I know I can’t just share a recipe with that title without going into a little more detail about those algae and what they are doing in my pasta. Although, now that I’m trying to write this, I realise my knowledge about these tiny water-dwelling organisms is anything but detailed. Even scientists don’t quite seem to agree about their exact definition. In effect, all I know for sure is that as soon as I’d discovered someone had combined algae and egg-pasta and that the resulting product was for sale in my favourite farm shop, I just had to try it.
About those algae
A little research tells me the word “algae” refers to many things: from seaweed and kelp to pond scum, to the microscopic green morsels that fish and other sea creatures love to snack on. Certain microalgae are even rumoured to be the fuel of the future as producing them is easy, cheap and virtually carbon-neutral. While I love edible seaweeds like wakame and nori, edible microalgae are new territory for me. Probably the most well-known type is called “spirulina”, which I think sounds lovely. Like the name of a mythical mermaid with long green locks.
Pasta & Pesto
Despite the fact that it only contains 2 percent algae, the pasta has a distinct smell and aroma that reminds me of Japanese kombu. It’s umami, but it’s not fishy. Although, if you try hard enough you can envision yourself sitting on a rock by the sea, waiting for Spirulina the selkie to rear her beautiful green head and give you a cold, wet, high-five before slipping beneath the waves again.
Don’t worry if you can’t find algae pasta, though. You can easily substitute it with green tagliatelle that has been flavoured with spinach, or with any other pasta you fancy, to be honest. For all that talk about mermaids and microalgae, the real star of this meal is the red pesto. It’s easy to make and turns everything it comes into contact with into something delicious. The amounts given here will yield more pesto than you need for the pasta, but it keeps well in the fridge and is amazing on a piece of toast the next day.
Ingredients (for 2)
200 g green algae pasta or tagliatelle flavoured with spinach
grated pecorino or parmesan cheese (optional)
for the pesto
about 15 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped unpasteurised black or red olives
2 tbsp chopped almonds, toasted
1 tbsp chopped walnuts
1-2 cloves garlic
mild and fruity extra virgin olive oil
- Toast the chopped almonds in dry frying pan, transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Mix together the olives, dried tomatoes, garlic and black pepper in a bowl or measuring jug.
- Drizzle with olive oil and briefly blend with a stick blender. You want the pesto to still have some texture. Add more oil if you prefer a looser consistency.
- Grind the chopped almonds and walnuts into crumb-sized bits with a pestle and mortar and add them to the pesto.
- Boil the pasta in plenty of salted water until just al dente (7 minutes in my case).
- Drain in a sieve or colander, but reserve some of the cooking water.
- Put the pasta back in the pan, add a few heaped tablespoons of pesto and some of the cooking water and stir to loosely coat the pasta with the pesto.
- Divide between two plates and keep the pesto nearby.
- Add more pesto to taste and top off with walnuts and/or grated pecorino.