I know a lot of people who absolutely adore pasta, but I have to say that I think there are tastier carbohydrates to be had out there. However, I can’t deny that pasta is a really convenient meal to whip up in no time at all when you need to make a quick weekday meal. I also cannot argue with the fact that there are countless sauces and toppings that you can serve with your pasta. One flavour combination that I’ve wanted to try making for absolutely ages is spinach and walnut pasta. There was just something about the crunchiness of the walnuts with the softly wilted spinach that intrigued me and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.
Everyone loves lasagne, it’s just one of those universally adored dishes that Italy’s renowned for. However, when I went dairy-free and onto the low FODMAP diet I was concerned that it would be off the cards because it normally has lots of onion, garlic and cheese in it, but I made a conscious effort to adapt my usual lasagne recipe into a FODMAP friendly one and it seemed to have been successful.
When I started looking into the FODMAP diet and for ways to incorporate onion and garlic flavours into my cooking I discovered that you can use chives without it having any impact on your IBS and that garlic-infused oil is fine to use too, as long as you don’t consume the actual garlic itself. During my onion-based investigations though (forgive me, I’ve been reading a lot of old-school crime novels lately), I also found out that there is an Indian spice called asafoetida which mimics the flavour of onion. I was pretty sceptical to be honest, but I ordered some asafoetida online and was thrilled to find out that it genuinely does taste like onion!
Now, you’ve got to be careful when buying asafoetida because some of the spice mixes are blended with gluten flours to make it less potent (it’s a very strong spice), but there are some, such as this one, which are blended with other spices like ground fenugreek instead.
I’d really recommend trying asafoetida if you’re on the low FODMAP diet and you ordinarily enjoy onion and garlic flavours in your cooking because it definitely does what it says on the tin. As a result, my lasagne sheets were layered between a rich, thick, onion-infused meaty ragù that was just as satisfying as the standard version. This free-from lasagne is also topped with a creamy, cheesy dairy-free white sauce that definitely doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing out on dairy (although if you’re not dairy-free you could just use a couple of sachets of cheese sauce mix instead).
I served the free-from lasagne with a fresh green salad that was liberally dotted with fat, plump little jewel-green caperberries whose piquancy cut through the richness of the lasagne and added a tart freshness to the dish, but feel free to just serve it with chips if you’d prefer. You’ll find no judgement here from me, my friends.
Ingredients for the pork ragù:
450g pork mince (use beef if you’d prefer)
200g red bell pepper (diced)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsps dried oregano
360g of tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida
Gluten-free lasagne sheets
Dairy-free cheese for lasagne topping
For the white sauce:
25g dairy-free butter
25g gluten-free flour
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsps Engevita
200ml rice milk
Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan/375F/ Gas mark 5.
Method to make the ragù:
Put the pork mince in a saucepan with 1 tbsp olive oil and cook until done.
Add the red peppers, oregano, salt, asafoetida, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and cook until hot.
To make the white sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat before whisking in the flour, black pepper and Engevita.
Slowly add a little rice milk at a time, stirring continuously, so that eventually a thick sauce is created. (Don’t panic if it looks really lumpy, just keep stirring and adding more milk and it’ll come together.)
Once the white sauce is thick take it off the heat .
Take a rectangular casserole dish and put a layer of ragù on the bottom and top it with lasagne sheets. Repeat until you’ve used up all of the ragù.
Whisk the egg thoroughly into the white sauce mixture, pour on top of the lasagne, top with the dairy-free cheese and bake in the oven for around 45 mins.
Serve with a salad (and/or chips!).
In Italy, Sicilians make a pasta sauce that’s much like a bolognese, but instead of making it with minced meat they make it with lentils. This creates a deliciously thick and ‘meaty’ lentil ragù that’s incredible over pasta.
When Jen from Your Birth Scotland tasked me with developing some recipes for her pregnant and postpartum clients the first thing I thought of was a dish that would be primarily based on green lentils because they’re one of the most incredibly nutritious and healthy pulses available. They’re also unbelievably cheap to buy and can be used in a myriad of dishes.
There are four main types of lentil which are used in cooking. Green and brown lentils hold their shape after cooking, so are suitable for using in stuffings, casseroles and warm salads. Yellow lentils break down into a pulp and tend to be used for making recipes like pease pudding or split pea soup. Puy lentils are beautiful greeny-slate coloured lentils that are grown in the Le Puy region in France and are prized for their high quality taste and their ability to retain their texture after cooking. These lentils tend to be used alongside fish and meat, such as in sausage casseroles. And lastly, we have the humble common red lentil, the most versatile lentil of all, which breaks down upon cooking to create a rich, thick puree that can be used to add texture to any dish while soaking up the flavours you wish to impart.
