Here’s my Flashback Friday for this week over at Karin’s Cafe Bebe, prepared with lots of love and scheduled for while I’m away, have a great week everyone!

This was my first trip to Italy and was the catalyst for falling in love with Enrico but also with Italy. I had met Enrico the previous autumn and now it was June 1986, I had booked two weeks off work to go and see him as we hadn’t seen each other since our weekend in Paris back in April and before that it had been January in London. I knew it was make or break this time round as if we were to have a relationship we’d have to at least be in the same country, it figures really doesn’t it?

I flew into Malpensa in Milan paying full whack as those were the days long before cheap flights arrived. Enrico met me in his car which really impressed me, having been a penniless student and now only just starting my way in the work industry a car was like ‘rich!’ On our drive home we stopped off at the bottom of Lake Garda and dipped our toes in the fresh lake, we hugged, we chatted and we laughed as we tried to rediscover the easy ground between us so we could both relax. It’s a very strange feeling meeting up with the person you love after a couple of months; holes need darning, dropped stitches need picking up and bits need casting off but once the click happened we could both relax and enjoy one another’s company.

We went to Folgaria where I stepped inside his family hotel for the first time. I met his mother and his brothers, his sister and aunt all of whom, little did I know then, would become my family. We spent a few days in this pretty, quiet village that hadn’t yet started it’s summer season and then on a whim it was decided that we would join some of Enrico’s friend’s on a weekend trip to the sea, Liguria was to be our destination, a place I knew nothing about.

The drive was about 5 hours and the car was packed to the hilt as we were going to prolong the trip and do a mini tour of Italia. We would be camping. Thank God as I hadn’t budgeted for hotels not thinking we would be going’ away’. My BA flight had wiped me out and all I had was some Italian Lire for evenings out, ice creams and postcards.

We had been dancing till quite late the night before so on arrival our first stop was a beach where eight of us laid out our towels and promptly fell asleep in the hot June sun. Thank goodness I remembered to cover myself in sun cream as one of the guys burnt his feet quite badly.

Rice, cereals, petals, salt and many other natural ingredients

In the evening we walked into the centre where I took these photos. May and June are Holy Communion months and Italy being for the most part Roman Catholic go to town on the event. In this particular town immense work had gone into decorating the pavements that the children would walk the following day in procession to the church to receive their First Holy Communion. Flowers, religious symbols and animals were all represented with flower petals, rice, leaves and many other different mediums. I was amazed at the work and the beauty of such a touching symbolic thought.

We ate at one of the busy restaurants and I let the Italians order for me as they knew what they were doing. I had my very first taste of Linguine al pesto, a delicious so-easy-to-make sauce for pasta made with basil and pine nuts (recipe below) we washed it down with a bottle of white wine (or two or three) also called Cinque Terre. I soon discovered that a plate of pasta was only a starter and already full up I sat and picked at plates of grilled meats and salad not understanding any of the lively conversation going on around me but it didn’t matter I was here with the man I loved and in Italy! I was the happiest girl in the world.

A bit of local info :-

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera in the region of Liguria and as the name suggests it is made up of five different villages all interconnected, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The Cinque Terre is renowned for its beauty; steep cliffs that drop into the sea have been carefully built on with terraces and its charm is more enhanced by the lack of visible modern development. The Sentiero Azzuro, The Light Blue Trail, connects the five villages and the part running from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called Via Dell’Amore the Walk of Love which if you’re wondering, no I didn’t walk with Enrico :) Here is our local Italian Tourist Board where should you be interested, contact them and they can send you more detailed information on the area.

And here as promised is my Easy Pesto al Genovese recipe

Ingredients

3 good handfuls of fresh basil leaves,

1/2 clove of garlic

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

a handful of pine nuts lightly toasted

A generous handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Traditionally made in a mortar and pounded, it can be made with just a good outcome in a food processor, whizz the garlic, salt and pepper add the pine nuts and basil leaves and whizz again. Remove the blade and add half the parmesan and stir adding olive oil as you go – enough to bind and make a wet but not soaked consistency. Add the rest of the cheese and season to taste.

Done! As your spaghetti is finishing put enough pesto in a frying pan for the amount of people eating and slowly heat. Once drained, add the pasta to the pan amalgamate well and serve! Extra Parmesan should be offered on the table and ideally Focaccia bread which is also from Liguria.

Easy AND cheap AND delicious. Remember, you could make a large batch and keep it in a jar covered with oil to preserve and it can be used to top salmon together with breadcrumbs and baked, or pork chops or drizzled over roasted veg.

Here’s my Easy risotto recipe with a video too. Go on give it a go!

If like me you’re a mum on the run and always short of time here’s the second of my pastasauces that are child friendly and quick and easy to prepare take a look at the Tomato Sauce here.

