Nigella has a new pasta recipe – and it uses this unexpected breakfast item

Written by Jenny Tregoning

Jenny Tregoning is deputy production editor and food editor at Stylist, where she combines her love of grammar with lusting over images of food

Four-time Stylist cover star Nigella Lawson has created some delicious (and inventive) new recipes that help save time and money in the kitchen, in partnership with Ocado.

How do we love Nigella, let us count the ways. From those foolproof, indulgent recipes that we call on time and again to her authentic social media presence (crisp cauldron, anyone?) and the way her pronunciation of ‘microwave’ became a viral trend, she is a foodie icon who has inspired us for decades.

And now she’s joining forces with Ocado to encourage us to fall back in love with store cupboard staples. Launching today (26 October), Nigella has created four new recipes that put everyday ingredients such as tinned beans and HP sauce to good use, as well as compiling all her favourite products and repeat buys in a special ‘Nigella Loves’ aisle for Ocado, featuring everything from Tabasco Chipotle sauce to her favourite beauty products.

Her recipes include a spaghetti dish that gives new life to a popular breakfast spread more commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking, and a syrup sponge pudding that can be cooked in the mee-cro-wah-vey in just six minutes: “It’s instant comfort; it’s ridiculous that you can make it so fast,” says Nigella.

“They’re all store cupboard recipes with a little flourish of something fresh. It’s about those little touches that don’t require dexterity or a traipse round to get the most rarefied, recondite ingredient you’ve ever found.”

So what can the queen of cooking teach us about cooking in a cost of living crisis? And what are the ingredients she always has on hand to turn a run-of-the-mill dinner into something spectacular? Stylist sat down with Nigella to find out.

Nigella Lawson has created four new recipes using store cupboard staples

I’ve got friends coming round for dinner: what’s a super simple crowd-pleasing dish to serve right now?

One of the recipes that I’m particularly fond of from the launch of my Ocado partnership, which sounds completely bonkers, is spaghetti with a sauce made with peanut butter. The alchemy of cooking is so interesting: it’s just some peanut butter – and a lot of the sauce is made from the pasta water which thickens it – some garlic, thyme, a bit of chilli, some lemon juice. I’m not sure you would even know what it was. When I give it to people they can’t tell what it is and then I say it’s peanut butter and they say, ‘Of course it is!’ It’s wonderful, easy and yet feels more treaty than it should do because of the flavours in the sauce and the richness of it.

How can we keep hosting simple?

You don’t need to start acting like you’re a restaurant. People want to be welcomed; they want to have a bowl of food in front of them that makes them feel happy, and that you can chat to them at the same time. 

Why have you chosen to focus on store cupboard ingredients?

I have always believed that cooking never has to rely on fancy ingredients or an enormous process-heavy approach. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, you just have to make the most of every ingredient you’re using and sometimes come at it a slightly different way – thinking of balance, always.

Nigella Lawson’s syrup sponge pudding for Ocado

The cost of living crisis is affecting us all. What’s an easy way to save energy while cooking?

I use this wonderful method that I was taught about 30 years ago from the wonderful Anna Del Conte for cooking pasta. When she’s got people coming for dinner, she doesn’t like the hassle of big pans of boiling water, so you bring the water to the boil, salt it, put the pasta in, boil it for two minutes then turn off the heat, put a clean tea towel on top of the pan, lid on, and leave it for the exact amount of time you would be boiling it. There’s less chance of overcooking. So for this particular recipe I cook the pasta like that. You really taste the sweet semolina of the spaghetti when you cook it in this way, it makes it deeper, sweeter, more pronounced. And instead of getting another pan to wash up to wilt spinach in, I just put the spinach in a colander and when you drain the pasta over it, it cooks it.

What varieties of pasta do you always have in?

I do have linguine but mostly I have spaghetti, orzo and ditalini [small tubes], and perhaps some pappardelle. But I actually feel spaghetti is the most important pasta.

What’s an interesting flavour to liven up a simple meal?

I get teased a bit at home for this, but I am so often to be found grating a bit of easy-peeler clementine into food. I love lemon, I couldn’t live without lemons, and yet I think orangey-ness in savoury cooking does something quite uplifting and people are often too apprehensive about that. I don’t want couscous to just be a blanket of starch – not that I have anything against a blanket of starch, ever, in my life.

What items do you always have in your fridge and cupboard?

I always have unwaxed lemons, I always have easy-peeler clementines. Red chicory I am obsessed with. Red chicory is wonderful because it provides some bitterness, which I love, but it’s very versatile – [you can use it] in a salad; you can roast it, which I do a lot; you can wilt it and turn it into a pasta sauce but also it lasts well. And I know it’s mad to keep talking about salad, but I like a big bowl of something quite stodgy and comforting, and I have to end on a salad. I try to keep chives, coriander and parsley, and fresh thyme – I absolutely adore that. Capers I have to have. Garlic, evidently. Chilli flakes, I use those often in conjunction with garlic and lemon zest or clementine zest to add a little oomph to something I’m cooking.

