Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne

Lasagne is a comfort food. Layers of steaming hot pasta and filling with a crispy cheese topping; what is there not to love? It’s so versatile too as you can put whatever you like inside. My two favourite fillings are the one given below and also bolognaise (as is given in my recipe for Beef Lasagne).

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With the first recorded recipe dating back to the 14th century, lasagne is one of the oldest foods I have researched for this blog. The original recipes used fermented dough, not pasta, and the dough was rolled out and boiled before being layered with the filling. Traditional lasagne de carnivale from Naples is stuffed with sausage, meatballs, boiled egg and Neapolitan ragu. Outside Italy, most people use a thicker ragu akin to bolognaise sauce inside and béchamel sauce on top. You may notice that I don’t put béchamel sauce on my lasagne but that is just because I don’t like it. You are perfectly welcome to swap the top layer of filling for béchamel sauce if you like and then continue with the recipe.

Spinach and ricotta is a classic pasta filling. It’s used in cannelloni, tortellini and ravioli as well as several other filled shapes. It’s incredibly easy to make at home and it is simple to tweak the recipe to your requirements – be that stronger cheese, more spinach or you just want a little extra garlic.


The recipe is particularly good for feeding a crowd as you can get six solid servings out of it!



Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves 6

Cost per portion: around £1.20



750g ricotta cheese

400g frozen spinach

1 clove garlic (minced)

2 eggs

150g grated cheddar cheese (or 100g parmesan)

Salt and pepper to taste

60ml water

1 packet fresh lasagne sheets

150g mozzarella (grated)



Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C)

Place the spinach in the microwave with a little water and heat on the maximum poser to defrost. Make sure to stir it every few minutes.

While the spinach is defrosting put the ricotta, garlic, egg, 100g grated cheddar (or parmesan) and seasoning in a bowl and mix together. This will form a thick pasty filling.

Stir in the water to loosen up the mixture and set 60ml (a quarter of a cup) aside. This will be used on the top of the lasagne instead of béchamel sauce.

Remove the spinach from the microwave and drain through a sieve.

Use your hands to squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible. You should end up with a solid ball by the end of it.


Pull the lump of spinach apart and stir it into the ricotta mix and now is time to start building the lasagne.


Lightly oil a baking tray and place a sheet of pasta on the base.


Spread out some of the filling on top and add another sheet on that.


Repeat this using up all the filling and finally top with the last sheet of pasta.

Spread out the spare cheese mixture from before and sprinkle on the mozzarella and reserved cheddar.




Bake for half an hour and then increase the temperature to gas mark 6 (2000C) for the last ten minutes to crisp up the top.




I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy making some dessert, check out my recipe for chocolate fondants or if you are looking for a slightly different main course, why not make yourself a Thai curry?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for choux buns with a delicious filling.



One Pot Pasta

There is a big trend at the moment for one pot meals. Cooking your whole meal in a single pan is a fantastic way to reduce washing up and if you are cooking around other people, it prevents competition for cookware!

Like most cooking, one pot pasta is all about the ratios. You have to learn to adapt recipes to the type of pasta you use and the different ingredients as some will absorb more water than others. For example, mushrooms and fresh tomato will give out liquid whereas tomato paste will thicken everything up and therefore requires more stock to make it work.

Most one pot pastas have five base parts: pasta, liquid, meat, veg and cheese.

First of all, cook up the vegetables and the meat making sure the meat is seared properly before you add the liquid. Next add the pasta and liquid of choice and cook until the pasta is done. Finally, add the cheese which should help thicken up the sauce nicely so it is smooth and creamy.

Standard ingredients include:

Liquid: Chicken/beef/mushroom/vegetable stock, milk or a mixture of cream & stock

Meat: Chicken, meatballs, beef mince, pork mince or choritzo

Veg: Onions, garlic, tomato, mushrooms, sweetcorn or spinach

Cheese: Parmesan, Cheddar or Goat’s cheese


Obviously the list is only restricted by your imagination so you can add whatever you want but one pot pasta is about simplicity (and also normally using up leftover veg that you have lying around).

Below are the recipes for several one pot pastas that I have made recently all of which took around 20 minutes altogether!


