In Which I Make Courgette and Pea Pesto Pasta

This recipe was inspired by a dish I saw online/in a recipe book/heard someone mention (read: somewhere, which I then immediately forgot, hence no credit) that featured courgette ‘ribbons’ with spaghetti. Now, I don’t have a spiralizer or specific ribbon-cutting machine (knives can do just as much as any 137-use device!), so I just pulled out my bog-standard peeler (so not actually knife here, though you could probably use one if you’re good at cutting thinly. I am not…). It looks quite nice if you can peel away evenly enough with a little strip of skin showing on the side, but it’s all the same.

The pesto I created from vague memory of various recipes I’ve tried over the years, and the fact that I just cannot seem to keep a basil plant alive. If you are able to keep basil alive (or just want to buy some pre-cut fresh) then use a big bushy handful of the stuff. Or go half-and half with fresh and dried if you prefer. Taste as you go and experiment a little; too much dried ingredients and the consistency can become grainy.

Poor dead basil

Nutritional yeast (not the type used for breadmaking) is what makes this pesto vegan; it’s a popular substitute for cheese amongst vegans, as it has a similar salty/sharp flavour profile as strong cheese. You can buy nutritional yeast from health-food shops (Holland and Barrett) or online. In all honesty, I was pretty sceptical of it at first (and my SO still calls it ‘vegan fish food’ thanks to its flakey appearance), but it’s a great store cupboard food as it lasts for ages. You can leave it out if you wish, or if you eat dairy you could swap it for some grated strong cheese. (I don’t use DOC Parmigiana Reggiano, as it contains rennet so isn’t vegetarian).

Nb: dried pasta is almost always vegan, but do check the label

Courgette and Pea Pesto Pasta
Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people, plus a bit left over for lunch the next day)

250g/half a packet spaghetti
2 courgettes
100g/2 big handfuls frozen peas

For the pesto
3–4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50g/3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 tablespoon dried basil (or 1 big handful fresh)
2–3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a large saucepan with 2–3 litres of water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and boil for 10 minutes (or according to packet instructions), stirring infrequently to stop the pasta sticking together.

Meanwhile, trim the top off the courgettes and using a peeler peel long strips (or ‘ribbons’), rotating around all sides until you reach the seeded middle. You can keep the middle for another use (or throw it the food waste bin if you really can’t stomach it) or, if you wish to use it in this dish, slice into thin discs.

3 minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the frozen peas.

For the pesto, add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend for 1–2 minutes. Taste, check the consistency and add more oil/basil/nutritional yeast as needed. I prefer it with more basil and more ‘cheesy’ flavour from with yeast flakes, which requires more oil as there are more dry ingredients. It should have a similar consistency as shop-bought pesto.

1 minute before the pasta is cooked, add the courgette ribbons (and slices, if using). When the pasta timer is up, drain everything then return to the saucepan. Tip in the pesto and mix into the pasta and vegetables with a spider spoon. Serve immediately, with some more nutritional yeast flakes sprinkled on top if you like.

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