What food trends are you excited about at the moment?

Cooking with leftovers. In a way this is something you might say is a food trend now but it’s something that has informed the way I’ve cooked forever. I’m ferociously anti-waste and always have been; I was brought up like that. It’s actually a really great way of writing recipes because you’re always thinking how you can suggest things be used up. 

Finally, a few quick-fire questions. Hungover meal of choice?

It has to be stodgy, but I do want some chilli, so I have a cosy supper stir-fry which is quite good for the morning after the night before with a lot of Tabasco Chipotle shaken all over it. And silence.

Mayonnaise or ketchup?

Can I have brown sauce please, if I may?

Ultimate toast topper?

Butter!

Pizza or pasta?

I think pasta, if I’m making it myself. Although I don’t ever believe in excluding any food group. I’d like to keep the door open for pizza too, please.

Nigella Lawson has partnered with Ocado to launch four new and exclusive recipes championing store cupboard staples, all of which feed a family of four for no more than £1.25 per portion. For all recipes and a curated list of Nigella’s favourite Ocado products head to ocado.com/nigella

Dreamy, creamy peanut butter pasta

Nigella Lawson’s peanut butter pasta recipe for Ocado

Nigella says: “While I can’t deny that the idea of making a sauce for spaghetti with peanut butter might sound alarming – not least for Italians! – I can promise you it has an appeal that goes beyond peanut butter fans. For what hits you most is not its peanuttiness but its voluptuous creaminess. Here, I propose cooking the pasta largely off the heat, and leaving tender spinach leaves in the colander, to be effortlessly wilted as the spaghetti is drained over it.

“This energy-saving and much calmer approach was taught to me by Anna del Conte 30 years ago, and written about in her 1991 book Entertaining all’Italiana, so I smiled wryly when I read recently of this breaking-news method, as authorised by the Nobel prize-winning Italian physicist, Giorgio Parisi. This store-cupboard stalwart, a favourite in my home, will, I hope, become as regular a fixture in yours.”  

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 x 240g pack Ocado Own Range baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp fine salt, plus ¼ tsp for the sauce
  • 320g spaghetti (I use De Cecco)
  • 75g M&S smooth peanut butter
  • 2 Ocado Own Range large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Ocado Own Range dried thyme
  • ½ tsp Ocado Own Range chilli flakes
  • ½ Ocado Own Range unwaxed lemon, juiced, plus wedges to serve
  • 1 large pinch Ocado Own Range paprika, for dusting (optional)

Method

Get out a large pan that comes with a tightly fitting lid, and fill it with 2.5l water from a just-boiled kettle. Clamp on the lid, and bring the water back to the boil on a large burner on your hob. Sit a large colander in the sink, break open your bag of baby spinach leaves with gusto and tip the contents into the waiting colander.

Get out a clean tea towel (not a terry towelling or waffle one, just a smooth, thin one) and take it over to the stove. Once the water’s boiling vigorously, add 1 tbsp fine salt, which will make the water rise up fizzingly. Wait for it to subside, then give it a good stir and, once the water’s boiling again, add the pasta, and stir with a pasta fork to help it submerge. Once the water has come back to the boil, cook for 2 mins, stirring often to detangle and declump the spaghetti. Once the 2 mins are up, take the pan off the heat – though just to a neighbouring burner – cover with your tea towel and clamp on the lid for 8 mins, during which you can prepare your remaining ingredients.

Remove the lid and tea towel, give the spaghetti a good old stir, then scoop out 500ml of the starchy pasta cooking liquid with a jug or mug: it’s this that makes the sauce so luxuriously creamy. If you taste a strand of pasta, you should find it’s almost properly cooked, but still has a tiny bit of bite to it.

Drain the pasta into the spinach-filled colander – thereby wilting the leaves – and take the pan back to the hob, leaving the colander in the sink for now. Quickly spoon the peanut butter into the warm pan and add about 125ml of the reserved pasta cooking water and stir well. It will look grainy and alarming at first, and when you look at the curdled clumps, you’ll think something’s gone wrong. It hasn’t! Just carry on stirring, adding the minced garlic, dried thyme, chilli flakes, 2 tsp lemon juice and ¼ tsp salt, and you will swiftly see a pale, herb-flecked emulsion come into being. Slowly stir in another 125ml of the pasta water until that too has been smoothly incorporated.

Add the spag’n’spinach and stir and toss in the pan (I use a couple of forks) to mix everything together as evenly as possible. You’ll need to keep adding more of the reserved pasta water, as the pasta will keep drinking it up, so keep adding a little at a time, stirring vigorously but carefully; you shouldn’t have more than 50ml left, though you might well use it all. Taste for seasoning – you may well need more salt or lemon juice – then serve, making sure you give everyone an even amount of spinach. If wished, lightly dust the top of each bowl with paprika. And if you have half a lemon left over, you could slice it into thin wedges and give one to each person to squeeze over as they eat.

Images: Liz Seabrook; Hannah Huges

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