Aside from being highly fibrous and high in protein and carbohydrates, green lentils are packed full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, calcium, phosphorous and essential B vitamins. All of these support good overall health for everyone, but are particularly useful for women who are either pregnant or postpartum because they help to maintain healthy iron levels and prevent anemia while also supporting good metabolism operation to ensure your energy levels remain stable. As you can see, green lentils are a win-win really!
One of the benefits to this lentil ragù (aside from the fact that it’s delicious!) is that it’s made in the slow cooker, allowing you to focus on other things throughout your day. It simply is a case of throwing all of your ingredients into the slow cooker pot, setting it on low, and getting on with your day. This lentil ragu is also brilliant for freezing.
This lentil ragù is fat free, iron rich and is packed full of lots of vegetables, making it a very healthy dish indeed. If you have a partner who insists on having meat every day then you could throw some diced casserole beef in alongside the lentils and it would taste just as good. I think the lentils are quite substantial enough as they are without having to add meat to the recipe, but each to their own, I say. Also, if you’d like to give it a smokey flavoured kick, a half teaspoon of smoked paprika would do the trick. If you make this and enjoy it you could try making The Happy Pear’s Dahl recipe in your slow cooker, which is also packed full of healthy, nutritious little lentils and is lovely served with rice and naans or poppadums.
Serve your lentil ragù on a bed of tender gluten-free tagliatelle and scatter with fresh basil leaves and grated parmesan (or a vegan alternative).
1 tsp of asafoetida powder
1 tbsp of garlic-infused oil (you can find out how to make your own here at A Little Bit Yummy)
3 large carrots (cut into small pieces)
160g of tinned lentils (drained and rinsed well)
700g of tinned chopped tomatoes
2 tsps. of dried oregano
4 vegetable stock cubes
500ml of boiling water
20 pitted black olives (halved)
30g sundried tomatoes (chopped)
500g gluten-free tagliatelle
Parmesan (or a vegan alternative)
Dissolve your stock cubes in a jug containing 500ml of boiling water.
Prepare the ingredients as directed and put them all in your slow cooker.
Pour the stock over the ingredients, adding more hot water if necessary so that all of the ingredients are just covered by the liquid. (This depends on the size of your slow cooker, so if you’ve got a large slow cooker you might need to add more stock.)
Let it cook for the day (if you’re in the house you could give it a stir once an hour, but it’s fine to just leave it if you’re going out).
About half an hour before you’re ready to eat, check the seasoning. If it needs it, then add salt and pepper or another stock cube or two. It’s very much down to personal taste.
Cook your tagliatelle as directed on the pack, drain, portion onto plates and top with the lentil ragù, basil and parmesan. Enjoy!
Spaghetti bolognese is one of the easiest dinners you can cook, to the extent that when I thought about writing this one up on the blog I thought it was maybe a bit too pedestrian, but once I tasted it I realised that, when it comes to my blog, my main rule is that it doesn’t matter how simple the recipe is as long as it tastes fantastic.
This is a meat and dairy-free vegan spaghetti bolognese, but don’t let that put you off making this, meat-eaters, because: a.) the vegan mince is very tasty and substantial; b.) if you really wanted to you could easily use beef or pork mince in place of the vegan mince; and c.) it’s worth making for the ragù sauce alone.
The key to this vegan spaghetti bolognese recipe is the inclusion of chopped sundried tomatoes which adds a silky richness to the tomato base. The capers and green olives also add a nice tart piquancy which cuts through the rich sauce whilst adding texture. I always keep a packet of fresh basil leaves in my freezer to add to dishes such as this one. I won’t lie, the freezing process does make the leaves lose some of their flavour potency so it’s best to use fresh basil leaves, but it’s worth it to have some on hand to add to my plate should the need arise.
In all, if you make this vegan spaghetti bolognese you’ll be rewarded with a plateful of tender well-seasoned spaghetti topped generously with a full-bodied and luscious tomato ragù that’s brimming over with flavour. All in all, how can you resist?
For the ragù sauce:
2 tbsps. of olive oil
I tsp asafoetida powder
10 pitted green olives (halved)
2 tbsps. capers
32g sundried tomatoes (chopped)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
400g of tinned chopped tomatoes
250g vegan mince
For the spaghetti:
360g dried gluten-free spaghetti (I go with roughly 90g per person)
2 gluten-free vegetable stock cubes
Fill a large pan with hot water, add the two vegetable stock cubes and bring to the boil.
Put another smaller pan on a medium heat and add your olive oil. Add the sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, vegan mince and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Whilst the sauce is simmering cook the spaghetti in the large pan of seasoned boiling water until it is cooked to your preferred texture and drain well.
Serve each mound of spaghetti with a generous topping of ragù sauce, fresh basil leaves and a grating of parmesan (or a dairy-free version).