Right. Here we go. Where better to start than that meal. The one that first springs to mind in moments of joy, and equally in moments of sorrow. The one that hugs you in tight and makes everything ok. No, not ok. Bloody wonderful.
Welcome to BLUE CHEESE PASTA. Or BCP as we affectionately call it. This is no culinary masterpiece, but it is something that you will want to make over and over again, with the spicy, rich heady sauce meeting the molten luxury of the blue cheese that oozes down the sides of the dish. Not one for the dieter, but certainly one for the soul.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4 (or 3 very greedy gluttons))
2 garlic cloves (chopped or crushed)
1 Birdseye chilli (chopped, with seeds)
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 glass red wine (save the fancy stuff for drinking)
Tin chopped tomatoes
100g passata (bought or homemade)
Splash balsamic vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
Pinch or so of dried chillies (to taste)
Pepper to season (no salt, as the cheese on top should provide all required saltiness)
Cheese for the top – here I used a mix of Stilton and Gorgonzola, about 300g in total, but type (cheddar works nicely too) and amount is entirely up to you. This is about pleasure, so pick your own poison.
Get a big pan of salted water on the boil ready for your pasta, and cook that according to the pack instructions as you make the sauce (you want the pasta beautifully al dente, ideally)
Heat a bit of (olive) oil in a large pan (I like to use a wide shallow pan, but whatever you have/prefer) on a low to moderate heat
Once the oil is a little hot add the garlic and chillies – you don’t want them sizzling when they go in as this is about flavouring the oil as it heats as much as cooking the garlic and chillies
Once the pan begins to sizzle, add the tomato purée and cook out for a minute or so – this is where the sweet richness of the sauce begins
Add in the wine and cook down
Add the tin of tomatoes, the passata, the sugar and the balsamic vinegar and stir together before leaving it simmer together
Taste and add dried chillies and pepper to taste (even if the sauce tastes hot enough, a pinch of dried chilli does add a slightly different layer, so maybe try it)
Simmer the sauce down until you’re happy with it – keep tasting!
Meanwhile heat your grill to medium-high (or heat the oven if you are without grill)
Combine sauce and drained, cooked pasta and tip the lot into a chosen dish (I use a traditional Italian serving dish, but this is also nice done in individual vessels – just make sure the dishes are grill-proof)
Pile your cheese up on top of the pasta, then place it under the grill for 5 minutes or so, until the cheese is oozing and bubbling
Serve with fresh salad and crusty fresh bread. With one bottle of plonk to drown the sorrows, with two bottles to celebrate the victories.
Although a regular in my house, I last had BCP on the night I finished my final exams at Cambridge University. The pasta was perfect: luxurious, comforting and stress-free. It was all the sweeter followed by my boy doing the washing up …
And then by these little beauties…chocolate, raspberry brownies…