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Cook with Neven Maguire: Italian inspired dishes to brighten midweek nights

Try out these easy dishes to start your own Italian adventure. Partner Content with Dunnes Stores Simply Better

Once mastered, a risotto is a failsafe meal the whole family will enjoy

Spaghetti Bolognese is a family favourite, but how about mixing up the menu this term? Mediterranean classics like risotto may appear daunting, but I promise that the recipes shared here are surprisingly simple to master. My personal favourite is the Angus Meatball Pasta Bake recipe below; it’s fun to prepare, and makes for a lovely alternative to the expected pasta dish.

Risotto with Garden Peas and Bacon

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4


500g Simply Better Italian Arborio Rice

2 Tbsp. Simply Better PDO Terra Di Bari Bitonto Extra Virgin Olive Oil

130g Simply Better Dry Cured Unsmoked Irish Bacon Lardons

50g Simply Better Parmigiano Reggiano, Grated

450g Frozen Garden Peas

1 Large Onion, finely chopped

2 Garlic Cloves, crushed

1.5 Litres Chicken Stock (from a cube is fine)

Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped


1.Heat the olive oil in a large skillet pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not coloured. Add the bacon lardons and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until crisp and lightly golden. Increase the heat, stir in the rice and cook gently for 1 minute, stirring continuously, until the rice is opaque and fragrant.

2.Meanwhile, pour the stock into a separate pan and bring to a gentle simmer. Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and cook gently, stirring until absorbed. Continue to add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently. Allow each addition of stock to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next ladleful, until the rice is al dente (tender but still with a slight bite). This should take about 20 minutes.

3.About 2 minutes before the risotto is ready, stir in the peas and allow to finish cooking. Stir in the grated Parmesan, basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to rest and swell a little more for 3 minutes. Ladle into warmed shallow bowls and scatter over some extra Parmesan to serve.

Angus Meatball Conchiglioni Pasta Bake

This pasta bake is a twist on a standard midweek supper

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4


2 Packs of Simply Better Irish Angus Sea Salt & Herb Beef Meatballs

1 Pack of Simply Better Italian Bronze Die Conchiglioni Pasta Di Gragnano P.G.I.

2 Jars of Simply Better Italian Tomato & Mascarpone Pasta Sauce

1 Tub Simply Better Italian Buffalo Mozzarella, drained and sliced

20g Simply Better 30 Month Matured Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

2 Tbsp Simply Better Italian Pesto alla Genovese with PDO Genovese Basil

2 Tbsp Simply Better P.D.O. Terra Di Bari Bitonto Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Lightly Dressed Mixed Salad, to serve


1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/ Gas Mark 4).

2.Bring a pot of boiling salted water to the boil and add the Conchiglioni, return to the boil and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the pasta in a colander before allowing to cool.

3 Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat and fry the meatballs for 5-6 minutes until browned on all sides. Once browned remove from the heat and allow to cool.

4.To assemble, pour one jar of Tomato & Mascarpone pasta sauce to the base of an ovenproof baking dish. Place the pasta shells in the baking dish, open side facing up, and place the meatballs in between the shells. Pour over the final jar of the pasta sauce before topping with the sliced mozzarella and grated Parmesan. Drizzle the shells with the basil pesto and some of the extra virgin olive oil before transferring to the oven to cook for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and become golden in colour.

5Serve straight to the table with the mixed salad.

Organic Irish Salmon & Asparagus Wraps with Basil Pesto Fettuccine

These salmon wraps look impressive yet are a cinch to prepare

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4


4 Simply Better Fresh Organic Irish Salmon Darnes

8 Slices of Simply Better Italian Prosciutto Di Parma

1 Tbsp Simply Better P.D.O. Terra Di Barri Bitonto Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Tbsp Simply Better Italian Made Pesto Alla Genovese with PDO Genovese Basil

1 Box of Simply Better Italian Egg Fettuccine

12 Asparagus Spears, trimmed

4 Fresh Dill Sprigs

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

25g Butter

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Lemon Wedges, to garnish


1. Blanch the asparagus spears in a pan of boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain and quickly refresh under cold running water, then tip into a bowl of ice-cold water to cool completely. Drain well and pat dry on kitchen paper.

2. Lay two slices of Prosciutto Di Parma on a chopping board. Season each salmon darne with pepper and arrange on the slices of Parma ham. Arrange 3 asparagus spears, trimming them down as necessary, and a dill sprig on top of each salmon darne. Lightly wrap the slices of Prosciutto Di Parma around each bundle and repeat this process until you have 4 salmon wraps.

3. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the salmon wraps presentation-side down and cook for 1-2 minutes then turn over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes per side until the Prosciutto Di Parma is crisp on all sides. Add the butter to the pan and allow to foam up, use this to baste the wraps then add a squeeze of lemon juice and set aside.

4. For the pasta, cook the fettuccine in a pot of boiling water and salt for 2-4 minutes until al dente. Strain when fully cooked. Then add the pesto and mix well to combine.

5. To serve, arrange the salmon wraps on warmed serving plates along with the pesto fettuccine and garnish with a wedge of lemon.