My starting point with pasta, portionwise, is 100g dried weight of pasta per person for a main, on average; there are variables, of course, appetite and age…
I know that people feel very strongly about anchovies, but this is guaranteed - as much as one can guarantee anything - to overcome the most squealing of prejudices. Do not think of that salty dried-up thing that curls up and dies on top of cheap takeaway pizzas: the anchovies here are mellow and, with the soft-cooked onions, have a savoury but honeyed intensity - not strong, just deep-toned and harmonious.
My children wouldn't care if all I ever gave them was pasta with some bottled sauce poured over, and I don't deny that's sometimes indeed what they are given; but to please myself, and them, this is what I make when I get it together a little. Making this is hardly effortful; the potatoes cook in the pasta water - requiring a little extra time, nothing more - and the pinenutless pesto is whizzed up easily by the processor.
You might label this shiny black musselled variation of linguine alle vongole, linguine alle cozze, but to be frank, this version is not very Italian-flavoured. It owes something to the French taste for moules mariniere, and reaches Spainwards for a slug of sherry, in place of the usual white wine, to add oomph to the molluscs' briney juices.
You know, I'd eaten this a couple of times and made it myself (throwing in handfuls of peppery watercress as I did so) a few more before I realised it was, give or take, the River Cafe's recipe - by which I mean to say that although the amounts and full list of ingredients vary, it is an English seaside version of their fabulous original. I suppose that's how you know something's become a classic: it just seeps its way into the culinary language.
This recipe does involve a lot of fiddly preparation, but what it creates is addictive; every mouthful repays the effort a hundredfold. What's more, you can stash it in a Tupperware or similar and leave it in the fridge for easy pickings for a good few days. This salad is eating proof that you can't have too much of a good thing.
This is one of my proudest creations and, I suppose, a good example of a recipe that isn't originally from Italy, but sits uncontroversially in her culinary canon. I don't think it would be too presumptuous to name this linguine ai funghi crudi. It is about as speedy as you can imagine: you do no more to the mushrooms than slice them, steep them in oil, garlic, lemon and thyme and toss them into the hot cooked pasta.
Although this recipe does not itself issue from Italy, the inspiration is entirely Italian. One of my favourite things to eat is a risotto Milanese, sometimes called "risotto giallo" - or yellow risotto - and it occurred to me that pasta cooked similarly, or at least cooked to taste similar, would be perfect, and very easy.
I came across this recipe in Anna Del Conte's memoirs, Risotto with Nettles. Now, there are so many recipes I could borrow from her, and many I have, but this is the one I have to show you here. She introduces it as hardly a recipe, but I wanted to include it because I haven't as yet found a child who doesn't like it.
This is child's play to make, and I use the term advisedly, since it is the invention of my then ten-year-old son Bruno (Brunostrone, we call it) and we make versions of it constantly. Use any beans or pulses you want, or a mixture is good, too, and you can play around with the pasta sauce as well. If you're coldy (and if no child is eating this), I suggest you use the spiciest, hottest sauce you can find.