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Pasta is something you can always rely on to be ready within minutes and still taste spectacular. This one-pan meal, from BBC GoodFood, is what I made on a post call day when I had to cook for myself with only basic things available in my kitchen drawers and no time/energy for grocery shopping. You can throw in any long stranded pasta other than spaghetti; linguine and fettuccine will hold the chunky sauce well. Red chilli flakes add a slight piquant note to this simple pasta dish though you can spice up things with some cayenne pepper and a dash of sriracha sauce.

SPAGHETTI WITH TUNA SAUCE

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 cm fresh ginger, peeled, finely chopped

450g creamed tomatoes or passata

2 x 200g cans tuna in olive oil, drained

375g spaghetti or linguine pasta

Method:

  • Heat oil in a medium pan and toss in 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, garlic, chilli and ginger.

  • Fry for a few minutes until slightly soft. Tip in the tomatoes and cook for another few minutes.

  • Fold in flaked tuna and season the sauce generously. Leave the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti or linguine for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, then return it to the pan.

  • Pour the tuna sauce into the pasta and toss well. Sprinkle over the remaining chopped parsley.

  • Divide between 4 serving bowls and serve immediately with extra tuna sauce on top. Serves 4.

Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce

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Farfalle or bow ties are among my favorite pasta shapes, not only because they look like dainty little butterflies on a plate, but also because they cling well to rich sauces like this creamy tomato sauce from BBC GoodFood.  A good bowl of al dente pasta soaking up the deliciousness of a simple, warm sauce will rate as the ultimate comfort food on any gloomy, rainy day. This specially holds true when you come back tired [or not] from work and have no energy to cook something fancy or drive yourself to a restaurant where pasta dishes are frightfully overpriced. It will take you all of 15 minutes to conjure this dinner-for-one from scratch although you can easily double, triple or quadruple the recipe to accommodate any family size you ought to feed. I promise that even your picky eaters will forget their temper tantrums and happily tuck in, hence providing more than one harried mother with a much needed break.

FARFALLE WITH CREAMY TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 garlic clove, chopped

1/4 cup tomato puree

1/4 cup pasta water

100g farfalle pasta

75 g roasted chicken

1/4 cup cooking cream

1 small bunch flat leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons parmesan

Method:

  • Heat butter in a small saucepan and fry chopped garlic gently until golden. Stir in the tomato puree.

  • Season and simmer for 5 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the pasta in a pan of salted water.

  • Cook until tender for 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a colander and drain, reserving pasta water for later.

  • Add the cream to tomato sauce, then throw in roasted chicken and cooked pasta and mix well to coat.

  • Cook for a few minutes until the sauce bubbles. Add a splash of pasta water to thin sauce, as desired.

  • Sprinkle chopped fresh parsley, ground pepper and dried basil over cooked pasta and stir to combine.

  • Serve it right away with shavings of parmesan cheese. Makes 1 large serving for a very hungry person.

Ultimate Comfort Food

If you need one pasta dish that you can make over and over again this winter, be ready to bookmark this yummy spinach and ricotta recipe by Chef Jamie Oliver. The filling can be used to stuff cannelloni tubes or layer between lasagna sheets and can be varied to suit your preference or to put that bit of leftover roasted chicken from yesterday’s dinner to good use. I like the idea of filling these pasta tubes ahead and saving them for those bad hair days when you come back tired from work and cannot be bothered to cook or do anything else. With this simple bit of pre-planning, you simply have to place the pre-filled cannelloni in an ovenproof dish, spread the tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese and pop it in the oven for half an hour baking time while you slowly unwind from the stress of a hectic day by soaking your tired limbs in a hot, fragrant bubble bath.

SPINACH & RICOTTA CANNELLONI

Ingredients:

400 g spinach

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large brown onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, squashed

2 x 400 g tins of tomatoes

1 bay leaf, optional

1/2 bunch of basil leaves

1/2 lemon, grated zest of

250 g fresh ricotta cheese

1 free-range egg, beaten

2 teaspoons grated parmesan

150 g cannelloni, about 14 tubes

2 x 125 g mozzarella balls, sliced

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Put the spinach and a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over a low heat.

  • Add nutmeg, season with salt and pepper. Leave to sweat. Stir occasionally till spinach is cooked down.

  • Place in a bowl and set it aside to cool a little. In the same pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over low heat.

  • Gently sweat the onion until soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, a few basil leaves and lemon zest.

  • Let it gently simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Squeeze the moisture out of the spinach into the bowl. Place the spinach on a board so as to chop it up.

  • Return spinach to the liquid in the bowl and stir in ricotta, beaten egg and parmesan. Season to taste.

  • Sit the piping bag in a jug, fold its edges over the rim, then carefully spoon the spinach mixture into it.

  • Pipe the spinach-ricotta mixture into the cannelloni tubes and lay them in a 20-cm x 25-cm oven dish.

  • Spread the tomato sauce over the cannelloni. Scatter over most of the basil, lay mozzarella slices on top.

  • Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes.

  • The top should turn golden and the pasta is tender; if the top browns too fast, cover the dish with foil.

  • Remove from the oven and let stand for few minutes before serving with the remaining basil. Serves 6.

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

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