Mushroom and Leek Pasta


This definitely won’t flatten your curves

As the old saying goes looks can be deceiving, and when it comes to Mushroom and Leek Pasta from Gordon Ramsay it’s definitely a case of the calories being deceiving. There is no nutritional information listed in Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course book and I made the mistake in thinking that any dish containing mushrooms and leeks must be good for you, right? Wrong.

The addition of the fresh lasagne sheets, double cream and ciabatta sent the fat content spiralling to, I estimate, approximately 839 calories per serving. Fuck me, as Gordon would say. If this recipe appeals to you but you’re worried about messing up your diet, ditch the bread and use only 4 fresh lasagne sheets between 2 people which will bring the calorie count down to about 627 per serving. Alternatively, using dried lasagne sheets will bring the calories down further if you’re willing to compromise on flavour.

This actually tastes really good but there are more diet friendly pasta recipes out there which include leeks, mushrooms and tarragon, such as smashed-up chicken, which uses low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream and only a small portion of pasta instead of lasagne sheets.

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Silky Salmon Tagliatelle


This is a great option for using up leftover cooked salmon during Christmas week

Jamie Oliver includes some excellent suggestions for how to use up leftover salmon in his Save with Jamie Book and Silky Salmon Tagliatelle is a luxurious pasta dish that can be ready in about 20 minutes.

Who has leftover salmon you might ask? Not me, so I pre-cooked some salmon fillets in the oven. But I suppose Jamie is appealing to those who cook 1.5kg (approx.) sides of salmon, so this recipe is a good option to rustle up if you have any leftovers from Christmas. The calorie count for this is quite high, but you can reduce it by only serving 50g of tagliatelle per person rather than the (excessive) 80g.

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Sausage Pasta


You can make this suitable for vegetarians by using veggie sausages (but no need to poach them)

Sausage Pasta is the first recipe that I’ve tried from Jamie Oliver’s new 7 Ways book, which celebrates 18 much-loved ingredients with some new ideas for every day of the week. There’s a whole chapter devoted to sausages, but this caught my attention because it uses chipolatas which are cheap and lower in calories.

Sausage and fennel are perfect dance partners and this dish really comes together with the dried chilli flakes, plum tomatoes, tenderstem broccoli and Parmesan. Jamie suggests using dried farfalle pasta, but penne would do the job if you can’t get hold of any.

If you like chipolatas, I’d also recommend smoky sausage and beans and sausage and apple bake, which are great comfort food options when you’re struggling for ideas.

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Pea and Ham Pasta


If you can’t get hold of lumaca rigate pasta, penne will do

Tom Kerridge is the absolute don when it comes to flavours and his simple Pea and Ham Pasta dish totally hits the spot. This recipe will feed two very generously, and given that it’s 585 calories per portion you might want to stretch this between three servings, as I did with my wife and son who loved it.

This is a quicker, more affordable alternative to pasta with summer vegetables and parmesan and slightly more luxurious compared to pea and prosciutto pasta. All three recipes taste sublime so take your pick! :-).

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Spicy Sausage Pasta


No amount of Parmesan could rescue this

I’m sure there’s a decent recipe within Spicy Sausage Pasta from Justine Pattison, but I royally screwed it up by not having the correct ingredients in to make it. I couldn’t get hold of any spicy pork sausages (can anyone, from supermarkets?) and used regular pork ones sprinkled with a generous helping of chilli flakes. My back bacon substitute for smoked lardons was also an epic fail, and although a tin of chopped tomatoes in preference to using 3 large ripe tomatoes was more excusable, fresh is always better than tinned equivalents.

The end result, through every fault of my own, was bland and disappointing and it tasted way too tomatoery, if that’s a ‘thing’? I tried to rescue it by dolloping parmesan on top but I wasn’t fooling anyone. Not least my teenage son who charitably said, “It’s nice Dad but I’m full, so I’ll put it in the microwave and eat it later”, where it remained untouched.

The moral of the story here is that while you can get away with some simple substitutes in many recipes, this isn’t one of them, particularly when bolder flavours such as chilli and smoked lardons are required. If you have a go at making this and it turns out well, do let me know :-).

