For our next Variations on a Theme collaboration with my sister and our friend Hibiscus Kook, the prompt was Tomato Pasta. Check out below where each of us went with that!
Konjac Cherry tomato Pasta by Hibiscus Kook
This recipe is gluten-free and vegan friendly
Konjac noodles fun facts:
These are noodles that are gluten-free, low calorie, sugar-free and carbohydrate-free. They are great if you want to go on a diet!
They are made from the Konjac root or also known as shirataki noodles.
You can use these noodles with Asian or if you prefer European sauces!
Serves 2 people
Prep time 1 day (due to soaking the Konjak overnight)
Cooking time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
540 gr of Konjac noodles (make sure to soak accordingly)
2 Tbsp of white rice vinegar or apple cider
2 Garlic cloves
24 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of plant-based cream
1/4 cup of tomato passata (= plain tomato sauce)
A Tbsp of Salt
3 Tbsp of olive oil
1 chopped shallot or small white onion
Dash of white wine or beer or apple juice
A couple of fresh basil leaves for decoration
Soaking the Konjak
I have soaked and rinsed them as Konjac noodles are known to have a bit of a funny smell when first removed from their packet.
So to prepare these noodles I rinse them and throw the water out 3-4 times throughout the evening and then soak them overnight with 2 Tbsp of vinegar. I cut them with scissors, add 1 sliced garlic clove and 2 tbsp of olive oil and I let it soak so all the flavour is retained!
For the sauce
I made it very simple and lazy tomato sauce!
Put 24 cherry tomatoes and 1 garlic clove (remove skin) a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt in the oven at 190°C for one hour.
I call this method the lazy method because you do not need to be at the stove constantly stirring the sauce!
In a frying pan
1 tbsp of olive oil
one chopped shallot or small white onion, let them get translucent and then
dash of white wine, or beer or apple juice just enough to cover the bottom of the pan ( be warned if using apple juice it is sweet so take it easy..)
Add your oven-baked vegetables
1/4 cup of plant-based cream and your 1/4 cup of passata
Mash all the ingredients together!
Be careful when mashing cherry tomatoes… they do explode so wear an apron just in case!
Taste and salt accordingly a little bit goes a wild way!
Because you have soaked your noodles overnight you won’t need to cook them in boiling hot water just mix in your noodles and cook on the stove for 2 minutes and voila!…
Add your fresh basil and cheese for non-vegans!
Add some nuts cut up for some crunch if you like!
Extra crunchy tip: Almonds & cashews are great!
Creamy Cauliflower Ravioli in a Vodka Tomato Sauce by my Sister
The prompt this time around was pasta and tomato, which was so broad I was having trouble deciding on a dish. I liked the idea of making some kind of ravioli, but could not decide whether to put the tomatoes in the sauce, the dough, or the filling. When I asked my husband, he said I should put them in all three. So that was the plan, until I talked to my sister the day before cooking the dish and found out that we were planning essentially the same thing! So, I changed things up, deciding instead to separate the layers of flavour, consigning the tomatoes to the sauce, adding herbs to the dough to intensify the flavour, and focusing on making the filling cheesy and creamy. Unfortunately, my plan had to be updated on the go, when I belatedly realized that both the ricotta and the cottage cheese I had on hand had gone off! I did consider making a batch of ricotta for the purpose, but decided that the recipe already had too many steps for how late in the day it was... Glancing around my kitchen to see what I might substitute, I caught sight of a cauliflower. I have never used creamed cauliflower before, but thought that it might provide a good base for the kind of filling I wanted.
For the filling: 1/2 head of cauliflower 1 1/2 cups stock 1 pinch salt 1-2 heads of garlic 1 tbsp olive oil 10 oz Queso Fresco, Sirene, or other relatively fresh, crumble-able cheese 3 egg whites, beaten stiff parmesan, to taste (but at least 1/2 cup) black pepper, to taste 1-2 pinches of pul biber (optional) 1. Floret the cauliflower into a saucepan with the stock and salt. Cover and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes. Then stir, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes. Take off heat and let cool a further 10 minutes. 2. Meanwhile, cut off the pointy end of heads of garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven or air fryer for 10-15 minutes, until you can ooze the garlic out of its wrappers. 3. Transfer the cauliflower mixture and the roast garlic paste to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 4. Add whipped egg whites (for volume), crumbled cheese, parmesan, pepper, and pul biber, if using. Blend and let sit in a cool place until the dough is ready. For the dough: 2 cups of flour (not all of it will end up incorporated into the dough, but it is good for making the well so that the eggs don't spread all over your counter) 3 egg yolks 1 egg 1 tbsp olive oil herbs, fresh or dried (I used basil and marjoram from last year's garden) black pepper, to taste a pinch of salt 1-2 tbsp water, as needed Disclaimer: I used a slightly different dough recipe than usual, using mostly egg yolks, rather than whole eggs or vegetable puree as the binding agent. The dough ended up much more friable than usual, and I am not sure if my egg yolks were too small, or if this is due to the difference in ingredients, or if I merely failed to knead it well enough. Feel free to substitute with your favourite dough recipe instead. 1. Make a mound of flour on a clean work surface or silicone mat, and make a well in the centre. Pour the rest of the ingredients except the water into the centre.
