Robby’s pasta with a crunchy breadcrumb topping


We all adore our wonderful Robby, and have to thank our childhood friend Trays for bringing him into our lives. They live in beautiful Sicily, and are as obsessed with food as we are.. One of the many glorious things about having them come to stay is that they love to cook for their hosts – talk about the Perfect Guests!!

One Christmas they were staying with us, and Robby offered to make lunch for the household.  He threw this together in about 15 minutes, and frankly I’ve never got over it! This is such a simple dish, but it’s so, so good.  I have to say it’s one of my favourite things. And, as it’s vegetarian, it’s got that saintly vibe going for it too.. By the way this dish – like a puppy – is not just for Christmas, or even just for lunch… :)


  • A large saucepan to cook the pasta
  • A smaller saucepan to cook the sauce
  • A pan to toast the breadcrumbs
  • Warmed pasta bowls

INGREDIENTS: Feeds about 6, and it can easily be doubled up to feed a crowd

  • Pasta – enough to feed your lucky, lucky guests – (I use spaghetti, because I like it..)
  • 3-4 large fresh tomatoes – deseeded, and chopped roughly ( I use fresh plum tomatoes, but any firm variety will do)


  • 1 chilli (any colour) finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • drizzle of oil
  • about 50g of stale breadcrumbs (mine came straight from the freezer today)
  • finely grated zest of a lemon
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Freshly grated parmesan, to serve


To make the sauce: (you can do this in advance if you like and reheat it gently when you’re ready to eat)

  • put a drizzle of oil into the small saucepan and heat until fairly hot
  • add the tomatoes and the chilli, and stir in


  • Reduce the heat a little, and allow the tomatoes to cook and soften down for 5 minutes or so
  • Add the garlic and stir in


  • Season well with salt and black pepper
  • Make sure that the heat isn’t too high and give it a stir every so often. It can sit quite happily like this for 15 minutes or so. Don’t let it dry out; it should be fairly liquid.


  • Put the pasta on to cook – check the packet for approximate cooking times
  • When it’s nicely al dente, drain it and put it back into its saucepan with a little of the cooking liquid

Crunchy Breadcrumb topping:

(this can also be made in advance and kept in an air-tight container for a day or so. They don’t actually have to be hot when you’re serving them, but they definitely need to be at room temperature. )

  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan
  • When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and move them about so that they absorb the oil and toast evenly( about 3-4 minutes)
  • Throw in the lemon zest and some sea salt.
  • Remove them from the heat when they’re nicely toasted.

pasta sauce


  • Throw the reheated sauce onto the cooked pasta
  • Fold it in gently with a tongs or a couple of wooden spoons.
  • Distribute it amongst your warmed pasta bowls, and sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of each portion



  • Offer some  high quality olive oil and freshly grated parmesan separately.
  • Don’t expect any conversation as everyone tucks in!



  • Sometimes, if I’m just making this for me, I don’t bother with the breadcrumb topping. It’s still delicious, but the topping takes the whole thing to another level.
  • If you have some parsley , you could chop it finely and add it to the breadcrumbs just before serving.
  • I think that this is the perfect lunch dish, and I find it a really great dish for surprise guests, as it’s mostly store-cupboard or fridge/freezer ingredients, and can be ready to eat in about 15 minutes from scratch.

I started writing down recipes in an old copybook when I was about 16. With 6 children at home, my Mother was always glad of a hand in the kitchen, and really allowed us to experiment - as long as we washed up afterwards, and left the kitchen immaculate! Having a tidy kitchen has followed me through my life, as has the habit of writing down my favourite recipes; except that these days I write them for my website, and add photographs when I can. The website really started when it occurred to me that my daughter might like to have these recipes when I've forgotten them. In my early days of cooking for family and friends, I used to phone my Mum all the time to ask her for the recipe for some of our favourite family dinners. She rarely had a recipe to hand - I think, like me, she made a lot of it up as she went along.. So welcome to Eating for Ireland - these are the recipes that my friends and family having been eating these past 40 years.. yes, I truly am ancient! They are tried and tested, and have worked for me for all that time - I have updated them as new ingredients became available - I really hope you'll find something that you can make into a family favourite of your own. You don't have to tell anyone where you found these great new dishes that you're serving up - it can be our little secret, but I'd really love it if you could give me a sneaky 'follow' on Facebook and Instagram.. So off you go - have a good rummage around, you're bound to find something new! My sincere thanks to all of you who have found a recipe that you liked and dropped me a line to tell me - I really do love to hear from you! Happy Cooking! Becks xx

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