As we continue to enjoy our British Summer, I would like to celebrate the abundance of seasonal vegetables available at this time of the year. Along with birds chirping early in the mornings and long, sunny, warm summer days, the variety of vegetables, bought or home grown, really allows me as a home cook to get creative in the kitchen. Roasted Summer Vegetable Orzo Salad is a delicious celebration of easy summer cooking, using a variety of seasonal vegetables.
Packed full of roasted veggies in a lemon vinaigrette, this dish can be either served on its own, or as a colourful side dish. Since it can be served warm, it is a perfect barbecue or buffet dish. Indeed, when made in the morning, then left to sit for a few hours, the flavours develop, enhancing the overall deliciousness. Easy to prepare and make ahead!
As much as I enjoy a crunchy pasta salad, there is something very comforting in the softened, roasted vegetables here. Slightly sweet, with a mere hint of caramelisation, their flavour is enhanced by the fresh lemon juice in the vinaigrette. Also orzo provides the perfect bite, complimenting the vegetables. Resulting in a dish that lets the vegetable flavours shine, without being overly bulked out with pasta.
1/2tsp Sea Salt plus 1tbsp for cooking the pasta – I use Maldon
1/2tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Handful of Fresh Parsley – flat or curly
Note: individual vegetables may be substituted according to preference.
Method: Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan, gas mark 6
First of all, wash and thoroughly dry the vegetables. Follow by chopping into equal 1″/2.5cm pieces.
Transfer to a large baking tray.
Drizzle over a generous tablespoon of olive oil and one quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
With clean hands toss the vegetables in the seasoned oil, taking care to cover each piece.
Spread the vegetables out on the tray. During the cooking process they will reduce slightly in size.
Place the baking tray into the centre of a preheated oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through the roasting time.
While the vegetables are roasting cook the orzo and make the lemon vinaigrette.
Place a large pan of cold water on the hob and bring to a boil. When boiling add 1 tablespoon of sea salt and then add the orzo.
Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into a small, clean jar that has a fitted lid. Add the extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the lid securely on to the jar and shake vigorously to combine.
Cook the orzo according to packet instructions, removing from the heat and draining 2 minutes before the finished cooking time.
Place the drained orzo into a bowl and pour over the lemon vinaigrette. Fork through the orzo to ensure the vinaigrette covers each small piece, stopping the pasta from forming clumps.
When cooked the vegetables will be softened, allowing a fork to easily pierce. Some pieces may be slightly charred at the edges.
Spoon or tip the roasted vegetables on top of the orzo.
Gently, use two forks to mix the roasted vegetables into the Orzo.
Finally, roughly chop a handful of fresh parsley, discarding the stalks and scatter over the salad.
If making the same day as eating, cover with cling film and leave on the work top. Yet, when making the day before, leave out the parsley, cool, cover and store in the fridge. Remove and allow to sit at room temperature for one hour, garnish with freshly chopped parsley and then serve.
Since this salad is so versatile, it can be served alongside grilled chicken, salmon, or burgers and ribs at a barbecue. Likewise, it can also be served on its own.
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While shopping in large supermarkets i find it can be easy to become disconnected with seasonal vegetables. Transportation means that most ‘summer’ vegetables can be easily obtained throughout the year. Since large, super greenhouses have cropped up across the country, most notably in Thanet, Kent, the effect on home grown produce has been to lengthen its season. Also ensuring the public buys British rather than imported produce. I fully support this endeavour.
Yet, even with this consideration, there is little to rival blackberry picking in August and September. Connecting us all to nature and the natural season of harvest.
Whatever you are making, baking and creating in your kitchens, have fun preparing our feast.
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Who doesn’t love an easy, quick to make, healthy meal? Exactly. I love pasta, mostly for its versatility. Since any number of sauces or meals can be made to go with a million varieties of pasta. Where would we be without it? Thank you Italy, you may have invaded Britain, however it’s time to let things go, as you gave us pasta. More specifically the fusilli bronze die pasta used in this Creamy Tomato Spinach Chicken Pasta.
