#JanuaryJoy: Try making Pasta

One thing that has always been on my must-try list is making pasta and this Christmas my sister bought Pete a potato ricer so he could make gnocchi, not quite pasta but a start. And who knew how easy it was?!

It’s not easy to perfect but the recipe requires nothing more than a little time, seasoning, potatoes and flour, so couldn’t be more simple. This was our third attempt and each time they have been slightly different, but as a gnocchi fan, I’m willing to keep trying… πŸ˜‰

This recipe is taken from Monica’s Kitchen by Masterchef judge Monic Galetti

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main, 6 as a starter)
500g floury potatoes
120g plain flour
2 pinches sea salt
2 tsp mild pepper flakes (we just use ground pepper to season as usual)
Knob of butter
Olive oil (for frying after if desired)

How to:

  • Rice the potatoes and add the butter to the bowl.
  • Sift int he flour then gently bring together without over working.
  • Divide the ‘dough’ into 3 and roll out into long ‘sausages’.
  • cut them into small2-3cm square pillows (you can reshape them unto balls at this stage but I like them ‘rustico’ as my friend Dan says,) and flatten with a fork to create the characteristic ridges.
  • Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil and cookt he gnocchi until they float – 1-2 minutes usually. Spoon them out and drain gently (they are fragile!)

You can then fry them for a bit of extra texture in butter if you’re feeling naughty!

Have you ever made gnocchi or pasta? Will you be trying this one out? Do tweet or instagram me a pic if you do!


15 Minute Sunday Supper…

There’s nothing I love more than spending an autumnal late afternoon few hours in the kitchen, making a roast and perhaps a fruit crumble to go with it after an afternoon sweeping leaves and pottering in the garden. Lately however, I’ve been on the go, morning until evening, packing, cleaning and getting ready to move this week.

Image from JamieOliver.com

I spotted this recipe a while back on the Jamie Oliver site, and thought it looked extremely satisfying (hello sausage!) and suitably autumnal, but also really quick. Last Sunday after a full day of cleaning and packing with Mum, I was ready to sink into a heap on the sofa but had defrosted some sausages for this and knew I wanted something delicious to unwind with on the last, albeit a little chaotic, Sunday in our beloved home.

I needn’t have worried – this dish took 15 minutes, from start to finish and was absolutely delicious. If you click through to the recipe, you’ll see that if you don’t have wild garlic, the recipe can be made simply with spinach and garlic as a substitute which is exactly what we did. The only other amendment we made was to choose Debbie & Andrews Sicilian Pork Sausages (which are amazing by the way!) – from Tesco, which added a little warmth, and add a couple of dessert spoons of parmesan into the spinach and garlic ‘pesto’ for extra flavour. The key however is definitely in the caramelising of the sausages – just yum!

It was super delicious and really quick and simple, plus the recipe made enough for 4 (with a 500g bag of pasta,) so you can keep leftovers or feed a group if you want to.

Let me know if you try it readers!


*Please excuse my pinching the website image instead of showing you mine – it looked very similar and I just didn’t have the time or energy to photograph my dinner that night!

#JanuaryJoy – Try a Veggie Day

I’ve never been a vegetarian and a rare steak would be among my favourite meal choices. Couple that with a husband who LOVES his meat and veggie days are few and far between in my house.

There are a lot of benefits to trying a vegetarian day or week though. You’ve got the obvious positives of packing more of your five a day in and if you stay away from cheese as a meat substitute, you’re often going to end up with a healthier, lower fat meal too. If you want to save a few pennies this January, you can bring down the shopping bill when you don’t have to spend money on decent cuts of meat. So for all of those reasons and simply for the sake of variety in our usual meal repertoire, I thought it would be fun to explore some vegetarian recipes.

Pasta recipes often get a bad reputation for seeming student-y, but I think this one strikes the balance between fast simple food and elegant complex (if rustic) flavours. Plus it has the added benefit of being one of those dishes that you can always knock up with store cupboard ingredients. Taken from a Christmas gift we received, Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery CourseΒ it’s a great week-night meal.

Pasta with tomatoes, anchovy and chillies. (Serves 4)
400g dried spaghetti
Olive oil, for frying and drizzling
2-3 galric cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 dried red chilli, crumbled.
1 x 50g tin anchovies in oil, drained and finely chopped
200g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
3 tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
Seasoning and basil leaves to garnish.

