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Roasted Aubergine and Basil Pasta Bake

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Serves 4

300g wholewheat pasta shapes, such as penne or fusilli
olive oil
2 medium aubergines, cut into 2.5cm dice
salt and pepper
1 red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp torn fresh basil leaves or 2 tbsp basil pesto
100g grated mozzarella
green salad, to serve


  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and a dd in the pasta. Cook according to the packet instructions until al dente. Drain well in a colander and drizzle over a little olive oil. Shake the colander to mix the oil through the pasta.
  • Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the aubergines and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and spread out on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Roast for 12–15 minutes, until the aubergine is slightly charred on the edges and soft.
  • Meanwhile, sauté the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. After about 8 minutes, when the onion is translucent, add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  • Pour in the chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  • When the aubergine is ready, add it to the tomato sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the fresh basil or basil pesto.
  • Pour the pasta into 1 large baking dish or 4 individual dishes. Spread over the sauce evenly. Sprinkle the grated mozzarella on top and place under the oven grill until the cheese melts and browns slightly.
  • Serve with the remaining fresh basil or pesto and a green side salad.

The Ish Factor:
Wholewheat pasta is a very easy, healthy swap to make for regular pasta. Wholewheat pasta has three times more fibre, double the B vitamins and 25% more protein compared to refined white pasta. From a texture and flavour point of view, there isn’t such a huge difference that your family will notice. Whole wheat pasta cooks to a nice firm, al dente texture with a very similar taste to white pasta.


Tomato Bacon Mac ’n’ Cheese

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Serves 4


300g dried macaroni

250g bacon lardons, preferably smoked

500ml passata

250g fresh cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)

salt and pepper

1 jar shop-bought pesto

100g grated white cheddar cheese


Cheese sauce:

1 litre milk

1/2 onion, peeled and studded with 3 cloves

2 bay leaves

50g butter

50g plain flour

1 tsp English mustard

freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

salt and pepper

100g grated white cheddar cheese



  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • To cook the macaroni, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add in the pasta and stir well for the first minute to prevent clumping. Cook for the length of time recommended on the packet, until al dente, or firm to the bite. Drain well in a colander, drizzle with olive oil and shake to prevent clumping.
  • To make the cheese sauce, gently heat the milk, onion and bay leaves in a pot. Do not boil.
  • In another pot, gently melt the butter before adding in the flour to form a thick paste called a roux. Stir well for a minute before gradually ladling in the warm milk.
  • Allow the sauce to barely come to the boil before taking it off the heat and adding the mustard, a grating of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese and mix quickly while the sauce is still hot to melt the cheese, then stir in the cooked, drained pasta.
  • Cook the bacon lardons in a frying pan until crispy and golden. Drain on some kitchen paper.
  • In a large baking dish or small individual dishes, layer up the macaroni cheese. Begin with half of the cheesy macaroni, then pour over half of the passata and add half of the cherry tomato halves, if using, and season. Blob on half the pesto and spread it out. Repeat. Scatter over the crispy bacon and the grated cheese.
  • Bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Leave it to stand for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.


The Ish Factor:Passata is a traditional Italian ingredient that is usually sold in tall glass bottles. Passata is uncooked tomatoes that have been sieved, so there are no chunky tomato bits, like in tinned tomatoes. You can also buy versions where garlic and herbs have been added. I use passata as a pizza base sauce, in soups and stews or anywhere I don’t want pieces of tomato in the sauce. Traditionally, better-quality tomatoes are used to make passata and it is considered a superior product.

Pea and Proscuitto Carbonara


375g dried spaghetti
250g frozen peas, defrosted
2 eggs
150ml reduced fat cooking cream
1 tsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
200g prosciutto or Parma ham slices
salt and pepper
50g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tbsp small or finely chopped mint leaves

Serves 4

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the spaghetti and stir. Cook according to the packet instructions, until the pasta is al dente. About 30 seconds before the end of the cooking time, add the peas to warm them through. Drain and set aside.
  2. Beat the eggs with the cream in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in the pan you cooked the pasta in over a medium heat. Sauté the garlic and chilli and stir until fragrant. Add the drained pasta and peas back to the pan. Add the pancetta to the pasta, then pour in the eggs and cream. Put the pan over the heat for 30 seconds to 1 minute and stir vigorously, until the sauce is glossy and smooth.
  4. Season and finish with the Parmesan and mint. Serve immediately.

Perfect Pasta

When Garibaldi liberated Napoli in 1860, he vowed that pasta would be that united Italy! For centuries, all over Italy including the poorest areas, pasta was a staple food that was enhanced with only a few added, local ingredients, whatever you could grow or afford. Pasta has now travelled the food and become one of the most popular dishes, even spawning recipes like ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ that doesn’t exist anywhere in Italy.

Pasta is simply made of flour and water, and sometimes with egg added to it. This might seems deceptively simple, but it doesn’t end here. The type of wheat used is vital, only durum wheat with it’s high gluten content yields a pasta that is firm and has ‘bite’. In 1967 a law was passed in Italy that all dried pasta, including egg pasta, was to be made only with durum wheat. Another example of how Italy protects its food heritage. In countries outside Italy however, there is no such control so it is up to the consumer to select a good product.

The pasta shape you choose is also vital, the shape and texture needs to compliment the sauce you are serving with it. A fine, delicate sauce needs a fine delicate pasta. More chunkier and meatier sauce a short tubular pasta like penne would work well. Pasta can also be flavoured with squid ink, which is delicious with seafood, or mushroom or spinach. The pasta shapes and matching sauces vary from region to region and you can have great fun trying out new types and shapes. 

Pasta Cooking Method:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, about 1 litre to every 100g of pasta. This is essential so the pasta has room to move and doesn’t clump together. Don’t cook more than 500g of pasta at once, you wont have a pot big enough. It needs room to groove!
  2. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add plenty of sea salt. I also add a bay leaf for extra flavour.
  3. Pour in all the pasta at once and stir well to avoid clumping together.
  4. Cook for 1 minute short of the cooking time, testing to check that the pasta is cooked through but still has ‘bite’. Do not overcook pasta.
  5. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving 1 ladle of cooking water. Do not rinse the pasta! You need the starch to help the sauce stick to the pasta.
  6. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pasta and shake. Mix the cooking water in with your sauce and toss through the pasta.