My relationship with pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, linguini, etc.) is interesting. My dad was obsessed with pasta. Pesto pasta, that is– always accompanied by sliced black olives. I remember feeling guilty for eating a few of them whole before slicing and bringing them to the table. My dad’s love for pasta was unwavering and unabashed. Whatever the circumstance– from a potluck or wedding reception to my birthday party or brown bag lunch in the summers for day camp– most every time it was a reused plastic yogurt container filled with pesto pasta, with a smaller reused plastic container of carrots and celery, and an apple from the tree in the backyard. While I got a lot of flack from my classmates for the lack of sugar… no “fruit by the foot”, Go-gurt, jello pudding or snack paks in there…the only packaged “sweet” I ever got was a Nutrigrain bar (remember those?). Anyway, both my parents were very committed to eating right…but it was never as if they decided to “go on a diet” or “cleanse” from years of bad eating or lack of exercise. I was raised by a competitive bicyclist father and a relentless and very committed jogger (and lawyer) mother. Both were (and still are) the perfect examples of physical fitness and eating for health; reusing and recycling, shopping at second hand stores before it was cool, and raising my brother and me without cable television or Nintendo. We lived in the country, so when I went to Kindergarten I hadn’t heard of Play Dough or the just-released movie Jurassic Park…but I had heard of Nine Inch Nails, because the older neighbor girl next door insisted I listen to them with her when she babysat me.
My childhood always seemed a bit unorthodox to me, until I realized that being “weird” is more normal than being “normal”, because normalcy is a socially constructed concept that does not exist apart from the dreamworld that incorporates white picket fences, happily married parents, and golden retrievers. Wait, I did have a golden retriever. He was beautiful and his name was Flame. I think of him often.
Anyway, I appreciate my super-star athlete parents because they taught me that food is fuel…and that reusing is a step above recycling, playing outside is better than TV and video games, sugary cereal is a bad plan on many levels, woodstoves help you to avoid utility bills, and apple trees and vegetable gardens contribute to good health and (for me at least) a sort of oneness with nature that I draw upon daily in order to feel centered. Despite the fact that my parents separated when I was 9, I am fortunate to have been influenced by 2 people who are the poster children for eating right, exercising, avoiding packaged foods and sugar, reducing waste, recycling, being one with nature, and saving the planet in general. Thanks Mom & Dad! I really appreciate you. :)
So this brings me to my recipe for oil-free and dairy free pesto, to garnish another great dish involving my semi-recent obsession– Shirataki noodles! At 20 calorie per serving, these noodles are extremely low carb (sorry Dad, I know you love carbs and “carb-loading” is truly justified when you’re training for the Death Ride)…that being said, most of us don’t ride 30 miles uphill for their morning workout. Since I don’t do stuff like that every day, I make it a priority to avoid the consumption of carbohydrates. Enter: Shirataki fettuccine. Once boiled, they resemble semolina wheat fettuccine in appearance, aroma, and flavor.
The pasta recipe is easy…just chop your gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and stir with the pasta when it’s cooked. If you have the pesto cheez prepped in advance, it’s essentially a 15 minute dinner! A great recipe for hungry people who don’t want/need to carb-load and could use a significant reduction in their dinner-prep efforts!
Heirloom Tomato Fettuccine
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped heirloom tomatoes
1 package fettuccine-style shirataki noodles (I used House Foods brand, the one endorsed by Skinny Girl)
2 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes, julienned.
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh lemon juice to taste, optional
For the Cilantro-Pesto Cheez:
1 cup raw cashew nuts (soaked for 8 hours or overnight), drained
2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup curly green kale
2 cups fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp (10 g) agar flakes or 2 tsp (5 g) agar powder
1 tsp sea salt
In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the 3 cups of water and agar flakes to a rolling boil for 5 minutes, whisking often.
Step 1: Transfer cashew nuts to food processor or blender. Process until it resembles a thick paste. When the agar/water mixture is ready, remove from heat and immediately fold in the cashew paste. Wisk until thoroughly combined.
Step 2: In the food processor or blender, add the basil, cilantro, kale, salt, nutritional yeast and water. Puree until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides to make sure it all gets blended. Pour into the sauce pan and stir to combine with the cashew/water/agar blend. Then immediately pour this into an airtight container. You can use a glass jar, tupperware container, condiment bottle/dispenser, etc. I used a glass jar and transferred some of it to a ziplock bag to use as a makeshift pastry bag for serving with the heirloom tomato fettuccine (as shown in the images). Allow to cool down to room temperature before transferring to the fridge.
Enjoy your heirloom tomato fettuccine with cilantro-pesto cashew cheez! Let’s start a non-dairy, low carb pasta revolution! Who’s with me?