Saturday, December 06, 2008
Vegan Pasta - Penne in Mint Cilantro Pesto Sauce
There used to be a time when I resorted to ketchup... KETCHUP... to make a pasta sauce tasty. *shudders* Don't get me wrong, I'm a HUGE ketchup fan, but only when it's on the side with standard junk food - fries, veggie burgers, pizzas, potato chips, Maggi - you know, that kind of stuff. If at all I use it in cooking, it would probably be just a dash in some dish with an East Asian flair, to complement the soy sauce.
Well, I'm not really the type who can follow a recipe word to word. I always tweak and experiment. A recipe book is something I use for inspiration rather than guidance (my favorites are Very Vegetarian and Vegan Planet). And one important thing I have come to learn through my experimenting is that pesto making is an art of bringing out the rich flavors of the herbs, spices, vegetables and nuts which go into it. The more natural and fresh the ingredients are, the better for a delicious, wholesome pasta meal. A completely vegan pasta is truly delightful!
Of course, just like the rest of my creations, my pestos are always different each time. It's something that just happens naturally because what I put into the sauce just depends on my mood and the provisions in my pantry and fridge. And even a slight variation in the ingredients or a quantity of what's used, the whole taste changes.
To top it all, the personality of the final dish is highly influenced by the basic type of pasta used. Semolina + Salt + Water is what goes into all pastas so does the shape really make a difference in the taste? Yes it totally does! With the way Penne holds the pesto, the pasta is more prominent in the mouth than the sauce. But Fusilli, with its ridges, incorporates the flavors within itself so well that there's a perfect blend of the pasta and the pesto. Then there's the Shell which fills itself with a larger quantity of the sauce and each time you put a piece into your mouth the sauce bursts out in a delicious explosion. And finally the Butterfly, the pesto delicately makes its presence felt as your tongue plays with the interesting texture of the pasta.
The best part is that none of this is as complicated as it sounds. In fact I cook pasta on the nights when I want to create a quick and easy meal that's also interesting, delicious and nutritious.
Here's a recipe for a yummy and healthy Vegan pasta I created earlier tonight for dinner. Use it as a take off point and concoct your own sauce with any combination of herbs and vegetables, nuts and spices. And do let me know how it turns out :)
Penne in Mint Cilantro Pesto Sauce.
Cook 1 Cup of dry Penne in salted boiling water according to the instructions on the pack.
To be blended into a paste/sauce without using any extra water (the liquid from the tomatoes will be enough).
1 C spearmint
1 C cilantro
2 Green chillies
Handful of Almonds
1 T nutritional yeast
1 T flax seed
2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-5 Ripe Tomatoes
Sea Salt to taste
How to proceed:
Cut 1 large capsicum (green pepper) into cubes. Put in a microwave safe glass dish, cover and cook on high for 3 minutes. Mix in the blended sauce, cover and cook on high for 3 more minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes.
For the microwave haters, this can also be made easily on stovetop. Just stir fry the green pepper in a dash of olive oil very briefly (about a minute), add the pesto sauce and bring it to a boil and immediately switch off the flame.
Mix in the cooked Penne.