Spaghetti with zucchini, ricotta and chicken sausage

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Thanks to travelling, I had zucchini again. They can be found in Accra, but as those were imported and cost 17 cedi each (USD 3.45), they are just too expensive for me. This was an impromptu dinner, a cross between pasta con ricotta e salsiccia and spaghetti tossed with fried zucchini, garlic and cheese. A friend had chicken sausage, so we added that and hey presto, dinner!

Spaghetti with zucchini, ricotta and chicken sausage

300 gr spaghetti
2 tbs good olive oil
3-4 chicken sausages  (or other meaty sausage you like)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 zucchini, sliced into medallions  (not too thick)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of chili flakes

to serve:
250 gr ricotta

Boil the pasta in salted water. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the sausages. I like to squeeze the meat out of the sausage casings, into bite-sized pieces. The chicken sausage was not very greasy so I added olive oil. Add chopped garlic. Once the sausage starts to be cooked through, add the sliced zucchini to the pan and continue to fry until they are cooked through. Add a little salt and pepper, and some chilli flakes. If you have some leftover wine, a splash would be nice.

Drain the pasta, keeping a little cooking water, then put it back in the pot off the heat. Spoon in ricotta, and stir through the zucchini and sausage. Add a little starchy pasta cooking water if it looks dry. Serve with grated pasta.

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And from Accra: the ex-Ghana Airways plane which is now a restaurant was painted white over the summer.

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Sunday lunch: pasta with broccolo romanesco and salsiccia

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Weekends in Accra can be very busy, or very long. I find it very quiet when my husband is not here, but have gotten back into reading and knitting (oh, so exciting). And cooking, of course. Cooking for myself is something I know I should embrace with more gusto, but it is much more fun to cook for others. Fortunately there are friends who are great company and who like to eat, so here is a recent Sunday lunch. I’d brought down a broccolo romanesco, that beautiful vegetable. How to best enjoy it?

Pasta with broccolo romanesco and salsiccia

One head of broccolo romanesco, about the same weight as your dry pasta
3 cloves garlic
splash of olive oil
4 Italian pork sausages
pinch of chilli flakes
splash of white wine
500 grammes short pasta of your choice
grated parmesan or grana padano

Wash the broccolo romanesco, and cut it into florets. I took off the coarsest part of the core, and tossed the rest in. Boil them in salted water until tender, 8 minutes or so depending on the size of the pieces. You’ll want it quite tender. Take the broccolo out and keep it aside, but SAVE the hot broccolo water, as you will boil the pasta in it.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the garlic. Squeeze the sausage meat from its casings and fry it with the garlic until cooked through and crumbly.  Add a splash of white wine, and a pinch of peperoncino (chilli flakes). Add the broccolo and gently mash the bigger pieces, so they almost become sauce, it should be moist. You can prepare this in advance and then go have a glass of white and some antipasto. Accra has been lovely and cool (26C, so we sat outside).

When about ten minutes away from eating : bring the broccolo water to the boil again (yes, it will be green)  and tip the pasta in, with a little more salt. Cook the pasta to al dente and keep a cup or so of the starchy pasta water aside when draining it. That will go in with the salsiccia and broccolo when it is tossed with the pasta, to loosen it a bit. Salt and pepper to taste. Add grated cheese generously and enjoy!

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Note: you can definitely make this without the salsiccia, just with the broccolo and grated cheese. Very nice with, though. I’m down to eating meat 1-2 times a month here, so it needs to be good. This pasta served for with two small leftover boxes  for me. I’d made a pizza with broccolo romanesco and salsiccia in the past, also very nice. The grana padano block of cheese lives in the freezer, and is very easy to grate even when frozen. 

It was an excellent afternoon: South African white wine, Roman salami, fresh flatbreads and ricotta di capra con tartufo, then this pasta and grilled radicchio, and a plum/peach cake with ricotta. And good conversation, of course. It was nice to share the bounty after traveling. Now I’ll be debating what I can cook with more locally sourced materials. Availability of Ghana-grown vegetables is getting much better, so I am thinking of a rotolo stuffed pasta dish with greens and tomatoes. Maybe for the next lunch?

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PS why would someone bring pasta from Italy? Because it is expensive here! 9.99 cedi for Barilla is not bad (1.8 euro, 2.1 USD). However, I haven’t bought Barilla pasta since their chairman’s homophobic remarks in 2013. Apparently that has since improved, so I may reconsider to see how it compares to the West African Tasty Tom pasta. I’ve seen a few recipe for jollof spaghetti here (Nigerian) and here (Ghanaian – with canned beef, urrrgh) so that will be a future dish to try.

Carciofi ripieni (Stuffed artichokes)

artichokesSpring is in the air, it’s pollen season already and yesterday I came home to find my husband in shorts (well, he is English). Though the rain is bucketing down tonight, winter seems to be on the way out, and I feel like packing away winter jumpers soon. Oranges are cheap and wonderful, the artichokes are still good and some terribly early strawberries have been observed. We were having Sunday lunch with visitors at Tanto per Magna, an excellent Garbatella trattoria, when I saw carciofi ripieni being carried to a nearby table. Stuffed artichokes: hmmm, interesting! Here’s our attempt to recreate that.

Carciofi ripieni (Stuffed artichokes)
4-5 artichokes
4-5 Italian sausages
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
One onion, chopped
pinch of dried thyme
salt, pepper

Buy your artichokes already cleaned from your friendly neighbourhood fruit and veg guy. Otherwise, get a small sharp knife and cut them down so the prickly outer leaves are removed. Cut off the stem as well (that is edible so save it for something else.) Boil the artichokes upside down for 10-12 minutes (you might need to weigh them down with something to stop them turning right side up.) Test with a knife to see when they start getting tender.

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Take them out, let them cool slightly, then scoop out the thistly bits in the centre with a sharp teaspoon. Try to keep them roughly intact, not always easy. Put them together in an ovenproof dish.

In the interim, crumble your sausages into a frying pan with a little salt and pepper and the onion, and cook them, draining off fat of needed. Tip into a bowl, and add breadcrumbs and cheese. You could add an egg to bind it, but ours held together well anyway.  Stuff each artichoke with as much of the cooked sausage stuffing as you can, then bake it at 200C for 10-15 minutes.

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Note: We should have cut these down further at the top before cooking them,  maybe 1-2 cm more, as they were still quite bristly after being cooked. Very nice flavour through! Next time I’d probably just enjoy the carciofi boiled without stuffing them, but it was fun to try something new. Might be nice to try these stuffed with mushrooms and breadcrumbs and the artichoke stems, with a little cheese on top.