Rocket or arugula is one of my favorite green leafy vegetables and luckily it is abundant in all the Mediterranean regions as it grows in different soils and areas provided that it gets enough water. What I love in rocket is its spicy taste and its peppery aroma but on top of that this is one of the most nutritious greens -it belongs to the crucifers together with broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.
All through the year I like to grow my own arugula on pots but my plants seem to love autumn and spring as they grow faster and bigger. This is when we usually make vegan arugula pesto in place of basil pesto. Pesto sauce takes only two minutes to make it and with minimal effort we have a delicious, colorful sauce for our pasta. Making your own pesto is impressively easy: just put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Nutritional yeast is totally optional in this recipe, but I like to use it whenever I have some in hand, as it adds a discrete “cheesy” touch.
500 gr whole wheat spaghetti or your favorite pasta
for the pesto sauce
- 1 big bunch of arugula
- ½ cup good quality olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- ½ cup cashews or sunflower seeds or pine nuts
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
- Wash thoroughly the rocket and drain. In a food processor add the rocket along with the garlic and liquid ingredients and process for 1 minute at high speed. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process for another minute or until a homogeneous mixture is obtained.
- In the meantime, cook your favorite pasta in salted water (we prefer whole wheat spaghetti for this recipe) for 8 minutes or until they become al dente. Strain and rinse with cold running water to keep them from sticking. Put them back in the saucepan, pour over the sauce and mix with two forks. Served immediately!
Note: This sauce comes out less greasy and at the same time much more tasty and aromatic than store-bought. Nutritional yeast, although not necessary, replaces the cheese which is used in the non-vegan version.
When we have a tone of rocket we like to prepare a large amount of pesto and keep it in glass jars in the freezer for quite some time. Just remember to put it out of the freezer a couple of hours before using it.
Vegan pasta recipes are definitely everybody’s favorites. The fact that in less than half an hour one can make – with the simplest ingredients found in the kitchen – a tasty and hearty pasta dish is something that makes some of them unbeatable. Moreover pasta is nutritious and, especially if accompanied with a light, plant-based sauce – for example a thick tomato sauce with lots of freshly grated tomato but without the excess oils and fats – it can provide you all the energy you need during a busy day.
Often, when we return back home after a long walk in Athens or after a day at work, I put a large pot with water to boil in order to cook some pasta and in the meantime I make in the food processor a pesto sauce with rocket (during this season is on its best) or a basil pesto or even a batch of kale pesto, preparing a delicious, vegan Italian pasta dish in only few minutes. Another alternative choice, especially for the sunny days like today, is a tasty tomato sauce enriched with cherry tomatoes, olives and capers and flavored with red wine and rosemary, with all these ingredients bringing together the most typical Mediterranean flavors in each bite.
The sauce has a rich tomato flavor that is beautifully combined with the slightly spicy taste of olives and capers and wonderful aromas of garlic and rosemary. One of the things that I like about this tomato sauce is that it is can be served with any kind of pasta as well as gnocchi. Fortunately, now, one can find ready-made gnocchi, without animal ingredients, packed tightly, in some large supermarkets. Since there are also brands that use eggs, check the labels first or if you have time try to prepare your own.
for the sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 sprig rosemary, fresh or dried
- 2 heaped tablespoons, capers
- 2 heaped tablespoons, olives (pick your favorite!)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1 package 400g grated tomatoes (if you don’t want to use canned you can grate your own)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
500 gr gnocchi or pasta of choice
1. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and the rosemary over medium heat for two minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes olives and capers and sauté two minutes more.
2. Add the red wine, the grated tomato and a pinch of ground pepper and simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens. Meanwhile you can cook the pasta or gnocchi according to package instructions.
3. Taste the sauce, add salt or pepper if necessary and serve immediately. Because capers and olives are already salty, you just need a small amount of salt to achieve the right taste.
Being vegan does not mean being deprived of one’s favorite meals. The transition to a vegan diet can lead us towards an amazing world of new flavors and healthy recipes that not only relish our life, without involving animal-exploitation, but also nourish us, especially when we prepare our meals from scratch, without relying on store-bought, ready-to-eat products.
One of the dishes that I enjoyed as a vegetarian was the classical spaghetti with cream and mushrooms and for this reason I wanted to create its vegan version. Thus, vegan spaghetti with mushrooms is now one of the dishes we prepare often, not only for its wonderful taste –it is much better than the original- but also because it can be prepared easily.
The cream can be made either with sunflower seeds or with cashews -depending on what we have in hand. However we prefer the sunflower seed cream, since sunflower seeds have a great nutritional value and their cost is very low compared to cashew nuts -sunflower seeds cost three times less than cashews.
For extra flavor we can simply rely on our precious kitchen’s “little helpers” : some herbs and spices, a little bit of white wine, few pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, along with the mushrooms create a satisfying, unique complex of flavors and fragrances.
1 packet of spaghetti, 500 g (choose gluten-free if you like)
For the white sauce
- 1 cup shelled sunflower seeds, soaked for 2 hours and drained
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 500 g white Agaricus mushrooms sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup sun-dried tomato cut into thin strips
- ½ cup white wine
- 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 handful chopped parsley
- 2-3 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- ½ tsp Cayenne pepper
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a large skillet sauté the mushrooms with the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add crushed garlic, cayenne and wine, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Put in the blender the drained sunflower seeds with the two cups of water, the nutritional yeast, the vinegar and lemon juice and blend on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until is formed a smooth cream.
- Add the sunflower cream in the skillet, along with the sun-dried tomatoes and the chopped parsley, stir and cook for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens. Taste and if necessary add salt or lemon juice.
- Boil the pasta according to manufacturer’s instruction and drain. Mix with the creamy sauce and serve while hot.
Note: If you do not have time to soak sunflower seeds, pour over them plenty of boiling water, let for 15 minutes to soften and drain. The rest of the process remains the same