Speedy Pasta alla Genovese

20140718-163847-59927654.jpgEver since I made the one-pan tomato and basil pasta, and after seeing the gorgeous dishes my blogging friends made using the one-pan ‘technique’ (chuck all the ingredients in a pan, add water, and boil until the water has evaporated and everything is cooked), I haven’t been able stop thinking of other combinations that would work with this method. Pasta alla Genovese, which is made with pasta, potatoes, greens beans and pesto, came to mind. And seeing as I have just discovered a way of making pesto without parmesan (which is not strictly speaking vegetarian) it had to be tried. And I am very happy I did. Pasta alla genovese is a one-pan dish by nature, so I can’t honestly say I’ve revolutionised it in that sense but, prepared this way, it cooks in under ten minutes and you don’t even have to remember to add your veg. In the end, the pasta, potatoes and beans are perfectly al dente and all you have to do is add your (or the supermarket’s) pesto. 

You start off by finely dicing a large potato and topping and tailing your beans. I used haricots verts because they are thin and cook quickly.

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20140718-163842-59922892.jpgThen make your pesto by blitzing all the ingredients using a (stick) blender. I used the Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe for a vegetarian/vegan pesto that I discovered only recently. You can find it here, as part of their green lasagne rolls, or simply look below.

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Then put all your ingredients, except for the pesto, in a wide pan, add water and bring to the boil. Cook until the pasta, potato and beans are cooked to your liking. I was actually amazed at how perfectly everything was cooked, considering this was my first attempt at making this dish. I love it when the result matches the mental picture you had when you thought up the recipe. 🙂

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Make sure there is a little bit of starchy water left in your pan, add the pesto (I like a generous amount) and stir. Eat.

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Pesto

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic
50 g basil leaves
50 g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt

This makes more pesto than you will probably need for this dish but I love spreading this on a cheese sandwich or using it as a dipping sauce. (It keeps for a few days in the fridge and freezes well.)

Preparation

– Blitz all the ingredients in a blender until you have a smooth(ish) paste.
– Add 1 or 2 tbsp of water (or more, if needed) to loosen the mixture.

 

Pasta

Ingredients

– 180 g spaghetti (I used wholewheat)
– 250 g peeled and finely diced waxy potato (peeled weight)
– 150 g green beans or haricots verts, cleaned and halved
– 450 ml water
– salt, to taste
Preparation

– Put all the ingredients, except for the pesto, in a wide pan (I break the spaghetti in half)
– Boil until everything is cooked to your liking, leaving a thin layer of starchy water at the bottom of the pan.
– Spoon on the pesto, mix well and serve.

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Gorgeous Green Lasagne Rolls

20140713-144755-53275795.jpgAs soon as I spotted these scrumptious lasagne rolls on the Post Punk Kitchen blog it was love at first sight. Not only because I love spinach and pasta but because the recipe included a pesto made without parmesan. In fact, these rolls are entirely vegan. I am not a vegan but parmesan contains animal rennet, which has always bugged me. I have eaten it occasionally in the last few years but I enjoy it less every time I do. So a parmesan-free pesto intrigued me. Apart from that, the dish sounded and looked great and it didn’t make a huge quantity, as lasagne recipes tend to do. I usually only cook for two, so that was another bonus. Having said that, these green lasagne rolls are so delicious that they will definitely be making an appearance on my table the next time we have friends over for dinner.

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I was also intrigued by other ways in which the PPK had revamped the ‘classic’ spinach ricotta lasagne. There’s the parmesan-free pesto, a béchamel sauce made with soaked and ground cashews and a tofu ‘ricotta’. The result: one of the best damn pasta dishes I have ever eaten. The tofu and spinach filling is light and fresh (there is no distinct tofu flavour, by the way), the pesto has a great, intense flavour and the sauce is gorgeously creamy. I think part of the success of this dish is down to an ingredient I had so far only heard about: nutritional yeast. Not a sexy name and it looks like a bit like dried fish food (I am really selling this one, aren’t I?) but it adds bags of flavour and is even good for you. It is, and I am quoting Wikipedia here, a source of protein and vitamins and a complete protein. It’s one of those ingredients I was always a bit hesitant about but I am sure I will use it regularly from now on.

