Passionate about Pasta!

Well, we are coming up to that week where lovers all over the world go crazy sending flowers to their loved ones!

But in this household, we celebrate with food!! I am crazy about my hubby and equally crazy for pasta – seriously, give me pasta morning, noon and night and I am your gal!

While visiting my friend in Queensland, who had just recently given birth to her second child, I offered to cook dinner for the family (it’s my way of saying – I love you and appreciate our friendship). I wanted to cook a meal that everyone would enjoy, especially her fun-loving 3 year old who insisted he would help me prepare dinner.

Pulling up a chair against the kitchen bench, little Zion looked like he had done this before. Rolling up his ‘sleeves’ and arming himself with a butter knife, he was ready to tackle any job I gave him – no fear, no apprehension – “just give me that tomato and I will give you a tomato dish to die for” were his gestures. What a man!

Spaghetti Bolognese has got to be one of the easiest dishes to prepare and definitely one of the tastiest while growing up as a kid. Oh how we would sit at the table eagerly awaiting our bowl-fuls of pasta and generous helping of pasta sauce. Ah..those were the days!

Today, I have altered the recipe slightly from the way my mum would make it, adding fresh tomatoes and lots of fresh herbs, which I believe, adds natural flavour and never do you need to add copious amounts of salt.

Whether I am using lamb mince, or leg of lamb, I slow-cook the meat for at least an hour in a rich tomato sauce to bring out the flavour and to create a tender meat that falls off the bone.

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I recently made one of my favourite dishes, Youvetsi, a slow cooked lamb dish with risoni. But this time we made it in the woodfire oven. I tell you, this dish was unbelievably tender that my husband and I were drooling over it like we’d never seen such a thing!

We had the fire roaring at about 200*C before placing the lamb in the tomato base sauce covered with foil in the oven. It took around 2 hours to slowly cook. Pulling out the baking dish, we add a small pasta called, Risoni. We added a cup of water and re-covered it and cooked for another 15 minutes. When it came out, the pasta was creamy and perfectly cooked. I wouldn’t mind some right now! 

But seriously, cooking any pasta dish is relatively easy and worth the effort.

In my recently released cookbook, In Sofia’s Kitchen: Mediterranean Flavours Down Under there are a few pasta recipes in there, so I encourage you to get the book and go straight to page 115 for the Creamy Chicken Pasta – you will not regret it!

All these pasta dishes freeze well, so leftovers are the best as we say in our household. And seeing we are having an ongoing heat wave of 40*C days, you don’t want to be cooking over a burning hot stove. Just pull the left overs out of the freezer, cut a fresh salad, pull apart some sour dough bread and there my friends you have a scrumptious and very comforting meal!

And I can’t leave you hanging...below is my version of Spaghetti Bolognese.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 small red chilli, sliced thinly

1 teaspoon Lebanese spice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ kg lamb mince

1 cinnamon stick

1 whole nutmeg

3 roma tomatoes, chopped into small chunks

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ cup chopped basil

500g spaghetti

100g feta, crumbled

¼ cup mizithra, grated

Method

1.    Heat oil in medium size pot. Add onion and garlic and cook until transparent. Add chilli and spices stirring to coat onion and garlic.

2.    Add mince and brown lightly.  Add cinnamon stick, whole nutmeg, tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Add 1 cup water and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

3.    Just before mince is ready, cook spaghetti according to packet instructions.

4.    Place pasta in individual bowls, top with mince and crumble feta and mizithra on top.