4 Great Recipes using Penne Pasta

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Penne is a tube-shaped pasta with ridges that help to pick up a sauce – it comes in different sizes. + Recipes for Penne with Tomato and Basil, Penne with Spinach, Garlic and Chilli, Penne with Prawns and Courgettes and Penne with Ham and Mushrooms.

Penne Rigate has ridges in the pasta which attach to the sauce. It works well with pesto and tomato sauces and has a ‘meaty’ quality when it is cooked al dente. lt is filling and a little goes a long way. It is also used in baked pasta dishes too as its structure holds up well – you can use it for Macaroni Cheese or bake it with a cheese, spinach and tomato sauce. The pasta should be cooked so that it has ‘bite’ – if you overcook it, the pasta will become floppy and lose the structure that is an integral part of penne.

Suggestions for cooking with Penne
– Penne takes 9-12 minutes to cook, depending on size.

Penne with Tomato and Basil
Chop rich red ripe tomatoes, add chopped fresh basil leaves, a splash of good olive oil and a little finely chopped garlic. Heat gently for 2-3 minutes and toss into al dente cooked penne.

Penne with Spinach, Garlic and Chilli
Wilt baby spinach leaves in a little water and squeeze dry. Fry a garlic clove and a chopped red chilli gently in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Discard the garlic before it colours. Toast a handful of pine nuts in a dry pan. Soak golden sultanas in hot water to soften and drain. Toss al dente cooked penne with the spinach, pine nuts and sultanas. Add a drizzle of the garlic and chilli oil and mix gently.

Penne with Prawns and Courgettes – Penne Gamberi E Zucchine
Fry whole shelled prawns in olive oil until they are pink, add cherry tomato quarters, chopped garlic, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of black pepper, some thin strips of courgette (zucchini) and some quartered cherry tomatoes. Cook the dish until the courgettes are soft. Toss with al dente cooked penne, drizzle over olive oil and garnish with chopped parsley.

Penne with Ham and Mushrooms
Cook 400g of penne for 4 people in a large pan of boiling salted water (100g per person) for 9-12 minutes, depending on the pack instructions. While the pasta is cooking add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large frying pan, add one punnet of finely sliced button mushrooms and fry over a medium heat until golden. Add 150g of shredded cooked ham (buy cooked ham in a supermarket or cut it off a joint of ham or bacon), toss and cook until the ham has heated through. Add 4 tablespoons of cream or crème fraîche, stir through and add a smattering of chopped fresh herbs (basil, thyme or oregano). Drain the pasta reserving a cup of the cooking water. Toss the mushroom mixture through the hot pasta adding just enough of the starchy pasta water to make a sauce. Serve with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Grana Padano.

What does al dente mean? Pasta should be cooked al dente, that means that you stop cooking it just when the pasta still has a little bite to it. It does not mean that the pasta is uncooked. When you bite into a strand of cooked pasta while it is still in the boiling water to check, it should have the tiniest white speck showing through. This means that when you drain it and toss it in the sauce it will continue cooking until that white speck is no longer there. If you cook it perfectly before you add it to the sauce in the pan the pasta will overcook and become sloppy.

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