Pasta with fresh tomato cream and sausage

Image shows a large bowl of casarecce pasta with a tomato cream and sausage sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan, and steam coming off the top

Fresh tomatoes are incredibly versatile and it is so quick and easy to make tasty pasta sauces with them, it’s hardly worth buying any tinned varieties (though they have their place in every kitchen, of course, and are a very cost-effective way to make pasta sauces). Although I call the sauce a ‘tomato cream’ – crema di pomodoro, there is no cream in this recipe. The creaminess comes entirely from the tomatoes and the cooking method (‘risottare‘ – see below).

For this recipe, I used Italian fennel sausage, which I think works best. If you can’t get any, try to get a high meat and high fat content sausage that has nice and chunky meat and fat, rather than very finely-ground meat and fat. Or you could make your own sausage meat – see my recipe here. I usually buy mine either online from Nifeislife, or in person from The Leeds Deli, when they have some in stock. Having a good, tasty sausage meat will make a big difference to this sauce.

For the pasta, I used casarecce this time, but any good durum wheat pasta with a bit of a hollow to ‘grab’ the sauce, or a nice rough surface for the same reason (fresh tagliatelle would work well, or pappardelle, if you like long pasta; other short pasta varieties such as orecchiette, conchiglie, mafalde corte etc would also work).

This recipe is quick and easy to make and only takes about as long as it takes to bring the pasta water to the boil and cook the pasta. The pasta will be partially cooked in boiling water, then finished off in the sauce, using the method known as ‘risottare‘ (imagine risotto being turned into a verb, i.e. ‘to risotto’, or ‘to cook risotto-style’). It is this cooking method that makes the sauce so deliciously rich and creamy!

Let me know what you think of this once you’ve tried it, and feel free to share your photos, too!

Ingredients (for 4 people):

  • 4 chunky Italian fennel sausages (see comments above re where to get them)
  • Approx. 600g baby plum tomatoes
  • Fine sea salt (to taste)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (a good splash – on an Italian recipe blog, you would see ‘q.b.’, which means ‘quanto basta’, i.e. as much as needed)
  • A sprinkling of freshly-grated parmesan cheese
  • Enough pasta to feed 4 people (about 500g is usually ample, especially as this is a very filling sauce with the sausage meat added). If you’re doing this as a traditional ‘primo piatto’ to be followed by a meat dish, roughly halve the quantities.
  • Coarse sea salt for the pasta water

Method:

Put a large pan of water on the hob to bring it to the boil.

While the water comes to the boil, halve the tomatoes lengthways and place them into a medium-hot large frying pan or sauté pan with a good splash of olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and cook them until they can easily be squished with the back of a spoon (this only takes a few minutes), stirring frequently.

Remove the tomatoes from the pan and let them cool for a couple of minutes. While they are cooling, skin the sausages and break the sausage meat into small chunks, then brown them in the same pan you fried off the tomatoes in.

Meanwhile, if the pasta water has come to the boil, add a generous handful of coarse sea salt to the water, then drop in your pasta. You only wnat to cook the pasta about halfway to its proper al dente eating consistency, so look at the pack instructions: For the casarecce I used, the pack recommended 8-10 minutes (8 for al dente), so I cooked it in the water for 4 minutes before proceeding to the next stage.

While the pasta is cooking and the sauisage meat is browning, blitz the tomatoes to a smooth consistency using a high-powered food blender. I use the Ninja Foodi Power Nutri Blender, but any blender of that ilk will work. If your blender is not as powerful, you may end up with bits of tomato skin that you’ll need to sieve before using the tomato cream. A powerful blender will also give the tomatoes their lovely pale and creamy consistency.

Add the tomato cream to the sausage meat in the pan and ‘rinse out’ the blender with some of the pasta cooking water, which you will then also add to the tomato cream and sausage meat in the frying pan. Stir the sauce and keep it gently simmering, to avoid it evaporating too much before the pasta goes in.

