DISCLAIMER: I’ve never been to Italy. Sad times, I KNOW! Every year when we’re looking for somewhere to go on our summer holidays, I put Italy on the top of my list. I’m not really fussy on where, Rome, Florence, Venice, Lake Garda, Sorrento, Bologna (new LOVE after watching on Rick steins long weekends), anywhere, as long as pasta, gelato and and lots of eating is involved. I’m there.
So before you start shouting at your screen I have had no experience of truly authentic Italian food on Italian ground. I’ve eaten some UHMAZINGGGGG Italian food in restaurants here in the UK, but I feel they’re hard to come by, usually catering for our British tastebuds. Find somewhere which sources it’s ingredients from across Italy, then you’re onto a winner.
So, this recipe is by no means Italian. I drew inspiration mainly from everyone’s love of pesto pasta, the highlight of a students diet, and the fact I had a big bunch of basil in the fridge that needed using up. That’s the way I tend to work when I’m cooking for myself or on a Friday night for a fridge clear out.
I’m a big fan of courgetti, first of all it’s a chance to use my spiraliser. I still get mesmerised by the twirling of green curls coming out the other end. Second of all, eating a dish of solely pasta I find too heavy. If the sauce is meat based I tend to go for just courgetti, sauté it in a pan with a big spoon (or two) of sauce until steamy and bubbling. If I’m opting for a vegetarian or vegan meal I like to do half courgetti, half spaghetti.
In terms of the type of pasta I like brown rice spaghetti or spelt spaghetti. There are so many alternative pastas on the supermarket shelves nowadays you just have to find one you like. There’s varieties made from beans like chickpeas, black beans and mung beans (sounds weird, but so so good) and some others from our favourite pseudograins like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. If money is an issue for you or you have no health food shops nearby, go for the whole grain version. It’s sold in the majority of supermarkets nowadays, as I said in the last post getting more fibre into our diets is so important, whole grain pasta is the one for the job.
I’m really sorry if the majority of my recipes use a food processor. I can’t tell you how much I miss it when I’m away from home, definitely my hero of the kitchen appliances! The pesto for this recipe can be made by finely chopping everything by hand, it will take a hell of a longer time than whizzing in the food processor, but it’s still achievable. If you seriously can’t be arsed by all means grab some pesto from the shops. No it won’t be as full of goodness as the homemade one is, I don’t think it will taste as good either. BUT follow the ‘better than’ idea. If by not making the pesto yourself you won’t cook and will just order in a pizza, then of course buying the pesto and serving up a hearty dish of courgette, peas, herbs, rocket and tomatoes is the best option.
So get cracking, it doesn’t take long to whizz up at all. Completely full of veggie goodness and can be vegan if you decide not to put some Parmesan shavings on top, but I couldn’t resist. I’m sorry to all the vegans out there but I just love cheese. SO. DAMN. MUCH.
Pesto courgetti pasta with roasted tomatoes
This served around 2 people
For the pesto
- 1 big handful of basil
- 1 big handful parsley
- 1 small handful pine nuts
- Zest and juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
- 4 tbsp olive/rapeseed oil
- 2 heaped tbsp nutritional yeast (for that savoury depth that you don’t get from cheese) otherwise use a good grating of Parmesan
- 1 clove of garlic (optional)
For the pasta
- 1 courgette (as straight as possible)
- Spaghetti ( I don’t know how much here, I always make too little or too much. Just judge it by how hungry you are)
- 2 handfuls of frozen peas
For the roast tomatoes
- Olive/rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
- For the roast tomatoes. Turn the oven to 170C/150C fan. Slice the tomatoes, smaller cherry ones in half and larger tomatoes into quarters so they are in even size chunks. Put into an oven proof dish, I prefer ceramic rather than metal because the tomatoes cook more evenly and are less likely to burn. Drizzle over some oil and a good pinch of salt. Place in the oven for around 20 to 30 mins until they are caramelised on the edges and slightly shrivelled. Put to one side.
- For the pesto. Place all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz until you get a paste. Check for seasoning, maybe add more lemon or nutritional yeast/Parmesan, whizz again then slowly drizzle in some water until you have the right consistency for a pesto. It should coat the back of your spoon.
- Fill a large pan with boiling water, add your chosen spaghetti and cook according to the pack directions with a good pinch of salt.
- Meanwhile, setup your spiralizer so its on the finer noodle setting, and spiralize your courgette. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a julienner or a regular peeler. Or try this kitchen hack: sit your box grater on its side with the course grater facing up. Grate the courgette horizontallly against the teeth so you get long strands of courgetti.
- Put a large frying pan on a medium heat and add your courgetti and frozen peas. Heat them through, but keep stirring so they dont catch, until the courgetti has softened has the peas have cooked.
- Scoop all your pesto in with the courgetti with a scoop of the pasta cookng water and leave to warm through.
- When the pasta is cooked drain it and add to the frying pan along ith the roasted tomatoes, a few handfuls of rocket and a big squeeze of lemon. Mix well then divide onto plates, drizzle with extra oil and a few shavings of paremsan.