February 4, 2017 — Family Food
Pete has a fond memory of this classic tea-time pasta dish by his Nanna. As he says, it’s a pasta, with a ‘thin’ tomato sauce, served with grated cheddar. The secret to this unassuming pasta is that it is easy and enjoyable to eat as well as being very digestible. It fills without making you feel full. The other secret is cheddar cheese, of which there should be plenty for freely applying to the pasta.
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400g good quality spaghetti
2 tins (390g) of artichoke hearts
1 tin (400g) chopped or whole plum tomatoes
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
4 garlic cloves
400ml chicken stock
4 small bay leaves
1 tsp dried oregano
300g grated cheddar
Store cupboard: salt, pepper, olive oil
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Nonna’s classic pasta recipe
This recipe is inspired by the type of tomato sauces the boy’s Nanna cooked. We can assume that this was as genuine as home-style Italian cooking got in our house. In my attempts to learn new kitchen skills and build flavours, I developed a bolder richer style of my own, good in its way, but perhaps lacking the homely, honest goodness of this type of simple but satisfying food.
Here, less is positively more… Nanna knew exactly what the best food was for young growing boys – her teas were always social, settling, and nourishing. So don’t consider this a cheat. It’s just good cooking.
Recipe: Put the tomatoes into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer add a tablespoon of olive oil and put the lid on stir often, simmer for 15 minutes. Put a large heavy- bottomed pan on medium high heat. Chop the onion and add to the pan with a good glug of light olive oil, stir. Chop the celery and add to the onions. Then smash, peel and chop the garlic and add to the onions and celery, add the bay leaves to the pan, stir and fry for 10 minutes, stirring often. Boil the kettle. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick frying pan, drain the artichokes and slice in half and add to the frying pan with a good glug of oil. Brown for 5 minutes. Fill a large pan with the boiling water and add teaspoon of salt to the water and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Add the stock to the fried onions, celery and garlic and increase the heat to bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes to the pan. Drain the artichokes of oil and add to the sauce. Add the oregano, stir and simmer for 10 minutes, taste and season. Drain the pasta, reserving some cooking liquid. Toss the sauce and pasta together in a large pan or serving dish. Serve with grated cheese, crusty bread and a green salad.
Tips: It’s worth mentioning the lightness of this style of cooking. The sauce is a tomato sauce but not in the way that it smothers the pasta with thick red gloopy yet harsh sauce. This style is light and thin.
Optional ingredients: You can use artichokes from the deli counter or a jar – but drain them well. I would avoid the charred type. Using stock is important for this recipe. Either use homemade, ready-made from a store, a tin of chicken consomme, or a stock cube to make-up a stock (follow the instructions and adjust extra salt to taste – most cubes are very salty).
Notes: The trick to this recipe is that the pasta almost becomes a carrier for the cheese.
Finessing the recipe: Replace 100ml of stock with white wine – boil this to evaporate the alcohol before adding the stock. Chopped parsley would be good. Replace cheddar with grated parmesan. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil goes well on the rice.
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