17 August 2015

Vegan Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

While you are reading this recipe for Vegan Red Pepper Pesto Pasta, I am currently camping or more accurately stated glamping because we've hired a pod as we threw our tent away after the worst sleep of our lives camping in the queue for Wimbledon (it's between this and the sleeper train to the Isle of Skye). Hopefully we're cooking up a storm on the bbq, but I could potentially be eating foraged berries if we can't get the fire started in the rain. Therefore think of me as you read this recipe for Vegan Red Pepper Pesto Pasta and consider sending emergency food supplies to our campsite (address on request).

A couple of weeks ago Alexandra from Zomato asked me if I'd like to attend a meet up at Vapiano in Southwark. Slightly confused as I can only recall going to the Hamburg branches in Germany I said sure. Turns out Vapiano's pizza and pasta restaurants have spread across the globe. They're pretty much on every continent. Now I'm not the biggest fan of Italian food outside of Italy, in fact I think a lot of Italian restaurants in the UK are a joke. But at Vapiano all their pasta and pizza are made fresh on the premises, not only that but they're made right in front of you!

I had a great night getting to know some new bloggers and zomato-ites, eating lots of fresh and simple dishes (exactly how Italian food should be), and demolishing all the chocolate in the desserts with Alexandra (it was one of those days when only chocolate would do). We also got a backstage tour of the pasta making area, which is when I found out the best news; Vapiano's pasta is vegan.

Why's being vegan such a big deal I can hear you ask? You're not vegan, I know, I saw you demolish that spider crab with Gianni at Prawnography and then you ate a Grizzly Bear Burger from Burger Bear on that same night! Don't worry guys, I haven't forgotten this, in fact I'm salivating about it all now. However, my friend Steffi is vegan (talked about in every vegan restaurant post) and like I said last time when we visited Ethos. Trying to find somewhere that does decent vegan options is difficult. That's why the discovery that Vapiano's pasta is vegan is so valuable.

The pasta is literally just made from semolina and water, no eggs or dairy in sight. Because it's so fresh, it only takes 90 seconds to cook, anymore and it's a goner. At the end of the night Vapiano gave us a little goodie bag to take away which contained some of their fresh linguine and a pot of basil (houseplant number 31). And I just had to have a go at making a vegan pasta dish.

I wanted to try a hand at making creamy avocado pasta, but then I went to the green grocers and saw this massive bag of sweet red peppers for a £1 and I couldn't turn them down. Although we don't eat a lot of pasta at home, I make pesto all the time to run through buttery potatoes for a Summer salad, smear all over a bit of puff pastry and top with some ripe tomatoes, or stir through a risotto. However, I've never made a red pesto before and now I regret not making one sooner.

You probably can't truthfully call this a pesto because there's no parmesan or pine nuts in it but you know you only live once. This pesto is a lot sweeter than it's green cousins and would make the perfect base for a pizza but with pasta it creamily dresses it making a rich and delicious dish. I served the pasta with the pesto, some fresh toms, courgette ribbons, roasted baby and a handful of raisins because I have a sweet tooth. Although I loved it with the aubergines, Dan was not keen, so if you're not a fan feel free to leave them out. In fact add whatever you like, this pesto is really versatile.

Vegan Red Pesto Pasta
(serves 2, but makes enough pesto for 4 if you want it!)

100g fresh vegan pasta
300g sweet red and yellow peppers
50g cashews
1 large handful fresh basil
180g cherry tomatoes
1 small courgette
1 red chilli pepper
1 lemon
40g raisins
3 small aubergines (the mini ones!)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Slice the peppers and aubergines in half, drizzle with olive oil, and salt and pepper, then roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. While the vegetables are roasting leave the raisins to soak in the juice from 1/2 lemon.

Step 2. Once the red peppers are roasted. Blend them with the cashews, basil, the chilli pepper, olive oil, juice from 1/2 a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste till smooth.

Step 3. Slice the tomatoes in half and peel the courgette into ribbons. Then cook the fresh pasta in boiling salted water for 90 seconds (if you can't get hold of vegan fresh pasta, most dried pasta is vegan).

 Step 4. Drain the pasta and in the same pan wilt the courgette ribbons in a tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes, pasta, raisins and 3-4 heaped tbsps of the red pepper pesto and stir so everything is evenly coated in the pesto add a tbsp of boiling water to loosen the sauce if needed. Right at the end add the roasted aubergines otherwise they'll just mush into the sauce.

Step 5. Serve the pasta for two, eat it all solo out the saucepan, or send it to me as I struggle to survive camping in the outback (Hampshire).

What's your favourite camping recipe, advice is definitely required. When we were younger me and my brothers version of eating while camping consisted of jam roly polys (some sort of BBQed dough on a stick with jam) and bananas in their skins stuffed with chocolate buttons. Now I'm currently debating making a box of this pasta to eat as a 'salad' in case our BBQing goes oh so wrong. Do you have a favourite pesto recipe. If so drop me a comment below!

Thanks to Alexandra from Zomato for arranging the meet up at Vapiano and Vapiano for the delicious free meal and pasta goodie bag I received. All opinions are yours truly!

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