After a year in Westwood I personally experienced the different types of culinary talent that is exposed when living away from home for the first time. I watched as some of my flatmates carve out hours in the kitchen prepping different meals and adding so much seasoning that sometimes it would be difficult to enter the kitchen without having a coughing fit, whilst others had their quick and easy staples which made me doubt whether they were on the path to nutrient deficiency.
But there is one meal in particular that seems to have transcended this divide of culinary ability: pesto pasta. I watched in horror as one very particular flatmate ate this meal, at least once a day- straight out of the saucepan so as to avoid the extra washing up, and seemed to enjoy it every time. The obsession was so out of hand that his flat birthday present was a few jars of extra pesto- which would probably just see him through to the end of the week.
However, as a second year, my palette has slowly developed to truly appreciate the beauty that is pesto pasta- and with just a little bit of extra effort I believe that it truly can be a nutritious and satisfying meal.
To start with: pasta shape. To me, nothing beats the beauty that is fusilli. It is simply perfect and the ridges allow the pesto flavour to seep in to the pasta properly. Personally, I also use wholewheat pasta as it has a lot of additional fibre and the flavour of pesto is so strong that you can hardly notice the difference. However, I am aware that this is hugely controversial and so I shall not push it further.
A protein source is truly what changed my opinion on pesto pasta. Personally I use chicken breast, and season it well with cajun seasoning and smoked paprika. This slightly offsets the flavour of the pesto whilst bulking the meal up slightly, meaning you can eat less to feel satisfied and are not just eating pure carbs but a more balanced meal. I usually just fry the chicken in the pan until it is cooked through and then mix it in with my pasta.
Some extra add in’s also make all the difference: I chop up some cherry tomatoes to add a pop of colour and freshness, but if you are willing to go the extra mile sun dried tomatoes are absolutely incredible. A bit of mozzarella to finish and voila- you have amped up a boring bowl of pesto pasta to something that has a beautiful flavour, a range of nutrients and will keep you full for longer.