As soon as the pasta is cooked about half-way (it doesn’t have to be exact – a shorter time in the water will simply mean a longer time cooking in the sauce), scoop it out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop it straight into the pan with the sauce. It’s ok if some water comes with it. You will need the water to help it cook. Stir it through and turn up the heat under the frying pan so the pasta and sauce bubble away nicely to help the pasta cook. Keep the pasta cooking water, as you will need to ladle a bit in at a time to keep the pasta cooking – like making a risotto (except you would use stock for a risotto).

Cook the pasta in this way, stirring regularly to make sure it cooks evenly and absorbs the flavours well, adding a bit of the starchy cooking water as needed, from time to time. Don’t add too much water at once, as you need to be left with a rich, creamy sauce at the end, without having the pasta drowning in sauce!

The pasta will be cooked when it is a nice al dente consistency and you have a rich, creamy sauce – the starch from the pasta helps make it lovely and thick & creamy! 🙂

Take the pan off the heat and stir through a little bit of finely-grated parmesan, then serve immediately! Each person may wish to add a little more parmesan over the top, to taste.

Image shows a large bowl of casarecce pasta with a tomato cream and sausage sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan, and steam coming off the top
Casarecce with fresh tomato cream and Italian fennel sausage

Pasta with tomato cream and sausage – Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Pizza

Ham and mushroom pizza

How to make Pizza from scratch

Simple Pizza recipe

Making pizza is far easier than many people think. Here is a simple recipe to make the dough and cook it with toppings of your choice.

Ingredients for the pizza dough (for one 11 inch pizza) – increase quantities for more pizzas

  • 150g plain flour (or Farina Tipo 00 if you can get it)
  • 1/2 tsp white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried yeast (I use Fermipan Red Dried Yeast)
  • 2tsp extra virgin olive oil (plus generous additional amounts to rub onto the dough before each rise)
  • 100ml of lukewarm water
  • a generous pinch of fine sea salt

Note: Flour and water may need adjusting up or down, depending on the humidity in the room and the specific flour you are using.  Always add water gradually to achieve the right consistency, and have additional flour to hand in case you need to add a little.

Method

You can watch the video of me making the dough for 3 pizzas here:

Place the flour into a large bowl and mix in the sea salt. Make a well in the middle and add the sugar and yeast.

Gradually add some of the water and start mixing the flour into it with a large mixing spoon, then add the oil and keep mixing the flour in from the outside of the ‘well’. Keep adding water until you have more or less mixed in all the flour and have a wet and uneven/lumpy dough. At this point, remove any dough sticking to the spoon and proceed by hand, kneeding long enough to have a soft, malleable dough that almost doesn’t stick to your hands (it needs to stick a little or it will be too dry). Add extra water or flour if needed. This process should only take you a minute or two.

Tip: I find the best way of kneeding is to pull away from you, then fold the dough over itself with your knuckles, then keep rotating the dough and repeating this action – see video above. When the dough is ready, it will be quite springy to the touch. Shape the dough into a ball (you can separate this into separate portions for each pizza later, or make separate dough balls now).

Take a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil into your hands and rub it all over the dough ball. Place the dough ball back in the bowl (or if you’ve made separate dough balls, place each one in a separate bowl) and cover with a dry cloth or clingfilm. Put the covered bowl(s) into a warm, draught-free place (I find the airing cupboard ideal) for 1.5-2 hours, until the dough ball(s) has/have roughly doubled in size.

After the dough has rested the first time:

If you still have one single dough ball for all your pizzas, place it on a floured surface (a large wooden chopping board is ideal, but a clean kitchen work surface will work equally well) and, using a dough cutter or a smooth-bladed large knife, cut it into equal portions according to the number of pizzas you are making.

If you had already split the dough into separate portions, work with each dough ball individually.

Take each portion of dough and work it by grabbing a ‘corner’ at a time and pulling away from you with your finger tips, then folding it into the centre, repeating for each ‘corner’ as you rotate the dough. See video above for demonstration of how to do this. Shape each portion into a ball and rub generously with extra virgin olive oil again. Place into a bowl and cover with a cloth or clingfilm. Leave it in a room-temperature draught-free place for 1-1.5 hours (I leave it in the kitchen at this point – if the dough is warm – e.g. from the airing cupboard – when you make the pizza, it can stick to the pizza paddle).

You’ll know it’s ready when it’s more or less doubled in size.

