Monday, 15 October 2007

The Pasta Pesto Problem

Just over two years ago, I decided to start writing down a weekly menu plan. I dug out an old exercise book, wrote the days of the week down the left hand margin of the first page and the different meals across the top and then began filling in the gaps with what I was going to cook for each meal.

On the inside of the front cover I also wrote down my reasons for starting these menu plans:

  • budgeting
  • to avoid last minute mealtime panics
  • to give the children a more varied diet; not the same dishes all the time

This last point I now refer to as The Pasta Pesto Problem....When suddenly its nearly 6pm, the children are hungry and there is nothing ready for their tea - what do you do? In barely ten minutes you can cook a pan full of pasta, spoon over some pesto and grate over a bit of extra cheese. If you are feeling really guilty you can throw some frozen peas as well so they have at least eaten one portion of vegetables.

My friend Nicky, who recently moved to Zambia with her family, emailed me about the difficulty of getting hold of pesto in Lusaka:

"The food here is soooo expensive, I went to a shop the other day and bought a small jar of pesto - it was five pounds!! I know you are probably thinking make your own - but there is no cheese here only a rubber product they call cheese and pine nuts are about five pounds too! Therefore the UK staple of Pasta Pesto is no longer a meal we eat, only on special occasions. It is also expensive to buy olive oil, I so wished I had put a couple of tins in the container. A small 750ml bottle here is between 6 - 10 pounds. I treated myself to a bottle the other day!"

Pasta Pesto is now such a staple food for parents of small people everywhere. What was the 70s equivalent when I was growing up? I can't remember - maybe beans on toast?

My original exercise book has turned into my biggest collection of lists, and after more than two years is nearly full. Flicking through it I can see that we do still eat a great many tuna sandwiches for our lunch, and the amount of scrambled egg we eat has increased substantially since we got the hens in early 2006. I can see that I make less cauliflower cheese than I used to and that every winter I make a great many pies and many batches of soup.

Today I bought a lovely new Moleskine notebook for the next volume, which I will begin in the new year.

In years to come, the children will be able to flick through these notebooks and will no doubt say "You cooked us so much Pasta Pesto, Mum". I won't be able to deny it - it's written down in my own handwriting!


  1. I must say that I love moleskin notebooks as much as I love pesto pasta. I keep a small one in my bag at all times for when inspiration strikes, and also a lovely moleskin red diary as well.I wonder if you can class basil as a portion of their daily intake?


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