Family dinner in a flash

Pennette with tuna, silverbeet and mascarpone.
Pennette with tuna, silverbeet and mascarpone. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Here are some no-fuss family-style meals you can pull together for a fast midweek dinner, mostly from the contents of your pantry.

Pennette with tuna, silverbeet and mascarpone

Mascarpone is a subtle way to enrich and sauce pasta, it also adds a pleasant tang that works so well with the tuna and silverbeet in this dish.

500g pennette (or any penne)

1 bunch silverbeet, leaves stripped and roughly chopped (discard the stalks)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 handful cherry tomatoes

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped


1 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

185g tin tuna in oil

1/2 lemon, zest and juice

3 tbsp mascarpone

1. Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water, adding the chopped silverbeet for the final three minutes of cooking.

2. While the pasta cooks, place a wide-based pan with high sides on high heat. Add a good slug of oil, heat, then add the tomatoes, season and cook for three minutes. Add the garlic, chilli and fennel seeds and cook for three minutes. Add the parsley and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tuna and lemon juice and zest, and pull straight off the heat, stirring through and breaking up the tuna.

3. Drain the pasta and silverbeet (reserve a little of the water) and add to the pan, along with the mascarpone and a splash of pasta cooking water. Season again and toss through on the heat until the pasta is coated. Dress with a splash more oil and lemon if needed.

Drink: Pinot grigio

Serves: 4


Cream of tomato and bacon soup

This soup has creeping chilli warmth with smoky, spicy overtones. It's one of those soups where a slice of quality toast with plenty of butter almost makes a spoon obsolete.

About 350g bacon bones

2 x 800g tins whole tomatoes, drained and juice reserved

3 long red chillies, split

2 red onions, sliced in thick rounds

8 cloves garlic, sliced

5 sprigs thyme

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp ground cumin

100ml extra virgin olive oil

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp tomato paste

200ml cream

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan-forced or 200 degrees conventional.

2. Put the bacon bones, 2.5 litres of water and the drained tomato juice in a large pot. Simmer briskly for 50 minutes with the lid off to reduce slightly. Strain and pour back into the pot.

3. Meanwhile, put the tomatoes, chillies, onions, garlic, thyme, spices and olive oil in a large roasting tray. Season with salt and pepper and bake for 50 minutes.

4. To peel the chillies, use the tip of a small knife to scrape out the flesh. Put the flesh in the pot with the bacon-infused stock. Add the roasted tomato mix and tomato paste and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes.

5. Add the cream and bring to the boil. Remove thyme stems and puree the soup. Check the seasoning. Serve with chopped parsley and buttery toasted sourdough.

Drink: Fresh unoaked grenache

Serves: 8


Quick curried rice with egg, spring onions and peas

Mostly from the pantry, with a couple of fresh additions, this is a tasty dinner when you're in a hurry. It also makes a great side for spicy fried chicken.

250g basmati rice

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp curry powder

3 eggs

60g melted butter

Salt flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 lemon

4-6 spring onions, finely sliced

Crispy fried shallots (from the Asian section of the supermarket or Asian grocers)

1 handful coriander leaves

Plain yoghurt

1. In a medium saucepan, briefly heat through the rice, cumin seeds and curry powder. Add 650 millilitres of boiling water, season and stir. Put on a tight lid and cook for seven minutes over a low heat.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and melted butter together, season with salt and pepper. Take the lid off the rice and fluff with a fork.

3. Scatter the peas over the rice and pour the eggs over the top without stirring. Put the lid back on and cook for a further four minutes, then turn the heat off and allow the rice to sit for five minutes with the lid on.

4. When ready to serve, squeeze over the lemon, scatter over the spring onion, fried shallots and coriander and serve with yoghurt.

Drink: Lager

Serves: 2