I’ve always loved spaghetti hoops, I developed a strong dislike for baked beans during my primary school days, where eating everything served to you each lunch time was not a choice, neither was packed lunch. The force-feeding put me off them entirely and so the hoops in a can became my go-to toast topper. Whenever I was feeling slightly under the weather and the thought of cooking required a little more energy than I currently possessed I would heat up a can of Heinz hoops or alphabetti. I love them with lots of black pepper, chilli flakes and grated strong cheddar cheese. I may have eaten some of the most delicious pasta dishes that Italy has to offer over the years but still the craving for a can of Heinz rears it’s head every so often!
When I saw alphabet pasta on a recent trip to Sainsbury I just couldn’t walk on by. Memories of my childhood, teens and later hungover university days rushed before my eyes and I grabbed a bag with glee. There’s something about that heady combination of carbs on carbs that I long for when having a bad day and hoops on toast was perfect for scratching that itch. It could also be on the table in less than 10 minutes, another point in its favour.
I definitely wanted to have a go at a homemade version of the classic Heinz alphabetti. A quick read through the ingredients was reassuring, the main ingredients were in fact pasta and tomatoes – this was promising. I think my version is pretty damn good, they even smelt like the real thing as I was simmering the sauce. The colour was good and from start to finish they were done in less than 15 minutes, plus no can opener required! They’d make a great packed lunch for kids (or adults) in thermos flask. Give them a try.
My second foray into the world of alphabetical food was an adaption of something I make regularly. I’m really fond of making a big batch of soup at the start of the week to keep me in lunches and the odd dinner through the week. It really takes the pressure out of meal prep and means I eat healthily even when I’m really busy. The soup uses up all my odds and ends from the fridge plus I’d buy some protein to add, usually from chicken or turkey, with stock and some small pasta shapes too. This way I was getting a good balance of veg, protein, fat and carbs in my meal, covering all bases. I decided to give my soup an alphabetical twist this week and here is the recipe for you to try. It’s as easy as A, B, C…Sorry I couldn’t resist.
It’s such a convenient way to consume most of your vegetables each day and a lot tastier than chewing through piles of plain veg. Adding the pasta is great for eating post training and thickens the broth a bit too. You could add rice, barley or quinoa as well to vary the flavours or make it gluten free. I’ve calculated the macros for you so you can make it fit your daily needs.
Homemade tinned alphabetti
Makes 4-6 small servings
Prep 5 mins Cook 10 mins
2 tsp butter
1 tsp onion powder
3/4’s tsp paprika (sweet if you have it)
500g tomato passata
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
150g alphabet pasta shapes
Heat the butter in a small pan, once foaming add the onion powder, paprika, sugar and some sea salt (if not giving to children about 1 tsp). Stir until the mixture resembles a paste and tip in the pasatta, milk and Parmesan. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Heat a pan of salted water and once boiling cook the pasta for 5-6 minutes until tender, drain in a sieve or colander with small holes. Add to the sauce and serve.
Makes 6-8 portions (Macros based on 6)
282 Kcals, 5.8g Fat, 27.8g Carbs, 24.7g Protein
Can be frozen
1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
½ bag diced frozen onions (I always use these now instead of chopping my own, why? I’m lazy, my mascara stays in tact, there cheap and convenient and the water means they don’t stick to the pan as they cook)
3 sticks celery, diced
2 large carrots, no need to peel, diced
1 large leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 courgettes, diced
150g mushrooms, diced
2 tsp garlic puree (again, this is due to laziness, I hate crushing garlic plus it’s so hard to get rid of the smell)
1 heaped tbsp. tomato puree & basil pesto
splash white wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 chicken (or veg) stock pots
a few bay leaves
450g chicken breasts or use a mixture of thighs and legs if you like the meat on the bone more, NB the broth will be a bit more fatty if you do this.
150g baby spinach
150g alphabet pasta or small pasta shapes
Parmesan rind (if you have one in the fridge) plus grated Parmesan or mozzarella to serve
1 tsp grated nutmeg
fresh basil, to serve
Heat the oil and a good pinch of salt in your biggest saucepan and add the onions, carrots, celery and leeks. Cook gently on a low heat until really soft, adding a splash of the wine or some water if they start to stick. This will take about 20 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, courgettes, garlic, pesto and tomato puree with some black pepper and cook for a few minutes more. Tip In the wine and simmer until almost evaporated then add the stock pots, bay, Parmesan rind if using, tinned tomatoes and 1200ml of water. Bring to a simmer then carefully add the chicken, use tongs to help you. Simmer gently for 20-25 minutes, depending on how big the breasts are, then remove them with the tongs and leave until cool enough to handle. Keep the soup simmering gently while you do this.
Tip the pasta into the soup and simmer for 6 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir and add the spinach, basil the nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasoning now. Shred or slice the chicken and stir through the soup. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving with the fresh basil and grated Parmesan or mozzarella on top.