Nonna’s meatballs

500g mince meat (Use a combination of 250g of either pork, veal or topside mince)
1 egg
1 cup grated pecorino romano (Nonna always had bags of this cheese in her freezer!)
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
handful diced parsley
slice white bread (crust removed)

1. Place the white bread in a small bowl and cover with enough milk. Put aside.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and season with salt/pepper.
3.Using your hands, squeeze the milk from the bread and add to the soaked bread to the mixture. This bread helps prevent the meatballs from being too dry.
4. Wet one of your hands with warm water and roll the meatballs into small balls and place on a plate.

The mixture should be moist and not too sticky. You may need to add more cheese or breadcrumbs. This will make around 20 or so meatballs.


500g jar of Leggo’s tomato paste (no added salt)
1L of water
1 small onion diced
Generous pour of olice oil
fresh basil leaves

1. Add the paste to a bowl and use the jar to add 1 litre of water (2 x jar fulls). Mix together.
2. Meanwhile, simmer the  onion in a deep casserole dish with a generous amount of oil. Don’t be shy here. More oil the better.
3. Add the tomato mixture to the onion and bring to the boil
4. Then reduce the heat to a slow simmer, and simmer with the lid almost on allowing for some of the air to escape for about 30 minutes or until cooked through

Serve immediately with your favourite spaghetti or freeze once cooled for a later day.

Garlic prawn pasta

200g angel hair spaghetti
45g butter
1 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tbs lemon zest
12 raw green prawns (peeled, cleaned & halved – tails in tact if you wish)
1 tbs lemon juice
fresh parsley
salt & pepper

This recipe serves two and I find there is not enough sauce with the spaghetti so you may wish to add more olive oil or butter.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water as per packet instructions until al dente. Drain and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan on medium heat and add the butter and oil until the butter is melted. Add the garlic, chilli and zest for a couple of minutes. Add the prawns and cook until tender, about 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the pasta along with the lemon juice, parsley, salt/pepper and toss to combine. Serve immediate.

Inspiration: Donna Hay – Fast, fresh, simple

Fettucini Carbonara

Fresh pasta (see pasta recipe)
120g pancetta – diced
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 medium eggs
100g pecorino romano – grated
olive oil
salt and pepper

Fry the pancetta in a pan with the whole garlic clove and a little oil, until the pancetta is well coloured. Remove the garlic.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with some of the cheese and pinch of salt. Set aside.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and add to the pancetta.

Lower the heat to a minimum and add the egg mixture. Mix well and be careful not to let the eggs set. Remove from heat, add the rest of the cheese. Mix and serve immediately.

Fresh pasta

There are various recipes for fresh pasta using different types of pasta. I use Italian ‘00’ flour and it works well.

400 – 500g Italian tipo ‘00’ flour
2 eggs

Place the flour on a work surface and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and using a fork or your hands, gradually mix the flour and eggs until combined, then knead the dough with your hands until you get a smooth, soft dough. It should be pliable but not sticky. You may need to add water and/or extra flour as you go. Shape the dough into a ball an wrap in cling wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes or until you are ready to use it.

When ready, divide the pasta into four portions and put each through your pasta machine, starting at the highest setting. Turn down the setting after each time and repeat until you get to number 1 and your pasta is wafer-thin. Place the pasta on a floured work surface or hang until ready to cook.

Inspiration: Italian Food Safari / Two Greedy Italians

Basil Pesto

50g pine nuts
100g young basil leaves (wash & dry)
4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves, peeled
200ml good quality olive oil

Use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I prefer the morta and pestle as I have better control over the consistency of the pesto.

  1. add garlic and salt together and start crushing until well mixed together.
  2. Add the basil leaves and grind until well crushed
  3. Add the pine nuts and mash all together
  4. Once you have consistency, add some oil and the cheese
  5. Once you have the right consistency, add as much oil as the pesto will take, stirring occasionally.

Be patient and add the oil slowly.

Fresh pasta with white wine and mushrooms

Fresh pasta recipe + 125 ml white wine


Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
400g mixed mushrooms, chopped roughly
4 tbsp white wine
300ml vegetable stock
2 tbs fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Follow my recipe for fresh pasta but add the white wine when adding the eggs. This will make a lighter type of pasta.

For the sauce, heat the oil in a frying pan, adding the garlic and chilli, sweating gently until softened. Raise the heat slightly and add the mushrooms stirring well for a minute. Add the wine and allow to evaporate, then add the stock and cook stirring for a few minutes until the liquid has evaporated slightly. Stir in the parsley and season accordingly.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta till al dente (fresh pasta cooks very quickly, dried pasta follow the instructions). Drain the pasta, saving some of the cooking water, and add to the mushroom mixture. If the sauce is too think, add some water. Remove from heat and serve immediately with fresh parmesan if you like.

Inspiration: Two Greedy Italians

Spaghetti vongole

1.4kg vongole (baby clams/pippies)
500g dried spaghetti
220ml olive oil
heaped table spoon chopped garlic
½ tsp small chilli, chopped
100ml dry white wine
½ cup flat-leaf parsley

Wash the vongole in cold water to remove any sand/grit.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions.