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Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta


You only need a small portion of pasta as the yellow pepper and broccoli bulk it out

I’d forgotten how good Spicy Bacon and Tomato Pasta is from the Hairy Dieters. It’s great hot or cold, so invariably I used to prep it the night before and take it into work for lunch the next day. Since I’ve been working from home for the last seven months some of my lunchtime meals have been more extravagant, but it’s good to go back to basics and save some time in the kitchen!

Check the packaging (or review the nutritional information online) to make sure your tomato and basil sauce has no more than 6g of fat per 100g – I buy the little stir-in pots from Dolmio (150g) which are a rip-off, but they taste good and some are low-fat. If you’re on a budget, use regular broccoli cut into small florets rather than tenderstem.  This is a good meal to introduce kids to vege. My teenage son is too pre-occupied with the pasta, sauce and bacon to notice that I’ve included some diced yellow pepper in there ;-).

Love simple and quick low-cal pasta dishes? Check out tagliatelle carbonara, prawn pasta salad, simple tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad and pea and prosciutto pasta.

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Chipotle Turkey Meatballs


Don’t worry about the chipotle chilli flakes, they are not that hot!

I’ve loved experimenting with some new turkey recipes over the last six months and Chipotle Turkey Meatballs from Pinch of Nom is right up there with the best. There’s the perfect balance of heat from the chipotle chilli flakes and the smoked paprika which go well with the rich flavour of the passata. Yuummmeeee!!

If you love a meatball, and most people do, check out beef kofta curry (also from Pinch of Nom, which is exquisite), Swedish meatballs and Transylvanian meatballs. There’s a meatball out there for everyone.

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Chicken Tetrazzini


Tell your mates you’re making an ‘American hybrid’ recipe and they’ll think you’re cool, maybe.

Chicken Tetrazzini from Justine Pattison is apparently an American hybrid recipe. I don’t know what that means but it tastes pretty good, though does require many ingredients and some patience when putting it together.

Creamy chicken, topped with vegetables, breadcrumbs, cheese and spaghetti seems a bit weird to me. But after shoving my lasagne dish under the grill for 5 minutes to crisp up and turn golden brown all was forgiven. I get it now, kind of. This recipe serves 6 for 339 calories per serving, but that’s stretching it somewhat. You might be better dividing this between 4 portions and factoring in the extra calories. Naughty, naughty :-).

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Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes


Don’t judge until you’ve tried it, and for under a £1 per serving, you can’t afford not to

Spaghetti with Prawns and Courgettes from the Hairy Dieters might seem like an odd combination. However, for 250 calories per portion it is packed full of bold flavours coming from the lemon zest, capers, nutmeg and basil, making it something of a surprise, and all for just 90 pence per portion!

I tend to order courgettes on autopilot in my weekly supermarket deliveries, regardless of whether I plan to use them or not, so always tend to have some hanging around in my fridge. This recipe is perfect for using them up, but if it doesn’t float your boat, then try spaghetti on fire or tagliatelle carbonara.

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Courgette Caponata Pasta


A tasty, plateful of vege goodness for under a £1 per serving

I was hoping that the Hairy Dieters’ ‘Go Veggie’ book would become my non-meat bible, however very few recipes caught my eye which I thought would be regulars on my meal planner. Courgette Caponata Pasta was one of them and I was pleasantly surprised by how much flavour is packed into one meal for just 133 calories, or 314 calories based on a 50g serving of pasta (per person, serving 4).

Now before I go on, I’ll say this now. Don’t make this if you hate chopping vege as dicing the onions, peppers and courgettes is time-consuming, unless you’re a proper chef and can have everything prepped in 20 minutes as the Hairy Dieters claim. It takes me 20 minutes to find all the ingredients in my kitchen! Ok, that’s bollocks too, but you get my drift.

If you are willing to persevere with prepping everything, you’ll be rewarded. With or without pasta, this is a gorgeous plate of food thanks to the addition of the cinnamon, lemon zest, chilli flakes, honey and red wine vinegar. If you’re looking for another pasta dish with a kick, check out spaghetti on fire – it is suitable for vegetarians if you omit the bacon.