  • Cook the pasta until al dente
  • Heat a frying pan with some olive oil and fry the chilli, anchovies and garlic for 1-2 minutes until the anchovy starts to melt into the oil
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir for another 4-5 minutes until the tomatoes collapse and the ingredients are well combined.
  • Drain the pasta and toss into the pan with the sauce. Toss until the sauce coats the pasta. Season to taste and serve topped with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Do you try to eat vegetarian food regularly and why? Have you got a favourite veggie dish that you make?


Friday Food: Esme’s Quick Tuna Pasta

Just recently I have been the kind of busy that I haven’t been in a long while. Like flat out busy, need-a-hair-cut-but-can’t-fit-it-in busy, turning a blind eye to the house being completely disgusting busy… and one of the first things that go when I’m so busy is decent food. I buy stir fries of pre-chopped vegetables if it’s a good day and something infinitely worse on a bad one. It’s easy to forget that quick food does not have to be junk food. Delicious and nutritious (oh yes, I did just say that,) meals can also be quick.

So if any of you are feeling similarly time poor, rejoice for Esme’s submission, something I used to cook and will now be putting firmly back into my repertoire.

This is a recipe that I made up one hungry Saturday afternoon a few years ago. It is now our ‘go to’ weekend lunch because it’s really tasty, quick and uses ingredients you probably already have. Enjoy!

Image Credit

Ingredients (Serves 2)
150g Spaghetti (we always eat wholemeal pasta because we like the taste, but it’s up to you)
12 – 20 cherry tomatoes
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 tin of tuna
A little normal olive oil
Fresh basil leaves, if you have some
Good extra-virgin olive oil
Parmesan for grating
Salt and pepper


  • Boil a large pan of water, adding plenty of salt. When the water’s on a steady boil, add your spaghetti.
  • Heat some normal olive oil in a saucepan (we use our Le Creuset shallow pan) and when it’s hot, add your cherry tomatoes.
  • Allow the tomatoes to fry for a few minutes. Some of them will split from the heat and some with char a bit – this is good! Squash some of them with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the garlic when the tomatoes are pretty much done so that it doesn’t burn.
  • Your spaghetti should now be done. Drain it and cover it with the good olive oil so that it doesn’t stick together.
  • Add your tuna to the pan with the tomatoes. Also add the basil at this stage, if you have it. Season with salt and pepper and heat it through. The tuna doesn’t need to cook, it’s just nice if it’s broken up and all mixed in with the tomatoes.
  • Now stir in your spaghetti and serve straight onto plates.
  • Liberally sprinkle with parmesan, a drizzle of good olive oil, a few more basil leaves and a grating of black pepper.
I have a feeling this is going to be a popular one… I know I’m always looking for quick easy midweek recipes. Stock up on tuna before Findettes clear the shelves! πŸ˜‰
PS. Read more from Esme here (including her brilliant Kitchen gadget guides.)



Friday Food: Sweet Potato Gnocci

Images by Simone Anne Lang

Todays recipe comes from Design Sponge where it was submitted by Simone Anne Lang. I love this new take on the classic comfort food that for me is right up there with mashed potato and ice cream, Gnocci. Instead of being made from ordinary potato however, it’s made from Sweet Potato, naturally higher in vitamins. It’s all about the five a day people!

Images by Simone Anne Lang

I really like simple, wholesome recipes and whilst this one isn’t easy, I’m sure it could be adapted to using shop bought gnocchi (although that’s not quite the point…) In my kitchen there’s definitely a repertoire of easy quick week-night dishes and also few favourites that require TLC and friends to chat with whilst cooking. This one definitely falls into the later category but I’m pretty darn sure if you can master it, you’d be feeling pretty proud of yourself!

Have you ever made your own Gnocci? I’d love to hear if anyone has a fool proof recipe for regular Gnocci – send it in!


PS – Just a reminder, its a new season and I’m waiting to hear from any of you who might have a recipe to share, something light and fresh, a favourite salad, barbecue goodness, or just a tried and tested family favourite. Please drop me an email on hello@florencefinds.com with the subject titled SUBMISSIONS and if you’re interested in any other ways you could get involved check out the other submissions I accept here.

