Recipes I try and love and that above all are easy and not time consuming – great for family meals.

Risotto has to be a kitchen staple in any Italian Housewife’s recipe book and once you have learnt to follow the basic recipe then you are set up for creating some of the most delicous risotto’s on earth. People seem to be put off from having a go as it seems there is a mysterious secret into getting it right. Well one tip is experience, the more you make the better they become as you get the hang of tending to the rice and gently coercing it to cook to perfection and of course the second tip is adding the stock gradually and not boiling the rice.

In this short video I show you the very basic but delicious Asparagus Risotto simply because they are in season and I just had to eat some. To change recipe just substitute the asparagus with a vegetable of your choice, ie courgettes, radicchio, rocket. Other ideas to make delicious risottos are, saffron like Risotto Milanese – makes a beautiful orange colour, seafood, sausage and red wine. Cheese such as gorgonzola and some of the stranger additions strawberries, champagne, and nettles.

The list is endless and if you’d like to add your favourite risotto in the comment section to be shared forever that would be wonderful! Have a look at my video and tell me how you got on!

Ingredients for asparagus risotto

2 handfuls of rice per person

A good stock (vegetable stock if you’re vegetarian)

onion, white wine, asparagus and Parmesan cheese

You can add creme fraiche, cream, cheese and many other rich tastes to enhance your risotto I have purposely left this one delicate and plain, Buon appetito!

Bologna is the capital of the region Emilia Romagna, a region associated with excellent food (the Emiliani will argue that their cuisine is the true Italian cuisine), phenomenal wines, Ferraris, luxury lingerie (La Perla), UNESCO world heritage sites, Prada *sigh* and Parmesan cheese. 

The northern region of Italy, Emilia Romagna offers beaches, nature reserves, vineyards, valleys, mountains, medieval castles and Renaissance palaces but  a stop off in the city of a Bologna is a must.

I’ve been to Bologna a couple of times and on one occasion we were a group of friends on a day trip.

We walked around the centre,  one of the largest and best preserved historic centres among Italian cities. Bologna is characterised by porticos, or covered walkways that stretch out from the city centre for over 40 kilometers and taking in the museums, art galleries and religious buildings. We visited the market which was enormous and amazing and picked up lots of great bargains including clothes, shoes, food and jewellery.

Bologna is also home to the oldest university in Europe dating back to the 11th century. << Fascinating fact alert!


Bologna La Grassa

If food is your thing then the region surrounding Bologna La Grassa (Bologna the Fat) as the city is known has a labyrinth of food and wine trails where you will discover key producers, associated restaurants and museums dedicated to Parma Ham or Parmesan cheese.

For salamis follow the Strada del Culatello, for cheese follow Strada del Parmigiano. Make sure to take in the Lambrusco wines, the Balsamic Vinegar originating from Modena, pasta especially tortelli and mushrooms.

A personal favourite of mine is Mortadella, an enormous sausage, the meat is ground very finely and added to the mix with other ingredients are peppercorns, pistachios, coriander seeds and wine. Sliced as thin as paper and served in a fresh bread roll your taste buds won’t know what’s hit them!

And of course, Bologna is the home of our favourite Bolognese sauce and any Italian will tell you, a proper Bolognese should only be served with tagliatelle.

Formula 1

If cars are your thing then you are in the right place. Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati are all based around Modena and Bologna, made locally and each with a museum to visit.

I visited the shrine to speed Galleria Ferrari in Maranello and if you are in the area and fancy rubbing shoulders with Formula One drivers at dinner then book a table at Ristorante Cavallino.

Bologna is ideal for a quick weekend city break or a longer holiday where you could take in Rimini, a buzzing Adriatic beach well worth a visit.

Take a look at my traditional bolognese sauce recipe

[yumprint-recipe id=’40’]Check out my 10 recipes to make with Bolognese sauce.