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Squash & Spinach Pasta Rotolo


Just 90p per portion

Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie contains a really inspirational vegetarian chapter at the beginning of the book, not the back, which is where some ‘vege’ recipes sometimes get shoved. Squash & Spinach Rotolo really catches the eye but the recipe, which takes up to three hours to make (the butternut squash takes 90 mins to roast), isn’t the easiest to get right.

My latest attempt didn’t go to plan. I put too much water on my lasagne sheets, then overloaded the soggy sheets with filling which made it spill out when cooking in the pan. Infuriating. This isn’t a meal to make on a weeknight and is probably best for prepping on a Sunday evening in readiness for a ‘meat-free Monday’. As for the taste, actually it was pretty good, although I do find frozen spinach a little overbearing compared to fresh varieties.

One to try again, when I can summon up sufficient enthusiasm that is required to match the effort needed. More experienced cooks may fair better with this. If you love butternut squash, check out home-made butternut squash tortellini, which again needs a degree of skill to pull off, but is an excellent vegetarian pasta option.

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Spaghetti on FIRE


This is the only thing that’s ‘on fire’ about me

Hot as a fever, rattle of bones. I could just taste it, taste it. Yooooouuuuu. Your Spaghetti is on FIRE. Ok, so I doubt Kings of Leon will be adapting the lyrics of ‘Sex on Fire’, but I did chuckle to myself while prepping Spaghetti on Fire from Justine Pattison.

This is a belter of a pasta dish, packed with good stuff (vege), and full of flavour from the smoked bacon and chilli flakes. Adding Parmesan and basil leaves is optional but I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing so to enhance the taste. This frugal recipe is right up there with my favourite pasta dishes, but numero uno for me remains Pasta Puttanesca. Which one is yours?

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Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake


Perfect for the kids to stuff their faces

Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake from Two Chubby Cubs is a proper feast – pasta, bacon, ham, pineapple, mozzarella and (optional) cheddar cheese in one-pot! It’s a cinch to throw together and will comfortably make 6 portions – perfect for feeding the kids over a couple of days or so.

Speaking of kids, this recipe threw up one of my life’s little mysteries. My son Will, who loves Hawaiian pizzas, curiously wouldn’t entertain having pineapple in this pasta bake. Go figure. The Cubs, whose fab debut book is wonderfully entertaining, suggest serving this with a light salad on the side to ‘pointedly ignore’, which I did :-).

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Pea and Prosciutto Pasta – forget unhealthy supermarket versions


Pea & prosicuitto pasta

My son Will loves pasta but supermarket varieties with sauce can come in at over 500 calories for just half a pack. So, I embarked on a mission to find healthier, yummier alternatives and Pea and Prosciutto Pasta from Justine Pattison has become his favourite.

The calorie count for this recipe is 329 per serving, however the addition of the butter and a splash of single cream still makes it feel sufficiently naughty and Will regards this as a proper treat. If you’re a big pasta fan, Justine’s book Without the Calories – pasta and rice, will be right up your street. You can also find more pasta dishes on this blog here.  Continue reading “Pea and Prosciutto Pasta – forget unhealthy supermarket versions”

Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad


Simple Tuna pasta salad

I’m sure everyone reading will identify with this…there are some days when you just can’t be ARSED to make a healthy meal but still want to stay on track with your diet. It can be all too tempting to make a carb-loaded sandwich, or buy a calorific meal from a supermarket. Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad from the Hairy Dieters was created for such occasions.

By definition it’s simple and quick to pull together, it’s filling yet still under 200 calories, and, well, that’s about it. Of course, part of the motivation for maintaining our diets is creating appetising, visually appealing recipes. But sometimes when willpower is severely lacking you’ve just got to stay on track, either with a bog-standard pasta salad or with a humble jacket potato. As for this salad, it tastes pretty good, but I would recommend bulking it out with some gem or romaine lettuce to stretch the servings to four. Continue reading “Simple Tuna and Sweetcorn Pasta Salad”

Chilli Lemon Tuna and Broccoli Spaghetti


Chilli lemon tuna

I’m actively trying to meat more fish – my wife Ann-Marie prefers it to meat, and there are obvious health benefits to varying our diets. The added bonus is that many fish-based dishes are quick to make and so perfect when you’re pushed for time. Chilli Lemon Tuna and Broccoli Spaghetti from the Hairy Dieters is one of our favourites – get all the equipment and ingredients out on your working top, and it can be ready in under 20 minutes.