Pizza dough rising
Pizza dough before and after second rising

Place one dough ball onto a floured surface (e.g. wooden chopping board) and gently stretch it out to make a pizza shape (you can also start the process by moving the dough around over your knuckles – make sure you don’t wear any rings or it will tear!) – see video above. Once you have the desired shape and size and the dough is nice and thin, you can pinch around the edges to give you a slightly thicker crust.

Top with your chosen toppings – see some suggestions in the pictures below – transfer to the oven using a pizza paddle and bake in a hot pizza oven, if possible (this will only take 1-2 minutes…follow pizza oven instructions, but you’re likely to need to rotate it during cooking to ensure it cooks evenly).

Ooni Pizza oven

Tip: If you don’t have a pizza oven, I find it works better to cook it in a pan and under a grill than to bake it in a conventional oven (though if you have a pizza stone for the oven, this helps).

To cook it in a pan, place the shaped dough into a pre-heated pan or skillet that has been very lightly oiled, over a high heat. Put the toppings on when the base is already in the pan – this will start cooking the base. Then, once topped, place the pan under a very hot grill to cook the top.

Note: You can also use the dough to make Focaccia (recipe coming soon) and Calzone.

Pizza topping suggestions:

Pizza | Gloriously simple, gloriously good!

Spiced bean, pea, lentil and tomato soup

spiced lentil pea bean and tomato soup

This is a really hearty soup suitable for the whole family.  I made it as part of my liquid post-gastric-sleeve diet, but it would be equally suitable for anyone on a low-fat diet, or a reflux diet, or of course just someone who enjoys a wholesome nourishing soup! 

Because I need to be on liquids with ‘no bits’, I blitzed it as finely as I could, then put it through a sieve, but under other circumstances, I’d either just blitz it but not sieve away all the fibre goodness from the bean and lentil hulls, or would take some of the beans and lentils out before blitzing, then add them back in, to give the soup more of a chunky feel, so it’s up to how you like your soup! 

spiced bean pea lentil and tomato soup

Ingredients (for 2 very generous portions for people not on my diet!)

  • 2 handfuls dry cannellini beans (these may need soaking in cold water overnight before you cook them – check the pack for instructions)
  • 2 handfuls dry yellow split peas (these may need soaking in cold water overnight before you cook them – check the pack for instructions)
  • 1 handful dry green lentils (these may need soaking in cold water overnight before you cook them – check the pack for instructions)
  • 1 handful dry red lentils (these may need soaking in cold water overnight before you cook them – check the pack for instructions)
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1l chicken or vegetable stock (I used 2 Knorr Chicken Stock Pots and 1l water)
  • 0.5l water
  • half a teaspoon Ras El Hanout spice mix
  • optional: low-fat cheese triangle (1 per portion) or a sprinkling of powdered milk or whey protein powder to add more protein into the soup (for post-bariatric surgery liquid diet supplementation)
  • optional: sea salt, to taste

Method

Place all ingredients (aside from the salt) in a large saucepan or stockpot and bring to the boil.  Boil on a high heat for 10 minutes. 

Turn the heat down, cover, and simmer / boil gently for about an hour and 20 minutes, checking that the beans and lentils are soft and easily squashable (otherwise cook a little longer). 

Liquidise in a jar blender or using a hand-held blender in the saucepan, then, if you’re using this for the post-bariatric surgery liquid diet, sieve to ensure there are no bits left.  If you are not following this diet, and prefer a chunkier soup, you can either just liquidise it but not sieve it, or take out some beans and lentils before liquidising the soup, then add those back in, so it has a more chunky texture.

Taste and add a sprinkling of sea salt if you feel it needs it.

Note: If you are following a post-bariatric surgery liquid diet and need to supplement your liquid nutrition with protein, you can add a little powdered milk, whey protein powder, or a cheese triangle melted into the soup. 

Serve and enjoy! 

Gloriously simple, gloriously good!

Disclaimer: I am not a dietitian or medical professional.  These are simply ideas based on meals I have created to suit my own dietary needs and, as I’ve enjoyed them, I wanted to share them. If you are unsure about the suitability of any ingredients or recipes on my blog for your own requirements, please check with a health professional first.