For me la dolce vita is soaking in the afternoon sunshine at the garden table, our chairs askew, wafts of freshly cut grass and bees buzzing, with spaghetti scooped and shared sky-high out of a large bowl, forks twirling and easy laughter between happy mouthfuls. I often get asked about carbs being ‘bad’, and I think pasta especially gets a lot of flak.
The consumption of refined, low-fibre carbohydrates has dramatically increased in the western population over generations, those naughty things made from snowy white flour – sugary pastries, white pasta, and white bread which are quickly digested and rapidly absorbed through the small intestine into the blood stream as glucose. Our blood sugar levels spike, and a burst of the hormone insulin is released. Insulin encourages our cells to absorb blood sugar out of the bloodstream for either energy or storage. Far too soon our blood sugar levels sink back down and our tummies start to rumble and our eyes begin to linger on the next sugar hit, what next? Just as well then there’s a wealth of wholewheat and wholegrain options to chose from that are equally delicious, rich in fibre and full of nutrients such as wholegrain bread and wholewheat pasta. And a creamy rich pasta sauce that is healthy too? TICK. Here is one of my favourite pasta sauces, easy to prepare and I defy you not to sneak in a few spoonfuls before it even makes contact with the poor spaghetti.
Avocado Basil Pesto with Wholegrain Spaghetti
Serves 4-6 people
800g baby tomatoes
3/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 and 1/2 lemons, juiced
3/4 tsp salt
3 large handfuls basil leaves
400g wholewheat spaghetti
50g watercress (half a packet) or rocket
Set the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Cut the baby tomatoes into halves, spread on a lined baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. These will be chucked into your pasta as you are ready to serve along with the watercress or rocket.
Meanwhile, prepare the avocado basil pesto. In a food processor, whizz the avocados, garlic, salt and lemon juice until smooth. If you like things extra garlicky feel free to add another clove. Add the basil leaves and toasted pine nuts and whizz again until you get the rough texture of pesto. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed.
Prepare the wholewheat pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions in a pot of boiling salted water. Drain and put the pasta back into the original pot along with the pesto and roasted baby tomatoes, and toss together. Spoon into a big bowl on a bed of watercress or rocket.