Aaaah pesto… probably one of my favourite things. I love it so much you will sometimes catch me simply eating teaspoons on it’s own! There’s just something so reassuring knowing there’s a pot of pesto in the fridge so that I’m armed ready for those frantic, stress laden days. Nothing is more satisfying for me than freshly cooked pasta coated in this creamy lightly spiced, aromatic red pesto. But, you don’t just have to serve pesto with pasta it’s extremely versatile, I often have it in a sandwich with some avocado and houmous, or for topping homemade plant based pizzas or even a simple, light snack of crudités and pesto.
Believe me this pesto is far from boring each time you open the jar you’re nose is tickled by the smell of basil. Each mouthful begins with a sunny tomato hit and ends with a slight kick from the cayenne pepper. The cashews give the pesto a wonderfully creamy texture as well as a slight sweetness. Garlic and nutritional yeast add a subtle cheesy zing a perfect substitute to parmesan cheese.
I wanted to make this dish extra special by making homemade pasta. Usually fresh pasta is made with eggs and flour but obviously I needed to find an alternative… chia seeds! When added to water these little black dots swell into an egg like consistency (reminding me bit of frog spawn). They were a great binder and added a really nice texture to the meal. Don’t be fooled by these innocent chia seeds, they’re nutrient powerhouses providing you with omega 3, fibre, protein as well as calcium and magnesium essential for strong bones.
These little farfalle are so simple to make and with the chia seeds speckled through the dough kids will also have great fun making and eating this polka dot pasta. However, I recommend you do the kneading as this dough needs a good 20 minute pummel and then the kids can help roll and shape the bows. So, it’s the perfect Sunday afternoon dinner to make which can involve the whole family!
(This recipe makes enough pasta to serve two but can be doubled etc to serve more. The recipe makes roughly 350g pesto).
chia pasta bows
- 15g chia seeds
- 100ml water
- 200g ‘OO’ grade pasta flour
- pinch of freshly ground sea salt
- 155g sundried tomatoes (well drained)
- 50g raw cashews nuts
- 25g fresh basil
- clove garlic (finely chopped)
- pinch salt
- pinch pepper
- 5g nutritional yeast
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 75ml olive oil
- 50ml water
1. In a small bowl mix together the chia seeds and 100ml of water, leave this mixture to thicken and turn gloopy, it will be a bit thicker than raw egg consistency. Add the flour and salt to a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Into this well pour in the chia seed mix. With a fork whisk the ingredients together, it may look a little too dry but as it comes together use you hands to continue to bind the mixture together (don’t worry if the ingredients are lumpy as the dough forms). When everything is incorporated take the dough and place it on a clean surface however, there is no need to sprinkle flour or rub oil on the surface. Knead the dough for at least 15 preferably 20 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic and stretchy. If the dough is too dry and crumbly add a little bit of olive oil however you’re not aiming for a sticky dough just something slightly more stretchy than play-dough consistency. If you find your dough is too sticky add a little more flour however, I found I did’t need to adjust any of the ingredients. When smooth and elastic wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge or while you make the pesto.
2. After you have drained the sun dried tomatoes I like to squeeze out excess oil by tightly wrapping them in kitchen roll and pressing down until the oil seeps into the kitchen paper. Afterwards place the tomatoes in a food processor and blitz until smooth, pour this into a bowl and then blend the cashew nuts until they’re the consistency of ground almonds. Pour the almonds into the bowl with the sundried tomatoes. Add the basil leaves to the processor and blitz until finely chopped, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper before adding the ground nuts and tomatoes again. Turn the blender on and whilst its running slowly pour in the olive oil and water. You will probably need to stop the blender every now and then to scrape down the sides. Check the consistency and flavour adding more ingredients to your liking. If you want the pesto to be runnier add more olive oil or water.
3. This pesto recipe makes about 350g worth, enough to fill a large sterilised jar. Store the pesto in the fridge and it will last for up to a week. If you want to make it last a little longer than a week after you have finished using the pesto pour a thin layer over the surface before you close the jar.
4. Take your pasta dough out the fridge and leave it to soften a little at room temperature. To roll out the pasta take a tennis ball size of dough and roll it through the widest setting of the pasta machine. Fold the sheet into 3 and re-roll it through the machine on the same setting. Again fold the dough into 3 but this time turn the setting down one notch so the pasta will roll out slightly thinner than before. Carry on this process turning the notch down one after each roll until you reach the thinnest setting. It’s important to make sure that the dough you aren’t using is tightly covered in clingfilm so that it doesn’t dry out. You should also consider that the longer you work with the dough the harder it will get so try and work swiftly if possible.
5. When the pasta has been rolled out on the thinnest setting you will have a very long sheet of pasta. Using a pizza roller, or knife etc trim off the uneven edges and cut the dough roughly into rectangles 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Using your index finger and thumb pinch the centre of the rectangles together to create the classic bow shaped. Place the farfalle on baking trays lined with greaseproof paper which is dusted in a thin layer of semolina. The semolina stops the pasta bows getting too sticky and allows them to now start to dry.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the remaining pasta dough. You should have about half the dough still wrapped in clingfilm and you can re-roll the remnants of the cut out dough once more. However, if it feels hard and flaky the dough has spent too long uncovered and won’t be very malleable so it will be harder to work with and you may end up with tough farfalle.
7. You can freeze the pasta bows at this stage or simply leave the pasta covered in kitchen paper on the semolina dusted trays ready for when you want to cook it. When ready to eat, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Place the pasta in the water and cook for 2-3 minutes. The pasta will rise to the surface when it is cooked. Collect a cup of pasta water before draining the pasta. Pour the pasta back into the saucepan and add a good couple of tablespoons of pesto before mixing it through thoroughly. If the sauce is a little thick add some of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. Divide between pasta bowls and enjoy.