RECIPE: Lasagne

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Lasagne is one of the most popular Italian dishes to have reached other parts of the world. In homes across the globe, it is a favourite family meal. There are many variations on this traditional Italian dish, but this version is really easy to make and tastes delicious. Here is how to make lasagne.

Ingredients for Lasagne

  • 650 g minced beef
  • 12 sheets of lasagne (or enough to cover three layers of your oven dish)
  • 250g mature cheddar (or other strong flavoured cheese), grated
  • 1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 jar of white lasagne sauce (or homemade bechamel sauce)
  • 150g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • A handful of torn fresh basil
  • 0.5-litre beef stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper

How to Make Lasagne

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the minced beef to the pan and cook for approximately seven minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mince is browned.
  3. Add the garlic, mushrooms and diced peppers. Cook for a further ten minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  4. Add the tomatoes puree, basil, and chopped tomatoes.
  5. Stir through and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4. 
  7. Add the beef stock and simmer for another ten minutes.
  8. Layer the bottom of an oven proof dish with lasagne sheets.
  9. Using a ladle, spoon over half the lasagne mixture.
  10. Add another layer of lasagne sheets.
  11. Spoon over the remaining lasagne mixture.
  12. Add a final layer of lasagne sheets before covering with either your homemade bechamel sauce or a jar of white lasagne sauce. 
  13. Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top. 
  14. Put the lasagne in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the top is bubbling and golden.
  15. Divide into portions and serve with salad and garlic bread. 

 

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RECIPE: Creamy Chicken, Chorizo, and Tomato Pasta Bake

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Pasta dishes are some of the simplest and quickest to make. That makes them perfect for busy families who want something delicious and nutritious for their tea but don’t have hours to spare for food preparation. This creamy chicken, chorizo and tomato pasta bake is really tasty and very simple to make. Here is how to make creamy chicken, chorizo, and tomato pasta bake.

Ingredients for Creamy Chicken, Chorizo and Tomato Pasta Bake

  • 10oz/ 300g dried penne pasta
  • 3 diced chicken breasts
  • 3 1/2oz/ 100 g chorizo, chopped
  • 400g chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 5oz/ 150 g chopped mozzarella cheese
  • 3oz/ 75g soft cheese
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 oz/ 30g torn fresh basil
  • Salt and black pepper

How to Make Creamy Chicken, Chorizo and Tomato Pasta Bake

  1. Prepare all your ingredients.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220 C/ Gas mark 8.
  3. In accordance with the instructions on the packet, cook your pasta in salted boiling water.
  4. In a large frying pan, cook the chorizo for 3-4 minutes over a high heat until the oils from the chorizo are released.
  5. Next, add both the chicken and the crushed garlic to the pan. Cook for a further five minutes.
  6. Add the chopped cherry tomatoes and tip in the can of chopped tomatoes. Bring the mixture to simmering point.
  7. Add the soft cheese and stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce and has a creamy consistency and appearance.
  8. Add half the oregano and three-quarters of the fresh basil.
  9. Drain the cooked penne pasta and transfer to the mixture.
  10. Stir well to make sure the pasta is thoroughly coated in the sauce and the chicken and chorizo are evenly distributed.
  11. Season with black pepper and stir through.
  12. Transfer everything from the frying pan to an oven-proof dish.
  13. Sprinkle over the chopped mozzarella, the parmesan and the remaining oregano.
  14. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the mozzarella and parmesan topping is bubbling and golden.
  15. Serve onto plates or into pasta bowls and sprinkle over the remaining basil to garnish.  

TIPS

  • Switch the meat– this dish works just as well with diced turkey if you prefer this to chicken.
  • Pasta alternatives– this recipe uses penne pasta, but most other varieties of pasta will work just as well.
  • Fresh pasta– If you prefer, you can make fresh pasta. However, you will need to adapt the cooking time as this cooks in just minutes.
  • Serving suggestion– This is fantastic with a tossed side salad and crunchy garlic bread.

How to Make Pizza Bases

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I love pizza, but my pet hate is frozen pizzas. The base always tastes like cardboard and the cheese topping usually resembles melted plastic. My children also love pizza but were only usually treated to it if we are eating out as I hated keeping pizzas in the freezer.

Instead, I decided to learn how to make delicious homemade pizza bases just like the Italians. There were many fantastic recipes and guides online with great tips on how to make the perfect pizza base.

The children loved it when I started making homemade pizza bases as it meant they could choose their own toppings and decorate the pizza themselves. My kids love getting involved in the kitchen and are more likely to eat all their meals when they have contributed to the preparation. Cooking is an important life skill to learn, a fun way to spend time with children and a great way to teach them about science and maths.

If you want to learn how to make pizza bases so you can make them yourself at home and get the kids involved in cooking, then this is a great video to watch:

Healthy Eating in Italian Restaurants

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Most people enjoy a good evening out in a restaurant.  It is a great opportunity to let somebody else do the hard work of the meal preparation and the washing up, giving you the opportunity to relax and simply enjoy the food.  One of the most popular types of restaurants that people choose to visit is an Italian restaurant.  However, these are famous for their calorie-laden pizzas and rich pasta sauces. This can be difficult for those who are on a diet or are simply health conscious. In spite of this, much Italian food follows the principles of a healthy Mediterranean diet and lots of healthier options are available.  If you are looking for healthier options when enjoying an evening out in an Italian restaurant, then here are some ideas to give you inspiration for making healthy food choices.

Vegetable Based Dishes 

First, the Mediterranean diet is famous for making use of lots of brightly coloured vegetables, such as courgettes, tomatoes and peppers.  If you are choosing a pasta dish, then opt for one that is served with a sauce based around these ingredients rather than a richer, more unhealthy choice such as a cheese sauce as this is laden with fat and calories and will also lie heavily on your stomach for a long time after your meal leaving you feeling lethargic and bloated.

Meat Options

If you prefer a meat dish, then the healthier option is to look at chicken dishes rather than red meat dishes as these are usually lower in calories, whilst still providing ample amounts of protein.  If the meat is served with a sauce then try to choose a healthier option as previously described to reduce the fat and calorie content of the meal.  Many restaurants will also serve food without the sauce if requested.

Accompaniments

When choosing accompaniments to a meal, ask for salad rather than chips, potatoes or cheesy garlic bread, as many people find themselves overfilled by such carbohydrate heavy accompaniments.

Desserts

When it comes to desserts, it’s probably wise to avoid these altogether.  Many Italian desserts, such as pannacotta, are made using cream and are high in both fat and calories. However, if the temptation is too much, consider a fruit salad or a meringue.   Meringue is low in fat and calories, despite being made from a large amount of sugar.  Ask for any dessert you do choose to be served without additional cream, ice cream or custard.

Watch: How to Make Pasta

pasta

In my house, pasta is definitely a staple part of our diet. Not only is this because we love Italian food, it is also because it is such a versatile ingredient that you can include in such a wide variety of meals. Two further reasons we love pasta dishes is that it is a cheap food item and because it is so quick and simple to cook.

When I first had my own home, I would simply buy bags of dried pasta and use these in several dishes a week. However, once I realised how simple it was to make your own pasta and how much better it tastes, I started to make my own. While I have done this using a rolling pin to roll the pasta dough thinly for several years, I was recently lucky enough to receive the gift of a pasta making machine. This has quickly become my favorite kitchen gadget.

It occurred to me that there are many cooking novices out there who are not aware how good homemade pasta tastes and how simple it is to make. If this applies to you, then you may want to watch this quick tutorial to help you become a master pasta maker.