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Another thing I like about this recipe is that you could pretty much prepare everything in advance if you were to make this for guests. The only thing you would have to do at the last minute is cook the lasagne sheets until they are al dente (mine took about seven minutes), fill them, smother in sauce and bung it all in the oven.

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I deliberately used bigger lasagne sheets than the PPK because I wanted the rolls to fit in my small baking dish. I absolutely hate crisply baked pasta, so I wanted the sauce to cover the rolls completely. Filling the sheets is not hard but I found that a silicon baking mat is a very handy tool here. Instead of having to pick up the edge of the softened pasta sheet from your worktop when you roll it up, possibly causing it to tear, you can bend the mat so you can just grab the edge. Think of peeling a sticker from a sticker sheet, if that makes sense.
The recipe says nothing about draining the tofu or the spinach but I did a bit. I wrapped the tofu in kitchen towel and squeezed for a bit just to get the excess water out. The spinach I let drain in a colander after wilting and then lightly pressed with the back of a spoon. For me, the rolls turned out perfect this way.
Oh, I will go a bit easier on the salt next time, by the way. It could be the salt content of my nutritional yeast but it was all a bit on the salty side.

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I can’t recommend these green lasagne rolls enough! If you are not used to vegan cooking, don’t be put off by what might seem like substitutes. This is a great dish in its own right.

You can find the recipe here.

The Easiest Pasta Dish You Will Ever Cook.

 

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Now I thought my normal method of cooking a basic tomato and basil pasta was quick and easy but, boy, was I wrong. This one-pan pasta is even easier, does not (necessarily) need a single drop of oil and is incredibly tasty. You could add parmesan to this basically vegan dish but I really don’t think it needs it.

When I first saw this recipe on the Martha Stewart website, I thought it was a bit of a gimmick. A bit like a chocolate cake nuked in a mug in the microwave (which may well be delicious, I haven’t tried it). But it was one those recipes that just had to be tried, and I was pleasantly surprised (well, stunned) when it turned out to be a winner. To make a quick yet tasty pasta dish, I would normally fry an onion and some cherry tomatoes in olive oil, boil spaghetti in another pot and stir it all together with a few torn basil leaves and possibly some cheese. But in this case you just chuck everything in a pan with some water and cook it all in one go. The original recipe tells you to drizzle the finished dish with olive oil but I didn’t (forgot, I was peckish) and it was still delicious. So apart from this being the easiest pasta you’ve ever cooked, it could also be the healthiest. Score. 20140707-220252-79372275.jpg

I have adapted the original recipe for two people and fiddled with the quantities, especially the amount of tomatoes (I felt it needed a lot more of them). The only flaw I can find is that my dried linguine did not fit my largest pan, so I had to break it in half. No biggy but I would rather have left it whole. It’s an aesthetic thing.

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Although this dish really is incredibly easy to cook, you can’t just turn on the heat and walk away. You do have to keep the linguine moving from time to time, especially near the end of the cooking time, because otherwise it might stick to the pan. Cooking times for pasta vary, so have a bit of warm water handy to add if necessary. I started out with 400 ml of water and added a splash near the end, when it looked like it was all drying out a bit too much.  20140707-220254-79374047.jpg

 


 

Ingredients

180 g linguine

350 g cherry tomatoes, halved

½ large onion, sliced into thin half rings.

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

½ tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)

400 ml of water

salt and pepper

15 g fresh basil leaves, half left whole, the rest torn roughly

 

Method

1. Put all the ingredients except for the salt, pepper and the torn basil leaves in a large pan and bring to a boil over a medium-high heat.

2. Boil, moving the pasta around frequently until the pasta is cooked to your liking. This should take about 9-10 minutes, depending on the pasta you’re using.

3. Season to taste, scatter over the torn basil leaves and serve. It’s that easy!