2. Beat the eggs, and slowly draw in flour from the edges until the dough is kneadable and not too sticky.
3. Knead the dough ~10 minutes until it comes together in a smooth ball. If the dough is too hard to work, add in some water, a little at a time.
4. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes.
5. Cut the ball of dough into three ~equal parts, keeping the portions you aren't working in the plastic wrap, so as to keep them from drying out.
6. Roll the dough through the pasta machine on progressively smaller settings, until it is thin enough to pass through the thinnest setting. This should have stretched the dough out into a strip long (and wide) enough to cover the ravioli mould twice.
7. Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut the dough strip in half, lay one half on the mould, and press the indentations into it.
8. Spoon in your filling into the indentations until ~3/4 full (probably about 1 tsp/tbsp of filling, depending on your mould).
9. Cover with the other half of your pasta strip, and roll over it with a rolling pin. Pop out and separate the ravioli; set aside on a plate, trying to avoid setting them on top of each other.
10. Repeat steps 6-9 with the other two thirds of the dough.
11. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and drop in the ravioli, a few at a time. Because these are fresh, rather than dried, they will cook very quickly. When they float to the surface, they are ready; scoop them out, and lay them on a plate or in a colander, again trying not to set them on top of each other (else they might stick together). Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water for the sauce. For the sauce: ~1 cup fresh tomatoes 1 tbsp olive oil half a head of garlic, minced 1 tbsp tomato paste (to intensify the flavour) 2-3 Thai peppers, minced (optional) 1 tsp oregano salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup of pasta water 1/4 cup vodka (NB: Don't go for top-shelf vodka - the same principle applies to cooking vodka as to cooking wine: use whatever is cheapest). 1/4 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup parmesan Extra chopped tomatoes and spring onions for garnish 1. Quarter the tomatoes and puree them in a blender until smooth.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic until fragrant (this won't take long, so be careful not to let it burn).
3. Add the puréed tomatoes, tomato paste, Thai peppers, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 minutes. Optionally, for a smoother sauce, let cool for 10 minutes, transfer back to the blender, and blitz. Transfer back into the pan.
4. Add the ravioli into the sauce, along with the starchy pasta water and cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes.
5. Lower the heat and add the vodka, heavy cream, and parmesan. Cook for only a minute.
6. Serve hot, sprinkled with fresh tomatoes and spring onions. Overall, I think this experiment in extemporaneous cooking went rather well, although if I make it again, I will definitely change up some of the proportions. I had enough sauce for about twice the amount of ravioli I had prepared, and an entire bowl of filling left over. Additionally, I had too much cauliflower cream, so the cheesiness of the filling got a little lost. I think using only 1 cup of the cauliflower mixture, and at least half a cup of ricotta but keeping the rest of the recipe the same would probably get the balance much closer to right (although I would still have more filling than needed - at least I can use that in other dishes)... I am not sure whether the egg whites helped make the ravioli more pillowy, but I had the leftover egg whites from making the yolky dough, so I figured it was worth a try.
This made for a very satisfying meal, that both my husband and I agreed was delicious. :) If you don't feel up for the multi-step process of making the ravioli, the left-over vodka tomato sauce was also very tasty on regular store-bought pasta. The sauce itself is simple and quick to make, and slightly fancier than regular tomato sauce. It is very creamy, and the vodka gives it a slight twist, without making it taste of spirits.
