Sunday, 11 November 2012

Easy tomato pasta, quinoa salad and vale Presto Pasta Nights

When I started blogging over 5 years ago I had pasta fatigue.  I had cooked pasta as a quick meal so often as a quick meal that I wasn't that enthused by the stuff.  Quick meals often meant lots of carbs and not many vegetables. Early on in my blogging I discovered Presto Pasta Nights (PPN), an event hosted by the lovely Ruth of Once Upon a Feast.  Her enthusiasm for pasta reignited a spark for me.

Week after week I would visit the round up (ie list) of bloggers' pasta offerings and always find something I really really really wanted to cook.  So many beautiful photos, delicious dishes and great ideas.  It really opened up my mind to lots of different approaches to pasta.  

These days I cook pasta less but when I do it is full of vegetables either in the pasta or on the side and I really love it.  A quick count turned up 57 pasta recipes on this blog.  Most of these have been sent in to the PPN round ups.  So I was really sad to read that PPN #290, hosted by Ruth, is the last ever week of the event.

I dug out a pasta recipe that I had meant to post last month and never got around to.  Two recipes actually.  Both from Robin Robertson's Quick-Fix Vegetarian.  A great way to illustrate just why I love blog events so much.  Not only are they a great way of discovering other interesting recipes and blogs, but the people who host are wonderfully generous.

This book was actually won in another blog event, My Legume Love Affair that is coordinated by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.  Susan is another warm and welcoming presence in the blogosphere.  When I won, she found a book she thought I might like.  Like many new cookbooks, it took a while to dive in but once I did I have been impressed by how quick these recipes are.  They have really made life easier on busy nights.

So here are a couple of recipes from the book.  A fast tomato sauce for pasta with enough proteins and greens to please me.  I made it a bit slower by adding fried onions and mushroom, and I didn't have quite as much spinach as the recipe called for.  Yet the sundried tomatoes made the sauce really rich and satisfying without much cooking.  I served it with a simple salad and some vegan parmesan.  The quinoa salad was also great with the sweet apple and buttery walnuts.  It was on the slightly bitter side - perhaps as a result of not rinsing the quinoa - but delicious when served with the tomato pasta and corn on the cob.

So I encourage you to send Ruth a pasta dish (by Thursday 15 November) to send off Presto Pasta Nights with a bang.  And to all those who are not familiar with the event, if you ever are struggling for inspiration with pasta, just visit the Presto Pasta Nights archive to find links to round ups that will get your creative juices flowing.  A big thanks to both Ruth and Susan for all their hard work and inspiration.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Vegan nutella fudge for eat.drink.picnic
Two years ago: NCR: Quinoa Soup and Archeology
Three years ago: PPN Sausages Pasta, Garden and Global Warming
Four years ago: NCR Pumpkin and Tofu Laksa
Five years ago: Novelty Cakes from the Archives

Pasta with chickpeas, baby spinach and sun-dried tomatoes
Adapted from Quick Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson
Serves 4

about 3-400g dried pasta shapes
slurp of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large button mushroom, diced
3 cloves garlic
1x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatos in oil
few handfuls of baby spinach (recipes said 300g but I didn't have enough)
drizzle each of maple syrup and worcestershire sauce
pinch fresh lavender salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta for about 10 minutes or according to directions on the packet.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile fry onion and mushroom about 5 to 10 minutes until soft.  Add garlic and cook about 1 minute.  Add diced tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, maple syrup, salt, spinach and chickpeas.  Check and adjust seasoning.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Stir sauce through drained pasta and serve.

Quinoa salad with asparagus, walnuts and apple
Adapted from Quick Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson
Serves 4

1 cup dried quinoa
2 cups stock
splash of olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 chopped apple
1 bunch of asparagus
150g baby spinach, roughly chopped
add quinoa
seasoning and lemon juice to serve

Cook quinoa in stock for approximately 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  (My quiona was a little soggy after this time so I removed it from the heat and left it for a while with the lid on to absorb more water.)

Fry shallot and walnuts in a splash of olive oil for about 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Add apple and asparagus and fry about 2 minutes further.  Stir in spinach and cooked quinoa.  Season to taste and squeeze in some lemon juice, if desired.  Serve warm.

On the Stereo:
The Rip Tide: Beirut


  1. I am back, I was so shocked about Presta Pasta Nights, that I had to head over there to find out more. I like your pasta, but it is now tinged with sadness.

    I have a parcel for you, but at this rate, it will be better for me just to give it to you when I see you.

    1. Thanks Jac - I was shocked and sad too about PPN - no worries about the parcel - hope to catch up soon

  2. Oooh, this looks lovely! Particularly with teh twist of maple and worcestershire :)

    1. Thanks Hannah - maple syrup and worcestershire are my latest flavour boost for tomato sauce - try it!

  3. I am a bit like you were with pasta fatigue - it was a quick stand-by in my family growing up (aided by my brother and sister being happy to eat it daily, if they could) and Mr Bite's weekly signature dish involves pasta, so I tend to skip over it myself. In saying that, I do quite like noodle dishes when they're Asian-inspired, and I suppose that is pasta. I'm probably more enamoured with your quinoa salad though, all up :)

    1. Thanks Kari - the great thing about PPN is that it was very broad in what sort of pasta you could include so it make me think outside the box about pasta and appreciate it more - there were quite a few noodle dishes

  4. They both sound great. And how sad that PPN is ending! I do hope Ruth comes up with something else. I used to participate quite a bit, but these days, hardly eat any pasta. Looking forward to what will show up in the final week.

    1. Thanks Ricki - I am looking forward to the round up too - we haven't been eating much pasta lately - though e loves to eat it when I am not about because it is easy

  5. The pasta dish... and the quinoa - a new fave for me, both look wonderful. As for PPN having it's swan song this week, well I certainly have mixed emotions. It's been going strong for over six years, and I've nurtured it for 290 weeks, so letting go is hard to do. But like all things, it's time to move on and find something new to focus on. After all, there is the catalogue of all the roundups over at Presto Pasta Nights.

    Thanks Ricki & Jacqueline too. I'll see you all around the blogosphere.

    1. Thanks Ruth - I think there is a great wealth of ppn inspiration thanks to the event and I hope you find some interesting new things to do - have just started to follow your pasta pinterest board because I saw you mentioned pinterest

  6. Your pasta looks delicious and nutritious - a fitting end to Presto Pasta nights.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I was glad to have a good pasta dish in my backlog as I haven't done much cooking this week - but fittingly I have eaten pasta from the freezer :-)


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