Tuna steaks are relatively expensive, but frozen varieties as I highlighted in Seared Sesame Tuna are more affordable. But to reduce the costs further for this particular recipe, swap the tuna steaks for tuna flakes or (better still) salmon fillets and ditch the tenderstem broccoli for just a regular head of broccoli as I did. Continue reading “Chilli Lemon Tuna and Broccoli Spaghetti”

Pasta with summer vegetables and parma ham


Pasta with summer vegetables and parma ham

You don’t have to wait until Summer to enjoy this fab pasta dish from the Hairy Dieters, or perhaps you will unless shoppers stop going Coronavirus crazy and emptying supermarket shelves! There are a lot of ingredients in this pasta with summer vegetables and parma ham recipe, but the combination of the veg, herbs and parma ham sing together beautifully with the stock, white wine and crème fraiche. It makes for a filling, guilt-free lunch at just 305 calories per portion.

If you’re not sure what to do with any remaining broad beans, try broad bean or chicken and broad bean pilaf which you’ll find in the Hairy Dieters’ Good Eating book. Their fourth instalment, Fast Food, also contains a minted lamb and broad bean recipe which I must get round to making again soon. Check it out. Continue reading “Pasta with summer vegetables and parma ham”

Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini for under a £1 per portion!


Butternut squash tortellini

Stuffed pasta on a diet? Absolutely, according to the Hairy Dieters, whose Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini recipe offers an excellent healthy vegetarian option for under a £1 per portion. However, you will need to devote up to 3 hours in the kitchen and have a reasonable amount of skill to ensure the filling doesn’t escape from the tortellini shells! Lazy Sunday, anyone?

Disclaimer: My wife Ann-Marie made this recipe, so all I did was rock up and tuck in when it was ready! I have to say the buttery squash pasta filling, accompanied by the spinach tasted fantastic, and I wanted more. According to Annie, this wasn’t too tricky to pull together and it would be quicker to make next time now she’s got the knack of folding the pasta and sealing the filling. Off you go then, love ;-).

If, like me, you lack patience and are time-pressured, then why not check out the Super Speedy section of this blog which provides a selection of tasty, diet-friendly recipes which can be rustled up in about 20 minutes. Continue reading “Home-made Butternut Squash Tortellini for under a £1 per portion!”

Pasta with clams and bacon


Clams

I’ve never been a huge fan of Italian food. I can take or leave pizza and I’ve never understood how some restaurants justify charging upwards of £15 for a bowl of pasta. It’s ironic then that going on a healthy eating plan has enabled me to fall in love with simple, tasty Italian pasta dishes that are quick and economical to cook.

Pasta with clams and bacon from the third instalment of the Hairy Dieters series has become one of my favourites. The photo above might not scream ‘eat me now!’, but don’t let that put you off, the flavour combinations in this recipe are divine and I’d urge you to try it.

Disclaimer: my local supermarkets aren’t posh enough to stock clams so I substituted them for cockles which worked a treat. Clams, cockles or even mussels – see what works for you. But whatever you use, don’t forget to save 50ml of the liquor when draining them as adding this back into the pan makes this sumptuous dish even more yummy.

Can’t get enough of healthy pasta dishes? Check out Pollo Pasta with Pesto, Smashed Up Chicken, Pasta Puttanesca and Tagliatelle Carbonara. Continue reading “Pasta with clams and bacon”

Prawn pasta salad


Prawwwwns

Quick pasta salad dishes are perfect for mid-week lunchboxes to take to work and are a healthier and cheaper alternative to caloric supermarket equivalents. This Prawn Pasta Salad recipe is tucked away towards the back of the Hairy Dieters’ second book and is one of my favourites.

It’s so simple to put together and you can have it ready in under 20 minutes. Do remember to use ‘light’ mayonnaise as using full fat versions will bump the calories up. Fancying something more up-market to show off to your work colleagues? Then Posh Prawn Cocktail is for you, my friends. Continue reading “Prawn pasta salad”