low maintenance pesto + a killer vego pasta recipe

zucchini pesto noodles

I have two treats for you this week. So gather ’round.

The first is a new way of making pesto – a minimalist kitchen friendly recipe that requires neither food processor nor mortar & pestle. Just a chopping board and a sharp knife.

Perfect for when you find yourself cooking an ‘away game’ in a not-so-well-equipped kitchen. Or if your kitchen looks quite sparse like my share house in Surry Hills when I left uni.

I have a distinct memory of making my first ever pesto in a blender. I couldn’t get the leaves to chop as the blade at the bottom of the blender just whizzed around underneath the leaves with no liquid to pull them down. So I added the oil to mix in the leaves and ended up with a lurid chlorophyll soup. Not exactly the rustic paste I was after. But with my new bruise and chop method – you won’t have to worry about repeating my mistake.

The second is my new favourite vego pasta – zucchini [courgette] ‘noodles’. I discovered it in the lovely book of fellow food blogger, Molly of Orangette fame. It’s everything a good pasta dish should be. Simple. Delicious. Healthy.

I love the idea of cutting the zucchini into long ‘noodle’ shaped ribbons to mingle with the long strands of pasta. It lightens things up so you can still get a good carb hit with enough vegetable credentials to make you feel like you’re eating well.

zucchini pesto noodles-2

zucchini [courgette] ‘noodles’

serves 4

Inspired by Molly from Orangette in her fabulous book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. Scroll down for links to Amazon and Fishpond.com.au.

I’ve always been a fan of zucchini and basil together and this recipe is a brilliant example of what a lovely married couple they make.

If you’re not in the mood to make your own pesto by all mean use a bought one. Just don’t miss out.

I’ve recently gotten into using a timer to cook my pasta. Takes the guess work out and means you don’t need to stress and spend lots of time testing. Just set to the time on the packet and forget.

4 medium zucchini
2T olive oil
300g (3/4lb) long pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini
1/2C pesto
parmesan cheese, to serve

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Slice zucchini lengthwise into ribbons as thin as you can. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook zucchini stirring occasionally until soft and buttery. About 8 minutes.

Meanwhile get your pasta cooking for as long as the wise people in the pasta making company recommend. Scoop out a cupful of cooking water then drain pasta. Add pasta to the zucchini pan along with the pesto. Stir until the pasta is well coated, adding a little reserved cooking water if it looks too dry. Taste & season.

Serve hot with extra cheese passed separately.

zucchini pesto noodles-3

minimalist pesto
makes about 1/2 cup

This makes more than you’ll need for the pasta but trust me, you won’t have any problems using it up. Brilliant on sandwiches or dolluped in soups. Very good mates with anything tomatoey. Also lovely with avocado on toast.

If you do have a food processor or a mortar and pestle by all means use them.

1 large bunch basil, leaves picked
1 clove garlic, peeled & finely chopped
1 handful pinenuts
2 large handfuls grated parmesan
extra virgin olive oil

Wash and dry your basil then place in a clean plastic bag. Pound with your fist or a meat mallet until the leaves are bruised – this help release the basil aroma and makes it easer to chop in the next step.

Place bruised basil, garlic and pinenuts on a large chopping board. Chop and keep on chopping until everything is finely chopped and starting to look like gremolata. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir through enough olive oil to make a rough paste. Stir through cheese. Taste & season with plenty of salt and black pepper.

Enjoy immediately or drizzle with some more oil and keep in the fridge for up to a week.


If you haven’t read Molly’s blog, I highly recommend that you check it out. She is easily top of my list of favourite food bloggers. Unfortunately she’s been neglecting it a bit lately on account of opening a restaurant in Seattle with her husband.

So I’ve been making the most of her book ‘A Homemade Life’ – a delightful read with personal stories scatted with her trademark simple recipes.

Pick up your copy at Amazon A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
or Fishpond.com.au A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table.

If you use the links above – I’ll get a cut of the sale – helping stonesoup and getting yourself a great book – thankyou.

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