The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

slow roast tomatoes with basil spaghetti

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A few weeks back, as the UK’s wettest June on record gave way to its hottest July on record, I decided it was time to dust down my bicycle. I have since been out cycling on a regular basis around the lovely city of Worcester where I live.

On my trips I have been delighted to see that the Council has deliberately left some roadside verges and traffic islands unmown. In past years these areas would have consisted of bland, closely cut grass, but now they have been replaced by a marvellous profusion of wildflowers. The Council has also left small patches of land in parks, along the river and even in the city centre untouched by the mowers. The result is just glorious.

The photograph below was taken of one such urban patch near the city centre’s viaduct by my good friend Paul Snookes (do check out Paul’s Facebook group, Beauty All Around Us, which records and reminds us of the natural wonders we have on our doorsteps).

In addition to their visual beauty, these little pockets of natural beauty are providing a vital lifeline for our dwindling insect and wildlife populations. According to the Royal Horticulture Society, 97% of wildflower meadows in the UK have been lost since 1945 and, for pollinating insects, this means a lack of flowering plants, a key food source. Alongside the huge damage caused by pesticides, this has led to massive reductions in bee and butterfly numbers and has left 10% of pollinating insect species on the verge of extinction.

Worcester is not alone in taking this initiative. Many other towns and cities have adopted a similar strategy this year. Communities across the UK have been inspired to take local action in the face of the catastrophic collapse in insect life. The result is a rich, vibrant splash of colour in areas where nature is now simply being allowed to run its course. What a contrast to the neat but sterile alternative of previous years.

Leaving these “mini meadows” to flourish in the way nature intended is a “win-win” as it also helps keep down maintenance costs. All in all, a wonderful example of the sort of small but significant changes we need to make to address the many problems created by climate emergency, and this one shows that making such changes doesn’t always have to hurt.

On to the recipe. At its best, Italian cooking is about great ingredients cooked simply to bring out their best. I like to think that this recipe falls into this category. It’s certainly a good way to use a glut of summer tomatoes.

spaghetti with garlic roasted tomatoes

320 g organic spaghetti
500 g organic cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g pine nuts
½ tsp sea salt
50 ml organic extra virgin olive oil
15 g basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped

to serve (optional: omit for vegan version)
finely grated vegetarian Parmesan cheese


1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F, gas mark 2). Place the tomatoes in a roasting tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender and just starting to catch.

2. While the tomatoes are roasting, place the basil, pine nuts, garlic and sea salt in a pestle and mortar (or alternatively use a food processor) and grind to a smooth paste, adding the olive oil a little at a time.

3. Cook the spaghetti in boiling water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When cooked, strain and then tip the spaghetti back into its pan. Add the basil paste and stir to combine. Serve the pasta in bowls or on plates, topped with the slow roast tomatoes. If using, scatter with a little grated Parmesan.

Categories: dairy free, vegan, vegetarian

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8 replies

  1. Good to know the councils are making an effort to help the insects. The recipe looks delightful—my kind of ingredients.

  2. Shall send your post to our local Council with 1,2,3 enumerated benefits. Because of our huge land mass with a relatively small population much of Australia still believes its lifestyle does almost no damage to that global warming which may or may not be there ! Yet per capita I believe we sin most of all! May try go to the next Council meeting as we are allowed Qs and comments from the Gallery ! Love the simple moreish dish . . . at the rate time is passing tomatoes will arrive in the markets with the warmth we so desire . . .

  3. YEP, another lovely recipe!! Great to hear your Council is doing something positive, more of it, I say.

  4. Rachel Carson gave us Silent Spring in 1962. Did we take notice? Every small step to look after the insects I saw worth the effort. — great recipe it will go into my book.

  5. Hi John, and thanks for your kind comments about the recipe.
    As you will know, Rachel Carson was marginalised, ridiculed and subject to outrageous personal attacks after The Silent Spring was published, and yet she was right. This concerted series of attacks by vested interests in the agrochemical industry meant that it took decades for DDT to finally be outlawed.
    Now we have glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, clearly implicated in plummeting bee populations and declared “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation several years ago. This simply triggered another round of lies and obfuscations from the agrochemical industry, and meanwhile Roundup remains still on sale here in the UK and many other countries.
    These global corporations now have so much power and influence that they can, and do, suppress and drown out the voice of truth for prolonged periods of time. But the truth will out. Steve

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