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Mark Moriarty: Italian-inspired dishes that are delicious, quick and cost-effective

The Italians might not find them authentic, but here are two delicious pasta dishes from the Marco Moriarti collection

When it comes to wholesome, cost-effective, delicious cooking at home, Italy remains a great source of inspiration. At least twice a week I will end up cooking a dinner using dried pasta and leftovers from the fridge, often supplemented with something from the store cupboard or freezer.

Having spent a lot of time working in Italy, I’ve been fortunate enough to see first hand the craft, passion and care that goes into their recipes. What makes Italian food great is the quality of base ingredients they have at their disposal. In an ideal world we would all be able to source these ingredients and cook the traditional recipes step by step. Unfortunately our tinned tomatoes we all know and love just don’t stack up to the sun-ripened Italian varieties from the local market in Naples.

What I’m really trying to say is that while the pasta recipes in this column might not pass the bible of Italian culinary tradition, I can promise you they are delicious, quick and cost-effective. I’ve had a few run-ins with Italians through the years, but I’d back myself to win every time.

While the ingredients may differ, there’s a rough formula you can follow for delivering dinner in minimum time with maximum flavour. It starts in the pan: frying aromatics such as garlic and chilli in oil before adding vegetables or tomato and meat or seafood. These base flavours should be highly seasoned.

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The anchovies are what make it, adding their signature seasoning as the sauce cooks out. It won’t taste fishy, trust me

Next step is to cook the pasta in salted water, just enough that the pasta is soft without turning to mush. The magic happens in bringing the pasta to the pan, with just enough glutenous water to create a sauce consistency with your aromats. For some dishes, grated Parmesan cheese brings it all together. For others just a touch of lemon juice and olive oil will do it.

So what are we actually making? First up is a classic, Spaghetti Amatriciana. The name relates to the town of Amatrice in the region of Lazio, from where it was born. Classically, it uses guanciale (cured pork cheek) fried in oil and emulsified into a sauce using chopped tomatoes, pasta water and pecorino cheese. It is a stalwart of traditional Roman menus. I’ve substituted in bacon and Parmesan for the meat and cheese to suit busy Irish homes, but feel free to revert to the traditional ingredients if you can source them.

The second dish, which uses pork mince and bacon, is a personal favourite. If you have high-quality sausages you can also use the filling in place of the mince. The anchovies are what make it, adding their signature seasoning as the sauce cooks out. It won’t taste fishy, trust me. If you have the rind of the Parmesan to spare, you can add it as the sauce cooks for some extra punch.

I’ve had similar versions of this dish in the south of Italy, including a sensational pork neck, onion and caper pasta at an event in the town of Battipaglia, near Sorrento. This recipe has no official reference from the aforementioned bible of Italian culinary tradition, let’s just say it’s from the Marco Moriarti collection.

Recipe: Spaghetti Amatriciana

Recipe: Rigatoni with white pork ragù