Short for time? Make a microwave ragu in half the time and just as delicious

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

Simples, I follow the chart of Superfoods given with the November issue of Good Housekeeping and after a short while I become a super human being. 100% healthy, with energy levels that put my toddlers to shame and above all witty, intelligent and beautiful. That about rounds it up right?

Well, I have been peeking through the mini book and I’m impressed, lots of recipes in there are easy, quick and sound delicious. I’ll go as far as to say I’ve even tried a few now – shame I forgot to take photos of them otherwise I’d share that with you too. I have tried the pork and sweet potato stew, the turkey Trimmed-down burgers and the sweet potato chips.

You see Andrew Flemming, the editor of this baby has it that  by following a diet of Superfoods you will boost your energy (need to do that) you will fight disease (still wary of the Swine Flu that’s troubling the nation) and you will look younger….now that is interesting… I eat = I look younger. I just have to give it a go. But I am not a greedy person and I like to share my finds with everyone so we can all benefit from this. In the season of bad health which usually reigns from November through to March we need to protect ourselves, so here I give you Andrew’s Top 25 products..

  1. Salmon – in pole position just one portion a week for a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids helping to lower blood cholesterol, blood fat levels and cut your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
  2. Blueberries – Outrank all other fruit for antioxidant activity
  3. Oats – Help lower cholesterol and prevent blood vessels furring up, the fibre makes you feel helping to control blood sugar levels and appetite (good for diets!)
  4. Broccoli – Powerful antioxidants disarm harmful free radicals
  5. Walnuts – Contribute to good brain and cardiovascular function
  6. Avocados – my favourite food of all, rich in anti-ageing Vitamin E
  7. Red Kidney beans – Help fill you up, control your blood sugar levels and prevent certain cancers
  8. Yogurt – Excellent for the digestive track boosting ‘friendly’ bacteria
  9. Olive Oil – high in vitamin E, and referred to as liquid gold by Homer (not Simpson!)
  10. Wholewheat pasta – contains 3 x more fibre, twice as much iron and has a low GI
  11. Almonds – Help stave off hunger and control appetite, source of Vitamin E (the one that makes you look younger!)
  12. Turkey – Get this – if you’re feeling low, eat some the body converts elements in turkey to feel-good serotonin!
  13. Tea – It’s as good as water for keeping you hydrated, may protect against cancer AND prevent age-related memory loss!
  14. Oranges – The vitamin C from one orange = 100% of our daily requirement, helps make collagen for younger looking skin also contains elements protecting eyes from age-related damage.
  15. Lentils – have a low GI, can help with menopausal symptoms and increases ‘friendly’ gut bacteria.
  16. Milk – Milk drinkers can have lower blood fat levels, lower blood pressure and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, may also help with weight loss
  17. Pumpkin seeds – Excellent for vegetarians as a good source of omega-3
  18. Spinach – (Popeye!) a 3 oz portion (90g) provides 50% of your daily vitamin C and 90% of your vitamin A helps protect against age-related deterioration.
  19. Garlic – An antioxidant which boosts heart health and wards off stomach and colon cancer, may reduce the risk of catching a cold.
  20. Watercress – needed for making thyroid hormones, it contributes to keeping your energy levels steady.
  21. Dark chocolate – the darker the better. May help lower blood pressure and heart disease risk but show restraint 25g has 138 calories.
  22. Sweet potatoes – contain twice as much vitamin C and fibre as ordinary potatoes with high levels of beta-carotene warding off certain cancers and heart disease.
  23. Blackberries – High levels of phenolic acids which help kill viruses and fight infection
  24. Tomatoes – men who eat tomatoes (juice, soup, pasta sauce) at least 10 times a week reduce their risk of prostate cancer by 35%! Powerful antioxidant
  25. Eggs – For most of us two a day has little effect on heart disease risk or cholesterol levels.

So there you have it. Incorporate these foods into your weekly diet and be sure you are looking after yourself and becoming super human…just like me :) In fact here is the Turkey Burger recipe I tried which is easy, quick and delicious…