I recently read in a food magazine that vegetables suffer from bad reputation. Apparently people don’t like eating them, because they supposedly lack flavour. In general I try not to let myself be influenced by image and public opinion too much. Some days more successfully so than other ones, but when it comes to this, it goes without effort. When I think about what I’ll make for dinner, I love to start with the vegetables and then build a dish around them. Sometimes this works out so well, you’ll find me dancing in the kitchen, which just happened to be the case with the veg-laden dish you see here.
In the post title I called the sauce “red pepper sauce” for brevity, but it actually consists of red peppers, cubed pumpkin and tomatoes, which are roasted in the oven with basil and garlic. All they need is some salt and pepper and 30 minutes to work their magic. The resulting sauce is herby and full-flavoured and will make you beam with joy at first bite.
It’s perfect on its own as a pasta topping, or, combined with onion and lentils, as the base for lasagna. In this case I used it to top juicy courgette ribbons, which turn sweet and flavourful when briefly stir-fried. When talking to a friend yesterday, she said: “I can’t get my husband and children to eat that without them asking: “where’s the real pasta?!”” If you’re worried about that, a good compromise could be to use half spaghetti, half courgette, in which case the courgette could serve as just some extra veg on top of the pasta. But from personal experience I guarantee you that if you choose to leave out the pasta, you’ll only hear sighs of contentment after the plates are emptied.
Some garlicky baked breadcrumbs for crunch and walnuts for protein and healthy fats and your full-flavoured, utterly satisfying plant-based meal is a fact. I have a feeling that reputation issue will sort itself out soon enough…
Courgette ribbons with roasted red pepper sauce and walnut pangrattato – serves 4
for the sauce
- 750 g plum tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 15 g basil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 red Romano peppers
- 400 g cubed pumpkin
for the pangrattato
- 7 slices of white bread, crusts removed
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- 60 g walnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
plus: 4 courgettes, preferably long and thin, for easier cutting and firmer flesh
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
Halve the tomatoes and remove the stem ends. Put the tomato halves in a single layer onto a lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Divide over the garlic slices, line each tomato with a basil leaf and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Brush the peppers with a little oil as well, then place them on the baking sheet next to the tomatoes.
Toss the pumpkin cubes with a tablespoon of oil and divide them over a second baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
Put the two sheets in the oven and roast the vegetables for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the pangrattato. Whizz the bread to crumbs together with the garlic. Mix the breadcrumbs with the thyme leaves and the chopped walnuts and set aside.
When the 30 minutes roasting time has passed, take the veg out of the oven. Remove the garlic slices, the basil leaves and the tomato skins; also remove the skins, stalks and seeds of the peppers. Transfer all vegetables and any juices from the tray to a food processor, add the remaining fresh basil and whizz until smooth. Taste and season with some extra salt and pepper if you like.
Spread the breadcrumbs over one of the emptied baking sheets and sprinkle with olive oil. Put them in the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes until golden and crunchy.
Using a spiralizer or a sharp knife, cut the courgettes into ribbons. Heat a little sunflower oil in a wok. Working in four batches, so they’ll get evenly cooked, briefly stir-fry the courgette until just tender.
Divide the courgette over four plates. Top with the red pepper sauce and the pangrattato.