The cooking time for pasta is normally indicated on the packet. Put it straight into very well salted boiling water. For chunky types of pasta like penne, a tablespoon of olive oil in the water helps stop it sticking. Stir the pasta vigorously once the water has come back to the boil. When the pasta is cooked (the packet normally gives a cooking time), remove the saucepan from the heat and add a cup of cold water. Leave it for half a minute and then drain in a colander. Before draining it, use the cup to scoop out some of the cooking water; this can then be used if necessary to loosen the sauce (especially important for fresh pasta which absorbs a lot of liquid). As pasta gets cold very quickly, it should always be served on warmed plates.

Spaghetti drying in Venice




This recipe calls for prawns, but diced bacon or pancetta can be used instead.

100-150gr tagliolini or tagliatelle

120-200gr courgettes, cut into matchsticks

200-250gr cooked prawns, shelled

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled

olive oil, salt, pepper

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a frying-pan and cook the courgettes for 5-10 minutes until just tender. Add the garlic, squeezed through a garlic-press or very finely chopped, and cook for half a minute more. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water with a little oil until al dente. Drain and toss with a little olive oil. Add the prawns to the courgettes and warm through (if using fresh raw prawns, they can be cooked with the courgettes at this stage). Mix the courgettes and prawns with the pasta, add lots of pepper, and salt to taste, and serve immediately.


Photo Jonathan Slack




A very good instant recipe.

150gr thin tagliatelle or fettucine

30gr anchovy fillets (a small tin)

120-150 ml cream

butter, pepper, chives

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp butter in a small saucepan, add the anchovy fillets and mash them up a bit. Add the cream and pepper and cook gently for a minute or two. Mix with the tagliatelle and sprinkle chopped chives on top.




100-150gr tagliatelle

1 lb/500gr mussels, beards and dirt removed, broken or open ones discarded

½ a small glass white wine

1 small shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

3 tablespoons cream

butter, chilli powder, salt, pepper, chopped parsley

Cook the shallots and garlic in about one tablespoon butter in a covered saucepan for a few minutes, without letting them colour. Add the white wine and a pinch of chilli powder or a few chilli flakes. Bring to the boil and add the mussels. Cook covered on a high heat until the mussels have opened (a minute or two). Strain the liquid into another saucepan and leave the mussels to cool a bit. Simmer the liquid for about 15 minutes until it has reduced by about half. Add the cream and pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes or so, so that the resulting sauce is nice and creamy. Remove the mussels from their shells and add to the sauce along with the parsley.  Leave on one side until the pasta is done. Cook the tagliatelle in salted boiling water. Briefly reheat the sauce, pour it over the tagliatelle, and serve immediately.




100-150gr spaghetti

350gr/12 oz squid, preferably smallish

2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced

a good pinch dried chilli flakes or 1 fresh red chilli (deseeded and finely chopped)

olive oil, salt, lemon juice, parsley

Boil the spaghetti until just cooked. Drain and toss in some olive oil.  Clean the squid, and it cut into thin strips, chopping the tentacles up a bit unless the squid are very small. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and squid. Briskly fry the squid pieces until they have turned white (this should take only a minute or so). Add the spaghetti and some salt to the pan, turn up the heat and stir-fry for a minute or so. Stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice and some chopped parsley and serve immediately.



The cumin is not very authentically Italian, but adds an interesting extra flavour.


100-150gr spaghetti or linguini

100gr soft white fish (bream, bass, hake), skin and bones removed

1-2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, or a pinch of chilli flakes

½ glass white wine or dry white vermouth

1 small teaspoon tomato paste/purée

2 tablespoons chopped black olives

Olive oil, salt, pepper, chopped parsley


Soften the shallots in some olive oil with the cumin and chilli. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a few moments more. Stir in the tomato paste and add the wine, salt and pepper. Reduce until only a tablespoon or two of liquid remains. Cut the fish into 1 cm pieces. Cook the spaghetti. While it is cooking, add the olives and the fish to the sauce and cook gently until the fish is opaque. Pour the sauce over the spaghetti, adding a little of the spaghetti cooking water if necessary to loosen it, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.





This is an excellent instant recipe if you suddenly need to feed unexpected guests and have some tinned tuna in the store cupboard.

150-200gr spaghetti

3 tablespoons dry white wine or vermouth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

80-100gr tinned tunny (tuna)

1 teaspoon capers, chopped

chopped parsley, salt, pepper, chilli powder or flakes

Cook the spaghetti in lots of boiling salted water. While it is cooking, cook the garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil for a few seconds, without colouring, and add the wine or vermouth and parsley, and a pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes. Boil fiercely for a minute or so, turn off the heat and add the drained and flaked tunny and the capers (it is important that the tunny-fish does not cook). When the spaghetti is done, serve mixed with the sauce and with a good sprinkling of pepper, with salt to taste if necessary.





