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Store-cupboard Pasta

In our city, life is nearly back to normal as we are now able to go to the movies, eat a meal with friends in a restaurant and be out as long as we want. We can have a drink standing up outside a pub and even dance at a wedding. Football finals season is in full swing and we have booked a flight to Brisbane in case our team gets all the way to the top. Regardless, we are excited about the prospect of seeing dear friends and being in the tropical warmth.

But for our children, my sister and her family all living in Melbourne, the story is very different and still hard. It really is the tale of two cities in Australia at the moment. These recipes hopefully will give comfort.

At the beginning of spring, when winter greens are still around and the new vegetables haven't yet come to into their own, another bowl of soup, piece of green pie or a serve of pasta and broccoli is often just one too many. Store-cupboard recipes are for these times and also for the times when the fridge is bare and all you have in your cupboard are the "usuals", or just when you want to cook something easy but delicious. In Italy the basic store cupboard ingredients are passata or tinned tomatoes, capers, olives, anchovies, dried chilli and dried pasta. There is also likely to be grating cheese and eggs in the house or the yard but otherwise it's easy to pick these up at the local alimentari along with a few slices of pancetta and some fresh bread.

These pasta recipes are quick, simple and delicious. Puttanesca is named after prostitutes because of this. It's a quick bite to eat between clients and when there has been no time for shopping or slow cooking. Carbonara, yet another workers' meal, is literally thrown together in no time at all and bucatini all'amatriciana is originally from the commune of Amatrice and now loved by millions. For many years the popes' cooks came from Amatrice which would explain why this dish is a popular part of Roman menus.

Puttanesca - this is a recipe you can make your own. The secret is to keep it simple. This is how I make it.


1 400g tin of tomatoes (blended) or equivalent of passata

a good slug of olive oil

1 crushed garlic clove

3 anchovies

a tablespoon of capers

a handful of pitted black olives

Penne or rigatoni pasta - enough for 4

Put on a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil then add the pasta.

In a pan, put olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies and cook together so the anchovies melt, and the sauce cooks and separates in the oil.

Add the capers and black olives.

When the pasta is cooked transfer it into the pan using a slotted spoon and mix together with the sauce. Add a spoon or two of pasta water. Serve with grated pecorino or parmesan and some chopped parsley if you have some in your garden or in a pot on the balcony.


Spaghetti carbonara - cooked in many appalling ways over time to the dismay of Italians who are genuinely distressed about the use of cream! This is Valentina Harris' recipe and the only one I use.


400g spaghetti

200 gm of pancetta or bacon cut into cubes

3 eggs

5 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or parmesan reggiano

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta.

while the pasta is cooking, fry the pancetta in a very hot frying pan until it is crisp and running freely with the fat.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with the cheese and plenty of pepper until it is thoroughly combined.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and return it to the pan but don't return the pan to the heat.

Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and add the pancetta.

Immediately stir everything together. The egg should remain runny with a tiny bit of scramble and the pancetta should sizzle as it minges with the pasta.

Serve immediately.


Buccatini all'amatrciana - recently, thanks to Rachel Roddy, I have discovered this is more delicious if it's cooked only with the fat that oozes from the bacon or guanciale - no olive oil. Buccatini is the best pasta to use because of the delightful slurpiness created by its bucco (hole) , but spaghetti is fine.


400g can of tomatoes

150gm of guanciale or bacon ( if you can't find guanciale) cut into little batons

1 small dried chilli, finely chopped


400g spaghetti

grated pecorino romano

Chop or blend the tomatoes until smooth.

Heat a large frying pan and add the guanciale or bacon and cook until slightly crispy and the fat is in the pan.

Add the tomato and chilli and cook over a low heat until the tomato is cooked and the fat is separated and floats on the surface.

Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil then add the spaghetti.

When the pasta is cooked, using tongs, add the drained spaghetti and a ladle of pasta water to the sauce, stir the pasta and sauce together over the heat and serve immediately with a good grating of cheese.

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