The success of my attempt to make cheesy pasta bake gave me the confidence to explore a bit more non-Indian recipes. Barring a usual tomato sauce and also a cream cheese sauce, I have not tried making other sauces for pasta. Sometime back we used to try some bottled sauces once in a while and concluded we like a brand called Sacla. I just have a couple of small bottles handy to help me on very busy days. Although I buy few of these bottles, I refrain from using any processed food so this time I decided to try my own pesto. I wanted to start with a simple one but still wanted great results. This recipe turned out quite good and at the end I added some cheese to it (just because I had to finish a small block of it leftover) and baked it like before. You could totally avoid that or just add the cheese to the sauce itself and allow it to melt and not bake. You could also try adding parmesan cheese to the pesto itself until I come back with a low fat replacement for that. I totally skipped cheese in the pesto itself. It has probably been over a year since I last had wholewheat pasta for reasons like it did not taste great and also we were not pasta fans anyway. This time however, the wholewheat pasta was great and when combined with the pesto and veggies, it did not even seem like wholewheat and was just great.
For the Pesto:
18-20 cherry tomatoes (Use lesser quantity of normal tomatoes if cherry tomato is unavailable)
2 tablespoons almonds
3-4 cloves garlic
Handful of fresh basil
A dash of dried basil
For rest of the dish:
1 Onion, cut into rather thick slices
Diced mixed vegetables (Use as much as possible and you like. I used red pepper, courgette, carrot, babycorn)
2 tablespoon tomato puree or used couple of tomatoes, diced
Some dried Oregano
Salt to taste
Pasta of your choice (penne, fusilli or macaroni will be ideal)
Some grated cheese (optional)
To make the pesto:
Put the cherry tomatoes in a bowl and add less than a teaspoon oil and mix to coat the tomatoes with little oil. Add a dash of dried basil and little salt and roast in a preheated oven at 190degC for 40 minutes
Once the tomatoes cool, grind it along with basil, almonds and garlic. You could use fresh red chilly to the pesto but I chose to add some chilli flakes to my plate later. Add about 2 tablespoon olive oil while grinding and do not add any water. You will have a bit of pesto left, just refrigerate it and use it later.
Rest of the dish:
Heat some olive oil in a pan and add onion
Once onions turn slightly soft, add the mixed vegetables and required salt and cook until vegetables are cooked but not too soft.
Add the tomato puree, pesto and about a glass of water and simmer until the raw smell from garlic goes away
Add some oregano and cooked pasta and it is ready to be served if you are not adding cheese
Transfer to an oven proof dish and add some grated grease on top
Bake in a preheated oven at 180degC for 20 minutes or until the cheese browns
If you would like to add cheese and allow it to melt, do so before adding the pasta. Ensure the pasta is not mushy and salted adequately. Adding few drops of oil to the water helps to prevent the pasta from sticking together.