There is no easier go-to food than pasta… In the time that the water takes to boil and cook the pasta, you can get the sauce done. And if you are in a hurry, nothing is faster than a pesto sauce. However, just because it can be done quickly, it doesn’t mean that pesto is a simple thing; the flavours in a pesto sauce can be complex and intriguing. What is more, you can experiment with different combinations of ingredients.
Basically, a pesto sauce needs a nut base to give it body. Add to it any green herb to form the foundation of the flavour. And olive oil to bring it all together. The rest is entirely up to you… you can try various accent flavours to focus on, till you find your favourite combinations.
The pesto sauce I have used here is very basic, with cashew nuts and cilantro. Flavoured with garlic, ginger and lemon juice. You can keep this pesto sauce in the refrigerator for a week, in an airtight jar.
This pesto is rather versatile. You can use it with just vegetables or a combination of chicken and vegetables. If using chicken, the easiest way will be to either grill it or pan cook it and then slice it into thin strips. Here I have used just vegetables, a combination of peppers in three colours, mushrooms and egg plant.
- ½ cup cashew nuts
- 1 cup cilantro, measured after cleaning and chopping
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- A small piece ginger root
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 jalapeño or any variety green chilli
- 1 pinch sugar
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups mixed vegetables, cut into thin long pieces (any combination of peppers, squash, broccoli florets, mushrooms, egg plant, etc)
- ½ lb spaghetti
- Soak the cashew nuts in sufficient water to submerge for an hour. (If you do not have the time to soak the cashew, you can as well use pine nuts which do not need to be soaked.)
- Pick only the leaves and tender stalks of cilantro and chop.
- Remove the skins of garlic and ginger.
- Carefully remove the stem and seeds of the jalapeno.
- In the blender, add the nuts, cilantro, garlic, ginger, jalapeno, lemon juice, and sugar, and blend well. Add salt and black pepper to taste. When blended into a paste, drizzle the olive oil in a thin stream while the blender is still running. When all the oil is used up, switch off the blender and set the pesto sauce aside in a container.
- Cut the vegetables into long thin strips.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, on high heat. When the oil is hot, add the vegetables and stir fry for three minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.
- Add some salt to a pot of water and bring to boil. Add the spaghetti and cook uncovered. After 8 minutes, check for doneness. When you can bite into a strand of spaghetti easily, but there is a bit of resistance at the center, it is done enough. Drain the water off the pasta and transfer the pasta to a largish dish. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over the pasta and shake together to coat.
- Add the stir fired vegetables to the pasta. Drizzle the pesto sauce over the pasta and vegetables and carefully mix together.
- Serve hot with extra pesto sauce on the side.