ONE of the most familiar pasta dishes in our armoury of comfort foods is surely that good old staple, macaroni cheese. This ubiquitous bake with creamy sauce and tangy cheddar cheese is a favourite on everybody’s list. It is so popular it appears ‘fancied up’ on lots of posh restaurant menus: price hiked with fresh crab, grilled dry cured bacon or even with lobster.

But although it is a comfort for everyone eating it, to be perfectly honest, it’s a faff to make from scratch. You need to boil the pasta, make a bechamel sauce, grate tons of cheese, assemble it and then bake it all in the oven.

If I am looking for comfort food I turn to this simpler Italian version. Pasta tossed in butter and lots of mouth-watering, freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s very comforting and ready in an instant. Try chunky spaghetti alla chitarra or any long pasta – just not macaroni.

Spaghetti alla chitarra with butter and parmigiano

Per person:

80g spaghetti alla chitarra, linguine or spaghettini

20g unsalted butter

3-4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Salt and black pepper

Bring a pot of water to the boil and add a good teaspoon of salt. As the water bubbles up, test it to make sure it has a good salty flavour.

Add the pasta and gently press it down until it collapses under the water.

Stir it to loosen the pasta. Cook until almost al dente: if you taste it and think it needs a bit more cooking, don't worry, it will finish cooking in the butter.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.

Drain the pasta, saving a little of the starchy cooking water.

Add the pasta with any water clinging to it to the melted butter and toss them together in the heat so that the pasta is well coated.

Add a few tablespoons of the pasta water to add moisture and sprinkle in the freshly grated parmesan.

Take the saucepan off the heat and keep lifting and tossing the pasta so the parmesan starts to melt and form a creamy delicious coating.

The cheese has a natural saltiness so you will not need to add any more salt.

Serve on a warmed plate with plenty of freshly-grated black pepper and a final grating of parmesan.

As an alternative, you can make this with a mature sheep’s milk cheese such as Pecorino or


It is especially delightful with the refined flavour of Lanarkshire Corra Linn, a

hard, raw ewe’s milk cheese made on the Errington Farm, matured for 12 months in traditional muslin cheese cloth, it is a perfect local Scottish substitute.