Next time you think of tossing a jar of pesto into pasta for dinner, think again. Since this dish only took 30 minutes to make, it is definitely worth trying. Not only do you get a balanced healthy meal, it is filling, like a proper meal should be. Bite sized pieces of chicken breast, fresh baby spinach wilted into the tomato and cream cheese sauce.
If you are cutting down on carbs you may not like my next suggestion. That is, to serve this tasty bowl of goodness with a chunk of baguette, or crusty bread. While not swimming in sauce, there will be some pooled on your plate or bowl. This is where bread is important. Dunking. While using the bread to absorb every last drop of this creamy sauce. Keeping with the low fat theme, there is no reason why the bread should be buttered. In fact there will be a greater absorbency area if left unbuttered. Win win!
Food should be enjoyed. Indeed it should be a feast. It should feed more than our tummies, it should feed our soul. Giving thanks before eating is a custom here at home. Yet stopping for a moment to look and smell the food in front of you is also important. Too much food is literally shoved down throats while watching television. I wonder if the taste even has time to register with the brain. Eating with family, while sitting up at a table, not only slows down the rate at which we eat, the entire experience is altogether more pleasurable. Hence – food tastes better when it is shared.
Time to make this delicious dish.
Recipe: Creamy Tomato Spinach Chicken Pasta serves 4-6 people
500g Diced Chicken Breast skin off cut into bite size pieces- I use Graig Farm
1tbsp Olive Oil
1 Large Leek – washed and cut into small dice
2 x 400g Chopped Tin Tomatoes plus 1 tin of pasta cooking water
200g Washed Baby Spinach – frozen can be used if out of season
1tbsp Fresh Thyme finely chopped – plus additional Thyme for garnishing the finished dish
140g Philadelphia Cream Cheese – I use full fat, by all means try a lower fat version if you’re confident cooking with it
450g Fusilli Pasta – bronze die leaves rougher edges on the pasta and so it absorbs more sauce
Method: Making the Creamy Tomato Spinach Chicken Pasta
Place a heavy bottomed pan on to the hob over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow to heat.
At the same time place a large pan of water on a high heat, ready to cook the pasta. When the water is boiling add a teaspoon of sea salt and then the pasta and cook for 8 minutes.
Into the other pan add the chopped chicken breast and cook until lightly browned.
Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and then add the chopped leek to the pan.
Saute the leek until it is softened and then add the cooked chicken back to the pan.
Immediately add the 2 tins of chopped tomatoes and use a wooden spatula to scrape the base of the pan clean. Follow by adding the chopped fresh thyme.
Next tip the baby spinach into the pan. Don’t worry if it is piled high it will wilt down.
Remove a can full/2-3 ladles of hot pasta water and pour on to the spinach. Be careful as it will be hot.
Drain the pasta and tip on to the spinach. Allow the spinach to wilt down, it will release it’s water and make the sauce thinner.
Next add the cream cheese to the pan and stir so that it melts into the sauce.
Most importantly, taste the sauce. Add a good grinding of fresh black pepper to taste. Additional salt should not be needed as the pasta water used is salty.
Sprinkle over fresh Thyme and the dish is ready to be served.
Time to eat
Serve this delicious Creamy Tomato Spinach Chicken Pasta in bowls.
Since this dish is ideal to make ahead, it is also perfect for transporting. Ideal for a new family or friend who is unwell. This dish is as perfect to share outside the home as it is with family and friends around the dinner table.
If you have enjoyed this recipe for Creamy Tomato Spinach Chicken Pasta then you may also like these:
Pasta is such a versatile ingredient in the kitchen. Also, once cooked it can very often be frozen as this Creamy Tomato Spinach Chicken Pasta, Chicken Four Cheese Pasta and Cheesy Vegetable all can be. While cooking from scratch takes barely more than 10 minutes. Pouring over some sauce (recipe coming soon) or the lemon garlic sauce that accompanies the Orzo recipe above. Easy meals are a busy household’s must.