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking to introduce egg into the girl’s diet, they haven’t really taken to scrambled eggs so I haven’t even bothered with boiled yet and they’re not keen on omelets or quiches so a pasta binded with egg and bacon really does cover that. Take a look how easy it is and give it a go sometime

pasta carbonara

My prep consists of cutting rashers of bacon into cubes whilst my pan of water for the pasta is coming to the boil. I cut off the strip of fat and used four slices for me and the girls. In the glass bowl I have three egg yolks (work on one per person) the egg whites are in the fridge but could be used for baby meringues if you have the time (I didn’t!) Add some milk and pepper to taste. I don’t use salt on the girls food and remember the bacon already is salty so no need for any extra. The third prep bowl is my uncooked pasta which is boiled in hot salty water until soft, then drained and added directly to the cooked bacon – see below…

pasta carbonara

While the pasta is cooking I fried my cubed bacon off in a frying pan, I didn’t use any oil as on heating the bacon lets off some fat and water, enough to make sure it doesn’t stick and the meal is less fatty. Once cooked remove from the heat and wait for the pasta to finish, drain it and add directly to the bacon pan.

Difficult to photograph whilst pouring my whisked egg and milk mixture on :) I’ve tried to sharpen the image as much as possible but you get the idea. Whisk up Pour your whisked eggs and milk mixture over the bacon and pasta. Mix well and take off the heat otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled egg on your pasta! The heat of the pan, the cooked pasta and bacon should be enough to cook the egg for it to bind onto the pasta.

pasta carbonara

Serve into waiting bowls and dust with a sprinkling of parmesan. You’re ready to serve!

The proof is in the pudding as they say – here are my two happy customers and luckily I made extra for myself so no fussing around with different meals for me. A healthy and easy pasta dish that’s ready in 20 mins, time for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.

…and not just pasta, it can be used for hundreds of dishes. This is an easy tomato sauce recipe, a kitchen basic to learn off by heart and adapt as you go.

Being a busy mum I always get to about 11.30am and think uh-oh they’re going to be hungry any time now. My usual lunch menu involves pasta – 1. they love it, 2. it’s good for you and 3. it can be served in a million different ways.

I do have shop bought tomato sauces in the cupboard as sometimes I am in a hurry and they come in handy however I also make my own which can be varied.

If I want to increase the girls vegetables, I’ll add a few to my sauce and blitz it all up before serving on pasta, sausages, meatballs…even with fish.

Here’s the sauce and I think you’ll find you already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard

Easy tomato sauce recipe

Ingredients – makes 3/4 litre

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 stock cube
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder or flaked (optional)

How to make a tomato sauce for pasta

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan add the onions and garlic and cook over a low heat stirring frequently until they are soft. Important they are soft otherwise they’ll be ‘crunchy’ in your sauce.
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes (you can use fresh tomatoes  in the summer), puree, stock, mixed herbs and seasoning. If acidic add a tsp of sugar.
  3. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 mins stirring occasionally.
  4. Can be served as it is or can be blitzed for a smoother consistency.
  5. Serve on pasta with grated parmesan.

Variants on classic tomato sauce

Quantity of one batch of basic sauceVariants

Vegetable sauce – add your vegetables (carrot, courgette, celery, broccoli etc) chopped up very finely or grated after softening the onion and allow extra cooking time to soften the vegetables. I find using a lid helps to keep the moisture in which in turn softens the veg more.

Tuna – ‘al tonno’ – after adding your tomatoes, puree, stock etc add also a can of drained tuna to the sauce and allow the same cooking time as the basic recipe. an anchovy or two chopped up finely adds a delicious taste too.

Salmon – ‘al salmone’ – I use the salmon trimmings which can be found in large supermarkets. Again add at the end of the cooking process and serve.

Bolognese – Minced beef, fry off in a pan and add your sauce to make as ‘wet’ as you please, allow to cook for 30 mins so as to draw out the taste of the mince. I have also tried this with turkey mince for the girls and they love it!

Hot ‘n spicy – with or without mince meat. Just add chilli powder or peperoncino to taste. Start with a teaspoon and add as you go. (I haven’t offered the girls this yet but they do eat some off daddy’s plate when he has it!)

tomato sauce recipe for pasta

Ideas for recipes for your basic tomato sauce

Sausage casserole – grill off your favourite sausages leaving the fat to drip out. Pop your sausages into a pan and add sufficient sauce to cover. Simmer over a low heat for 20 mins and serve with mash.

Chilli con carne – Cook off your minced beef, sprinkle with a tbsp of chilli powder add the basic tomato sauce , a tin of kidney beans and cook over a low heat for 15 mins. Serve with boiled rice.

Meatballs – grill or bake the meatballs to allow the fat to drip out. Add to your basic tomato sauce and cook for 15 mins. serve on pasta, with rice or with potatoes.

Two happy customers :) Buon appetito girls