Three pasta recipes from Pophams

Host the pasta party of the century with these three recipes from London Fields' beloved Pophams

Winter is as loathsome as it is without going on a vicious health kick, so here at Foodism, we're welcoming cosiness, cosseting and a whole lot of carbohydrates as we weather these colder months.

In that vein, we've got three pasta recipes from Pophams. It's clear as crystal that these guys know a thing or two about dough, with their glossy topped pain au chocolat, pillowy cinnamon buns and squidgy sourdough loaves putting them firmly on the map as one of the best bakeries in London. Perhaps lesser known to the punters, the London Fields outpost transforms from a bakery by day to a pasta restaurant by night.

But this is not just any pasta restaurant – this is pasta tapas. Perhaps the best invention since wifi password sharing, this is a vehicle to order the entire menu and mosey your way around a throng of pasta plates with your pals. You no longer must make the agonising decision between tortellini in brodo or short rib cannelloni – you can have it all. Oh, and because it's Pophams, you'll get plenty of wedges of sourdough to mop up all those unctuous sauces.

Should you be unable to make it to Pophams, we're bringing the pasta party to your home with three recipes from head chef Rae Arends. She's been with the pasta joint since its opening and has been by its side throughout the pandemic – slinging out pasta boxes to customers when it closed its doors. From chilli-laced spaghetti all'assassina to bright pea gnocchi and squid malloreddus – her pasta recipes braid Italian tradition with Pophams' modern British flare and promise to remedy those winter blues. Accompanying bottle of sauvignon blanc and a shop-bought tiramisu highly recommended.

Spaghetti all’assassina

Also known as killer spaghetti, this dish provides a fiery chilli kick to warm cockles on a dreary winter's evening

Serves 2

Preparation time 5 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Originating from Puglia in Italy, spaghetti all’assassina is typically made with a tomato sauce, but for this version, Pophams adds roasted peppers to complement the spiced, smokey flavour of the spaghetti.

Bog standard bell peppers from the supermarket will work here, but if, by chance, you come across some more interesting seasonal peppers and tomatoes from a local market or greengrocer, it will elevate the dish to dizzying heights.

Ingredients

  • 3 peppers
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A pinch of chilli flakes (how large depends on how spicy you can take the sauce)
  • 180g spaghetti
  • Pecorino (or parmesan) to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven 220°c. Tear the peppers roughly into 4 and remove the seeds.
  2. Toss the peppers, tomato and garlic in olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until tender and charred around the edges. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Heat a large frying pan on a high heat. Add a good glug of oil and then add the spaghetti. Let it cook until the spaghetti starts to char, and then add the chilli flakes and a pinch of salt. Fry for a further 30 seconds, then add the sauce and 300ml of water.
  4. Cook on a medium heat until the spaghetti has softened, adding more water if needed. Taste to check if it needs any more salt, pepper or chilli.
  5. Serve into bowls and top with grated pecorino or parmesan.

Squid malloreddus

Nothing says romance like seafood pasta, and this one is perfect for date night

Serves 2-3

Preparation time 20 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Malloreddus, also known as gnocchetti sardi, is perhaps a lesser-known shape to your rigatoni or orecchiette, but one that's perfect for scooping up sauce in its grooves. 

The sauce in question is tomato-based with squid, punctuated with plenty of white wine, garlic and saffron – as would be typical in Sardinia. 

Ingredients

  • 200g semolina flour
  • 95g room temperature water
  • 80-100g squid cleaned (roughly 1 medium squid)
  • 250g tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ½ bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon

Method

  1. Make the pasta dough by pouring the water into a pool in the middle of the semolina flour. With a fork gradually incorporate the water into the flour until it comes together. Knead the dough so that all flour is absorbed into one piece of dough. Leave to rest for at least 15 minutes then knead again until smooth.
  2. To make the pasta divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a sausage, around 1cm thick. Cut the sausage into roughly 2cm long pieces, then take each piece and push it down the back of a fork, to create the ridges. If you have a gnocchi board, you can use this instead. Toss the shaped pasta in a little more of the semolina or flour, then leave to dry out slightly whilst you prepare the sauce.
  3. Prep the squid and lightly score the surface with straight vertical lines. Cut it into pieces a similar size to the pasta, around 2cm squares, and lightly season with salt.
  4. Prepare a saucepan of boiling, well salted water for the pasta. In a frying pan on a high heat add a good amount of olive oil and fry off the squid score side up for a couple of minutes, then put to one side. In the same frying pan, place the tomatoes face down in the pan on a high heat, and cook until they begin to colour.
  5. Add back to the frying pan the squid, add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Fry off for a couple of minutes then add the white wine and the saffron. Start to cook the pasta, when it floats in the boiling water add to the frying pan with some of the pasta cooking water, some more olive oil, the chopped parsley, and the zest of a lemon.
  6. Toss everything together and taste to see if any further seasoning or lemon juice is needed.

Pea gnocchi with pistachio pesto

Swapping potatoes for peas makes for a verdant and bright gnocchi that pairs perfectly with pistachio pesto

Serves 3-4

Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time 4 minutes

Gnocchi is traditionally made with potatoes, but there are plenty of other vegetables that can be used in the dough to create something delicious.

At Pophams they let the seasons dictate play – gnocchi is made from the glut of pumpkins in the autumn, parsnips in the winter and peas once the springtime rolls in. If you can get your hands on fresh British peas they work a treat, but fear not if you can't – frozen works just as well.

For a finishing touch, add some ruffles of mortadella – a nod to the classic pairing of peas and ham.

Ingredients

Pea gnocchi dough:

  • 200g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 75g water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 300g 00 flour
  • Large pinch of salt

Pistachio Pesto:

  • 30g peeled pistachios
  • ½ clove garlic
  • 100g basil
  • 150g good olive oil
  • 30g parmesan grated

To garnish:

  • Mortadella
  • Burrata or mozzarella
  • Lemon zest

Method

  1. In a food processor, blend the peas with the egg yolk, water and a large pinch of salt. Once fully combined, add the flour and pulse until it comes together as a dough.
  2. Divide the dough roughly into 4 and roll out to a sausage shape, around 1cm thick, adding more flour if the dough is sticking. Use a cutlery knife to divide into small gnocchi-size pieces.
  3. Make the pesto by blending the pistachios, garlic and a pinch of salt. Once broken down, add the basil leaves. Gradually drizzle in the oil and finally add the grated parmesan.
  4. Cook the gnocchi in heavily salted water for 3-4 minutes until they rise to the top and have a nice soft texture. Add to a pan with the pesto, a handful more peas and some of the pasta water, and warm on a gentle heat so as not to discolour the pesto. Taste to check if it needs any more salt or pepper.
  5. Serve and top with fresh burrata or mozzarella, mortadella and some lemon zest.

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