Have fun creating, cooking and baking in your kitchens.
Hi, have I got the easiest, tastiest, make ahead side dish for you?? Oh yes I have! Lemon Garlic Vegetable Orzo. And this dish does not disappoint as it is delicious.
While I’ve said this is a side dish (and vegetarian), it also makes a fabulous light lunch. Simply adding a few shavings of Parmesan would add extra oomph for lunch, served alongside some crusty, crunchy bread.
I’m getting hungry!!!!
While I’ve used red onion, peas, sweetcorn and red bell pepper in this dish – but feel free to switch up the veggies (celery is good) with whatever you have on hand. All I would say is the Lemon Garlic Vegetable Orzo is best served at room temp, or even warmed – BUT NOT COLD! Because no matter how much lemon/oil you add, when served fridge cold the Orzo clumps together and not in a good way! So there you go, an easy recipe that doesn’t take up any room in your fridge, or require any last minute fiddling. Yay!! We like easy!
Recipe : Lemon Garlic Vegetable Orzo serves 6-8 as a side dish.
500g/1lb Packet Dried Orzo – available from most supermarkets I buy mine from Waitrose
Juice of 1 Large Lemon
1 x Small Red Onion
150ml/5fl oz Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 x Garlic Cloves – crushed
200g/7oz Frozen Peas
Medium Can Sweetcorn
Salt and Pepper to taste
Method : Making the Lemon Garlic Vegetable Orzo
First of all put a large pan of water on to heat up for the Orzo.
Place the lemon juice and finely diced red onion into a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix together. Also leaving the onion in the lemon juice will remove the acrid taste!
As soon as the water in the pan is boiling add salt and then the Orzo. Cook according to the packet instructions – taking care not to overcook or the Orzo will simply clump together!!
While the Orzo is cooking gently heat the Olive Oil and garlic together, for approximately 2 minutes on a medium heat. This allows the garlic to infuse the oil. And also the garlic is lightly cooked. Pour the garlicky oil over the onions and lemon juice.
Drain the Orzo as soon as it is cooked and pour straight into the bowl. Using a large slotted spoon immediately toss the Orzo in the oil/lemon juice – this will stop the Orzo from sticking together.
Place the frozen peas (I used petit pois) in the bowl and mix in with the hot Orzo.
Add the sweetcorn (drained) and the diced, red, bell pepper. Mix together and taste for seasoning – add salt/freshly ground pepper as necessary.
Take a handful of Basil leaves, roughly chop and sprinkle over.
Cover with cling film and serve at room temp.
This side goes fabulously with fish – Salmon especially, Chicken and Pork. It makes a fab alternative to roast potatoes and hot veggies for a Summer roast and completely seals the deal as part of a buffet. With very little effort. Gotta love that?!
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Hello, I really hope you enjoy this post – Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne. It’s extremely easy to make, there’s no need to precook the lasagne sheets. This lasagne is also a lighter version than the traditional beef lasagne. If you wanted to really cheat you could buy good cheese sauce, but it’s not a complicated process to whip up your own!
This is a perfect make ahead meal as it only gets better the longer the lasagne sits. It will keep, unbaked, in the fridge for 4 days and double wrapped in cling film, again unbaked, it can be frozen for up to 3 months. It is also the perfect, portable meal. Ideal for delivery to a new mum, a family going through tough times or a bring and share meal with friends. Truly an all-in-one feasting dish!!!
By substituting the beef, usually used in Lasagne, with minced Chicken, the resulting baked Lasagne becomes a lighter dish. Not lighter in calories, with the delicious four cheese sauce – but not as heavy on the stomach and a delicious change from the norm! The four cheese sauce was simply me raiding the fridge for leftover Christmas cheese!!!
I realise that minced Chicken is not available everywhere, minced Turkey is a great substitute. Otherwise processing skinless chicken breasts, thighs or a combination in a food processor would be another way to make your own chicken mince. Alternatively, chopping up chicken with a sharp knife would work and give the lasagne added texture.
