Straight From the Tuscan Sun

This morning, I was reading the Guardian's Word of Mouth blog (a favorite) and saw this great post on holiday food and how it translates back at home. It got me thinking about our recent Italy trip and how we have been eating some lovely Italian meals even since coming home, just to hold onto the holiday feeling! I love bringing back food items from abroad. After my holiday in greece back in July, I stocked up on halva, olive tapenade, and some of the complimentary turkish delights they had at our hotel before boarding the plane home. In Italy, the bits and pieces we brought home were a bit more sophisticated and healthy! I nabbed a small tin of olive oil and an even smaller bottle of truffle oil at the airport, but in Castelnuovo (the nearest town to our villa), I picked up a bag of spice mix, found all over Tuscany and used for the simplest pasta dish.

We've been using this stuff like mad ever since our return. In case you don't read Italian, the ingredients are: parsley, garlic, chili pepper, and salt. That's it! All nicely chopped and dried and ready to be thrown in some olive oil before tossing with your favorite pasta. We decided to use ours with some prawns - it gives just the right amount of heat and flavor - and served with a pear and goat cheese salad.

I thought that you could only find this stuff on Italian soil, but it turns out (at least here in London) you can find it in loads of places. Try an Italian deli - I know of a couple around London. Also, I've heard there is a stall at Borough Market which sells it. But hunt it down and keep it in your kitchen for those last-minute meals!

Spicy Prawn Pasta with Pear & Goat Cheese Salad

Serves two

The particulars:

  • 250g of your favorite pasta (we used spelt fusilli)
  • 1 packet of cooked and peeled prawns
  • 2-3 tbsp spice mix (or make your own using dried parsley, dried garlic, sea salt, and chili flakes)
  • several glugs of good olive oil
  • 2 handfuls mixed salad leaves
  • 1 pear, chopped into cubes
  • 1 tbsp soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • Dressing: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper
  1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions (should not take more than 10 minutes once the water is boiling). In the meantime, heat up a frying pan with some olive oil and the spice mix. Once sizzling, add your prawns and toss until nicely browned on either side (careful not to burn the dried herbs).
  2. Drain the pasta and toss with the prawn mixture. Add more olive oil if necessary.
  3. Toss the salad leaves, pear, and goat cheese together with the dressing and serve with the hot pasta! Grate parmesan on top if you would like.