Homemade pasta with stuffed beef rolls in a tomato sauce(ragu)

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Weekends when I was younger consisted of timing our visit to my Nan’s house just in time for her to dish us up dinner.

And Saturdays in our curious Italian-Anglo family deep in the heart of Wiltshire was always pasta day.

Sometimes homemade pasta, sometimes not but always delicious.

My Nan was from a tiny village near Naples and what she didn’t know about cooking pasta, pizza and vegetables didn’t warrant knowing.

As I got older, I’d turn up earlier and earlier on these Saturdays and she would put me to work – helping to make pasta and the meatballs that may accompany it or grating so much parmesan that my hand would ache.

When I finally moved into my house, she bought me a pasta machine back from one of her trips home and it is one of my most treasured possessions.

I was overwhelmed with a wave of nostalgia for those Saturdays and my Nan, who died five years ago, last week while watching Two Greedy Italians – chefs Gennaro Contaldo and Antonio Carlucchio’s new BBC2 show.

They visited Naples and the Amalfi coast – a trip I had made with my Nan and Gramp, a Wiltshire man who’d fallen in love with the Mediterranean visitor when she came to work in a hospital in England in the 1950s.

She’d taken me to visit her family home in Candida when I was nine and I loved every second of it.

So, spurred on by this memory, I decided to make my family a sample of what was a typical meal when I was a child.

Stuffed Beef Rolls

Cheap, thin cut, quick fry steaks – I had under 500gs for this recipe and it was enough for 2 adults and 2 children.

Sliced garlic cloves (around five thin slivers per piece of steak

Flat leaf parsley

Grated parmesan cheese (I had a mix of parmesan and its cheaper alternative Grana Padano)

Salt and pepper

A little dried or fresh oregano

Cocktail sticks.


Take the steak, cut into 8-10cm in length and 5c-7cm wide strips and bash with a rolling pin until thin and beaten.

Season the strips of steak with salt and pepper.

Take the garlic slices and place around 4-5 on each piece of steak, followed by a generous sprinkle of parmesan and top with the flat leaf parsley.

Roll up and fasten the meat with a cocktail stick.

Seal the parcel in a frying pan and then leave on a plate until you are ready to place them in the tomato sauce to cook for around three hours.

Tomato Sauce (ragu)

This is a really simple sauce and the base for all my pasta sauces. There’s only a few tips I can give you. Cook it for three hours minimum and buy the best quality tinned tomatoes and passata that you can afford. If you buy cheap, watery tomatoes, then your sauce will be cheap and watery.

As this sauce will serve at least ten people, there is plenty leftover for freezing for quick and easy meals later in the week or perfect for use as a pizza sauce (which is what I’m making my family tonight!).

2 of the small tins of concentrated tomato puree

2 tins for top quality tinned tomatoes – like Ciro or Fortuna. Even Napolina is nice.

1 jar of passata.

2 cloves of garlic

1 small finely chopped onion (if you wish, I don’t use onion in my pasta sauces as my Nan never did.)

Gently fry the chopped garlic (and onion if you have opted for it)  in some olive oil in a large pan with a lid.

Add in the tinned tomatoes.

Dilute the tomato puree in a little warm water and add to the frying garlic and tomatoes.

Then add in the passata, stir together and add in the beef rolls previously made and sealed.

Lid on and cook on a low heat for three hours. Season with salt to taste at the end of the cooking time. I usually use around 4-5tsps but it is dependent on taste.

Homemade pasta

115g Type O (sometimes called Pasta Flour) Flour

1 egg

This will make 1 serving of pasta. On Saturday I used 345g Flour and 3 eggs. It made more than enough for me and my husband with some leftover too. The leftovers would have made two child portions.

Put half of the flour into a bowl and add in the egg/s.

Mix together with a spoon until it forms a dough and gradually add more of the remaining half of the flour until you get a pliable ball of dough.

Tip all the contents onto a clean, dry surface and knead together, adding more flour until it is not sticky.

Once the ingredients are combined, place in a dry, clean tea towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

You can either use a pasta machine or a rolling pin to roll out your dough and make the shapes you require.

Once the dough is rolled out to the required thickness, leave the sheets to ‘dry’ a little for 30 minutes – 1hr. The pasta will cut better then.

Once cut, the pasta should be left to dry for a further hour or so before cooking.

Boil some salted water and throw the pasta in for 3-4minutes before adding to some sauce and serving.

Traditionally in Italy, the pasta is a first course with the sauce and the meat is then served as a second course with salad.


Creamed Leek Tart

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Yum. Yum. Yum.

That’s all I can say about this recipe. Just delicious. Be warned it makes a massive tart – halve the recipe if you just want something for a family of four to eat and you would still have some leftover.

Excellent for an alternative to meat for vegetarians at your next BBQ …. well, it’s nearly Summer, right?!


  • 300g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 140g unsalted butter , cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 medium egg
  • 4 tbsp iced water

Tart insides

  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 800g leeks , sliced lengthways then into 2.5cm/1in pieces
  • ½ tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml milk
  • 200ml double cream
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 4 medium egg yolks , beaten together with the other eggs
  • 100g Gruyère , grated (I used Welsh cheddar)
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  1. Pulse the flour and butter in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Add the egg yolk and water, and bring together into a ball. Do not knead. Roll the pastry in cling film and chill for at least 1 hr.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pan, then add the leeks. Cook over a low heat for 20-25 mins until soft, stirring often. Season to taste. Stir in the flour, cook for 3-4 mins, stirring, then stir in the milk and cream. Once smooth, simmer for 15 mins to cook out the flour. Season well, then cool. If making ahead, cover the surface with cling film and chill for up to 2 days. Stir the eggs and egg yolks into the mix, along with the grated cheese and the mustard.
  3. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to about 5mm/¼in thick, and gently lay it over a 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Using a small ball of pastry to help, gently press the pastry into the sides of the tin. Trim, leaving a slight overhang. Line the pastry with baking paper, fill with baking beans, then bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and paper, and bake for 10 mins more or until golden and biscuity. Cool on a wire rack. Turn oven down to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  4. Spoon the leek mix into the case and smooth the top. Bake for 30 mins until set and golden. Rest the tart for 15-20 mins before you slice it, and serve warm. If making ahead, chill the tart. Once cooled, for up to 2 days, or freeze for a week. Defrost in fridge, then warm in the oven for 20 mins before serving.