Mum's Minestrone Soup

As a young child, I was an incredibly fussy eater and vegetables were not my friend.  My mum tried everything to get me to eat (or at least try) vegetables, but I often flatly refused unless they were covered in cheese, and even then, I'd still pick at my plate.  I don't remember how old I was, but one day I was in bed with flu and my mum made me a bowl of this Minestrone soup.  I ate everything and it soon became the only way I would eat any veggies for a long, long time.

My mum's homemade minestrone soup always had more carbs than vegetables in it (so that I would eat it I assume!), which makes it much more filling than the standard version, although many variations of minestrone exist and can be happily altered to accomodate all tastes.  This is the recipe that I still stick to and will probably be how I'll always make a good bowl of my mum's minestrone soup.

Serves 4

- 300g can of cannellini beans, drained
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 gloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1.5 litres of vegetable stock
- 400g can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 large potatoes
- 150g dried spaghetti, broken into smaller pieces
- 50g petit pois or garden peas
- handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

How to:-
1.  Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, carrots and garlic.  Cover and cook on a low heat for around 20 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally.
2.  Add the vegetable stock and chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil and cover and simmer for around 15 minutes.
3.  Then add the beans, potatoes and spaghetti, and bring back to the boil.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender (but still retaining their form).
4.  Stir in the parsley and basil, season to taste and serve with warm crusty rolls.


Tagliatelle with Pesto & Toasted Pine Nuts

When it comes to carb cravings, sometimes only a big bowl of pasta will do.  This simple classic Italian dish is quick and easy to prepare, and oh-so comforting if you're suffering from the winter (or any other) blues.  You can use ready made pesto but have a go at making your own because you really can taste the difference and it makes the dish that extra bit more special.

Serves 4

- 2 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 50g vegetarian parmesan-style cheese
- 50g pine nuts, lightly toasted if desired
- 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- 125ml extra virgin olive oil
- 450g fresh tagliatelle
- extra pine nuts and parmesan to serve if desired

How to:-
1.  Put the garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and basil leaves into a food processor or blender and blend on high until almost smooth.  With the blender running, then slowly add the olive oil until your pesto appears relatively thick.
2.  Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the tagliatelle.  Cook to packet instructions and drain, but keep about 100ml of the pasta water.
3.  In a large bowl toss together the pesto, tagliatelle and pasta water until everything is mixed evenly.
4.  Serve with some extra toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan if wanted.


Stuffed Red Peppers with Soft Goat's Cheese

If you follow me on We Were Raised By Wolves, you may have seen that one of my New Year resolutions is to update A Wolf And Her Dinner at least once a week.  I love cooking and trying out new recipes, so it should be an easy resolution for me to keep!  Anyway, I thought I'd start the New Year off with one of my favourite simple, yet absolutely delicious, lunches that I enjoy making for myself at the weekend or whenever I have a day off.  I probably eat more stuffed peppers than I do stuffed mushrooms (though I do love both), and find that peppers are one of the few fresh foods in my fridge that keep for more than a couple of days, so they're always good to have in there as a back up.

This recipe involves soft goat's cheese as the main filling, but if you don't fancy that, you could use any other soft cheese; something like Camembert works just as well.

Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a starter

- 1 red pepper
- 50g soft goat's cheese
- 1tbsp pesto
- 1 small vine tomato, diced
- 4 pitted black olives
- 1 slice of wholemeal bread, crumbled
- extra virgin olive oil

How to:-
1.  Preheat the oven to 200C / Fan 180C / Gas Mark 6.
2.  Cut the pepper in half, discard the core and seeds, then place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
3.  Divide the pesto, olives and diced tomato between the pepper halves.  Add the soft goats cheese on top, finishing with the wholemeal breadcrumbs and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
4.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until the breadcrumbs are crisp and the peppers are tender.
5.  Serve with a green salad and balsamic dressing if desired or try it with some warm ciabatta slices.