I don’t know about you but when I’m a bit ill and feeling a bit sorry for myself, what i want is comfort food. A bowl of something that’s going to pep me up and make my taste buds do a little jig as everything has a tendency to taste bland and boring. It also needs to be quick. This dish is perfect for such a mood. It’s also great if you’re tired/rushed for time/feeling a bit lazy or just want something light and fresh that feels so right with this gorgeous weather we’re having.

I’m getting my garden furniture this week and i can’t wait to start having dinners outside. I think I’m just a little paranoid that this may be our summer (which is what happened last year) so I’m going to cram in as many long, lazy, alfresco dinners (and lunches, breakfasts, afternoon teas and brunches) as possible before it goes away. The time that we allocate to cooking in the warmer months is always significantly less than in the winter months. You want to be having cocktails in the garden or reading your book in the sun, not slaving over a hot stove. In the winter it’s perfect, it’s cold and rainy so there’s no temptation to leave the house and we quite happily while away the evenings making hearty soups and stews but not now. Now is the time for quick, light, punchy flavours that can be thrown together in the merest of moments.

I’m not really giving a lot of measurements for this dish as it’s something you can play around with, substituting the veg for whatever you have on hand. If you don’t like broccoli or cauliflower, this would also be good with peas/asparagus/spinach. I would try to get the lemon in there if you have it as it really lifts the whole thing, stopping it from being too rich but obviously it’s totally up to you. Also feel free to omit the chilli entirely or use full fat crème fraîche

Creamy lemon, garlic and chilli pasta-for 2

  • An overflowing handful of pasta per person
  • A handful of chopped veg per person (i used broccoli and cauliflower)
  • 1/2-1 fresh red chilli (i used one and it had quite a kick)
  • 1 plump garlic clove
  • zest of half a lemon
  • a nice big dollop of half fat crème fraîche
  • a couple of handfuls of freshly grated parmesan
  • basil to serve

First up, get a big pan of salted water on to boil for your pasta. It’s really important to put quite a bit of salt in your pasta water- there’s an Italian saying that your pasta water should be as salty as the Mediterranean. If you don’t do this, your pasta will be bland and dull and you’ll end up having to put far more salt in your sauce, all of which you’ll eat- most of the salt in the pasta water being poured away after the pasta has taken all that it needs.

Next, chop your veg into bite sized chunks and finely slice your chilli and garlic. Cook your pasta, throwing the veg in for the last couple of minutes. Gently fry the sliced chilli and garlic in a little oil until soft and then chuck in the cooked pasta and veg. Keep a mugful of the pasta water as it’s perfect for loosening your sauce so it’s the perfect consistency. Add your crème fraîche, lemon zest and a grind or 2 of black pepper.

Stir everything together, adding pasta water as needed until the sauce is silky smooth and coating everything. Then turn the heat off and add your parmesan.

Now just plate up and finish with a smattering of fresh basil leaves. Grab a glass of cold white wine and maybe a simple green salad and head for the garden.