Chelsea & Me: Pasta

Chelsea & Me

Chelsea Winter. Winner of Masterchef NZ in 2012, author of three cookbooks, and my go-to gal when I’m in a recipe funk. At My Table and Everyday Delicious are the most-used and most-recommended cookbooks in my kitchen, so I’m making it my mission to try every recipe. And of course, her new book, Homemade Happiness, is on my Christmas wish-list!

Prawn, Lemon, Pea and Chilli Spaghetti
This is a really light, fresh pasta dish, perfect for those summer nights when you can’t be bothered firing up the barbecue. It’s super-quick too.

Creamy Spinach and Salmon Pasta
Another quick, light and delicate pasta offering, one that we all enjoyed. It definitely needs the fresh herbs to lift the sauce.

Seafood Fettucine
For a while, I was making this dish every week – we all LOVE it. It’s so easy, can be made with any variety of seafood, and is full of flavour. My little ones clamour for thirds, while my husband desperately tries to ensure there are leftovers for lunch the next day. This is definite Chelsea Winter favourite.

Seafood Fettucine1

Best-Ever Spaghetti and Meatballs
I make a pretty good spaghetti and meatballs myself, but wanted to try Chelsea’s version in case it was better…it’s okay, nothing outstanding, and my husband reckons my usual concoction is better. The meatballs were a bit bland; the sauce was good, but that wasn’t quite enough to carry this dish over the line for us, sadly.

A Beautiful Bolognese
As above, I make a mean spag bol, but this was definitely worth a try. The addition of anchovies and brown sugar to the ragu is delightful, and adds a real depth of flavour.

Beautiful Bolognese

The Boss Lasagna
Ha, at the risk of repeating myself….well, I’m a bit of a lasagna pro, and my husband will tell you that when I try to mess with my original version, it’s just not quite as good. Chelsea’s version was really tasty though; the addition of Dijon mustard to the white sauce was magical. It takes a while, but any lasagna does. As per usual, this was better the day after it had been made.


Lemony Chicken and Bacon Carbonara
I enjoyed this carbonara, but my boys were all a bit “meh” about it. The combination of chicken, bacon and lemon was fresh and zingy, but they just didn’t like it. Huh.

Lemony Chicken ans Bacon Carbonara

Hapuku on Italian Tomato Linguine
Yum. This was a great dish. The tomatoey pasta was delicious but subtle enough not to overpower the fish (I used monk, due to lack of hapuku), and it was a tasty combination.

Good Green Spaghetti
When I first made this, my boys would have told you they don’t like spinach, but that they looooooooove pesto. So it will come as no surprise that I didn’t tell them that the sauce for this dish was made using 400g of the good green stuff, until after they’d each had second helpings. This recipe is an ingenious way of getting a whole lot of goodness into your kids without them knowing.

Good Green Spaghetti

The Ultimate Macaroni Cheese
I shouldn’t have made this dish…butter, cream, milk, cheddar, creme fraiche, mozzarella, parmesan…not the best list of ingredients for someone who shouldn’t eat dairy! However, I did because my family loves mac cheese, and this was a nice version. There was almost too much going on though, and the flavour was a bit subdued for our liking.


Spaghetti with Mushroom and Bacon Sauce

This is a dish I remember my mum making when I was a teenager, and before I moved out of home, it was the first “recipe” to be written in to my book of favourites.

I’ve adapted the recipe over the years, adding things here and there depending on what’s in the fridge and what I’m feeling like, but it’s always an easy, cheap and tasty meal that everyone seems to enjoy.

Add chopped chicken to up the protein stakes, or omit the bacon and use vegetable stock to make this a vegetarian meal. If you don’t have any fresh parsley, try fresh thyme instead, and feel free to serve this with fettucine (spinach fettucine is especially tasty here!) or any other long pasta.

Spaghetti with Mushroom and Bacon Sauce
 – serves 4

250g mushrooms, sliced
3 rashers bacon, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1T butter, plus 1t extra
2t flour
3/4c chicken stock
3/4c sour cream
1 egg yolk
salt & black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the 1T of butter in a fry pan and cook the bacon and onion until the onion is clear. Add the mushrooms and cook for three minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Over a medium heat, melt the 1t of butter in the same pan; add flour and cook for one minute.

Gradually stir in the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low; stir in sour cream and egg yolk.

Season to taste; add vegetables back into the pan with 1/2c water from the pasta pot  and heat without boiling. Add more water from the pasta to loosen the sauce if desired.

Add fresh parsley just prior to serving over cooked spaghetti.


Fun with Food
Fun with Food is a way for you to share your foodie (mis)adventures with other people. You don’t have to be a superb cook, or produce Masterchef-quality plates of food; this will be a place to share new and favourite recipes, meal plans, cooking on a budget, lunchbox ideas, new products, kitchen successes and disasters (because we all have those!) and maybe some handy tips for getting fussy kids to eat their dinner!