One Pot Mushroom Pasta

1 cup pasta

1   cup milk

1 mushroom stock cube

½ onion

300g mushrooms

2 cloves garlic (minced)

Salt & pepper


Cornflour to thicken if needed



Finely dice the onion and sauté in a pan with a little oil.

Chop the mushrooms – I generally cut them into quarters – and add them, along with the garlic, to the pan once the onions are translucent.

Fry the mushrooms with the onions for another two minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Cook for about 10 minutes stirring regularly to prevent the pasta clumping.

If the sauce gets too thick, add a quarter of a cup of water and stir it through.

If the pasta is cooked and the sauce is still too thin, mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water and add it to the pasta stirring it through. Cook for another 30 seconds to thicken the sauce and then serve.



One Pot Arrabiata Pasta

1 cup pasta

1 ½ cup vegetable stock

¼ cup tomato paste (or replace half a cup of the stock with passata)

½ onion

1 chilli

2 cloves garlic – minced


Salt and Pepper

I had some leftover mushrooms which I also threw in to the pasta along with some soya protein!



Dice up the onion and sauté with a little oil.

Finely chop the chilli and add it, along with the garlic, to the pan with the onion.

Continue to saute the vegetables for two minutes and then add the rest of the ingredients – adding salt and pepper to taste.

Cook for around 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to your liking.

If the sauce isn’t the correct consistency, add either cornflour or water to adjust to a thick sauce which should coat the pasta




One Pot Chicken Alfredo Pasta

1 cup pasta

1 cup milk

½ onion

1 chicken breast

2 garlic cloves – minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

¼ cup grated parmesan


Salt and pepper



Finely dice the onion and sauté in a pan with some oil.

Chop the chicken into smallish chunks and add to the onion once it is translucent – also add the garlic at this point.

Sear the chicken until the outside is cooked before adding the rest of the ingredients except the parmesan

Cook for 10 minutes or so until the pasta is cooked.

Add the cheese and stir it through – this will help thicken up the sauce


Hopefully these examples have given you some ideas for some different and exciting dinners. For another delicious easy meal, check out my recipe for Curried Parsnip Soup or if you fancy something a little sweeter, how about making some brandy snaps?

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a recipe for a chocolate and caramel cake – perfect for feeding a crowd!





Beef Lasagne

Batch cooking is a wonderful thing. It’s how I survive at university. The more food I can make in one go, the less effort I have to expend cooking over the next week which is ideal as the term starts to get harder. Like the majority of the recipes in my Cooking to Basics section, this lasagne a number of meals (depending on how hungry you are)! It’s very simple to make and even better, if you happen to have some bolognaise sauce in the freeze, you don’t even need to go to the effort of making the filling.

This is not a traditional lasagne. For a start, there is no béchamel sauce. This isn’t out of convenience, I just don’t particularly like it as I find that the lasagne ends up rather sloppy with a béchamel sauce and I don’t really like super sloppy foods. Instead, I have replaced it with a thin layer of seasoned tomato puree which does the trick very well and also reduces the time it takes to make the dish. Of course, should you really like béchamel sauce, you can just substitute this in instead of the half tube of tomato paste in the recipe. The lack of the béchamel sauce also makes it very easy to turn this recipe dairy free as you can simply substitute the mozzarella with a dairy free cheese (or even just leave it naked with the tomato on top)

If you are vegetarian, it is very simple to just substitute the beef for some form of soya mince or you can bulk out the sauce with mushrooms and other veg of your choice to make a wonderful veggie lasagne. I will often put a layer of spinach in mine as if I am using pre-made bolognaise sauce for the filling, it reduces the amount I need to defrost!


Beef Lasagne

Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes (excluding the filling)

Serves: 4-6                                                           Cost per portion: around 80p-£1


250ml tomato passata

2 cloves of garlic

One large onion (or two small onions)

One carrot

One box beef mince

One box lasagne sheets

Half a tube of tomato paste




A glug of sherry or red wine


1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce





Follow the instructions of my bolognaise recipe to make the filling of the lasagne.


Lightly oil a deep dish.

Place a layer of the lasagne sheets over the bottom and add a thin layer of the filling.

Repeat this, alternating layers of the filling and pasta sheets until there is about 1 cm from the top of the dish (make sure the top layer is the pasta).


