• Red lentil penne with prawn ragu (Jono Fleming)Source: Jono Fleming
Weekdays be like rush, rush, rush, rush, pasta.
28 Apr 2021 - 10:00 AM  UPDATED 28 Apr 2021 - 10:00 AM

--- Want to brush up on your Italian cookery? Catch the brand-new second season of Cook Like an Italian with Silvia Colloca at 8pm, Thursdays on SBS Food and streaming on SBS On Demand ---


It's hard enough trying to fit everything into your day without that nagging little dinner elf sitting on your shoulder going 'so, what're we cooking tonight? Anything good? Anything at all?' Because we all know that pesky elf isn't going to hang around and do any of the actual planning, let alone the cooking.

You know what they say, when life hands you a dinner elf, make spinach and lemon polpette. There's not a weekday dilemma in the world that a bowl of pasta won't solve. Especially when you can make it quickly and easily. Hop to it, elf.

1. Spinach and lemon polpette

A lovely little vego option to end the day just right. Polpette are Italian meatballs, but this recipe brings you a hearty plant-based version through the magic of lentils and oats.

Pork and fennel polpette

Fennel seeds have a sweet liquorice-like taste and are rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients. They go well with pork meatballs, and here I have also used some fennel bulb, which gives a softer flavour and moister meatball.

2. Rigatoni alla Gricia

You need to take care with how you cook pasta alla gricia, but the results are worth it.

Four ingredients and 15 minutes is all you need to make Silvia Colloca's satisfying evening meal. Actually, even less time if you put your feet up for five minutes while the guanciale gently simmers.

3. Orecchiette with mussels

A delightful midweek meal that's ready in moments.

It's hard to believe you can get such depth of flavour into a dish in just 25 minutes, but this orecchiette proves you can. It's a fresh, herby recipe that packs plenty of heat to fire you back up after a tiring day.

Spaghetti vongole e 'nduja

The beautiful juices from the vongole add such a rich depth of flavour to this spaghetti, all complemented wonderfully with fresh herbs and chilli.

4. One-pot penne

One pot penne with tuna, olives and capers

Even better than a quick cooking time is a fast clean up. A midweek dinner like this penne with tuna, olives and capers is surely perfection because you get both.

5. Quick "risotto"

Quick risoni “risotto” with pippies and cherry tomatoes

One of Silvia Colloca's genius shortcut recipes, this favourite has all the appeal of a risotto without the tedious stirring. The secret is to use quick-cooking rissoni instead of rice.

Risotto with spring peas and prawns

Less is more with this risotto as a handful of simple ingredients bring together a bowl of steaming, costal Italian goodness.

6. Bucatini Amatriciana

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

This quick midweek staple originated in Amatrice in Lazio, central Italy. It's so good that it's been recognised as one of Italy's national treasures. So, not your average Tuesday night dinner then!

Eat like an Italian: Italy's three edible national treasures
Silvia Colloca says one of the dishes is barely known outside of Italy.

7. Orecchiette

Orecchiette with cime di rapa and pangrattato

Orecchiette translates as 'little ears', but this pasta shape is the boss when it comes to scooping up big flavours. In this recipe pangrattato (olive oil-infused sourdough breadcrumbs) add crunch to a bowl full of anchovy, broccolini leaves and chilli zing.

8. Pasta and potatoes

Pasta mista with potatoes, pancetta and provola

If adding potato to your pasta seems a little carby, just go with it. The potato adds a luxurious creaminess to a recipe that basically asks you to use up whatever pasta shapes and sizes you have in the pantry. Which are many random packets for most of us.

9. Red lentil penne

Red lentil penne with prawn ragu

Inject some extra nutrition into your meal by using a lentil penne instead of your regular wheat version. It adds plenty of additional fibre and protein and asks little of any simple sauce that accompanies it.

Spiced red lentils with egg

These fragrant lentils topped with a creamy poached egg are the perfect vegetarian comfort food. 

10. Farfalle with zucchini

Brimming with homemade walnut pesto and zucchini, this is one extra-creamy pasta dish. We bet you'll make it once and then declare a new Friday Farfalle night ritual.

11. Casarecce with roasted tomatoes

It's rare for a baked pasta dish to make 'weekday' status, but this one makes the grade because it's literally 10 minutes prep then into the oven. That's 10 minutes of faffing when you first get home, and 35 minutes of book reading while the oven goes to work. Bon appetite indeed.

12. Penne with Sicilian pesto

Basil is used to garnish dishes, like pasta, in Europe.

Another whirl for red lentil penne, this time it's stepping out with an almond, parmesan, tomato, ricotta and basil pesto which is every bit as dashing as it sounds.

Pesto addicts: This one's for you
Basil, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and good olive oil mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

13. Zoodles with prawns

Zoodles (ie zucchini spiralised into noddles) have become so ubiquitous that including them in a 'pasta' round-up feels okay. Ish. If you're not on board with this, feel free to quietly substitute spaghetti in this chilli and lemon recipe

Singapore prawn zoodles

Toss together the classic flavours of Singapore noodles with zucchini. Perfect for a quick weeknight meal or on the weekend with prawns sourced freshly from the markets.

14. Mushroom carbonara

Staying with the healthier takes (for now), how about a mushroom carbonara that says no to bacon and cream? It's an easy meat-free Monday meal.

15. Silvia's carbonara

Silvia Colloca flexes her Italian for us all to enjoy.

