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.
Warm, freshly baked bread is one of the most simple but also divine baked goods, sweet or savory. But what I love more than plain bread is olive bread, especially when it is made with black olives and local herbs such as rosemary, that give a deep meditterranean sense. Now that the weather is colder, I decided to warm up my kitchen by turning on the oven to bake a batch of these little delicious, fluffy olive bread rolls! And then I baked another one as they disappeared very quickly and I think I will make at least one more pretty soon!
In my recipe I use whole wheat flour that has undergone minimal processing thus preserving most of its nutrients, black olives preserved in salt (though you can use any kind of olives as long as you remember to remove the seeds), garlic and rosemary. What I like in these olive and rosemary breads is that the dough, absorbs the flavors and aromas of the pitted olives and rosemary, acquiring a slightly spicy and salty flavor that reminds Greece. If you haven’t eaten something like this before, now I think it’s time!
(6-7 bread rolls)
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) lukewarm water
- 1 tsp (about 4 g) dry yeast
- 3 cups (450 -500 g) all-purpose, whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup black olives, pitted
- 1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh rosemary
- 1/3 tsp pepper
1. Mix the water with the yeast and a spoonful of flour and leave in a warm place for 10 to 15 minutes to activate. If the yeast is active, dense bubbles will form on the water surface. If it is not repeat the process with another sachet of yeast.
2. Add the remaining flour, lemon, pepper, rosemary, garlic and salt and knead for at least ten minutes to form a soft, non-sticky dough.
3. Cover the dough with a damp towel and leave for one and a half to two hours in a warm place to rise and double in volume. I leave it next to a radiator and it takes about two hours.
4. Put the dough on a floured surface, flatten with your hands and sprinkle with the olives. Knead again folding and kneading several times to form a roll. Cut six to seven equal pieces and knead them to form six small rolls.
5. Put them in a pan lined with greaseproof paper, leaving at least 3 cm space between each other, spray with water (or cover with a film) and leave in a warm place to rise and double in volume for about fifty or sixty minutes depending on the room temperature and humidity. I usually let them rise in the oven at 40 oC.
6. Bake at 200 oC for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: Make sure that the olives you are going to use are pitted and very well drained as you don’t want extra moisture in your dough.
Usually, when I return tired at home, I like to prepare a quick dinner so as to have some free time for the things that make me relax. While I love cooking, sometimes I just want to deal with something that does not include a sink full of dirty dishes! Thus I make sure I always have some pantry (and fridge) essentials for a quick, nutritious and delicious meal with the minimal effort (washing, cutting, cooking and washing again!).
Some of the things we almost always have in our refrigerator are a jar of home-made pesto – basil pesto during summer and rocket or kale pesto during winter- and some kind of nut cheese or even tofu. Last night I used kale pesto and nut cheese over two whole wheat pita breads (there are always some homemade or store-bought Greek-style pita breads in the freezer) and within minutes we enjoyed a tasty and nutritious Italian pizza, without animal-derived ingredients and with a minimal cost.
For 2 mini pizzas we needed:
- two Greek whole wheat pita breads (16 to 18 cm diameter)
- 3-4 tablespoons kale or arugula pesto
- ½ cup vegan nut cheese or tofu cut in cubes
- 1-2 fresh tomatoes in slices
- ½ cup Kalamata olives pitted
- 1 cup chopped green salad of choice (arugula, lettuce, spinach etc)
- ground pepper
- ground oregano
- Spread the pesto over the pita breads.
- Add tomatoes, cheese and olives.
- Season with pepper and oregano.
- Bake in preheated oven at 220 ° C for 10 minutes.
- Garnish with the salad (I think that the arugula with its spicy flavor is the perfect choice) and serve immediately!
Note: If you are going to use frozen pita breads, defrost them first.