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Vegetarian pasta dishes packed with flavour

Pasta is the perfect choice for vegetarian main courses or suppers. It’s possible to create dishes that are every bit as tasty as a bolognese or carbonara, and that will appeal to passing carnivores as well. The secret is to think about which vegetables complement each other most effectively, rather than throw in whatever happens to be lying around in the fridge.

Less is more

Lasagne is a pub grub vegetarian cliché, but it is possible to make a much more attractive version at home. Rather than throw in lots of chopped veg, go for contrasting layers, separated by sheet pasta. A smooth spinach and mascarpone mixture, spiked with a little grated nutmeg, contrasts brilliantly with a simple and slightly tangy tomato and basil sauce.

A spicy arrabiata sauce can be approximated by using a combination of sweet bell peppers and finely-chopped chillis. A dash of smoked paprika or pimenton added with sweetened tomato sauce adds complex flavours. Serve this with penne or shell pasta. This is a dish which doesn’t need cheese to accompany it but a green salad would be ideal.

For a simple but delicious lunch, combine chopped cherry tomatoes, cooked for just a few minutes in olive oil, with torn basil leaves and some roughly-chopped mozzarella. Serve with spaghetti, ground sea salt and a little black pepper. Add more olive oil if you like it rich.

Mushrooms make a great pasta accompaniment, but are best when allowed to dominate, rather than mixed with other vegetables. Use a little garlic, parsley, tarragon and olive oil and serve with spaghetti or fettucine.

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