3 simple pasta suppers – with celery & pepper sauce, sausage, and salmon

Pasta! You can throw a haphazardly selected set of things over it, and just put it in your mouth. Pesto and green beans? No problem. Leftover meat from yesterday? Sure, plus a chopped tomato. It’s convenience wizardry.

I always feel like a bit of a cheat when I post one of those recipes. Oh, sure, the pasta section of Silver Spoon is basically this kind of combinatorial list, but it’s backed by another 1200 pages of great recipes. It’s hard to feel shortchanged by a book with a whole chapter on endives.

Gnocchi with celery & red pepper sauce
(yes, I know those are gnocchi – deal with it)

Which is a roundabout way of saying that to make this post feel a little less cursory, I’ve rounded up three basic pasta recipes. Well, it’s more like two and a half. The first is light, summery and vegetarian – rigatoni (or gnocchi) with a sauce of roasted peppers and celery. The second and third are variants – a basic cream sauce with optional spinach, and either salmon or finocchiona sausage.

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Cassoulet fraud

Cassoulet is delicious. Two of every animal go merrily into a pot of garlic and beans; and they bring you joy. It is also an absolute bugger to make. I don’t think I’ve ever brought it in under five hours. With the weather on the turn, however, I’ve been ruminating on a quick and dirty cassoulet hack, and yesterday I gave it a whirl.

The idea was to use tinned butterbeans and Toulouse sausages, with plenty of veg and some salami. It is, on one level a travesty. Cassoulet recipes may be contentious, but I think trying to call something a cassoulet that omitted both duck and haricots would unite the warring French villagers in trying to make a stew of my innards. Still, I felt that with faster cooking beans and less fiddly frying, I could probably get it down under two hours and still retain much of the joyous bean goo.

I was not substantially wrong.

Not substantially. Tesco were inexplicably out of butterbeans, and the closest sausages to Toulouse were a little suspect. It ended up with haricots after all, which piled a little on the cooking time, but I’m not too embarrassed by spending two and a half hours on a passable cassoulet pastiche.

The first thing is to set the sausages frying, in a big heavy stew pot, nice and low. Forget about them while you prepare everything else – rough chopped onions, carrots, celery, handfuls of herbs, some salami, tomatoes, a splash of stock, and lots and lots of garlic. After that, it’s really just a question of progressively adding things to he frying, and slopping in the liquid ingredients at the end. Then beans, then a hot oven for a few hours. It needs looking in on rather frequently, to make sure it hasn’t reduced too heavily, and to duck the sausages back under the beans, but i’s pretty simple. Breadcrumbs to finish, and you’re done. I wouldn’t risk less than two hours of oven time, though, even with good tinned haricots. Butterbeans, as intended, are probably going to work out somewhere between an hour, and an hour and a half.

It’s worth a try.