Tomato and Whipped Feta Ravioli with a Tomato and Aubergine Sauce by Me
With a prompt as broad as Tomato Pasta, I was initially at a bit of a loss. What to make that wouldn't just be regular pasta and tomato sauce? Then I realised that I had never made pasta using tomatoes in lieu of the eggs. Carrots, beetroots, pumpkin, yes. Tomatoes, never, so I decided to try that. The problem with using vegetable purée in doughs generally, I find, is that the flavour (and colour) tends to get a little washed out. Using tomato paste I hoped would help as it has quite a rich flavour, but I also decided to add dried tomatoes directly to the dough. Hubby expressed some doubt about our coffee grinder's ability to handle the sun-dried tomatoes, but I decided to give it a try. And if I was doing that, the obvious second step seemed to be to fill the tomato pasta and turn it into ravioli. Tomatoes and.... mozzarella? Feta? Ricotta? I decided on a modified whipped feta filling after much deliberation. I decided that the honey and balsamic would balance out the salty creamy richness of the cheese and the whole would provide a good foil for the tomato pasta. For the sauce, a good chunky veg sauce with some lemon kept coming to mind, so that's what I went with.
Ingredients: For the Filling: about 1 c feta (1 piece) 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 2 tsp honey 1 tsp thyme Pepper to taste (lots of it!) For the Pasta: 2 1/2 c flour (and more for dusting) 3/4 c tomato paste (1 tube) 1 egg 6 sun-dried tomatoes 1 1/2 tsp dried basilic For the Sauce: 2 tbsp olive oil 1 large red onion, chopped 1 head of garlic, peeled and sliced 1 aubergine, chopped 2 large tomatoes, chopped 1/2 - 3/4 c white cooking wine (a good glug or two) Juice and zest of 1 lemon 1 tsp rosemary 3/4 c Pasta water 1) Start by making the filling. Place the piece of feta in a large bowl and add the other ingredients. Using a fork or a whisk (or an electric beater if you are so inclined) whip the feta until it is smooth (or mostly) and the colour is mostly uniform. Set aside at room temperature. 2) Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a spice blender, food processor or (in my case) a coffee grinder and blitz until fine. 3) Place the flour in a large bowl and mix in the pepper, sun-dried tomato dust, and basilic. Make a well in the centre and crack in the egg and add the tomato paste. Starting from the centre and mixing outwards, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones until a smooth, stiff dough forms. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it is too wet, slowly incorporate a little water. 4) Pinch off about 1/2 c of dough and work it in your hands a little. Work it thin enough to pass through the lowest setting on your pasta machine, dusting with a little flour first if the outside seems a little sticky. 5) Gradually pass the dough through thinner and thinner settings.. I went up to setting 6 out of 9 on my machine, which was thin enough to make the ravioli, but thick enough to still give them some structure. 6) When your sheet of dough is ironed out to the desired thickness, it should be wide enough and long enough to fit over the ravioli mould (alternatively, lay it out flat and use a cutter at regular intervals). 7) Place a small teaspoon full of the filling in the centre of each depression, then repeat steps 4-6 to create the second layer of the ravioli. Crimp shut, or use the roller to crimp and cut the ravioli, depending on your method. If the dough is a little too dry to stick together properly, paint the edges with a little water first. 8) Repeat 4-7 until all the filling is used up, and set the ravioli aside on a surface dusted with a little semolina. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta about 1 batch of ravioli at a time, leaving them in the water only until they float to the surface, then fish them out with a slotted spoon, and drain fully in a colander, reserving about a half ladle of pasta water. 9) in a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the other ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Toss the ravioli with the sauce, add the reserved pasta water, and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Serve hot.
This all came out really tasty, by all accounts (even toddler tastes aligned with what I cooked, for once!) I did encounter some frustrations though.
The dough was very friable for some reason. I don't know if I added too many bits to it, in the shape of basilic and sun-dried tomatoes, preventing the dough from really binding properly, or if it was to do with the flour to tomato paste ratio, or how much I worked it. Or even if it is the acidity of the tomatoes that did it. I will have to try the dough again at some point to see if I can iron out the kinks. The dough being so friable meant that it was very hard to pass through the machine. the first couple of settings took a lot of passes to even get a semblance of a sheet of dough, and even at the higher settings, I got hitches and tears in the dough. I had to patch a couple of the ravioli a little and was worried they would fall apart. They didn't, thankfully, and I think the filling worked in my favour here as it didn't dissolve away in the water even when seals were imperfect or the dough was holey.
The filling was very tasty and complemented the other bits beautifully, but being almost entirely feta, it was very salty. I didn't add salt anywhere else except in the pasta water, but that wasn't enough to make up for the feta's salt. Hubby suggested getting a low-salt variety next time. There will be a next time though, despite some frustrations, as it was so good though!
This was another fun collaboration for our Variations on a Theme. Watch this space for the next one!
In case you want to try making these but don't have a pasta machine, pasta tree or ravioli cutter, click on the links to get one of your own! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.