Nigel Slater's perfect pasta recipes

Pappardelle with butter beans, serrano ham and green chillies

The beans and pasta might appear to be starch overkill, yet the contrast of textures is really the point here.

serves 2

dried butter beans – 250g

pappardelle – 250g

Serrano ham – 100g

pickled green chillies - 4

stoned green olives - 16

parsley - a small bunch

for the dressing

olive oil

sherry vinegar - 1 tbs

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. The next day, drain them and boil in deep, unsalted water till tender. (We are talking a good 40 minutes, but you must check them regularly.) Salt the beans only towards the end of cooking otherwise they will toughen. Drain the beans and slip them from their skins, tossing the peeled beans with a little olive oil as you go. Remove the leaves from the parsley and chop them. Roughly chop the chillies. Half the olives.

Make the dressing by whisking three tablespoons of the oil with the vinegar. Then add some salt and pepper. It will not thicken.

Cook the pasta in deep, boiling, salted water. Drain and toss with the dressing, the drained beans, chillies, olives and the parsley. Tear up the ham and fold in to the pasta. Serve warm.

Pappardelle with toasted garlic parsley and chestnut mushrooms

There is something woodsy and earthy about this way with ribbon pasta. It works well with steak or with grilled lamb. If you want to eat it as a main course without the meat then simply double up the ingredients, except the garlic and rosemary, which should stay the same.

serves 2 with steak or grilled lamb

pappardelle - 150g

garlic - 8 fat cloves

butter - 50g

olive oil

chestnut mushrooms - 250g

rosemary - 3 bushy sprigs

parsley - a small bunch

grated parmesan - a handful

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta. Peel the garlic and bring it to the boil in a small pan of water, for seven to 10 minutes till it has softened slightly, then drain it. Put the butter and two tablespoons of olive oil into a shallow pan over a moderate heat. As it starts to froth add the drained garlic and, when it has coloured a little, the chopped rosemary. Slice the mushrooms and stir them in. Let them cook for a good seven to 10 minutes until they are soft, sticky and golden, adding more oil if they appear to need it.

Meanwhile, salt the boiling water and cook the pasta. Roughly chop the parsley, stir it into the mushrooms and season with salt and black pepper.

Drain the pasta when it is tender but firm then toss it gently with the grated Parmesan and the mushrooms.

Bucatini with roast tomato and crisp pancetta

Wonderfully sweet-sharp flavours here, which are great with grilled lamb or liver. Let the tomatoes colour well; you can even let the skins blacken a little, which will add deep smoky notes to the finished dish. If you want to serve it as a main dish without the meat then use 300g of pasta and maybe a couple more slices of pancetta.

serves 2 with grilled lamb

tomatoes - 5 large ones (not beefsteak)

olive oil

basil leaves - a large handful

bucatini - 200g

pancetta - 6 thin slices

Slice the tomatoes in half and put them in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil then season with salt and black pepper. Bake them in a hot oven (200C/gas 6) for 45 minutes till they are thoroughly soft and well coloured.

Put a large pan of water on to boil.

Salt it, and drop in the pasta as soon as it comes to the boil. Cook the bucatini for nine minutes, or according to the instructions on the packet. (Some brands may be very slightly thicker than others and consequently take a minute or more longer to cook.)

Grill the pancetta till crisp. Crush the roast tomatoes with a fork and stir in the torn basil leaves. Drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the tomato and serve, topped with pieces of the crisped pancetta.

Cappelletti with artichokes, parsley, lemon and parmesan

A light pasta supper for a spring day. As a side dish, this is what I what I want to eat with grilled fish (especially white fish) and chicken. As a main course for two, you will need 300g of pasta and a few more artichokes.

serves 2 with grilled fish or chicken

cappelletti - 150g

preserved artichokes - 250g

the finely grated zest and juice of a large lemon

olive oil

parsley - a small bunch

parmesan - a large block for shaving

18 green olives

Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta. Cut the artichokes into thick slices and drop them into a bowl. Add the grated lemon zest and juice. Stir in four tablespoons of olive oil and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Chop the parsley leaves and gently fold into the artichokes and oil.

Salt the water and add the pasta, letting it cook at a fast boil till tender. Drain and toss with the artichokes and their dressing and the olives. Divide the pasta between two warm bowls. Remove thin shavings from the parmesan with a vegetable peeler and scatter them over the pasta. You will need about 50g between the two servings.

Linguine with sardines, toasted breadcrumbs and blood orange

Any thin pasta will work here, but I especially like linguine or spagettini, Normally I would suggest more pasta for two, but the breadcrumbs make this light lunch quite substantial.

serves 2

linguine - 150g

large oranges - 2

parsley - a small bunch

olive oil

fresh breadcrumbs - 90g

garlic cloves - 5

sardines in olive oil - 250g

Put a large, deep pan of water on to boil. Peel the oranges and slice them thinly. Chop the parsley.

Warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow pan. Peel and finely chop the garlic, then let it cook for a few minutes in the oil; you want it to be soft and pale gold. Put the pasta on to cook in the salted boiling water. Tip the breadcrumbs into the pan with the garlic and continue cooking until they are golden. Stir them from time to time so they do not burn.

Put the sardines into a small ovenproof dish and place under the grill till they sizzle - it will take around five minutes. Now drain the pasta and toss it with the warm garlic breadcrumbs, the grilled sardines, the sliced oranges and the chopped parsley.

The wine list

Linguine with sardines and blood orange:

2003 Tesco Finest Great Southern Riesling (£5.99)

If this doesn't turn you onto Riesling, then nothing will. This is an elegant, lime-scented white from Western Australia.

Pappardelle with butter beans, serrano ham and green chillies:

2002 Bertie Collection Grenashe, Saint Chinian (£7.99, Oddbins)

This is a fleshy, ultra-ripe blend of Grenache and Syrah from the organically minded enfant terrible of the Languedoc.

Bucatini with roast tomato and pancetta:

2004 Cono Sur Pinot Noir, Rapel Valley (£4.99, Majestic)

This is a light, raspberry fruity red with classic Pinot softness and finesse.

Pappardelle with toasted garlic, parsley and mushrooms

1999 Asda Extra Special Barolo (£10.98, Asda)

This Piedmontese Nebbiolo is perfumed and elegant, with notes of rose petal and raspberry.

Capalletti with artichoke, lemon and parmesan

2003 Carmen Winemaker's Reserve Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley (£8.99, Waitrose)

This rich and grapefruity Chardonnay from Chile has subtle oak and plenty of body and texture.
Tim Atkin

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