Friday Food: Red Pepper, chilli and Chorizo Pasta

There’s nothing fancy about this week’s Friday Food but as so many of you mentioned quick easy midweek meals I thought I’d share something that we eat nearly every week in the Norris Household. I can’t take any credit for it… it’s Pete who makes it, and I virtually beg him to. It’s not a special dish, I just love the ingredients and the flavours and while I don’t profess to being any kind of whizz in the kitchen, maybe it will inspire you to create something similar. The dish also happens to be made from basic store cupboard ingredients that you’ll often find in your kitchen. I once read the intro to a Delia Smith book in which she said she ‘always had capers in her larder’ and an amorous fan wrote in to say she could come and caper in his larder anytime! Well, I always keep a chorizo in mine and this is often what it turns into…

Red and/or yellow peppers, sliced (I prefer the long sweet ones)
Half a Chorizo sliced
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 carton of pasata
A handful of sliced mushrooms
1 onion, sliced
1 red chilli, chopped and with or without the seeds, to taste.
1 stick of celery
2 garlic cloves
We also had some bacon lardons that needed using up that got thrown in, and if I ever make this dish, I add a couple of drained dessert spoons of capers, just because I like them!
A handful of basil leaves is also good, if you have them in, but it’s just as good if you don’t.


  • Start off with the chorizo and on a medium heat brown it and release the fat with all the flavours.
  • Add in the peppers, onions, celery, chilli and later the mushrooms. Sweat them down on a lower heat with the pan lid on, stirring occasionally, allowing them to sweeten and soften.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and pasata and allow to thicken slightly whilst you are cooking the pasta.
  • Serve the sauce with the pasta mixed through it, piled high in warmed pasta dishes and with a few shavings of fresh parmesan on top.

What are you making this weekend readers?


Friday Food… Rob’s Mac’n’Cheese with a twist.

Today is a momentous day on Florence Finds as we have a bona fide Friday Food submission from a man! All for equal opportunities here, we realise that the concept swings both ways and interestingly I get a lot of comments when I’m chatting to men about Florence Finds about the Food section. So male readers, please feel free to contribute, women haven’t got the monopoly in this department!

I’m pleased to say I have road tested this recipe since receiving it (delish!) and here it is…

I love all things Italian and nothing reminds me of the amazing times I’ve spent in Italy more than a good pasta dish. I also love cheese (in vast quantities) so I wanted to create my own take on the classic macaroni cheese recipe. The breadcrumb topping is a pretty standard (but really effective) addition for a lot of people so I’ve simply taken the basic macaroni cheese with breadcrumb topping and added some of my favourite ingredients from other pasta dishes. I’ve never seen anyone do basil breadcrumbs before so I’ll gladly take full credit for that idea (although I’m sure someone, somewhere has done it before me!)

*Image Credit: Verses from my Kitchen

Rob’s Mac and Cheese with Spinach, Pancetta and a Breadcrumb, Pine Nut and Basil topping.

Serves 5-6 people

500g dry macaroni

120g dry bread (any kind, stale is fine)
50g pine nuts
25g fresh basil
olive oil

olive oil
100g diced pancetta or bacon lardons (or chopped bacon is fine)
a few handfuls of plain flour
approx 1 pint of milk
100g ricotta
250g strong mature cheddar
good couple of handfuls of fresh spinach

1) Start the macaroni cooking as per the packet guidelines. Keep an eye on it and remove from heat and drain when ready.
2) Preheat the oven to a moderate temperature – gas mark 5 or equiv.
3) Put the bread, pine nuts and basil in a food processor until finely chopped/blended. Pour in a little olive oil to bring together.
4) In a large pan heat some olive oil and cook off the pancetta.
5) Remove temporarily from heat and stir in some flour to soak up the oil – start with 3-4 tablespoons.
6) Return to heat and stir in some milk. Start with around 1/4-1/2 pint. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens. Use a whisk if the sauce goes lumpy.
7) Continue adding milk until you have a good amount of thick sauce – you’re aiming for enough to thoroughly cover the macaroni. If the sauce goes too thin or you don’t have enough, make a paste from some more flour and boiled water in a cup and add this to the sauce. DO NOT add flour directly to the sauce – it will go lumpy.
8) When you’re happy that you have enough sauce with a good consistency, add the ricotta and (grated) cheddar. Stir well.
9) Stir in the spinach until it starts to wilt.
10) Add the (cooked) macaroni to the sauce and mix together.
11) In a good sized baking dish, spread the macaroni and sauce mixture out. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top and spread evenly across.
12) Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are nicely brown and crisp.

Rob Riley (You might know him as Tiffany Grant-Riley‘s husband.) πŸ˜‰

So will you be trying this one at home over the weekend readers?


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