First up, I should confess: the version of this dish you see is not 100% vegan, because I had this beautiful fresh egg pasta that needed to be used. But the sauce is definitely vegan, and as I actually cook with egg-free pasta most of the time, it will certainly be vegan next time I make it. So I think this counts as a vegan pasta dish, at least in its heart!
The sauce for this pasta is light and herby in flavour – I was trying to get a sort of ricotta-ish personality to the tofu, and I think I succeeded. It’s actually based on a cheese, nut and herb purée from Mark Grant’s excellent book, Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens. If you have any interest in historical foods that are actually edible and don’t involve flamingoes or dormice, I can highly recommend this cookbook. The vegetables were what looked good at the farmers’ market and at the supermarket. This recipe is, of course, even more fun if it’s what looks good in your garden, so if you have zucchini peas or string beans growing, feel free to use them in place of some of the other vegetables. This recipe is very forgiving.
Don’t be intimidated by the very long list of ingredients for this recipe, by the way. I promise that this recipe is very easy to make (the blender does much of the work), and practically every ingredient can be substituted for what you have on hand. If you have a herb garden, you can have a lot of fun picking the different herbs for the sauce. If not, don’t worry if you miss a few of them. I think the parsley, coriander and mint are the most important, though the basil is good too.
Above all – enjoy!
Your Shopping List200 g tofu 150 g pine nuts half a bunch of fresh parsley half a bunch of fresh coriander two sprigs of mint two sprigs of basil one sprig of oregano four sprigs of dill 80 ml olive oil + more to sauté the vegetables 60 ml red wine vinegar 1/2 tsp ground black pepper salt to taste 150 g shelled broad beans (about 400g in the pod) 3 baby leeks, halved lengthways and sliced 1 baby fennel bulb, or half a standard fennel bulb, sliced finely 1 bulb of baby garlic (at the point where it is still a single clove), or one clove of the mature kind, chopped finely 12 baby carrots, as many colours as possible! 2 bunches of asparagus (about 225 g prepared weight) 1/2 cup white wine 400 g cherry tomatoes, as many colours as possible! 60 g spinach or rocket or a combination of both 500 g pasta, to serve
Now what will you do with it?
First, make the sauce. This is easy – you put the tofu in a blender with the pine-nuts, herbs, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and oil, and blend until smooth. Transfer into a bowl that will be large enough to hold the cooked pasta.
Now bring a small pot of water to the boil, and drop in the broad beans. Boil for about a minute and a half, until they start looking a bit puffed up, then drain, and slip them out of their skins.
You can do this by squeezing them at one end, and they will pop out the other. Most amusing. Try to resist the temptation to shoot broad beans at people, tiddlywinks style. I do realise that the temptation is very, very strong.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil for the pasta while you get the vegetables sorted out.
Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a big skilled, and sauté the sliced leek, fennel and garlic until softened. Peel the baby carrots and halve them first lengthways and then across. Add to the leek mixture and keep cooking until they begin to soften a little. Add the white wine at whatever point in this process things start looking dry.
If you haven’t prepared the asparagus already, start by holding each asparagus shoot at both ends and then bending it until it snaps. Discard everything below the snapping off point (it will be woody). Chop the asparagus into lengths of about 1 1/2 inches and add to the pan with the tomatoes. Turn down the heat a bit.
When the pasta water comes to the boil, drop in the pasta, give it a good stir, and cook til al dente. While the pasta is cooking, add the broadbeans and spinach to the vegetables and stir around until the spinach wilts. Keep warm. Now might be a good time to add salt, too.
When the pasta is done take a ladleful of the cooking water and stir it into the tofu sauce to loosen it. Drain the pasta, and toss with the tofu sauce to coat.
You can then either add the vegetables to the pasta mixture or, if you are using a tricksy long pasta like fettucine, you can serve the pasta with the tofu sauce mixed through it and the vegetables on top, which is much, much easier to manage.
As mentioned above, you can substitute just about any of the veggies in or out, though I maintain it isn’t pasta primavera without asparagus, a young green, and some sort of pea or bean. You can also reduce the complexity of the tofu sauce by using fewer herbs or even just a lot of one herb, to make a sort of tofu pesto sauce.
In terms of dietary requirements, you can of course make this with gluten-free pasta, and if you choose your vegetables right, you can probably also make it low fructose. A nut-free version would be harder to do without losing the vegan-ness, as the pine-nuts add creamy richness in the place of cheese (you certainly could add in feta instead of pine-nuts, but then you want to omit the salt everywhere else, or you will be overwhelmed by it).
I’m submitting this recipe to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted this week by Kirsten Lindquist, of From Kirsten’s Kitchen to Yours. Apparently, I’ve discovered Presto Pasta Nights just in time for them to finish, but so it goes…
Welcome to any visitors who have found my blog from that particular direction!
This time last year…