Recipe : Serves 6-8 portions.
Chicken Lasagne Sauce
450g/1lb Chicken Mince
1 Large White Onion
2tbsp Olive Oil
2 Celery Stalks (the larger outside stalks)
1 Green Pepper (washed, deseeded and finely diced)
2-3 Carrots (peeled and finely diced)
3 Garlic Cloves – minced
3 x 400g Chopped Tinned Tomatoes
2tbsp Tomato Puree
1tsp Dried Mixed Herbs (or fresh basil/oregano/parsley/thyme – to taste)
Salt and Ground Black Pepper – to taste
Cheese Sauce :
3tbsp Plain White Flour
750-800ml. Whole Milk
6oz Hard Cheese (I used a 50/50 mixture of Mature Cheddar and Swiss Cheese)
250g. Mozzarella (drained)
1 tsp Nutmeg – freshly grated if poss
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste.
Butter – For Greasing the Lasagne Dish
1 packet Dried Egg Lasagne Sheets 375g – NO NEED TO PRECOOK!!!
Method: Chicken Lasagne Sauce
Finely chop/dice the onion/celery/green pepper and carrots. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes over a medium heat until the onions just start to turn translucent. Add the diced celery to the pan and continue to sauté for a couple more minutes, just until the celery starts to soften. Push the onions and celery to one side of the pan and add the Chicken mince to the other side (if you don’t have a large sauté pan, remove the onions and celery, into a separate dish and then add the Chicken to the pan). Cook the chicken, using a wooden spatula to break up the mince so big clumps of meat don’t form.
Unlike beef mince, the Chicken mince will get lighter as it cooks. I don’t cook the Chicken until it is browned, just until it is cooked through (lighter colour). Now add the carrots/green pepper and also the minced garlic (I use a garlic press!!).
When all the veggies and garlic are well mixed add the tomatoes (rinse each can out with water, fill the can almost to the top and add that to the pan as well), tomato purée, dried or fresh chopped herbs. Give everything a good stir add the sugar and add salt 1/2tsp and a good grinding of black pepper. Turn the heat to medium/low and leave to gently bubble away on the stove for an hour, stirring occasionally.
Method: Four Cheese Sauce
Into a medium heavy based pan add the butter. Over a medium heat melt the butter until just sizzling. Add the flour and keep stirring as the two become a paste. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes, this removes any floury taste.
Now gradually start adding the milk, approx 50mls at first and stir vigorously. The milk will become incorporated into the flour/butter paste making it a thicker past. Keep adding small amounts of milk, stirring continuously.
Now you can add larger amounts of milk, keep stirring, lumps will form, if you want to you can switch to a whisk at this stage (I do!). Keep stirring and adding the milk until all the milk has been added and you have a beautiful, lump free white sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the Ricotta and all the other cheese (except the mozzarella), which if you are a patient person you certainly may grate. I almost never bother to grate, I just chop the cheese into smallish (1/2″) cubes and the sauce turns out fine.
Stir vigorously. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. The Ricotta cheese will give the Four Cheese Sauce a slightly grainy texture – DON’T WORRY – that’s normal! If you’ve grated the cheeses they will melt into the sauce easily. With the cubed cheese the sauce will almost never become completely smooth – but that’s ok as it will when it’s baked in the oven later! Also the addition of freshly ground nutmeg not only elevates the flavour above and beyond, but please, if you can, grate your own nutmeg. I know I was lazy with the cheese but, freshly grated nutmeg is a million times better than pre-ground nutmeg, trust me.
You will need an oven proof rectangular dish. Mine is 12″ x 8″ x 3.5″(deep) – measurements were taken from the top. But you can always use an oval dish and break the lasagne sheets to fit the curves – I have made many lasagne dishes this way, or alternatively split between 2 small dishes. As long as the dish is ovenproof, this really is an adaptable recipe!!!
