Pasta and I: A love story

I never used to be able to cook. My high school Home Ec teachers would be baffled to hear that I now blog about vegan food. Considering that I never once cooked anything fit for human consumption in class and was the first student to pass on the basis of sheer pity, you couldn’t blame them.

I made Anzac biscuits that inexplicably turned green in the oven. I set more than one thing on fire. I even ruined a reheated dinner on a bushwalking camp by somehow getting methylated spirits in our beans. I was sure that there was no hope for me.

But then I was introduced to pasta. We were well-acquainted, of course, but I’d never really tried to cook it. And to my surprise, pasta soon became the only thing I was capable of cooking without strict supervision. For a couple of years I lived off of (pre-made) ravioli with avocado cream sauce, at least once a week. From that point, pasta became a staple in my kitchen, and I still make some kind of pasta dish a couple of times each week.

A pasta machine is firmly in my sights for the post-Christmas sale frenzy. They’re reasonably heavy, I could clear an easy path to the checkout by frantically waving one above my head and shrieking, as post-Christmas sale shoppers have taught me to behave. And once I have it in my kitchen, the journey from doomed-to-a-lifetime-of-Mi-Goreng-student to capable, fancy appliance-owning adult will be complete.

In honour of my beloved pasta, here are a few dishes that have featured in our kitchen over the last couple of weeks.

Sweet potato gnocchi with sage cream sauce

Penne vodka

Lemon basil cream linguine

Since the sweet potato gnocchi recipe still needs some work and the penne vodka recipe comes from Veganomicon (which I can’t believe took me so long to try, it’s so easy and a new instant favourite), I’ll share my lemon basil cream pasta recipe here.

Lemon Basil Cream Pasta

This recipe is inspired by a decidedly non-vegan Donna Hay recipe in one of my mum’s cookbooks. It’s really quick and easy, a perfect weeknight meal following a long day at work. I threw this together before we headed out the door to a spectacularly unsuccessful pub trivia night with friends- everything can be prepared while the pasta boils, then made in the pot and served in seconds.

You’ll need:

  • pasta of your choice (I used both spinach and wholewheat linguine)- I never measure how much pasta I use, so grab as much as you need.
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • zest of two lemons
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • a generous handful of chopped, fresh basil
  • black pepper
  • 2 cloves minced garlic (optional)

Prepare the pasta according to packet directions. While the pasta is boiling, add cashews to a food processor or stick blender and add enough water to cover. Blend until a reasonably smooth paste has formed. Add the remainder of the water and blend again, to create a smooth mixture with the consistency of light pouring cream. Zest the lemons, and finely chop the zest of one. Roughly chop basil. Drain pasta and add it straight back into the pot it was prepared in. Throw in the cashew cream, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, chopped lemon zest, basil and garlic (if using). Stir to evenly coat the pasta, and season generously with freshly cracked black pepper. Serve, garnished with the rest of the lemon zest.

If only winning pub trivia were this easy.

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