On days like this, when the sun beats down mercilessly from our glorious African skies, all I really feel like consuming are tall, cool drinks and fresh, crisp salads. Not all days, however, are conducive to this kind of light indulgence. Sometimes something more substantial is necessary. This summer pasta is perfect for such occasions – it is quick, simple and super tasty. It satisfies beautifully as a quick fix, but can also serve as a casual lunch with a glass or two of chilled Sauvignon Blanc and a gaggle of friends. The highlight of summer for me has to be alfresco dining. Whether by candlelight or in the shade on gorgeous day, sitting at our concrete table under the tulip tree…well, it does not get much better for me. Add some Nina Simone and some special people and it is a recipe for bliss. With the end of the year rocketing towards us, everyone around me seems to be a little frayed at the edges after a pretty intense year. It is nice to know that you can have a lovely meal without too much hassle.
So, summer pasta is always wheat free for us, spaghetti or fusilli, but use what you prefer. Make a basil pesto and then whatever veggies are around and that is it. Here is a rough version I like:
pasta boiled in water as salty as the Mediterranean!
zucchini sliced into discs
mange tout / sugar snaps / asparagus
generous handful of basil
parmesan finely grated
extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
Start by roasting the tomatoes. Set the oven on 200°, put some cocktail tomatoes in small roasting dish that holds them snugly, drizzle with olive oil and a splash of balsamic and season. Roasting time will depend on the size of the tomatoes, so watch them. You want them to shrivel up and go sticky but not burn, I would say at least 30mins. While they cook, toast your pine nuts. Put a pan on a medium hear and add a handful of nuts – make sure there is a single layer so they all get the heat evenly. Pine nuts burn really easily and turn bitter when they do, but roasting them really does enhance their flavour. Toast to the desired degree of nuttiness and remove from heat. Traditionally pesto should be made with a mortar and pestle but I use a hand-held blender – or zhoug-zhoug as I like to call it! Put your basil in the cylindrical container with a clove or two of roughly chopped garlic, a big pinch of sea salt, a glug of olive oil and some freshly cracked black pepper. Blend until smooth but not pureed. Add the parmesan and give it a good stir. It may need some more oil to reach the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Now fry the zucchini in a little olive oil until golden and crispy. If using asparagus, lightly steam or boil them, alternatively just pop the mange tout or sugar snaps into the pan with the zucchini.
Boil the pasta till al dente, drain but reserve a little cooking liquid. Toss the pasta and water into the zucchini pan, add enough pesto to coat the pasta liberally and add the roasted tomatoes with the oil. Toss all this thoroughly, adjust seasoning and serve. It is great with some stoned olives (no, not that kind) and some feta or just clean and simple as is. Enjoy