I’ve found, after making more than a gazillion – slight over exaggeration – lasagnes, that buttering the dish before hand not only helps when serving the cooked lasagne, but also, it doesn’t require 3 days soaking to get the stuck bits off of the dish!! It’s the little things you know???
I REALLY WASN’T JOKING, when I said that you don’t have to precook the lasagne sheets. I’ve used lots of different makes, some with ruffled edges, green spinach lasagne sheets, egg vs plain AND this works with ALL TYPES – I guess you could even use fresh lasagne sheets, you would need to cook the Chicken lasagne sauce for longer so that it was thicker – otherwise I can’t see it being an issue. If you try it please let me know how you get on?
Once you have buttered/oiled your dish place a layer of HOT Chicken lasagne sauce (check the seasoning and adjust if necessary) into the bottom of the dish, so that it is completely covered.
Next place enough lasagne sheets to cover the bottom layer – I got luck and this dish takes 4 exactly. I like the layers to meet or very slightly overlap.
Repeat the sauce/lasagne sheet layering twice more finishing with a sheet layer.
Now pour the cooled cheese sauce all over the top of the lasagne sheets. I gently tap the dish to ensure any trapped air bubble rise to the surface.
This baby is still not finished! Drain and slice the mozzarella.
And now arrange the mozzarella slice on top of the cheese sauce.
The Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne should be left, ideally for 4 hours, to allow the dried lasagne slices time to absorb moisture from both sauces. This dish can also be made 1-2 days in advance, wrapped in cling film and left in the fridge.
When ready to bake preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan oven). Place the lasagne dish onto a slightly larger baking tray; this dish can bubble up and over – it’s much easier to clean a baking sheet rather than scrub out the bottom of your oven!!!!!
Cook the lasagne for 1 1/2 hours until piping hot all the way through and gorgeously, golden brown.
Remove from the oven 10-15 minutes before serving. This allows the lasagne to cool slightly and hold it’s shape when being served.
This Chicken and Four Cheese Lasagne is delicious on it’s own, served with a salad or garlic bread. It can be frozen at the pre-bake stage or in individual portions, wrapped tightly in foil and popped into the freezer. Or why not double the quantities and make an extra meal for the freezer?
If you try this recipe please let me know how you get on. Do you have alternative lasagne combinations that are scrumptious? If you do please share them.
But most of all if you know a new mum, or someone who has been ill for a while, or just a very busy family that you would like to bless, then this is THE perfect, portable, all in one meal for sharing!
As ever, remember food always tastes better when it’s shared. Happy Feasting.
Hello there, thank you for stopping by to read my blog. I hope it inspires you to make this delicious, very economical, Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake – covered in a scrummy Cheese Sauce!
I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything for a few days, unfortunately my body has been very uncooperative and I’ve been struggling with a lot of pain. Not looking for sympathy, just explaining.
Anyhow this morning, once I was up and dressed I was determined to make the Christmas cakes ( I know this blog is about the Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake – but I have to tell you the whole story, so bare with please??!!). One cake for us and a smaller cake for my lovely hubby’s Ma and Pa. They love Christmas cake like no other people I have ever met and since I love them and making cakes I thought I’d bake them a cake as well!
Once the cakes were happily baking away in the oven I turned my attention to dinner. I happened to have 8 rashers of streaky bacon in the fridge and thought ‘You know what, I’ll make Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake’. Not only that, but as I have tended to be a bit lazy with my savoury recipes, I also made a note of exactly what I used and took some photos to show you how to make it yourself!!
