We all know how comforting pasta is, but we sometimes forget how versatile it is, too. Some are great for stuffing – big shells or cylinders, say, which seem rather like a duvet, wrapped around all sorts of fillings. Others are soft little balls – fregola and orzo – swelling and expanding as they’re cooked. Pasta can also be surprisingly easy to make, especially when it’s all cooked in the one vessel, taking on the flavours of everything it’s surrounded with. So here are three ways with one-pan pasta, to try before we all come out of our hibernation.
Lamb meatballs with fregola and feta (pictured top)
Fregola is a Sardinian pasta made from semolina that has a nutty flavour close to toasted giant couscous. Use it in dishes where you would use giant couscous or orzo with similar cooking times.
Prep 10 min
Cook 30 min
400g lamb mince (at least 15% fat)
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped (120g)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
30g panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
15g parsley, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled, 3 crushed and 3 thinly sliced
1 lemon; finely grated, to get 1 tsp zest, and juiced, to get 1 tbsp
1½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed with a pestle and mortar
Fine sea salt and black pepper
75g feta, cut into 2cm cubes
¼ tsp paprika
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato paste
500ml chicken stock
10g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Put the mince, onion, cinnamon, allspice, panko, egg and parsley in a large bowl. Add the crushed garlic, lemon zest, three-quarters of a teaspoon of cumin, three tablespoons of water, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, mix to combine, then set aside for 10 minutes. Roll the mixture into 12 compact 55-60g balls.
Meanwhile, put the feta, paprika and two tablespoons of oil in a small bowl and leave to marinate until needed.
Put a large saute pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the meatballs and fry for 10 minutes, turning them every two minutes or so, until seared and golden all over.
Transfer the meatballs to a plate and reserve a tablespoon of the fat, then wipe the pan clean. Add the fat back to the pan with the sliced garlic and, with the heat still on medium-high, cook for a minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute more. Add the fregola and toast, stirring occasionally, for two minutes. Pour in the stock, 400ml hot water and half a teaspoon of salt, mix to combine, then return the meatballs to the pan.
Put on the lid and cook for 18 minutes, stirring with a rubber spatula every five minutes to release any fregola from the base of the pan, and being careful not to break apart the meatballs. Remove the lid and cook, stirring often, for about five minutes more, until the fregola is cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Remove the pan from the heat, stir through the lemon juice, then spoon over the marinated feta. Cover with the lid and leave to rest for two minutes.
Serve straight from the pan with the coriander and remaining cumin sprinkled on top.
Ricotta stuffed conchiglioni in pumpkin sauce
This is comfort cooking at its best. If you like, add the brine from the bag of mozzarella instead of the water: it adds a great tang to the sauce. Conchiglioni are giant shells, ideal for holding in the sauce. If you can’t find them, cannelloni tubes are a good alternative.
Prep 35 min
Cook 50 min
For the pumpkin sauce
1 x 425g tin pumpkin puree
2½ tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
500ml vegetable stock
50ml olive oil
¼ tsp aleppo chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Fine sea salt
For the ricotta and anchovy stuffing
2 mozzarella balls (250g), shredded, brine reserved
10g chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp picked sage, finely chopped
4 anchovy fillets (12g), finely chopped
10g parmesan, finely grated
⅛ tsp aleppo chilli flakes
For the crumble topping
50g panko breadcrumbs
4-5 anchovy fillets (10g), chopped
1½ tbsp picked sage, finely chopped
¼ tsp aleppo chilli flakes
15g parmesan, finely grated
1 tbsp olive oil
Put all the ingredients for the sauce in a blender with half a teaspoon of salt and 50ml water, and blitz for 45 seconds, until silky-smooth.
Put all the ingredients for the stuffing in a large bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a heavy grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine.
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5. Pour two-thirds of the pumpkin mix into a round, 30cm casserole pot for which you have a lid (or a large, high-sided roasting tray). Spoon half a tablespoon of stuffing into each conchiglioni and arrange them in the pot or tray; they can overlap slightly, like bird feathers. Pour the remaining sauce over the stuffed pasta, cover and bake for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the crumble and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a bowl. Lightly work between your fingers to clump the mixture slightly.
Remove the pasta from the oven, then turn on the grill to medium-high.
Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly on top of the pasta, then grill for three to five minutes, rotating midway if necessary so it cooks evenly, until the top is golden brown and crisp. Remove and leave to rest for five minutes before serving.
Passatelli with kale pesto and caramelised shallots
This flavourful and humble pasta from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is very easy to make with store-cupboard ingredients. I use a potato ricer with 5mm perforations but you could roll the pasta by hand on a lightly floured work surface. If you like, swap the passatelli for trofie, which has a similar shape. To get ahead, make the onions and pesto the day before.
Prep 25 min
Cook 35 min
For the caramelised shallots
3 shallots (200g), peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
Fine sea salt
For the passatelli
140g panko breadcrumbs
100g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for serving
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 lemons, zest finely grated, to get 2 tsp, and juiced, to get 1½ tbsp
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp olive oil
2 preserved lemons (60g), cut in half, pith discarded and skin finely sliced
For the kale pesto
120g kale leaves
60ml olive oil
Put a large saute pan on a medium heat, add the shallots, oil and half a teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring often, for 20-25 minutes, until deeply golden and caramelised. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the passatelli. Put the panko in a medium bowl with the parmesan, nutmeg, lemon zest, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, then pour in the beaten egg. Mix and knead to form a sticky but workable dough, then cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside for five minutes.
Divide the dough in half, then put one half in a potato ricer with perforations of at least 5mm. Squeeze out the passatelli in 4cm lengths on to a tray (they tend to break naturally when they get to 4cm, but use a knife if you need to). Alternatively, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface: this will take a bit longer, but will work just as well. Repeat with the other half of the dough, then set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to medium, then add the kale to wilt it quickly. Lift out the kale using tongs and save the water to cook the pasta later. Run the kale under cold water to cool, then drain well, squeeze out any excess moisture and set aside.
To make the pesto, put the kale and 60ml oil in the large bowl of a food processor and blitz until almost smooth. Scrape out into a bowl and mix in the lemon juice and a quarter-teaspoon of salt.
To cook the passatelli, return the saucepan of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, add the passatelli and cook forone to two minutes, until they float to the surface. Meanwhile, put a saute pan on medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Using a large slotted spoon, scoop out all of the pasta (reserve two tablespoons of cooking water),put it in the hot oil, and fry for one to two minutes. Add the preserved lemon, then spoon in the reserved cooking water and the pesto, mix well to coat and take off the heat.
Put the pasta in a serving bowl and scatter the caramelised onions on top. Serve hot with the remaining parmesan grated on top.