William Thomas
food & drink copywriter
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The ignoble adventures of a food & drink glutton

Ribbed, for pleasure

Our neighbours grow a lot of vegetables on their three large allotment plots, and we're lucky enough to enjoy the excess bounty of their labours. Best of all are the courgettes they grow, an Italian variety called Costata Romanesco, which has a thick, ribbed skin and a less watery flesh than the typical variety, meaning they cook down really well and suck up flavours more readily.

This spring our neighbours gave us one of their extra courgette plants which we added to our modest raised bed along with a load of tomato seedlings. Then luckily the weather did the rest. I had no idea courgettes grew so prolifically! I’m really glad we only had one plant as it soon took over a third of the bed. But boy does it produce some tasty fruit.

Luckily we haven’t got to the point where we have so many courgettes we don’t know what to do with them. No spiralizer needed yet (thank god). I just like to sauté them with garlic and oregano, toss them through pasta and devour with loads of grated Parmesan. Couldn’t imagine getting bored of that, especially with summer weather like we’ve been enjoying this year.

But the other day I picked up a bag of healthy looking basil so thought I’d make some fresh pesto to use up a new brace of courgettes from the garden. I love fresh homemade pesto, it's light years away from that filthy muck that you get in jars. I make mine in a pestle and mortar as the flavours seems more pronounced. I didn't use pine nuts this time though as at £40 a kilo they can do one. I opted for sunflower seeds – less oily and slightly nuttier, but tasty nonetheless. Try it:

150g sunflower seeds, lightly toasted
150g fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and picked
Parmigiano Reggiano (decent hunk thereof)
1 small garlic clove
Half a lemon
Olive oil (yeah yeah, the good stuff)

Grind the sunflower seeds in a large pestle and mortar with the garlic and a generous pinch of coarse salt. Start adding the basil leaves and keep on grinding until it all becomes a stiff green paste (it takes a bit of work). When it's looking good, thin it down with some olive oil and the juice of half a lemon (marvel as the colour pops). Then transfer it to a larger bowl and stir through lots of finely grated parmesan.

I also bought a pack of gnocchi, the type that only needs frying, and chopped the courgettes so the pieces were around the same size. After slowly sautéing the courgettes and adding a clove of minced garlic once they started to soften, I added the gnocchi and tossed it all around for four or five minutes, then switched off the heat and threw the pesto over the top, leaving it for a few minutes with a lid on. This heats the pesto through and gets it all soft and oozy without cooking it. Then it's just a case of stirring it though and getting it on the plate. If you do it right it needs nothing else, no extra oil, no more cheese, nada. It's a pure plate of bliss.