Pork sausage and mushroom stew
This is a hearty and rich pasta dish which uses half-decent supermarket pork sausages (or a butcher’s) as protein. Remove the meat from the sausages (nothing pink, mind you), crumble it and fry it in a little olive oil until browned.
Add sliced Portobello mushrooms (half very finely chopped at this stage), shallots, some thinly sliced dried porcini mushrooms (after soaking in water), Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, black pepper, broth , fresh sage, fennel seeds, caramelized onions (in a jar or cooked up to this stage) before finishing with fresh cream. Fry the remaining thicker sliced mushrooms until just cooked and finish with lemon zest and toss with pastas like rigatoni, conchiglioni or even penne.
Beef ‘bourguignon’ with gnocchi
A slow-cooked French staple like beef bourguignon takes time, effort, and lots of wine. This dish, which includes store-bought gnocchi (technically dumplings rather than pasta) evokes some of the rich flavors. Thinly slice the rump steak marinated in roasted garlic and red wine.
Fry sliced onions, with smoked bacon, until almost charred and heavily caramelized, before adding sliced chestnuts or Portobello mushrooms.
Add a heaping teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a touch of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, red wine, a pot of beef, a knob of butter and black pepper. Reduce until you have a rich sauce (check the seasoning, but the pot will add a good portion of salt), sauté the cooked gnocchi in the pan, then mix.
Smoke salmon, black pepper and lemon
It’s the simplest dish on the list, and can be mixed with pantry items, smoked salmon aside. Cook a few linguini in salted water until al dente and drain.
Return to the pan and cook plenty of freshly ground black pepper (more than you think appropriate, normally), then season with Maldon salt, add a few small pieces of smoked salmon (the cheaper raw cuttings available from supermarkets will work fine), then lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best but the bottle does the trick) and finally, lemon zest and jarred or canned capers.
Stir over low heat for 30 seconds and serve hot.
Pasta aglio e olio (olive oil and garlic)
For those of you familiar with the heartwarming, yet refreshing, well-researched and accurate film chef, this is a take on one of the film’s most, if not the most, memorable dishes.
It’s a cheap, punchy pasta dish, and not for those with an aversion to garlic. Use decent dried spaghetti and cook until al dente, reserving a little water for the pasta. Gently heat a generous amount of olive oil and add two garlic bulbs (yes, bulbs) of thinly sliced garlic.
Cook carefully until lightly browned. Next, add a few chili flakes, a touch of salt and pepper, then toss in the cooked pasta, adding a little cooking water if necessary. Now add lemon juice to finish and plenty of chopped fresh parsley. You can finish with parmesan, but I find it works just as well without, and it’s still vegan.