Dilute the tomato paste down with water until it is still thick but you can spread it over the top of the lasagne (at this point, you can add pepper, chilli, garlic, or whatever spices you would like on your lasagne).


Grate the mozzarella and sprinkle and even layer over the top of the dish.

Bake at gas mark 5 (1900C) for about 45 minutes to make sure the pasta sheets are cooked!


The lasagne freezes really well which is ideal if you just want a quick meal slightly later in the week. Just wrap up individual portions and pop them into the freezer!

Let me know if you try this at home – give me a tag on Instagram (you can find me @thatcookingthing). If you fancy trying out some lovely warming, soup as the weather gets colder, check out my butternut squash soup or if you are looking of a quick and easy dessert, my tiramisu would be perfect for you!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread!


Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.

One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.

The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.





Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake    –     about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions

2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)

500g mushrooms roughly chopped

2 chicken breasts – cubed

½ cup of milk (125ml)

Chicken/mushroom stock

4 tbsp of cornflour


400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally






Salt and pepper


Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.


Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)

Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.21104359_1686135108084854_1141188406_o

Add the milk and bring to the boil

Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through


Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point


Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface


Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)


Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.


For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.

This can be eaten cold and freezes well.


Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!

Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!

See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!


Bolognaise Sauce


For me, pasta with bolognaise is very much a comfort food. We used to have it when my mum worked away as I wouldn’t get home from school until 18.30 and my dad from work at a similar time so there was never time to cook on those days. Luckily mum would make up a huge vat of this stuff and freeze it so we would come home and have a fab dinner which just needed to be reheated.

One of the best things about this sauce is how versatile it is! You can use it just on pasta, you can make it into a lasagne. I have been known to just have it on toast if I’m super hungry. The recipe I use is very basic, it only has 4 main ingredients with a smattering of seasonings but I know that some people put in mushrooms and sweetcorn too so if you like them in your bolognaise, feel free to add any extras!

The recipe itself produces a large amount of sauce so make sure that you have boxes to store it in! It’s perfect for after a long day as all you need to do is bung it in a pan (either defrosted or still frozen – though I would add a little water in the second case to prevent burning), cook up some of your favourite pasta and hey presto! You have yourself a delicious meal!!


Servings ~ 10                                                                                            Cost per portion ~ 50p



Passata/chopped tomatoes

500g Beef Mince (Or for a vegetarian option, use quorn or soya mince!)

2 Large Onions – I use cannon onions (about twice the size of a fist)

3 Large Carrots



Red Wine

Basil/mixed herbs

Chopped Tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Worcestershire Sauce (about a tsp)

Ketchup (about a tbsp)

Soy sauce (about a tbsp.)




A large saucepan (with a lid)

A chopping board

A large knife

A wooden spoon (or equivalent)


Optional, if you are using passata, you can thicken it up (so the final sauce is less wet) by boiling it in a pan for 15 minutes or so to reduce it down. Add about a teaspoon of sugar while it’s boiling and should you wish to add garlic to the sauce, this is where you put it in!


Dice up the onion and place into a large pan on a medium heat.

Grate the carrot and add it to the pan and fry until it starts to soften.

Onions and carrots in a pan with a little bit of oil at the bottom

Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and add the mince a little at a time (I generally go for a quarter of the pack and break it up as I put it in).

Make sure the majority of the mince has gone brown before you stir it through and add the next potion of the meat. If you wish to use quorn mince instead, this is where you would add it but unlike meat, you do not need to brown it, just stir it all in and move on to the next step.

Make sure to brown most of the meat before stirring it througt!

Once all the mince is incorporated, add the tomato and stir it in.

If you wish to add red wine, garlic, salt and pepper, basil or mixed herbs, now is the time to do so.


Leave the sauce with a lid on a low heat to simmer for at least half an hour or even longer if possible!



The sauce will darken a little while it is simmering so don’t be alarmed if you come back to find it a different colour to when you started!

I go for a medium ladle per portion as that suites me just perfectly.

The sauce is so versatile and can be used in pasta bakes, lasagne or just as plain bolognaise – I have been known to just eat it on toast too!


Let me know what you think of it in the comments and I’ll see you all next week for another baking post – this time, bread related!