Penne Grana Padano with a Thousand Things

30 minutes
to cook

Alex Mackay, cook, teacher, writer, and food lover serves up a collection of his recipes made for sharing showing the versatility of Grana Padano PDO cheese. With lite bites to quick pasta: brunch to supper standbys you can find recipes for every occassion this Easter.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from a Calabrian dish called 'Millecosedde' and the pasta with chickpeas that my Chef Don Alfonso in Santa Agata would make for staff dinner and enthusiastically tell us 'this is better than meat'. The 'thousand things' traditionally refers to mixed beans and lentils with a little cabbage. I love the idea of basing a recipe on dried pasta and dried pulses, it feels exciting, typical of Southern Italian and French cooks' resourcefulness. I've made it simpler with frozen and tinned beans, fresher with the addition of spring vegetables and more luxurious by adding tons of Grana Padano. Feel free to vary the pulses, beans and vegetables as much as you like. I couldn't resist adding a few radishes for a flash of red and a crunchy touch.

The way to cook the pasta is a glorious technique that I've developed over the last decade... Penne, cooked like pilaff, to get a risotto consistency.

Serves 2 Preparation time: 30 minutes; Cooking time: 30 minutes; Difficulty: Easy

  • method
  • Ingredients


1. Boil your kettle. Get a steamer ready.
2. Start with the spring onions, trim and discard the hairy part at the bottom. Slice the pale end finely on an angle. Once you get to the dark green, slice the spring onions in 3cm slices on an angle. Put the green parts in your steamer insert, put the pale parts into the shallow saucepan.
3. Add the garlic and the butter to the pan. Cover. Put the pan on a medium heat. Sweat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spring onions and garlic are soft but not brown.
4. Add the stock. Put the pan on a high heat. Bring to the boil. Add the pasta. Bring back to the boil. Stir. Boil furiously for 1 minute. Turn the heat to low. Cover. Simmer gently, stirring occassionally so that the penne doesn't stick together, for 12 minutes. While it simmers, boil the water to steam your vegetables.
5. Take the lid off the penne, simmer and stir for 3 minutes. By now the penne should have absorbed most of the liquid, be slightly creamy and just cooked through but firm. Take the pan off the heat. Taste to make sure, simmer for another minute or two if necessary. If it looks too dry, add 1 tbsp hot water at a time. Add the cooked beans or chickpeas, fold them in so as not to break them up. Cover. Leave to sit for 2 minutes. Like resting meat, this finishes the cooking process, and lets the heat settle evenly into the centre of each penne.
6. While the penne rests, steam the green vegetables for 3-4 minutes until just tender.
7. Warm the penne and pulses for 1 minute.
8. Take the pan off the heat. Stir in the grated Grana Padano. If you like the consistency to be a bit saucier, add hot water or stock, 1 tbsp at a time. Season to taste.
9. Fold the green vegetables into the penne. Spoon into plates. Scatter the sliced radishes over the top. Drizzle over the extra virgin olive oil and serve with more Grana Padano on the side.


500ml vegetable or chicken stock (I make this up with the 165ml or so of liquid that you get from the tin of beans)
200g penne
1 bunch of spring onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely sliced
25g butter
80g finely grated Grana Padano, plus extra to serve on the side
235g (this is how much you get from 1 tin, minus the water) cooked cannellini beans, chickpeas or lentils or a mixture
200g mixed green vegetables, I used frozen peas, edamame, broad beans and fresh purple broccoli
4 radishes, finely sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper


Shallow saucepan
Steamer insert

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