add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water and stir. This will thicken the sauce and make the texture feel silky. Taste the sauce and add a little more salt and black pepper if you feel it needs it.
  • Transfer the pasta into the baking dish and give it a little shake to make sure it’s even and fills the whole dish.
  • Drain the little mozzarella balls and tuck them evenly throughout the pasta – these will form lovely little gooey pockets of cheese in the final dish. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and the Parmesan.
  • Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the dish is bubbling hot and a crisp savoury crust has formed.
  • Serve with a simple green salad .

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Sri Lankan moules

I love a classic French Moules a la Marinere with a crisp Muscadet and cream sauce but this Sri Lankan version makes a delicious change. I was given a copy of the Hoppers cookbook (a small chain of excellent Sri Lankan restaurants in London) for Christmas and this is the first recipe I tried. I’ve adapted it slightly to make it easier and, I think, tastier. The sauce contains lots of beautiful aromatics so the sauce is best made ahead to allow all the wonderful flavours to develop fully. It only takes 10 minutes to make the sauce and the mussels cook in just a few minutes. Rope-grown mussels from Waitrose are my ‘mussel of choice’ – clean, plump and delicious. You can buy curry leaves from Asian grocery stores – buy a lot and freeze what you don’t use for another time. Serve with rice noodles or plain rice to soak up the fragrant coconut sauce and you’ve got a seriously delicious treat on your hands.

Sri Lankan moules

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

  • 1kg rope grown mussels (I buy them from Waitrose)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or light rapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 lemongrass sticks cut into 5cm pieces
  • 12 fresh curry leaves
  • 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1x 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 2 green chillies, halved lengthways (retain the seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Garnish: defrosted frozen or freshly grated coconut, chopped fresh coriander, samphire tips
  • To serve: plain rice or rice noodles

To make…

  • To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan, medium heat. Add the fenugreek and cinnamon stick and allow to fry for 30 seconds. Add the sliced onion, garlic, lemongrass and curry leaves and continue to cook for another couple of minutes until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the turmeric and cook for another 15 seconds. Stir in the coconut milk, salt and green chillies. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 4 minutes being careful not to allow it to boil. Take it off the heat and set aside. Once cooled, allow the flavours to infuse for at least an hour in the fridge before cooking the mussels.
  • Prepare the mussels carefully. Rope grown mussels tend to be pretty clean to begin with so just rinse them in clean water, remove the beards with a paring knife and discard any that have cracked shells.
  • When you’re ready to cook, add the sauce back to your large lidded saucepan, bring it to a high simmer and then add the mussels. Stir and cover with the lid. The mussels will cook in the steam in 2 to 3 minutes and begin to open. Shake the pan every 30 seconds or so.
  • After 3 minutes, discard any that haven’t opened. Share out equally into warmed serving bowls and scatter the garnish over them.
  • When you serve the mussels, give everyone a half of a fresh lime so they can squeeze the juice over the mussels and to sharpen the sauce. I find the coconut sauce a little rich without plenty of lime juice. Serve the noodles or rice on the side, it’s delicious mixed in with the sauce, garnish and the sweet juicy mussels. Make sure you add a big bowl onto the table for all the discarded shells and provide plenty of napkins.

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Oven-roasted ratatouille

As a traditional ratatouille is usually made with aubergine, courgette, basil and tomato (fresh and sun-dried are my preference), it might feel like a summer dish but we eat it all year round. It’s delicious as a filling side dish with roasted meats as part of a low-carb diet, or just stir through with some brown lentils and top with feta for a great vegetarian supper dish.

oven roasted ratatouille

Serves 4

  • 2 courgettes
  • 2 red peppers
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 pack of fresh basil- separate the leaves from the stalks
  • 2 tbsps light olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

To make…

  • First prepare the vegetables. Cut the aubergine, courgette and red pepper into medium sized chunks. Slice the onion from root to tip. Skin the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water for a minute, drain carefully and the skins will slip off easily. Cut into quarters. Place them al in a large, lightly oiled roasting dish.
  • Crush the garlic to a paste with a little sea salt with a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil, pepper, chilli flakes, finely chopped basil stalks and tomato paste. Mix it all together and then pour it over the vegetables and coat them thoroughly.
  • Roast in the oven at 225C for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, give it a gentle stir and then roast for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and then fold in the fresh basil leaves. Best served warm.

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Merry Christmas from Pigeon Cottage 2022!

It’s almost Christmas! Got it all under control? Well, if you need some helpful tips or extra party food ideas, it could be time to visit the archive. The Pigeon Cottage Kitchen blog will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2023. With more than 360 tried and tested recipes and top cookery tips to choose from, you’re bound to find plenty of inspiration.

Well, Christmas recipesI’m off to wrap some presents and make a batch of my favourite Chestnut and chorizo soup for lunch. #TheFridayRecipe will be back in 2023! Happy holidays!

Merry Christmas
Whats4teaMum?

The perfect stocking filler!

If you’re looking for the perfect last-minute Christmas stocking filler gift, why not buy your family and friends a copy of my family recipe collection ‘Whats4teaMum?’ for just £6.99 on amazon?

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