120gr spaghetti or linguini

150-200gr mixed white and brown crabmeat (1 medium crab)

1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 desserspoon grated lemon or lime zest

2 tablespoons chopped mint or green coriander or parsley

Olive oil, salt, pepper


Assemble the various ingredients. Put the pasta on to boil. While it is cooking, slightly soften the garlic and chilli in some olive oil. Add the zest, salt and pepper and cook a minute more. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, mix the crab and chosen fresh herb into the olive oil mixture and heat through very briefly (the crab must not cook). Toss the pasta in the sauce, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if it is too dry,and sprinkle over the chopped mint or other green herb. . Serve immediately on heated plates.


Crabs in the market in Venice

Photo Jonathan Slack





Per person:


50-75gr spaghetti

1 50gr pot of potted shrimps

¼ - ½  sheet of sushi nori

Salt and pepper


Tear up the nori a bit and blitz it in a spice-grinder or similar until it is in very small pieces. Put the potted shrimps into a saucepan and heat very gently (they must not cook) until the butter is just melted. Stir in the nori and add salt (not too much) and pepper. Cook the spaghetti and combine with the shrimp-nori mixture, adding a little of the spaghetti water if necessary to loosen it.



150gr fettucine or tagliatelle or taglierini or similar.

1 dessertspoon butter

zest and juice of ½ a lemon

100-120ml single cream

1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons grated parmesan

salt, pepper

Mix together the zest of the lemon,the parmesan, the garlic and parsley to make the gremolata. Put the cream, lemon juice, butter, salt and a good grinding of pepper into a small saucepan and heat through until the butter is melted. Cook and drain the pasta and put it in a heated bowl. Reheat the lemon-cream sauce without boiling and pour it over the pasta. Mix in the parmesan and the gremolata, and serve immediately. 




A version of a classic Venetian soup.

150-200gr dried white or pink beans

1 ham or bacon bone and/or 1 pig’s trotter

4-6 rashers streaky bacon or 100-150gr pancetta, chopped

1-2 onions, peeled and chopped

1-2 sticks celery, peeled and chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

50-100gr tagliatelle

olive oil, 2 sage leaves , chopped parsley, salt, pepper

Soak the beans for at least 8 hours. Drain and put into a saucepan with the bone or trotter, bacon and sage. Cover generously with water and simmer, covered, until the beans are done (about 2 hours depending on size and age). Discard the bone and trotter (having if you wish first cut off some of the rind and meat from the trotter).  Puree about half the beans and return to the pan, together with the cuttings from the trotter. Separately, cook the chopped onion, garlic and celery in some olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add to the beans together with the chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Bring back to the boil, adding more water if necessary (it should be soupy). Break the tagliatelle into 2 cm pieces, add to the beans and continue cooking until soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add a little olive oil if desired to each plate.



A PASTA SALAD  (for 2)

100gr penne

2-4 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-2 cm pieces

1 buffalo mozzarella, cut into 1-2 cm pieces

2-4 tablespoons pitted black olives

basil leaves, roughly torn

olive oil, salt, pepper

Cook the penne in plenty of salted boiling water with a tbsp olive oil, until al dente. Drain, and refresh briefly under running cold water. Toss with olive oil. When tepid, mix in the other ingredients and serve.




Crabmeat can be used instead of the prawns. For a vegetarian version, substitute unsalted cashew nuts.

100gr/3-4 oz thread egg noodles

1 aubergine weighing about 250gr

300gr/12 oz cooked prawns in the shell (unshelled weight)

2-3 cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped or put through garlic squeezer

4-6 sliced spring onions

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, preferably Japanese style (e.g. Kikkoman)

1 green or red chilli, peeled, deseeded and chopped finely (optional)

peanut or sunflower oil

sesame oil

a few coriander leaves

Peel the prawns. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain, refresh in cold water, toss with a tablespoon of sesame oil and put to one side. Cut the aubergine into chubby matchsticks. Stir-fry the aubergine in a wok or frying-pan with some peanut or sunflower oil until soft. Add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli, and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the noodles, peeled prawns, soy sauce and coriander. Turn up the heat and stir-fry briskly until everything is mixed up and warmed through. Do not let the prawns cook, as they will get hard.



                                                                               Basket-seller in Tajikistan