Dinner for One

When my husband travels for work it offers the opportunity for me to have a couple of nights with the apartment to myself. Far from moping around missing him (as much as I love him, of course) I immediately start to plan.

For one thing it means sole possession of the remote control – a perk not to be underestimated. It also means I can cook whatever I fancy eating. I realise when you’re home alone it often seems easier to get out the toaster or call for a takeaway – and believe me, sometimes I do! But most of the time I relish an opportunity to cook something that is just for me.

Risotto is generally at the top of my list because my husband doesn’t like it. But it’s one of my favourite things to eat and a wonderfully comforting solitary supper.

Yesterday, after a run to my favourite gourmet supermarket, I arrived home with some beautiful Roma tomatoes, a ball of fresh milky mozzarella, a packet of my favourite linguine and some delicious lemons. Italian anyone? The meal came together without any further thought.

Two courses may sound like a bit much when you’re only feeding one but both dishes are so simple and one follows the other beautifully.

A Caprese salad is one of the first things I order when I’m in Italy. When it comes to flavours that were meant to go together I think tomatoes and basil are right up there. Who would have thought that three ingredients would produce one of the most mouth-watering salads ever? But it’s perfect in its simplicity.

I had a Caprese salad in Rome once and loved the way they served the whole soft, milky ball of mozzarella with the tomatoes. Such a treat. They also bring bread to the table as a matter of course, along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I therefore could never have a Caprese salad without a couple of slices of ciabatta.

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Caprese Salad

Serves 1

 

2 Roma or plum tomatoes (or use vine tomatoes – you may only need one if they’re large)

100g ball fresh mozzarella

A few basil leaves

Freshly ground salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

 

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on the plate along with a few basil leaves. Remove the mozzarella from its liquid and pat dry with some kitchen towel. Carefully place on the plate. Grind over some salt and pepper and then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Done. Quicker than toasted cheese if you ask me.

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When you’re cooking for yourself pasta is a great option because you can cook as little or as much as you like. And the sauce can be as simple or as intricate as you like. In fact, some of my favourite pasta dishes have the simplest sauces. Lemon linguine is a perfect example. It helps that lemons are one of my favourite things to cook and bake with. Whether savoury or sweet lemon zest and juice seems to give anything a lift, puts a little sunshine into your food.

The basil follows through from the salad and is the perfect herb for both dishes. Much like tomatoes and basil, lemons and basil were made for each other.

The wonderful thing about this meal – both the salad and the pasta – is that the only actual cooking involved is the linguine itself. And yet these dishes are so satisfying and delicious that you’ll really feel as though you’ve treated yourself. Which you have. And why not? You’re worth it!

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Lemon Linguine

Serves 1 very lucky person

 

100g linguine

Salt

Zest of half a lemon

Juice of the whole lemon

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

25g Parmesan cheese, grated finely

Small knob of unsalted butter

Freshly ground pepper

A few basil leaves

 

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Once boiling add salt to season the water. Then add the linguine. Cook according to your packet instructions (I always start testing a couple of minutes before the end of the recommended cook time to make sure I get al dente).

While the linguine is cooking, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl or jug and give it a good whisk with a fork to combine. Now add the Parmesan cheese and stir through. It will thicken to a lovely consistency.

Once the linguine is cooked, drain it but be sure to leave a little of the cooking water behind to help loosen the sauce. Give the pasta a generous grind of pepper, add the knob of butter and then tear the basil leaves in. Stir these through to wilt.

Lastly, add the lemony sauce and toss it through the linguine well to ensure all the strands are slicked.

Serve in pasta bowls with a final grating of Parmesan to garnish.

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It goes without saying that if you did want to serve these dishes for more than one they are easy enough to double, triple, etc.

But for a solitary night in they do the job admirably.

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