Spaghetti with broad beans and cuttlefish.
Spaghetti with broad beans and cuttlefish. Photo: Marcel Aucar

Spaghetti with broad beans and cuttlefish

This is an ideal spring pasta, perhaps even a rival for my lifelong love of spaghetti with prawns and peas. This dish will come together very quickly, so have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.

500g spaghetti

Extra virgin olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, finely sliced

2 small red chillies, finely sliced

600g (cleaned weight) cuttlefish, or use calamari, finely diced, tentacles cut into pairs

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

200 ml chicken stock, hot

1/2 bunch parsley, very finely chopped

4 large handfuls of double-podded broad beans, roughly chopped

1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until just al dente - keep the pasta on the firmer side as it will cook more in the sauce.

2. Meanwhile, in a large, wide-based pot or saute pan over high heat add a splash of olive oil and fry the garlic and chilli until fragrant, being careful not to burn it. Add the diced cuttlefish, season and fry for two minutes while stirring through. Add the stock, parsley and broad beans and bring to a simmer.

3. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the hot pasta water. Add the pasta to the pot with a splash of the water and cook in the liquid for two minutes, tossing through frequently. The sauce should thicken and cling to the pasta - just add more pasta water if it's too dry. Once the sauce is glossy and emulsified, add a splash more oil, check the seasoning and serve immediately.

Drink: A bright and snappy wine such as riesling or gruner veltliner.

Serves: 4-6

 

Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle with sardines, currants and pinenuts

Currants and pinenuts go well with sardines, perfect with an agrodolce dressing on quickly grilled fillets or in this quick but elegant pasta dish. The cream in this dish disappears into the sauce and adds a rich lusciousness without being heavy.

2 handfuls currants

80 ml sherry vinegar

500 g dried egg tagliatelle

Extra virgin olive oil

5 large cloves garlic, finely sliced

2 small red chillies, finely sliced

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

150ml quality chicken stock

100ml cream

100g pinenuts

2 x 120g cans quality sardines in olive oil, drained

2 handfuls pale yellow celery leaves, torn (optional, or use parsley)

1. Place the currants and sherry vinegar in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and take off the heat. The currants will plump up a little in the vinegar as they sit.

2. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until just al dente - keep the pasta on the firmer side as it will cook more in the sauce.

3. In a large, wide-based pot or saute pan over high heat add a splash of olive oil and fry the garlic and chilli until fragrant, being careful not to burn it. Add the currants and vinegar, season and cook, stirring, for about one minute. Add the stock and cream and bring to a simmer, cook for about 30 seconds and take off the heat.

4. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the hot pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with a splash of the pasta water, bring back to a simmer and toss through. Add the pinenuts and sardines, breaking up the flesh a little, and simmer in the liquid for a minute or so, tossing through a few times. As the sauce reduces and emulsifies it will start to cling to the pasta. Just add some more pasta water if it dries out too much. When the sauce is looking right, gloss with a splash of olive oil, throw in the celery leaves, toss through and serve immediately.

Drink: Vermentino. Try a local version or a fresh and briny one from Sardinia.

Serves: 4

 

Ragu

Ragu alla bolognese with peas and basil

In winter I pack the flavour into a meat ragu using red wine, dried porcini and the like, but this version is better suited to warmer weather. It's still intensely flavoured, but lighter, with a subtle creamy texture.

50g butter

100ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra

1 small brown onion

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

2 small carrots, finely diced

3 stalks celery, sliced and leaves chopped

100g pancetta, finely diced

300g beef mince

300g pork mince

200ml dry white wine

400ml milk

2 fresh bay leaves

1/2 a whole nutmeg, finely grated

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

500 ml quality chicken stock (unsweetened and unsalted)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes

500g rigatoni

1/2 cup frozen peas

2 handfuls fresh basil leaves

Parmigiano reggiano or grana padano, finely grated, to serve

1. In a large heavy-based pot over medium heat add the oil and butter and fry the onion and garlic for about five minutes. Add the carrot and celery with the chopped leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until nicely caramelised.

2. Add the pancetta, stir through and fry briefly. Add the mince bit by bit, crumbling it in with your hands and stirring it as it browns - the idea here is to keep the heat in the pan to make sure the mince fries.

3. Once the meat is browned, add the wine and simmer for a couple of minutes, lifting any caramelisation off the pan with a wooden spoon as you go. Once the liquid is almost gone, add the milk, bay leaves and nutmeg and season lightly. Reduce by two thirds.

4. Add the stock, tomato paste, tomatoes and a tomato tin of water and cook for a further two hours or so - the sauce should have reduced and the flavours meshed and intensified. Check and adjust the seasoning. You can freeze the sauce at this point, but letting a ragu like this stand in the fridge for a day or two improves the flavour so much. You only need half the sauce, so set aside half for later use.

5. To serve, cook the pasta until al dente, warm half the sauce, add the peas and pasta and tear in the basil, and toss. Add a handful of cheese and a splash of olive oil, toss through again and serve with plenty of grated cheese on the side.

Drink: Unoaked sangiovese.

Serves: 4 (sauce serves 8)