We are fairly certain that Silvia would not be on board with a carbonara that lacks meat, but she would definitely okay the lack of cream. Here's her classic carbonara to whip up tonight.

9 classic Italian sauces for your winter pasta-fest
Make all of your (and your family and friends') saucy pasta dreams come true.

16. Puttanesca

No other pasta dish earns the 'weeknight' badge like puttanesca. This version is a one-pot dish that you can pull together in no time at all. Plus it uses ingredients most of us have on hand most of the time. Hello, dinner!

17. Aglio olio e peperoncino pasta with broccolini and streaky bacon pangrattato

Fortunately, this recipe with the very long name takes a very short time to cook.

18. Spicy sausage and ricotta pasta

A bit of heat in your dinner will rev you up for the night ahead and Italian sausages always do the trick. Feel free to add an extra pinch or two of chilli to the sauce to blow your head off.

’Nduja and mascarpone pizza

One of the best pizza experiences I had was in Italy with the excellent de Maria family who were lucky enough to have a wood-fired oven at the bottom of their house. Pizza after pizza kept coming, all thin and with only a few toppings on each. Very delicious. So here is the pizza base recipe we use at Berta topped simply with creamy mascarpone and fiery ’nduja. Feel free to add any other toppings you desire, but not too many at once, please.

19. Broccoli and sausage rigatoni

Keeping with the sausage theme, let's turn down the heat with this easy recipe. You basically just toss together a small list of ingredients over a good heat and you're eating.

20.  Spaghetti alla bottarga

Spaghetti alla bottarga

If you can get your hands on some bottarga, dinner will practically make itself. This gorgeous dish is on the table in under 15 minutes. If bottarga eludes you, any other fish roe will be a good substitute, particularly mullet or tuna roe.

Salted fish roe (bottarga)

Bottarga is salted, cured fish roe, originating from Sardinia and Sicily, that’s traditionally sliced, grated or sprinkled on seafood pasta dishes. Make sure your roe are as fresh as possible and not damaged in any way.

21. 'Green bits' pasta

Trawl the bottom of the crisper for any green veggie leftovers to make this nutritious midweek meal. Broccoli, asparagus, spinach, rocket, frozen peas - whatever you find will work well.

22. Lazy lasagne

Lazy seafood lasagne

The word 'lazy' indicates that this is a midweek meal we're on board with. It's basically a seafood lasagne with all the fuss and bother removed. All of the oven time is removed too, so you'll have this on the table in under half an hour.

Low-carb sausage 'lasagne'

A low-carb alternative to the Italian classic, this lasagne uses layers of zucchini instead of pasta for a healthier meal.

23. Orecchiette with cauliflower

Another good midweek meal where the oven takes over to give you a bit of breathing space. Prep time is 25 minutes, but it's worth it to bring out the best in cauliflower, olives, anchovies and capers. Plenty of flavour here and the leftovers taste even better for lunch the next day.

24. Mac 'n' cheese

Some workdays are so rough that only mac and cheese can fix them. This version of the comforting pasta dish is made midweek-healthy with ricotta stepping in for cheese and wholemeal pasta doing the lifting for mac. Goodbye work, hello life.

Midweek faves
Pad kee mao (stir-fried rice noodles with beef, holy basil and chilli)

Sticky sweet oyster sauce, bright holy basil, a hit of chilli - just try and make a mediocre version of this Bangkok-in-a-bowl street food classic. Pickled bean sprouts take these noodles to the next level. 

Adam's egg fried rice
Everything you need to know about mastering fried rice, from Destination Flavour host Adam Liaw.
Grilled fish with tomatoes and olives
This recipe is a super simple weeknight fish to whip up. It's packed with Provencal flavour with tomatoes, olives, garlic and capers.
Miso-grilled salmon with soba noodles

It's time to start mingling with miso. The Japanese staple ingredient pairs well with so many flavours and simply needs the right balance of flavour to make is shine. Earthy soba and delicate salmon are the perfect foil for the miso marinade. Adjust the ratios to suit your own style, there’s no right or wrong as long as it tastes good to you.

Black sesame rice noodles with pork and pickled mushrooms

With dark tones and earthy notes, this is a simple, yet impressive, mid-week meal that you’d pay handsomely for in a restaurant. Use any kind of fresh mushrooms and, if cooking for vegetarians, simply omit the pork. 

Coconut fish cakes

These Javanese-style fish cakes are simple to prepare, easy to cook and packed with flavour. Any white-fleshed fish will work and, while we’ve gone for snapper, by all means substitute with what’s freshest, sustainable and well-priced at your fishmonger or supermarket. No chilli required here – just whip up a batch of cucumber pickles and you’re away!

Mexican quinoa bowl

This is one of my favourite recipes – it’s so incredibly delicious and I have to admit that I often get cravings for it! It is super quick and easy to make while the quinoa is cooking you can get started on making the mountains of fresh guacamole, creamy cashew cheese, tomato salsa and garlicky black beans. You will love the amazing mix of intense flavours!

Red onion bhajis with minted raita

Bring a little bit of Bollywood into your kitchen with these exotic vegetarian morsels. Bhajis are the Indian version of vegetable fritters, and are perfect as a colourful entrée or canapé at your next backyard soiree.

Sweet potato latkes with Middle Eastern salad and hummus

Crisp sweet potato pancakes paired with hummus and a moreish salad of kale, cucumber, preserved lemon makes a perfect little entrée or light meal. It’s also pretty impressive picnic fare – just keep the latkes, salad and hummus separate and let everyone assemble their own.