I spent February vegetarian. There – I said it. I’m not ashamed, either, although I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I called it “Veguary”.
Given my near-sexual ecstasy at the prospect of rillettes and cassoulet, “why?” is a perfectly valid question.
It was largely an experiment, to be honest. But I do feel a bit iffy about the macroeconomics and ecology around the contemporary Western diet, and eating less meat (along with one or two other dietary shifts) seems like a decent enough first step. Mostly though, it was to make cooking more interesting.
I’ll write more about Veguary in future, I’m sure. But armed with the River Cottage Veg everyday book and a fair quantity of enthusiasm, I set about it, and I survived, and I learned a lot.
One of the main things I learned was how to make things I genuinely enjoy eating that take less than half an hour to cook. The less healthy lesson I picked up was that many of these dishes are basically just pasta with some kind of vegetable, and a metric fuck-tonne of goats’ cheese dumped over the whole thing.
One of the things I regret is not writing it down at the time. So I’m going to do it now – cook my way through the bits I remember, take pictures, and tell you about it.
This is really simple. The core of it is blanching vegetables you like in with the pasta at the tail end of its cooking time. I first noticed this from a Jamie Oliver broccoli orecchiette recipe years ago. Leafing through Silver Spoon, and Bill Buford’s food memoir Heat taught me how beautifully simple pasta dishes can be, and how great at letting a few fresh flavours stand out, not to mention the pasta itself.
- A medium red chilli. This should probably be optional.
- A couple of cloves of garlic
- Green beans
- Pesto. I used green.
- A little Parmesan. This is also optional, I’m not good with moderation.
- Set some water boiling, and put all the salt in it. Really – a lot.
the water boils, add the pasta.
You’ll get everything else done in the time it takes to cook (about 12 minutes or
so), with some to spare.
- Trim the beans, and cut them in half. Put them to one
- Slice the garlic and chilli, and gently saute them in a little oil.
You only need to do this briefly, it’s more about infusing flavour into the oil
and softening slightly than it is cooking outright. So don’t let them brown.
- When the pasta is nearly done (say 3 or so minutes out) add the beans to the water.
- When they’re cooked, drain the pasta and beans, and toss them together with the
garlic, chilli, and a goodly spoonful of pesto, sprinkle over some Parmesan, and
It doesn’t really need the chilli. Or the Parmesan. But as I said – moderation is an issue. In fact, the chilli can trample the flavours a little. It’ll also benefit from really good or homemade pesto.The papparedelle works beautifully though. Light sauces seem to cling to the texture really well, and if you cook the beans sufficiently briefly they retain a little crunch.
It takes about 15 minutes in total, and works just as well with broccoli or other beans. Frying a little onion with the garlic probably wouldn’t hurt either.