Panic buying seems so March 2020 – a special hello to anyone coasting on their year-old toilet roll hoard – and yet elements of it still seem to be in place. It was reported recently that British supermarkets are running low on lasagne ingredients. Sainsbury’s is struggling to keep the pasta sheets on its shelves. Mozzarella is increasingly hard to find. Demand for burrata has doubled year on year. Demand for parmesan has tripled.
Whether this is the result of the pandemic, Brexit or a clandestine invasion by an army of shadowy Garfields, fear not. Here are some other pasta-based dishes to try.
This is much nicer than it sounds: essentially, it is a bolognese pasta bake that uses penne instead of lasagne sheets. Valerie’s Kitchen has a decent recipe. The end result isn’t much like lasagne, but it is close enough if you are in a fix.
The nuclear option. While a lasagne casserole might work if you have kids, it doesn’t have much wow factor. With that in mind, let me direct you to Yottam Ottolenghi’s pastitsio. It is a Greek macaroni pie, where a beef ragù is sandwiched between carefully assembled layers of macaroni and topped with a thick béchamel. If you are able to prepare it with Ottolenghi’s absurd eye for detail, it can be served in beautiful slices.
Pappardelle with wild boar ragù
If you want something that delivers the savoury wallop of lasagne without all the presentational faff, I recommend Lello Favuzzi’s pappardelle with wild boar ragù. It is no less time-consuming than a lasagne – the ragù requires close to four hours of low simmering, once you have factored in the red wine reduction – and it doesn’t contain a béchamel element, but at the end you will be rewarded with a dinner you can positively sink into.
Macaroni and chickpeas in tomato sauce
Right: enough lasagne stand-ins. Nigel Slater has a great recipe for macaroni and chickpeas in tomato sauce that manages to be cheap, tasty and filling. It doesn’t require much explanation – make a tomato sauce, cook some pasta, tip in some chickpeas – but any dinner you can knock together with stuff you have in the cupboard is worth trying.
This might say more about me than anything else, but I have started eating my meals straight out of the saucepan, either because I want to reach a point of perfect washing-up efficiency or because I have totally given up on life. Anyway, Martha Stewart has a recipe for one-pan pasta: you add tomatoes, onion, basil and garlic to the pan with your uncooked pasta and the whole things boils down into an acceptable meal. Dinner in 20 minutes – and barely anything to wash up.
Pasta e fagioli
If you thought that one of these roundups would pass without the requisite mention of Felicity Cloake, then think again. Her perfect pasta e fagioli recipe is superficially similar to Slater’s macaroni – pasta, tomato, legumes – but the process is longer and more involved. Plus, it is thick with rich pancetta. As ever, argue with Cloake’s judgment at your peril.
I have avoided the dreaded tuna pasta bake, because we are not all students and we can aim a little higher than that. But Angela Hartnett’s astonishingly simple tuna pasta recipe – cook some pasta, chop some tomatoes, add some basil and tuna – is a thing of beauty. This can be on your table in half the time it would take you to order a pizza.
Cacio e pepe
Equally simple and delicious is cacio e pepe, a three-ingredient dish that takes minutes to make, but always manages to feel like a treat. Rachel Roddy’s recipe is all but foolproof, offering two approaches for you to play with: adding grated pecorino to the hot pasta, or dumping the pasta on the pecorino. I find the former slightly more reliable.
Tartar steamed dumplings
One of my favourite pasta dishes is Olia Hercules’s tartar steamed dumplings. Unlike the other recipes here, it requires you to make pasta. However, it is a water dough, which is simple. The dumplings are filled with pork belly, steamed and served with melted butter. Phenomenal.
Chocolate pasta with caramel and pecans
Let’s conclude with pudding. Admittedly, chocolate pasta may be ever harder to come by than lasagne sheets, but the internet is a big place and you are probably a resourceful person. When you have found it, try making Nigella Lawson’s chocolate pasta with caramel and pecans. It is pasta in a nutty butterscotch sauce, served with double cream. And to think you would have preferred lasagne.