Mark Hix: A light touch with pasta

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Pasta doesn't have to mean heavy, high-carb dishes – our resident chef creates delicious and healthy recipes for summer

We always tend to regard pasta as a quick and filling high-carb energy fix – but in its various different guises it can also be served as a light summery dish or even a salad served at room temperature.

We've all tucked into one of those dire tuna and sweetcorn pasta salads at some point in our lives, so why not take it up a notch or three and create something a bit more classy with fresh ingredients?

I love experimenting with different types of pastas and Asian and Italian noodles, both dried and fresh.

Fregola with peas, broad beans and herbs

Serves 4-6

Fregola is a versatile Sardinian pasta similar to couscous. It can be used in hot dishes in the same way as pasta, or in a tabbouleh-type of dish like this as a starter, accompaniment or part of a buffet.

50g fregola
A handful of chopped parsley
A handful of chopped mint
4-5 spring onions, finely sliced
80g podded weight of peas, cooked
80g podded weight of broad beans, cooked
The juice of approximately two lemons to taste
100ml olive oil

Cook the fregola in simmering, lightly salted water for 10-12 minutes, then drain. Mix with all of the other ingredients and add enough lemon juice to taste, then season.

Shirataki noodles with cucumber and ponzu

Serves 4

These are delicious, translucent noodles made from the ground root of the yam. They have no bad carbs and are great for those who have problems with blood sugar and cholesterol.

You can even use these to create a dessert – perhaps tossed in a ginger-flavoured fruit syrup or mixed with passion-fruit pulp.

One-third of a cucumber
150g drained weight of shirataki noodles
2tbsp dark ponzu vinegar
2 spring onions, finely sliced
A couple of good pinches of Japanese chilli flakes

Cut the cucumber into 5cm lengths, then thinly slice around the seeds and cut the slices into matchstick-like shreds. Cook the noodles in boiling, salted water for 2-3 minutes and drain; toss the cucumber in a bowl with the noodles, while they are still warm, with the ponzu and spring onion. Season and serve in a bowl scattered with the Japanese chilli flakes.

Gnocchi with tomatoes and basil

Serves 4

Gnocchi is a kind of pasta for potato-lovers and pretty straightforward to knock up at home – just make sure that you buy nice floury potatoes, otherwise you will end up with a bowl of glue.

100ml olive oil
300-350g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A few sprigs of basil or Greek basil

For the gnocchi

600-700g large floury potatoes, cooked in their skins, peeled and mashed
40g grated parmesan
1 medium egg
1 medium egg yolk
125g potato flour
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
A good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
60g butter to serve
Grated parmesan or pecorino to serve

First make the gnocchi. Gently mix all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Scoop into rough balls about the size of a 10 pence piece with a teaspoon, then with a fork flatten them slightly, and roll them into a rough tubular shape; leave to rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes on a low heat until the tomatoes are just starting to fall apart; season and put to one side.

Bring a large pan of boiling, salted water to the boil and cook the gnocchi for 3 minutes, then carefully drain and toss in the butter. To serve, spoon the tomatoes on warmed serving dishes or bowls, arrange the gnocchi on top and scatter over the basil. Serve with the parmesan.

Ink pasta with samphire and squid

Serves 4

Samphire adds a nice summery crunch to a pasta dish like this. You can serve this hot or at room temperature and the black, green and white colours look great together. Ink pasta normally comes in fine cuts like fettuccine or linguine.

4 servings of ink pasta
100ml olive oil
200g cleaned weight of squid with the tentacles
1tsp chilli flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100-120g samphire, cleaned and rinsed
The juice of a lemon

Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's instructions, then drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a pan, season the squid and gently cook on a low heat with the chilli and samphire for a couple of minutes, stirring as it's cooking; remove from the heat, toss with the pasta, re-season if necessary and squeeze in the lemon juice to taste.

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