There are a lot of reasons why we should all be cutting down on the amount of meat we eat but for me the two most important ones are (aside from the obvious massive damage factory farming does to the planet) taste and ease. I sometimes find myself resenting the almost tyrannical way a piece of meat can take over a whole dish, with the more subtle flavours of your lovely fresh veg hardly noticeable. And when you are rushing round with a normal busy day, there is just no denying that that same lovely fresh seasonal veg will usually need much less cooking time to create something delicious. However, a few people out there aren’t ready for a change like that yet and that’s where meat free Monday comes in. But don’t get too attached to the name; this pasta sauce will make a perfect midweek pasta supper, any day of the week.
Broccoli is one of those seasonal (yes I know, I know, it’s probably not popping up in your gardens yet but it is starting to make an appearance in my veg box) treats that is so often overlooked and overcooked but tastes so good after this midweek lighter treatment. Now I don’t know about you, but I always used to throw the stalk of my broccoli away. Such a waste, but that’s what we learnt growing up. The stalk is where half of the goodness hides, and it’ll help make your veg go a lot further, but you will need to peel it a bit to get rid of the tough, not-nice-to-chew outer layer and to make sure you don’t suffer from any of those famous windy side effects! Aside from the usual vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium and phosphorus as well as all those phytonutrients (helping to reduce the risks of cancer), which you’ll find in the both the stalk and the florets if you eat the stalk you’ll be adding a whole heap of extra fibre to your diet too. But don’t let this list of health benefits fool you into thinking that you’ll be facing a high on health, low on taste meal of broccoli lightly boiled with pasta. This sauce tastes a whole lot better than that. Between the sweetness of the leeks and sage, the creaminess of the beans and the depth from the tomatoes, garlic and capers you’ll have all the comfort that you’ll probably still need (especially if you live in the UK) from a dinner in February with the flavours of the spring yet to come.
Meat free Monday Leek and Broccoli Pasta Sauce.
Serves 4- 6:
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
50g sundried tomatoes
2 tsps capers
400g tin of haricot beans
2 heads of broccoli
Start by crushing you garlic and leaving it one side to allow the allicin to develop, then wash and slice your leeks.
Chuck them in a pan with the sage and a tablespoon or so of olive oil and soften them over a low heat whilst you get on with the rest of the prep.
Chop up your sundried tomatoes and capers so that they almost form a pulp, and when your leeks are lovely and soft, throw them in to the pan too with the garlic. Let them cook for a couple of minutes over the same low heat.
Meanwhile, put a pan of water on and bring to the boil. Add your peeled and diced broccoli stalk and cook for 6 minutes or so, or until it is soft. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and roughly mash half of the stalk with half of the beans.
Pour over the vodka and turn up the heat. Reduce down by half, stir through the mashed broccoli and beans mixture, plus the remaining stalk and beans then remove the pan from the heat.
Cut the rest of the head into small, bite sized florets, and start cooking your pasta. I reused the water I had cooked the florets in, but it’s your choice. Two minutes from the end throw in the florets, and ladle out some cooking water to thin down your sauce. Stir it through the sauce and keep it warm on a low heat. Toss the pasta through the warm sauce.
Serve immediately in bowls, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and shavings of parmesan cheese, or a vegetarian/ vegan alternative.