Rigatoni is a ridged, tube-shaped pasta that goes perfectly with this comforting walnut sauce. It’s not chilli hot, merely warm and toasty, making it the perfect fast food for a crisp autumn night. Serve the pasta with a pile of buttery spinach on the side if you wish.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
300g (10½oz) walnut halves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
½ garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 heaped tablespoons mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
350g (12oz) dried rigatoni pasta or similar short pasta shapes
Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan, tossing often until golden and fragrant. Tip onto a chopping board and, when cool enough, roughly chop. Some nuts should be very fine, and some larger.
Place the olive oil, chilli and garlic in a cold frying pan and heat gently so the garlic doesn’t colour. After 1–2 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the thyme, followed by the mascarpone and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in nearly all the walnuts, reserving a couple of tablespoons, and set aside.
Cook the pasta until al dente in a pan of salted, boiling water according to the packet instructions. Drain in a colander, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water, and immediately return the pasta to the pan with the reserved water. Add the walnut sauce and toss through the pasta. Serve with the reserved walnuts sprinkled over the top.
Serrano chillies are the longish, pointed variety commonly available in supermarkets: use red or green in the guacamole as you wish, but go easy if they are extra fiery. This dish also works well with large potatoes.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: about 1 hour 15 minutes
15 new potatoes or small waxy potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
For the salsa
4 large, ripe avocados, halved, stones removed
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 serrano chillies, seeded and finely chopped
juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
2 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Scrub the potatoes lightly if they look dirty, sprinkle with a little salt and bake for 50–60 minutes until tender. Set aside to cool a little. Cut each potato in half and scoop out the flesh. (The flesh is perfect for turning into mash – just beat in butter, salt and milk to taste – or vegetable patties.) Drizzle the potato skins with the olive oil and rub in the cumin seeds and a generous sprinkle of salt. Space out on a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or so until crisp and golden.
Meanwhile, to make the salsa, roughly mash the avocados with a fork (you don’t want them smooth; the aim is to leave a lot of texture). Stir in the remaining ingredients and season to taste.
Serve the crisp potato skins alongside the salsa, with a spoon for scooping, or spoon the salsa into each potato half and eat before they soften.
This recipe can be adapted for large potatoes: bake 4 potatoes for 1 hour 20 minutes then halve, scoop out the flesh and cut the skin into strips before serving with the salsa.
For a rustic look, try crushing the coated cheese slightly with the back of a fork. Drizzle the bites with olive oil and offer toasted flatbreads to scoop them up.
Makes about 30
Preparation time: 15 minutes
2 roasted red capsicums (peppers) in olive oil, drained and chopped
250g (9oz) soft goat’s cheese, curd cheese or labne (see page 38)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper, crushed
4 tablespoons finely chopped coriander (cilantro)
extra virgin olive oil, to cover (optional)
Stir the chopped capsicums into the cheese and roll into heaped teaspoon-sized balls.
Combine the coriander seeds, black pepper and chopped coriander with a pinch of salt and spread out on a large plate. Roll the cheese rounds in this mixture to coat.
Serve the cheese rounds as they are with crisp flatbread or, if you’d rather save them for another time, place in a bowl or jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Chill and eat within a couple of weeks.