My dad used to make the best Napoletana sauce when we were growing up. Using tomatoes, basil, onions and often an entire bulb of garlic, he would gently simmer the sauce for hours and serve it with spaghetti. Continue reading “Linguine with Raw Tomato Sauce”
Something happened this weekend, something we’ve all been eagerly waiting for; spring finally sprung! The sun shined, the air felt warm and nature was starting to stir. From the early shoots on a newly-pruned clematis to the sound of a lone bee bouncing drowsily around my polytunnel, it seemed that everything was finally starting to wake up.
In the garden, I cut down blackened perennials from last year and did some weeding and mulching. I’ve been growing several plants from seed that will eventually go out into the garden, but I’m no fool; I’ve learnt the hard way that despite these bright days, the nights are still Jack Frost’s domain and now is not the time for planting out my young seedlings. To do so would only end in tears with me on my knees, holding my withered plants as I look to the sky in despair yelling ‘NOOOO!’
Up on the plot, I was keen to bury my fingers in soil, so I headed for the warming polytunnel to sow tomatoes, leeks, chard, basil, lettuce, pak choi and beetroot (Boltardy, Chioggia & Albina Vereduna). The Albina Vereduna variety are from Rob Smith’s heritage range at Dobies. I’m keen to try these as they’re meant to have a different, sweeter taste.
I’m expecting to plant out my seeded potatoes and sow some early carrots and parsnips before the end of the month so today I also placed a fleece over the beds in the hope it will warm the soil to give me a headstart.
There is a moment in every gardener’s day when time stands still. No matter the long list of jobs clamouring for our attention, we all take solace in this moment. We stop, breathe in the air, take in our surroundings, the colours, sights and smells. It’s something only us gardeners know about and appreciate. Being still with ourselves, and with nature. Not to get too poetic, it’s when we submit ourselves, totally, to the moment. I think this is what they call mindfulness.
For me, it was bathing in the warming sun and watching the other allotmenteers going about their tasks, all part of the allotment life at large, all busying themselves like bees in a hive. As well as the regular faces, there were some new ones. The once unkept, unloved plots were now getting a new lease of life from keen hands with new ideas.
When Ade harvested the first courgette the other week, I decided to team it with the Basil ‘Sweet Green’ we’ve got growing prolifically in the garden to make a fresh, verdant pasta dish. Now, admittedly the title Courgette Pesto is a little bit misleading here – I’m not pulping the courgette to a paste along with the basil, I’m actually sautéing the courgettes in garlic separately and tossing them into the pesto-coated spaghetti at the end. This gives a much more interesting contrast of textures and, more importantly for us since it was the first of our courgette crop, enables you to really taste the courgette.
With home-made pesto, you could use a blender or a pestle and mortar, but I find this only creates more washing up! I’m not making vast quantities of pesto to be stored for future use here, I’m making just enough to be served fresh, for two. So, I prefer to chop the basil and garlic roughly by hand before tipping it into a large bowl with the oil. I then bash the hell out of it with the end of a rolling pin! You tip the drained pasta and sautéed courgette into this bowl once it’s cooked, give everything a good stir, et voilà!
2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, washed
1 small courgette
2-3 cloves of garlic
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
20g parmesan, grated
salt and pepper
Roughly chop the fresh basil leaves, removing any thick pieces of stalk, and place them in a large bowl with the oil
Chop 1-2 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you like it – we like it strong!) and add to the basil/oil, along with half of the grated parmesan and a pinch of salt, before pounding the pesto in the bowl with the end of a rolling pin for a few minutes.
While the flavours steep, cook the spaghetti according to instructions.
While the spaghetti is cooking, chop the courgette into rounds before halving again and sautéing in a pan with a little oil.
Chop the remaining garlic clove and add this to the courgettes. Cook for approx. 5 mins before removing from the heat.
Drain the spaghetti and tip into the pesto bowl, stirring thoroughly to make sure the pasta is well-coated.
Add the cooked courgette/garlic.
Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and plenty of black pepper before giving everything a final mix.
Serve in bowls and top with fresh basil leaves.
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