Penne Giardiniera


This is a Carluccio’s recipe, and I wouldn’t neccessarily have thought of trying it on Bert, but we had lunch there a few months ago and he nicked most of mine so…

It’s also fairly faff-y, particularly the spinach balls, but I’m out of work at the moment and while Bert was at nursery yesterday I spent most of my time colouring in, so let’s just say that time isn’t my most pressing concern currently. But you could always do just the courgette bit, which is really quick. The spinach balls would make a good vege meatball if you served them in tomato sauce, too.

Serves 3

For the spinach balls:

100g spinach, cooked in water for just a couple of minutes, then drained

1/2 a clove of garlic, crushed

1/2 a beaten egg

35g fresh breadcrumbs

Grating of fresh nutmeg, salt and pepper

20-25g grated parmesan

For the pasta:

1 courgette, grated

40g (yes!) of butter

1 and a half garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

120g (yes!) grated parmesan

Cooked pasta to your appetite

Squeeze as much water as you can out of the cooked spinach, then keep squeezing till no more comes out. (Weirdly satisfying.) Chop it fairly finely and add it to the other ingredients, then form into walnut-sized balls. I put them in the fridge at this point to firm up. When you’re nearly ready to eat, shallow fry in plenty of olive oil till golden brown – about 5-10 minutes. The more water you’ve squeezed out of your balls – don’t – the firmer and less prone to falling apart they’ll be.

While your pasta is simmering, gently cook the courgette, chili, butter and garlic in a frying pan till the courgette is soft. That takes about 10 minutes, so the amount of time you’re cooking your pasta, more or less. Add to the cooked pasta with most of the cheese (leaving some for the table). The chili really doesn’t make it at all hot – it’s more a flavouring.

Despite the appalled look on his face in the picture, Bert demolished this. I felt briefly filled with a warm glow of smugness. Then I remembered that his dinner on Friday night was a bowl of Rice Krispies and a bag of chocolate buttons.

But I do believe that if you present small children with tasty, nutritious, ‘adult’ food in a no-pressure way (we never insist he tries or finishes anything) and present it all as equally attractive (he doesn’t have to eat veg, and puddings aren’t a treat or a reward, they’re just what comes after dinner if I can be arsed I’ve made one), then they’ll generally eat about 70% of it enthusiastically and ignore the other 30% randomly. If one day they just eat a huge pile of mashed potatoes, who cares?



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