A Runner’s Delight – Pasta con Pesto di Zucchine Arrostite

As this is an Italian food blog, I have so far shared very little about my other passions in life. Well, at least, apart from hating the Finnish winter with a passion I suppose.

However, this time I can reveal that one of them is running. I love the endorfin rush, doses of fresh air and the feeling of just simply everything making more sense (and of being less grumpy about the most disastrous baking attempts) that you get by simply putting one shoe in front of the other.

I also participate in some half-marathon events every now and then, and even once went to a “running school” to prepare for them. In the school, I learned about this brilliant concept of “carb loading”: in the day or days before your running event, you try to stock up on carbohydrates to increase your body’s reserves for the long endurance work-out. It really is an Italian food lover’s dream, isn’t it? An order to eat as much pasta as you like. Ingenious. Well, ok, I do know that carb loading is a lot more relevant when getting ready for a full marathon. Yet I choose not to let that minor detail get in the way between me and my big bowl of pasta. And I still refuse to believe that pasta is bad for you. Just look at the nation full of happy Italians.

I completed one half-marathon just yesterday and hence dutifully did some serious carb loading the day before. I chose a recipe from a cook book called “Le ricette della prova del cuoco“. It turned out be at least as brilliant as the carb loading concept. You make a supertasty simple pesto sauce of roasted zucchini, pistachio, fresh mint and olive oil, and combine it with the pasta and parmesan. And naturalmente, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy it – just look at the nation full of happy Italians!

Pasta with Roasted Zucchini

Serves 6

480 g (farfalle) pasta

500 g zucchini

40 g parmesan

60 g pistachios

fresh mint (to your taste)

1 bayleaf

olive oil

salt, pepper

Clean and peel the zucchini, and then cut them in half (lengthways). Place the halves on an oven tray covered with a parchment paper, and season them with salt, pepper and some olive oil. Bake them in the oven at 175C for at least 30 minutes and cool down.

Grate the parmesan. Boil the pistachios in hot water for three minutes (I skipped this step as I was using roasted and saltes pistachios), and once cooled down, peel them. In a blender, mix the pistachios and 50 ml olive oil. Add the roasted zucchini and continue blending. Finally add the fresh mint and again continue blending until you have achieved a nice pesto paste. Put the pesto sauce into a bowl and season it with the grated parmesan and salt (if needed).

Cook the pasta in salted water with the bayleaf. Combine the ready pasta with the pesto sauce and serve.

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The Fruity Mystery – Macedonia di Anna

After a few weeks of fintastic and italovely holidays, I’m back in the kitchen office again! Yes, I did spend a week in Italy too and now my mind is buzzing with new ideas on recipes to try. You can expect me to get quite a bit of inspiration from this pile of souvenirs within the next months too:
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I’m especially quite proud of this apron that I bought (ok, maybe there is a teeny bit of photoshopping included in the picture…):

Essu

Anyway, prior to getting my hands on my fabulous new cookbooks, let’s continue with something simple to celebrate the strawberry season i.e. a fruit salad. The Italian word for fruit salad (macedonia) is somewhat baffling. Why not insalata di frutta like in all the other four languages that I know? Apparently¬†the theory is that this word really refers to the country Macedonia and it originates from the time when the area was populated by different people (such as Albanians, Greek and Armenians in addition to the Macedonians). During that period, someone felt that drawing an analogy between a fruit salad and Macedonia would make sense as both consisted of different “pieces”. My 21st century Finnish logic may fail to see the ingenuity in this comparison but I suppose that would really be beside the point…

The recipe I’m sharing today is actually my own which I have been making during the strawberry season for quite a few years now. As far as I remember, I invented this “from scratch” but interestingly enough¬†the first Italian recipe I glanced today seems to include almost all the elements of my recipe. Well, Italian or Finnish – does it really matter as long as you ensure that you enjoy the fabulous fruits and berries of the season?

Fruit Salad with Strawberries

Serves 4

1 liter fresh strawberries

2-3 nectarines

1 chunk of melon of your choice

juice of 1 lemon

fresh mint, chopped

icing sugar

Peel and slice the fruits and strawberries and mix them with the lemon juice. Add fresh mint and sprinkle icing sugar to your taste. This fruit salad is even more flavoursome and juicy if you store it in the fridge for a few hours before serving.