It nearly seems a bit silly writing a post about this because it is such an everyday occurrence for me to throw together a dinner using bits and bobs from the fridge and kitchen cupboards, but I so often hear people saying that they can't cook and I am a firm believer that practise makes perfect. I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe with you all in a bid to get the non-cookers, well, cooking! If you can often be heard uttering the words "I can't cook" then start turning it around now and start with this simple and accessible recipe. I promise, you will thank me later.
Some of the nicest meals we have in our house are ones that are sort of just thrown together. I always loved those dinners when I lived at home. My mam would say we were having a 'makey upey' dinner and we all knew that this was going to be a dinner comprising of various odds and ends that were left in the fridge, freezer and presses and they were some of the tastiest dinners ever. There was always seven of us in the house and somehow my mother always managed to whip up something that everyone would enjoy.
When it comes to cooking and flavours, some things just really work well together and with a few simple ingredients you can really put together a beautiful meal that is inexpensive and delicious. It is also a great way of ensuring that you don't waste food. That was one of my resolutions for this year, not to waste food! We used to go food shopping and I would get excited by various 'bargains' and cleverly marketed products and then I began to ask myself "when specifically am I actually going to use this product over the next week?". It might sound boring but it really is the only way. I would buy punnets upon punnets of beautiful fresh fruit, way too many yoghurts and lots of fresh vegetables, and so much of it ended up being thrown out because sometimes there just are not enough days in the week. It is really important to be clever when buying perishable goods. When I'm buying the likes of mushrooms, peppers, and courgettes I buy them with meals in mind. These just happen to be my favourite vegetables because they can literally be thrown in to anything whether it's a pasta dish, a curry, chilli con carne, or a stir-fry! I am the kind of person that has to have vegetables with my dinner. A curry wouldn't feel right to me without some sort of vegetables in it. Don't get me wrong, I would eat it but if I had the choice I would usually add mushrooms, peppers and courgette or even just one of the above. That's probably something I learned from my Slimming World days (soon to be resumed when my lovely baby enters the world May 2014). I just love vegetables and I think if people look outside the box and think about interesting ways of using them (instead of just boiled, soggy and lacking in flavour) then suddenly vegetables actually become quite exciting.
Anyway, without babbling on too much, I give you... Pesto Spaghetti. This is just a really good example of a mid-week dinner that can be made using various things that are looking sad in your fridge and are nearing the point of being considered waste. It is a gorgeous dish, comforting and packed with tonnes of flavour, great colours and nice textures. I swear to you it is as nice as anything you would order in a restaurant (if I do say so myself).
You Will Need
- Spaghetti, any type (of course wholemeal would be healthier)
- Pesto, any type (we had a cheap jar from Aldi in the press, it was only €1.30)
- Handful of mushrooms
- Handful of Peppers (any colour, any type)
- 2 gloves of garlic
- 3 rashers, smoked preferably (we just happened to have 3 left in a packet)
- Sprinkling of cheese, we had a cheap €1.15 bag of Mozerella from Lidl
- First things first, let's be clever with our time here and get the pasta on straight away. Fill a large saucepan with boiling water and a pinch of salt and add in the desired amount of spagetti. It usually takes about 10 minutes to cook. I enjoy my Spagetti Al Dente (soft with a bite) and I don't enjoy it when it is over-cooked. Keep an eye on it and taste it after 7/8 minutes of boiling time.
- Chop the peppers, mushrooms, bacon, and garlic and add to a hot frying pan with either Olive Oil or 1kcal Frylight Spray. Continue to stir through and let the flavours develop. The aroma of the mixture of the frying vegetables, garlic and smoked bacon is divine.
- When the spagetti is cooked to your desired consistency drain it but reserve some of the pasta water. This is a trick I learned from Jamie Oliver (not personally, I wish!) but it basically helps the sauce stick to the pasta because of the starch in it. Reserving some pasta water for any pasta dish works a treat. Good tip there!
- When your bacon and vegetables have cooked, add them to the saucepan of cooked spagetti (and the little bit of pasta water) and mix through.
- Add about 3-4 tablespoons of pesto to the pot and mix through. Give it a really good mix to ensure all pasta is coated in the pestoey goodness and add more pesto if you wish.
- Serve on a nice white plate and sprinkle with your desired cheese. Mozzerella or Parmesan work best.
- Enjoy and be very proud of yourself because this is GOOD.
Total Cooking and Prep Time
20 minutes from start to finish, and that even included washing the saucepan and frying pan. Just call me Nigella!
- or the likes of pesto I would always recommend buying them in Lidl or Aldi. They are always inexpensive and I have tried it from both shops and it has always been lovely. Inexpensive does not mean bad quality. Be smart with your money!
- Don't enjoy chopping peppers? Dunnes Stores do a really handy bag of frozen already chopped peppers. No preservatives or crap added to it, literally just frozen chopped peppers in a variety of colours and it is so incredibly handy to throw them in to any kind of stew, curry or pasta dish. I highly recommend these. You just take the handful that you need and pop them back in the freezer with no fear of wasting fresh vegetables.
- When you go shopping have even two or three meals in mind that can give your shopping list a bit of structure. For example this week we planned to make a curry, a chilli con carne and meatballs with pasta (Lidl's meatballs are gorgeous) and then if we saw something on special offer we got it to include as another meal during the week. Chances are one evening will be a take away or eating out (or perhaps at a friend or family members house) and it is always handy have a bag of pasta and a jar of pasta sauce in the press at all times because you can whip up a gorgeous dinner in just minutes when you are not in the mood to cook something too fancy (though none of it is really fancy, I am all about convenience but in the right way. You can be healthy and still make quick and delicious meals with wholesome fresh products.) If you're making pasta and sauce don't forget to add some veg and some cheese on top when serving as it really takes it up a notch.
Did you like this post? For all you Pasta lovers out there I have a fabulous recipe for guilt-free Carbonara which I am happy to post. I'd like to include regular recipe posts, but only if people enjoy reading them. This blogging business is all trial and error really so all feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading guys :)