Pasta la vista: Bill Granger's perfect pasta dishes
Carb-packed it might be, but with a little ingenuity and imagination, pasta is a dish fit for everyone from family and friends to Hollywood royalty, says our chef.
Sunday 30 June 2013
It was Sophia Loren who once famously said, "Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti." I can't imagine a celebrity these days ever voicing such love for the dreaded carb, can you?
When people tell me they're giving up carbs for a while, my first thought is, "How are you going to manage without pasta?" It's my go-to meal at least a couple of times a week, but that doesn't mean that I limit myself to the usual tomato sauce. I always try to pack in lots of vegetables and fresh herbs, and with a little ingenuity find we never eat exactly the same pasta twice.
And it's not just my weekday family-meal saviour either; like the Italians, I have no problems serving a simple pasta to friends. Even when made using cheap everyday ingredients such as the ones here, pasta can be a meal fit for kings – or Hollywood royalty.
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
Torn pasta, green beans and pesto
Pesto is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, but to keep the flavours fresh and exciting I like to leave it chunky and serve it with beans, dollops of ricotta and a little lemon. Delicious!
Large bunch basil, leaves picked
2 garlic cloves, crushed
50g/2oz toasted pinenuts
50g/2oz Parmesan, grated
200g/7oz green beans, trimmed and halved
350g/11½oz fresh pasta sheets, torn into 5cm/2in pieces
A squeeze of lemon juice
Put the basil, garlic and pinenuts into a food processor and pulse until you have a very rough pesto. Scrape into a bowl and add the Parmesan and enough oil to bring all of the ingredients together. Set aside.
Cook the green beans in a large pan of boiling salted water for 2 minutes, add the pasta and cook for a further 2 minutes. Drain and stir through the pesto. Divide between bowls and serve with a scoop of ricotta and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Fresh tomato sauce, squid and spaghetti
The secret to this dish lies in the tomatoes – you really do need them to be fragrant and ripe the way only sun-ripened tomatoes can be. So unless you're reading this from a deckchair on the Amalfi Coast, my advice would be scour the shops for the best tomatoes you can find, then leave them to ripen for a few more days on your windowsill for the flavours to become more concentrated.
750g/1lb 10oz very ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp toasted fennel seeds
1 red chilli, chopped
5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
800g/1lb 12oz cleaned squid, scored on the inside and cut into strips
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Handful parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Stir the tomatoes, garlic, fennel seeds, chilli and olive oil into a large bowl and season with salt. Set aside.
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. While the pasta cooks, rub the squid with a drizzle of olive oil. Season and cook in a large frying pan over a high heat for 1-2 minutes, until cooked. Toss the tomatoes and squid through the pasta with the parsley and serve immediately.
Spinach and courgette pasta with anchovy crumbs
These anchovy crumbs are affectionately called "poor man's Parmesan" in southern Italy. Well, it might be cheaper than Parmesan, but it has the same umami saltiness and adds a lovely crunch to this simple pasta.
400g/13oz short-shaped pasta, such as garganelli or penne
1 tbsp olive oil
2 courgettes, cut into chunks
200g/7oz baby spinach
Zest and juice ½ lemon
For the anchovy crums
2 tbsp olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
100g/3½oz sourdough bread, torn into bite-sized pieces
To make the anchovy crumbs, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the anchovies and use a wooden spoon to break up the fillets, then tip in the chilli flakes and breadcrumbs, stirring until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and reserve a ladleful of the cooking water.
Meanwhile heat the butter and oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter is foaming throw in the courgettes and cook for 3 minutes, or until just tender and starting to turn golden in places. Add the spinach and allow the heat of the pan to wilt the leaves.
Pour in the pasta's reserved cooking water and lemon zest and juice, allow to bubble then stir through the pasta, tossing it into the sauce. Serve topped with the crispy crumbs.
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