Recipe: Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake serves 6
For the bacon and tomato sauce you will need –
1tbsp Olive oil
8 x rashers streaky bacon (smoked or not the choice is yours) – any rind removed
1 Large White Onion
2 Sticks of Celery
1 Green Pepper
6 – 8 Chestnut or Button Mushrooms
3 Bulbs of Garlic
2 Tins Chopped Tomatoes and their juice
1tbsp Tomato puree
1tsp Mixed Dry Herbs
1/2tsp Sea Salt (1/4tsp free flowing salt)
1/4 tsp Nutmeg – freshly grated
1/2tsp Black Pepper – freshly ground
For the Cheese Sauce :
2tbsp Unsalted Butter
2tbsp Plain White Flour
500ml/1.25 pints Whole Milk
175g/6oz Strong Cheddar
1/4tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
In a large saute pan (or shallow casserole dish) melt the Olive oil and Butter together over a medium heat. Add the finely chopped Onion and Saute until translucent (approx 5-8 mins). Add in the Bacon – I usually snip this into approx 1/2″ pieces, directly into the pan, however you can chip up the Bacon with a knife and then add it.
Let the bacon sizzle until it had rendered out some of it’s fat, but not so much that it goes crispy. Add in the Celery and Carrot ( which have both been finely chopped and cook for another 5 mins.
After 5 mins add in the finely chopped Green Pepper and the Mushroom ( I slice the mushrooms fairly thinly, then cut the slices in half – it just looks nice in the dish!). Add the crushed (or finely chopped) garlic and continue cooking for another 5-10 mins, until all the vegetables are slightly softened.
Once the vegetables have started to soften add the tinned, chopped tomatoes. Rinse each tin out with cold water (fill the tin to just over half with water and swish the tin to dilute any tomato juice left, into the water) and add the tomato purée. Add the seasonings next: salt, pepper, sugar, nutmeg and mixed herbs. The sugar balances out the tartness of tinned tomatoes and makes a very real difference to the finished dish.
Melt 2tbsp butter on a medium heat in a saucepan. Once melted add 2tbsp of plain white flour and mix thoroughly, lowering the heat very slightly.
This flour/butter mixture is now called a roux. Now gradually add (50ml at a time at the beginning) whole milk to the flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly. As the milk warms it will gradually become incorporated into the flour/butter. In the beginning, for the first few milk additions, the mixture will be very thick and stiff to stir. If you find the milk is not incorporating into the mixture, or it is very lumpy, it’s fine to switch to a whisk, this will ensure a beautiful, lump free, smooth sauce. Add 450-500ml of milk until your sauce has the consistency similar to custard.
Add a pinch of salt, a good grinding of black pepper, 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and mix thoroughly. Off of the heat add a good 2 handfuls (4-6oz) of grated mature cheddar cheese. Mix thoroughly until the cheese has melted into the sauce.
I have used penne rigate pasta for this dish. Basically pasta tubes, cut on a slant with ridges in the outside! I like penne rigate as it holds firm, the sauce not only goes into the pasta tubes, but also the sauce clings to the outside ridges of the pasta. I cooked about 3/4 of a 500g packet (350g if my maths is correct??).
I said earlier, this is such an economical dish – 8 bacon rashers, bits of veg you have in the fridge, a couple of handfuls of mature cheddar and not even a whole packet of pasta!! Not only that but it tastes fab and is easily transportable, so ideal to give individual portions to friends/family or pop in the freezer!!
Once the pasta is almost cooked (not quite al dente) drain and add to the bacon sauce.
Mix the sauce and pasta together. If serving a separate portion to give away, remove a generous portion of the pasta/bacon mix, ensuring you get a good mix of the sauce, bacon, veg and of course pasta.
Spread the rest of the bacon pasta evenly into an ovenproof container. Tap the individual portions to settle the pasta and remove any air bubbles.
Cover your pasta dishes with a good dollop of the cheese sauce. For added prettiness (and because the cheese sauce didn’t reach the edges!!) I sliced ripe, ruby red tomatoes and placed them around the outside edge of the pasta.
So a super tasty, super economical meal to eat and share!
For a bubbly,scrumptious meal, ready for the table: Cook the large Bacon Cheese Pasta Bake at 180C for an hour until thoroughly heated through, 1/2 hour at the same temp for the individual portion.
An amazingly tasty, versatile dish that’s easy on your wallet and tasty on your tongue.