Perfect Pasta – Quick and Delectable Ragu

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (July 2020) and taken from Pasta Perfect by Laura Santini.

Loaded with umami flavours, the seared meat, concentrated tomato puree, wine and garlic in this dish combine to create a ragu like no other.  Be careful not to eat it all while tasting for seasoning!

RaguServes : 4

Ingredients :
5 tblsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled, squashed and halved lengthways
1 onion, sliced into 8 wedges
500g minced beef
1 large bay leaf
3 tblsp tomato puree
125ml red or white wine
600g boodles (butternut squash noodles; spiralised at home or shop-brought), or 600g dried pasta or 320-480g fresh pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan shavings, to serve

Method :

Bullet logo Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Add the garlic and onion wedges.  When these are sizzling, add the meat and seal it over a moderate to high heat, until well browned all over.

Bullet logo Season with salt and black pepper and add the bay leaf and tomato puree.  Cook on a low heat, stirring regularly to prevent the bottom burning, until the oil begins to separate from the sauce.

Bullet logo Add the wine to the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the wine has been absorbed.

Bullet logo Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the boodles or the pasta, according to the packet instructions.

Bullet logo Serve the quick ragu with the cooked, drained pasta or boodles and top with parmesan shavings, plus plenty of extra black pepper.

Tasty transformation : For a juicy bolognese, add two 400g cans of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of dried oregano.  Or, better still, add enough ‘Classic red sauce’ (see separate recipe) to give the consistency required.  A quality tomato pasta sauce from a jar could also be added with excellent results.

Pasta Perfecto – Classic Red Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (July 2020) and taken from Pasta Perfect by Laura Santini.

Make your own sauce with fresh ingredients, bursting with goodness. It’s a classic for a reason, so do it well!

Serves : 4-6

Ingredients :
2 tblsp olive oil
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tblsp tomato puree
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes, or whole San Marzano tomatoes
Large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bullet logo Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, and saute until the onions are glassy and softened. Add the puree and canned tomatoes. If you’re using whole tomatoes, squash them as they go in to break them up.

Bullet logo Add the torn basil leaves and sugar. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Bullet logo Cook over a very low heat, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, for 40-60 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and the sauce is rich, tangy and tasty, and the oil has separated on the surface.

Bullet logo You can leave it chunky or pass it through a fine sieve to remove any chunks and seeds.

Basics : Home-made Mayonnaise

Recipe courtesy of Easy Living (2011).

No shop-bought mayonnaise compares with a home-made version.  Versions to whisk this by hand and blender are given below.

MayonnaiseMakes about 300ml (about 9 1/2 fl oz)

Prep time :  15 mins.  No cooking

Ingredients :
2 egg yolks
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
50ml (1 1/2 fl oz) olive oil
200ml (6 1/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
Salt and ground black pepper

To mix by hand :

Step One : Place the egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl and whisk (using a balloon whisk or electric hand-held whisk) until frothy and combined.

Step Two : Combine the olive oil and vegetable oil in a jug.  Pour it very slowly, drop by drop, into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  As the mixture thickens, start adding the oil in a steady stream.  Continue until all the oil has been incorporated and the mixture is thick.

Step Three : Season with salt and black pepper.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep for about seven days.

To make in a blender :

Step One : To make in a blender, replace one of the egg yolks with a whole egg.  Place the whole egg and egg yolk, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt into a blender.  Blend for a few seconds to combine.

Step Two : With the blender on low, pour combined oils in a very thin stream into the egg mixture.  If the lid has a small removable hole, pour the oil through this.  If not, keep the lid on and lift its corner to add the oil.

Step Three :  As the mixture thickens, start adding the oil in a steady stream.  You may have to stop and start the blender to stir down the mayonnaise as it thickens.  With the machine running, continue to pour the oil.  Stop pouring when the oil is incorporated and the mayonnaise is thick and glossy.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Add more lemon juice if required.

Ideas to try:

  • Mayonnaise can be easily flavoured.  Chopped, fresh herbs like basil, tarragon, parsley or chives are tasty additions, as are crushed garlic cloves, chopped anchovies, capers or chilli.
  • To make tartare sauce (perfect with fish), stir in 1 tblsp each of capers and chopped gherkins, plus 2 tblsp of chopped parsley and 1 tblsp chopped tarragon (optional but good) to 200ml (6 1/2 fl oz) mayonnaise.  Season to taste.


  • Stand the mixing bowl on a folded, damp tea towel while you’re making mayonnaise.  This prevents the bowl from moving as you whisk.
  • Use a tasteless vegetable oil like sunflower or groundnut oil with just a small amount of olive oil added.  By blending a peppery olive oil with a blander vegetable oil you get a lovely rounded flavour.
  • The mixture may separate if oil has been added too quickly.  To remedy this, simply whisk up another egg yolk and gradually whisk it through the separated mixture in small amounts.

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes

Home-made fish cakes really are worth every minute spent making them.  For a change, try adding a few chopped cooked prawns to the basic mixture.

smoked haddock fish cakes

Makes :   10
Prep time :  30 minutes plus chilling
Cook time :  30 minutes

450g (1 lb) floury potatoes
25g (1oz) butter
Salt and pepper
700g (1 1/2lb) smoked haddock fillet, skinned
100ml (4 fl oz) milk
125g (4oz) sweetcorn
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tblsp (30ml) each chopped fresh chives and parsley
Salt and pepper
50g (2oz) plain flour
2 eggs
125g (4oz) fine fresh white breadcrumbs
1 tblsp (15ml) sunflower oil

Step One : Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, drain well.  Mash with the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Step Two : Meanwhile, poach the haddock fillet in the milk for about 10 minutes or until it begins to flake.  Drain and break up fillet into large pieces.

Step Three : Add the cooked fish, sweetcorn, grated lemon rind, chives, parsley, salt and pepper to the mashed potatoes.  Leave to cool.

Step Four : Shape the mixture into tend equal sized rounds.  Season the flour.  Dip each round into the seasoned flour, then the beaten egg, followed by the fresh white breadcrumbs to coat.  Chill until ready to cook.

Step Five : Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the fishcakes for about 3-4 minutes each side or until they are golden brown.  Keep warm in a low oven if cooking in batches.