From the Ballroom to the Kitchen

From the Ballroom to the Kitchen – Juggling commitments with some easy, nutritious and tasty meals to serve up mid-week

I have been juggling a lot recently with the Strictly Against Breast Cancer Ballroom Dance taking place this Saturday 29th November in the Convention Centre and have had to get extra creative with preparing some delicious midweek meals around our hectic schedule lately.

As you may have heard I am swopping the chef whites for dancing shoes as I take to the dance floor with my dance partner, Gerald Kean, which is all in aid of Breast Cancer Research.

Strictly Agains     (2)

It has been great fun practicing our dance moves and we will be up against 10 personalities (male and female) and 10 survivors and supporters of Breast Cancer Ireland in a Strictly “dance off” style competition.

Professional Choreographers have been assisting each couple for the past EIGHT weeks and Saturday is the night when the couples dance as part of a Black Tie Gala Ball. Now in its second year, Strictly Against Breast Cancer will take place at the Convention Centre in Dublin on Saturday November 29th.

I am a huge supporter of Breast Cancer Ireland in their mission to research a cure. SO… I would be forever grateful if you could vote for Gerald and myself and each vote is a donation to Breast Cancer Ireland.

All you have to do is TEXT “STRICTLY 4” TO 50300 WITH A €4 DONATION

Or log onto

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Over the past 8 weeks as we have been practicing our dance routine twice and three times a week. Which means I have needed to rely on some light easy meals to fuel all this dance practice and feed the family – here are two delicious recipes which you might like to try for yourself midweek

Italian Comfort Soup 2 (2)

Italian Comfort Soup

Serves 4-6

This is a chunky rustic meal in one – and packed full of goodness for lots of energy…

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated

1 fennel bulb, diced

3 anchovies, lightly crushed

1 large courgette, diced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp chopped thyme

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 litre vegetable stock

300ml tomato passata

1 jar Barilla Olive sauce

½ tsp sugar

120g Barilla Fusilli

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 fresh cherry tomatoes on the vine, to garnish

1 tsp chopped sage

4 tbsp rocket pesto or any of your favourite flavours, for a final flourish

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4.

Place the cherry tomatoes, sage and a drizzle of olive oil in a roasting tray and roast for about 12 to 15 minutes until just tender and season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions, celery, carrot, fennel and anchovies and sauté for 5 minutes.

Stir in the diced courgette, garlic, thyme, parsley and sauté for a further 3 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Pour in the stock and passata, Barilla Olive sauce and sugar. Check the seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, if required.

Simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the Barilla Fusilli and cook for 11 minutes or until the pasta is al dente. Check the seasoning again.

To serve, ladle into serving bowls, swirl the rocket pesto through the soup and garnish with roasted tomatoes.

Tip : Change the pasta variety – the Barilla penne works very well and stir in sliced leeks and finely sliced cabbage as well.  


Spaghettoni with Pancetta and Spinach Olive Sauce

Serves 4

This is a very versatile recipe and is just as perfect as a winter midweek meal for a very hungry family as it is for girlie gathering. Having a few boxes of Barilla Spaghettoni in the store cupboard will make dinner preparations much quicker and teamed up this easy sauce make a delicious meal before hitting the dance floor!

1 tbsp Irish rapeseed oil

200g smoked Irish bacon, diced

1 leek, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 tsp chopped oregano

200ml Barilla Olive Sauce

250ml cream

4 tbsp vegetable stock

100g baby spinach, washed and trimmed

350g Barilla Spaghettoni n.7

100g St Tola’s goat’s cheese

Oregano sprigs, to garnish

Cook the Barilla Spaghettoni according to the instructions on the package (11 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat the rapeseed oil in a large saucepan over a medium to high heat. Add the diced bacon and fry until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to some paper kitchen towel to drain and set aside. Turn down the heat, add the sliced leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened but not brown and add the garlic, and oregano and cook gently for 1 minute. Return the bacon to the saucepan.

Pour in the Barilla Olive Sauce, cream and vegetable stock, stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and wilt.  Check the seasoning, you may only need to add a little freshly ground black pepper.

To serve toss the cooked, drained pasta into the sauce and using tongs transfer to a large serving bowl, spoon the cheese over the top and sprinkle over some oregano sprigs and enjoy.

Tip: Use Irish smoked salmon instead of the pancetta and add chopped asparagus to the sauce for a variation.

Catherine x


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