Two great vegetarian pasta dishes

Pasta. Honestly, I’m really rather over it. Too heavy, too stodgy, too much not enough fun. The Italian futurist Marinetti launched a campaign against pasta in the 1930s writing that “futurist cooking will be liberated from the ancient obsession with weight and volume, and one of its principal aims will be the abolition of pastasciutta. Pastasciutta, however grateful to the palate, is an obsolete food; it is heavy, brutalising and gross; its nutritive qualities are deceptive; it induces scepticism, sloth and pessimism”.  I’m not with Marinetti on much but I’m with him on this.Pasta always seems to be one of those things you make when you’re in a hurry or poor or tired and you have a tin of tomatos in the cupboard. After 10 years at uni and 6 years as a parent, I’m officially at the stage where I would rather eat dust than have pasta with some variation of tinned tomatos on top. However, the kids love pasta and therefore, because I love them, I sometimes make it. And, for all my anti – pasta ranting, it can be great and sometimes I love it. These are my two favourite recipes – one with a broccoli sauce and the other with lentils. Broccoli and lentils are two foods with an undeserved reputation for being child unfriendly. I find this weird, as many kids I know absolutely love both of them. These two dishes are crowd pleasers at my table.

Pasta with Broccoli

You need to use the orecchiette or shell style pasta to catch all the garlicky oily yumminess.

  • Orecchiette or shell pasta
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 4 cloves garlic,finely chopped (do not use a garlic press)
  • 6 anchovy fillets (drained and minced)
  • Handful of black olives, pitted and lightly bruised
  • Cup of breadcrumbs, fried in olive oil until golden brown
  • Parmesan cheese.

Break the broccoli into small florets and blanch in salted boiling water until just cooked. Drain, splash with well flavoured olive oil and set aside. Warm a splash of oil in a low to moderate frying pan. Saute the garlic and anchovies gently until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies have melted. Toss through the olives, stir for a moment and then add the broccoli. Toss the sauce through the cooked pasta and serve sprinkled with breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

Pasta with lentils and yoghurt

This (somewhat modified) dish comes courtesy of Jill Dupleix’s New Food. It may sound odd but is actually really, really delicious and well worth a try. 

  • Cooked thin spaghetti
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1bay leaf
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp each of ground cumin and coriander
  • generous pinch of smoky paprika
  • About 1 cup of passata
  • small tub of natural yoghurt
  • Chopped coriander and parsley

Put the lentils in a pan with the bay leaf and cold water. bring to the boil and cook for around 20 minutes or until tender – DO NOT salt the water as this toughens the lentils. Drain, but reserve around a cup of the lentil water. Saute the onions in olive oil until golden, then add the spices, lentils and salt to taste – I need a lot of salt to make lentils work for me and would use about a teaspoon for this recipe. Add the passata. If it’s too dry, add either more passata or some of the reserved lentil water. Warm through and then toss with the cooked pasta. Stir through the yoghurt and serve with the coriander and parsley.

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