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Oh-so easy veggie pasta dishes

Rachel Allen


This week, Rachel Allen continues with her pasta theme, but goes vegetarian

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Kale, leek and ricotta lasagne

Kale, leek and ricotta lasagne

Chard

Chard

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Kale, leek and ricotta lasagne

Continuing with last week's pasta theme, today I'm bringing a few delicious vegetarian pasta dishes to the table.

Lasagne is a cook's favourite, as it can be prepared in advance to pop in the fridge or freezer for another day, and when it is on the table, it's practically a meal in one dish.

This kale, leek and ricotta lasagne recipe, right, is lovely, but can be tweaked to take other vegetables too - instead of the kale, you could include slices of chargrilled aubergine and roasted peppers.

The thyme-roasted cherry tomato pasta, far right, is a super quick and simply delicious little pasta dish. Admittedly, it's even better in the summer with Irish tomatoes. Of course, meat eaters could always add chunks of browned chorizo, if they wished.

For a really zingy and simple, zesty sauce, try the gremolata, also far right. I love its freshness, and sometimes add a few chopped green olives and some marjoram or basil. The gremolata sauce itself is also wonderful with roasted vegetables - and, for the carnivores, a few lamb chops.

Quick pasta gremolata

Serves 6

You will need:

500g pasta (such as paparadelle, tagliatelle, linguine)

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or a vegetarian alternative

1 Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water.

2 While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Mix together the crushed garlic, the chopped fresh parsley, the lemon zest, the extra-virgin olive oil and the roughly chopped capers.

3 Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, but leave a few tablespoons of the cooking water in with it. Stir in the sauce and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

4 Serve in warm bowls or plates, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or a vegetarian alternative, whichever you are using, to scatter on top.

Rachel's top tip

A great way to clean leeks is to trim the bases and the dark-green tops away, then sit the leeks, top-end down, in a jug of cold water for half an hour. Any soil trapped in the leeks will sink to the bottom of the jug.

Kale, leek and ricotta lasagne

Serves 6

You will need:

300g kale, stalks discarded and leaves chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

15g butter

3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways, washed and chopped - see Tip

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely grated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

350g ricotta cheese

250ml vegetable stock

4 tablespoons pesto

12 lasagne sheets

50g finely grated Parmesan cheese, or a vegetarian alternative


1 You will also need a lasagne dish measuring 18cm x 25cm, or something similar. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6.

2 Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, then add in the chopped kale. Bring the water back to the boil, then cook the kale for 3-4 minutes until it is tender. Drain it really well. Set aside.

3 To make the lasagne sauce, in a frying pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil with the butter, then add the chopped leeks and the crushed or finely grated garlic, whichever you're using, along with a good pinch of salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

4 Keep four tablespoons of the ricotta aside, and stir the rest into the leeks, then add in the drained kale you set aside earlier. Mix everything well in the pan over the heat, then stir in 200ml of the vegetable stock. Take the pan off the heat, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and set aside.

5 Pour a quarter of the sauce into the bottom of the lasagne dish. Drizzle with one tablespoon of the pesto, then place three sheets of lasagne on top, covering the sauce.

6 Repeat this three times, ending with the last of the lasagne sheets.

7 Now mix the four tablespoons of ricotta you set aside earlier with the remaining 50ml of vegetable stock, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and spread over the top layer of pasta.

8 Scatter over the finely grated Parmesan cheese, or the vegetarian alternative, whichever you're using, and bake the lasagne in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until it is golden and bubbling. A skewer inserted into the centre should go in easily, meaning the pasta is cooked through.

9 Allow the lasagne to rest for 3 minutes before serving.

Rachel recommends

If you've frozen the lasagne and find that after thawing, it's still a bit chilled in the centre, it might take an extra 10 minutes to cook. Once it has a golden colour on top, turn the oven down to 180°C, 350F, Gas 4, for the remaining time.

Thyme-roasted cherry tomato pasta

Serves 4

You will need:

24 cherry tomatoes, halved

7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons thyme leaves, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A good pinch of sugar

300g pasta (such as penne)

3 slices of good white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1cm cubes

100g goat's cheese, broken into cubes, roughly 1cm

4 tablespoons chopped rocket leaves

1 Preheat the grill to hot. Place the cherry tomato halves, cut-side-up, on a roasting tray. Drizzle over 4 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil, and the balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle over the chopped thyme leaves and season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a good pinch of sugar. Place the tomatoes under the preheated grill and cook them for 5-10 minutes until they are a deep golden colour and completely soft.

2 Next, place a large saucepan of salted water on a high heat, bring to the boil, then add the pasta. Cook the pasta for about 10 minutes, or until it is just al dente.

3 While the tomatoes and the pasta are cooking, make the croutons. Place a frying pan on a medium-high heat. When it is hot, drizzle it with the remaining 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, then add the cubes of bread, and cook them, tossing frequently, for a few minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Dry the croutons on kitchen paper.

4 Drain the pasta, leaving a bit of the cooking water in it - a few tablespoons. Tip the pasta and the remaining cooking water into a warm, wide bowl, and add the cooked tomatoes, the golden croutons, the cubes of goat's cheese and the chopped rocket leaves. Gently toss everything together, season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then serve.

In season: Chard

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Chard

Chard

Chard

Dark, leafy chard is in season at this time of the year. In the lasagne recipe, you could swop the kale for chard.

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