The linky will open on a Tuesday and stay open for a week, so I hope you’ll share your kitchen adventures, and be inspired by what other people are doing in the heart of their homes.

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Toddler Bites

For a toddler such as Tiny, who has two food-loving parents, the variety of foods he has been exposed to from a young age is vast. We started him on baby-led weaning at around seven months, and by 18 months, he was already showing a preference for smoked salmon, ciabatta, basil pesto and paté.

However, as an almost two-and-a-half year old, he has turned into a rather fussy eater, much to my chagrin.

He’ll eat fruit like there’s no tomorrow, and has been known to eat a mound of plain pasta on numerous occasions. He’ll eat roast pork, and risotto, and loves lasagne. He’s not big on vegetables but can be persuaded to eat broccoli, and will chow down on raw carrot if he can dip it in hummus or cream cheese. He’ll always ask for a “chocolate” (Nutella, or similar) or paté sandwich at lunchtime, and enjoys a good meal of fish and chips.

I’m forever trying to come up with meals we can share together, but the battles at dinner time make for an unenjoyable experience, and with a six-week-old thrown into the mix….let’s just say he’s been eating a lot of pasta-and-pesto lately!

Recently, however, I tried two new dishes which seemed to go down a treat. They were both easy and quick, used ingredients I usually have on hand, and could easily be eaten hot or cold – ideal when dinner can take a looooong time.

Mac and Cheese Bites

The first was inspired by Pinterest and Tiny’s love of macaroni cheese. I took my basic mac cheese recipe (bacon, cheese sauce, macaroni), and instead of baking it in a big dish like I normally would, I spooned it into medium-sized muffin pans. The cheese sauce held the macaroni together and the resulting bites were delicious and were easy for Tiny to eat with his hands (cutlery is soooo last week, didn’t you know? Yeah…me neither!), meaning less pasta on the floor, and more in his belly.

The second was inspired by a recipe in ‘River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook’ called Helen’s Egg Parcels.

Eggy Bites

Eggy Bites – makes 12

4 eggs, lightly beaten
2T milk or cream
1t butter, melted
salt & pepper
50g ham, chopped*
half a zucchini, grated*
50g cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 200degC.

Lightly beat the eggs, milk and butter to combine; season according to taste (or omit if you prefer).

Pour the mixture into lightly-greased muffin pans, filling each about two-thirds full.

Sprinkle ham and zucchini over top, and finish with a sprinkle of cheese.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Cool in the pan for five minutes (they will sink down again).

Serve warm or cold.

* Leave out the ham to make these meatless, and add other veges for more substance. Finely chopped, cooked and drained spinach or mushrooms would be nice.

Recipe inspired by: River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook

Turkey Meatballs in a Tomato and Basil Sauce

For a nutritious, quick and easy family meal, you can’t beat meatballs.

They can be made using virtually any minced meat, and the flavour combinations are endless. You can easily whip up a batch of Asian-, Indian-, or Italian-inspired meatballs, depending on your mood and the contents of your pantry, and they freeze really well.

I recently made a big batch of beef and sausage meatballs (with sauce), and gave a meal to a friend for when her fourth baby arrived – and wouldn’t you know it, they never made it into her freezer, because that very same day, she gave birth to her third darling little girl! She said her older kids scoffed them down like there was no tomorrow….everyone loves meatballs!

These meatballs were a bit of an impromptu make; I’d bought turkey mince in the groceries, but hadn’t thought much about what I was going to do with it. Lucky for me, the pack had a web address on it and I was able to find and amend a recipe online, based on what I had to hand.

Tall isn’t the biggest fan of turkey, but he really enjoyed these little morsels – they were so juicy and not at all dry, and the combination of flavours was great.

Turkey Meatballs in a Tomato and Basil Sauce – serves 4

500g turkey mince
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 c breadcrumbs (preferably fresh – mine were in the freezer and I just flaked them in still frozen)
2T fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 c parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1t fresh thyme leaves
1/2 carrot, finely grated
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1T olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g chopped tomatoes (either tinned or fresh)
1 1/2T tomato paste
50g black olives, sliced
1t sugar
salt & freshly ground black pepper
handful fresh basil leaves, torn or left whole

Combine first eight ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Season well.

Shape into even-size meatballs and place, covered, in the fridge to “set” for 10-30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan, over a medium heat.

Add meatballs and brown slowly on all sides; remove from the pan and set aside.

To the same pan, add the remaining six ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. You may want to add some water if your sauce is too dry.

Add the meatballs back to the pan and cover; simmer gently for a further 10-20 minutes.

Add the basil leaves and stir; serve over cooked pasta.

(Photo from as I was too slack to take my own!)

Original recipe from Tegel pinned here

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

On Sunday night, I cooked a roast dinner. Chicken, with all the trimmings (including a horribly lumpy gravy). As I was dishing up the pumpkin, I realised that I hadn’t saved any for the vegetable lasagna I planned on making the following night.