Heat half the olive oil in a saucepan on medium-heat. Once hot, add the garlic, chilli, vongole and turn the heat to high. When half the vongole have opened, season with salt and add the wine. Simmer briefly until all the vongole have opened. You may need to cover with a lid to make this happen. Add the remaining oil and parsley, toss with the spaghetti and serve immediately.

Inspiration: Italy Food Safari

Orecchiette with broccoli and anchovies

600g broccoli
125ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
6 anchovy fillets
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
500g orecchiette pasta
grated parmesan cheese & extra virgin olive oil

Cut the broccoli into small pieces, not using too much of the stalks. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the broccoli and cook until soft. Scoop the broccoli out and drain, keeping the water to cook the pasta.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the anchovies. Stir and cook gently until the anchovies break up, then add the garlic but don’t let it brown. Add the broccoli, and chilli if using, stir and cook for about 10 minutes, breaking up the broccoli as it cooks.

Meanwhile, bring the broccoli water back to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and add to the broccoli mixture. Stir well and season if needed (the anchovies are salty so you may not need too). Sprinkle a little parmesan and drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Rigatoni & melanzane

1 large eggplant
Garlic, diced
Olive oil
1 x 700ml bottle of passata
Rigatoni (or your favourite pasta)

Thinly slice the eggplant and layer in a large bowl, sprinkling each layer with salt. Place a small plate on top of the eggplant and place a heavy weight on top and leave for about 30 minutes. This process removes the bitterness from the eggplants.

After 30 minutes, rinse the eggplants well and squeeze out the excess water.

Heat a shallow frying pan with a couple of glugs of olive oil. Gently fry the garlic and add the slived eggplants. You may need to fry the eggplants in batches. Be generous with the olive oil as the eggplants will soak up most of it. Have more oil ready to go. Once the eggplant is golden and cooked through, add the passata and simmer for 20 minutes. The longer you simmer the sauce, the better it will taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta per packet instructions. Once al dente, toss with the sauce and serve with parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti alla puttenesca

500g spaghetti
500g peeled tomatoes (fresh or tinned)
2 anchovy fillets in oil
100g good quality black olives, rinsed, chopped or whole, mix it up
50g capers, rinsed and chopped
100g olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
1 chilli chopped (or chilli flakes)
Chopped parsley

Gently fry the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets in oil. Mash the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they are dissolved completely.

Remove the garlic and add the olives, capers and tomatoes. Mash the tomoatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the past per packet instructions. Drain the pasta and add toss with the sauce, heating gently for a few minutes.

Serve with chopped parsley.


500g desiree potatoes
1 egg
120 g plain flour

Boil the potatoes until soft. Drain and pass through a potato ricer and then through a fine sieve. You can do gnocchi with one or the other of these however more lighter gnocchi use both. Leave potatoes to cool to room temperature.

Mound the potato on a work surface and add the egg and salt.

Add a little flour at a time to the potato mixture, lightly mixing with your hands to form a soft, smooth dough that isn’t too sticky. The trick here is not add too much flour at once.

Once you have the consistency, roll the dough out into thin logs, and cut into 2 cm pieces. To do this you may need to add more flour to the workbench.

To create the classic gnocchi, roll them over a ridged butter paddle or a fork can be used as well.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and have another bowl of iced water ready. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they rise to the top. This will only take a minute or 2. Scoop the out with a slotted spoon and immerse in cold water. Set aside.

Serve with your favourite pasta sauce. I think to keep it simple with a passata.

Inspiration: Italy Food Safari / Two Greedy Italians


My Nonna was able to make an incredible lasagne with only a few ingredients. I haven’t been able to replicate hers, so I like Guy Grossi’s as it has more ingredients which in turn adds more flavours, particularly in the bechamel sauce.

I used Guy Grossi’s as a guide however made the following changes to the sauce:

500g topside mince
500g pork mince
700ml passata
100ml red wine
500ml chicken stock/water
Dried oregano leaves

The main difference is the type of mince and substituting passata for less chicken stock/water. I also didn’t have any parsley or basil so used dried oregano instead. As long as you cook the sauce for an hour or so it should taste amazing with only a few ingredients. My Nonna would also use an onion, mince, tomato paste, seasoning and water in her sauce and it was always so tasty.

With the bechamel sauce, be patient, as it may take some time to thicken. I placed a lid on the saucepan, checking/stirring it regularly to make sure it wasn’t getting too lumpy whilst it thickened.

Layer your lasagne as per the recipe.

Inspiration: Nonna / Italian Food Safari

Fettuccine with basil pesto, potato & green beans

I really like this variation of basil pesto pasta. I recommend making your own pesto rather than buying it from a shop. When making pesto, don’t rush the process. Be patient when using the mortar and pestle and enjoy the smell of the flavours combining as you grind the ingredients together. The best part is at the end, when you get to add as much olive oil as the pesto will take.

Inspiration: Italian Food Safari

2 thoughts on “Pasta

  1. Pingback: My nonna’s meatballs | Cooking with the Shetland

  2. Pingback: Fresh pasta | Cooking with the Shetland

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