I could make an emergency trip to the store for one thing (gah!), or I could short-change Tall’s lunchtime-leftovers, and keep a few pieces behind…..sorry, honey, but you got heaps of spuds and kumara instead!

I made this baby up as I went along, based on what I had in the fridge and cupboards, and it worked out really well. The only thing I would change next time would be to cut my little eggplants into thicker pieces, as a couple of them cooked away to nothing more than skin, which made for a slightly unusual (and unpleasant) texture.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (with Chicken) – serves 4

6-8 portabello mushrooms, skinned
5 finger eggplants, thickly sliced (or 1 large eggplant)
olive oil
1 bag of baby spinach, washed
2c roasted pumpkin (I threw in a leftover piece of kumara, too)
250g ricotta cheese
100g feta cheese, crumbled
1 egg, lightly beaten
freshly grated nutmeg (or a pinch of ground)
salt & pepper
optional: 2c shredded cooked chicken (I used leftovers from the roasted bird)
2c tomato pasta sauce (either from a jar, or homemade)
lasagna sheets (I use dried sheets that don’t require pre-cooking)
tasty cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 180degC.

Trim any woody ends from the mushrooms; place in a large roasting dish with the slices of eggplant. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender (approx. 20-30mins).

Bring a pan of water to the boil; cook spinach for 30 seconds until just wilted. Drain thoroughly; cool, and squeeze out any remaining liquid.

In a large bowl, roughly mash the roasted pumpkin. Add half the ricotta, the feta, lightly beaten egg and seasonings. Mix well.

Spoon 1/2c tomato pasta sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna sheets.

Lay mushrooms and eggplant slices evenly over the top, followed by the shredded chicken, if using. Spoon the remaining pasta sauce over the top, and add another lasagna layer.

Blob the wilted spinach evenly over this layer, followed by the pumpkin and cheese mixture; spread evenly with a spatula. Add another layer of lasagna.

Spread the remaining ricotta over the top of the lasagna, ensuring an even cover. Sprinkle with grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 30mins, until the lasagna sheets are cooked and the top is golden brown. Stand for 5mins before cutting to serve.

Oh, and did you know that ‘lasagna‘ refers to one dish, while ‘lasagne’ refers to many? I had no idea until recently.

Monkfish in a Saffron and Caper Sauce

Last Friday was Tall’s birthday, and earlier in the week, I asked whether he’d prefer going out for dinner, getting takeaways, or having me cook him something fancy. He opted for the third option, and gave me a big verbal pat-on-the-back by saying, “Well, any of them will mean good food…”

I settled on a fancy-sounding fish dish (he luuuurves fish), followed by a fancy-sounding-but-simple-looking pear dessert; when the day came, he decided to stay for a few after-work drinks, and chowed down on steak sandwiches and pizzas along with the beers. He decided my fancy-pants meal would probably be wasted on him, so that night we had a Spanish tortilla (potatoes, onion, cheese and egg), saving the fish dish until the following evening. I did make the fancy-schmancy pear dessert though, and will be making it again, oh, asap!

The fish dish was every bit as delicious as I’d hoped, and while the ingredients sound rather rich and decadent, the flavours were incredibly light and fresh. I can imagine this paired with a cool, crisp sauv blanc or even a fruitier pinot gris in the middle of summer – yum!

(Apologies for the soft-focus-late-80s photos – was using the old point-and-shoot…never again!)

Monkfish in a Saffron and Caper Sauce – serves 6

50g butter
300g shallots, thinly sliced (I couldn’t find shallots anywhere, so used one normal onion)
500ml white wine
1L fish stock
500ml cream (double, if you can find it; normal if you can’t!)
2 large pinches of saffron
1t caster sugar
50ml lemon juice

600-700g monkfish, cut into bite-sized pieces
25g capers
1T fresh basil, torn

Cooked spaghetti
3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped (I used a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved)

Melt half the first measure of butter in a large pan and gently fry the shallots for 3-4 minutes, until semi-soft.

Pour in the wine, turn up the heat and reduce by two-thirds (5-10 minutes).

Add the stock and reduce by another two-thirds (15-20 minutes), skimming off any scum that rises to the surface*. Keep the sides of the pan as clean as possible to avoid the sauce turning brown.

Pour in the cream and saffron and reduce to half the volume (20-25 minutes); remove from the heat.

Pour the sauce into a blender and add the sugar and lemon juice; season to taste with salt. Add the remaining half of butter and blend for 1 minutes.

Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean, large frying pan. Bring to a simmer over a low heat.

Season the monkfish and poach them in the sauce until cooked through, approximately 6-8 minutes. Stir in the capers and basil.

Serve with cooked spaghetti, with the chopped tomatoes scattered over the top.

*I used store-bought stock, and didn’t really notice any “scum”, but you possibly would if using homemade fish stock??

Recipe: Tom Aikens, ‘Market Kitchen Cookbook’