© 2018 Can Caramelo

Lemon and Sage Pasta

I don’t exactly know how a conversation I had many years ago came to my mind. I was living in Chile and in my swimming team there was a German guy. I didn’t feel like connecting to other Germans, but to integrate him I asked him about his field of study. Economics he told me. At that moment (and to some extent until today) that sounded like a terribly boring thing to study which would lead to a not very interesting job whose major goal it would be to earn a lot of money. Surprised (he didn’t look like my cliché of an economics student), I asked him for the motive. He answered that it was efficiency, that to him efficiency mattered. I improvised a little anti-efficiency speech, emphasizing how tiresome and stressful it seemed to me to be thinking about how to do everything as fast as possible and that I liked the idea of not being efficient, of taking my time and let thoughts and actions flow, allowing myself to be slow and inefficient. When I finished talking, he told me that that was his parents way of living and that’s exactly how they lost their little organic farm. So I learned not to judge so quickly (well, sometimes at least). Through the years, I also changed my idea about efficiency. Now I feel being efficient allows me to be productive, it gives me the good feeling of not wasting the little time I feel I have at hand, it allows me to accomplish things I don’t like to do without unnecessary effort, and leaves me more time for the things I really care about.

A couple of months ago I started planning our meals. Even before, I had started to cook extra food and keep it in the fridge or freeze it for the moments in which I don’t feel like cooking or there is no time. But now I really sit down once a week and think about what we will have for dinner each day of the week. I focus on components that will make for more than one meal (like a quinoa that we’ll use for a salad one day and to accompany a stew on another day or a tomato sauce that will be used both for a lasagna and a parmigiana). Usually I prepare the bulk of what we’ll eat on one day (or sometimes a couple of days) which is also a way of maximizing energy efficiency, for instance by using the oven for a cake, roasting vegetables and to toast nuts, or by using the same pot for a sauce and a stew. It’s true that it takes some effort and time to plan the meals and to cook several meals or meal components on the weekend, but during the week magic happens. In something like 10min dinner is prepared and not only that, but we also eat more varied, healthier and tastier. Think brown rice sitting in a jar in the fridge, caramelized fennel that you already prepared, some hazelnuts you toasted during the weekend, feta cheese, rinsed parsley ready to be used, pomegranate seeds and a ready-made vinaigrette, or a vegetable lasagna for which you have the sauces prepared and grilled vegetables at hand and just have to cut some cheese and do the layers. By planning our meals, I also avoid the moments in which I’m suddenly really hungry and will eat anything that is at hand. We don´t eat out a lot anyway, but if you do, you save money by eating at home more often. I started off meal preparation by subscribing to the “biotiful plan” where Chloé sends a complete meal plan every week, including the shopping list. This was a great start, but as we have to follow a menu for Simon’s kindergarden (we send a lunchbox every day), I then carried on with the planning myself.

When I started to think about recipes and the grocery list I thought there must be an app or something alike that simplifies the process. I gave Pepperplate a shot, a free app that allows you yo collect recipes, make a weekly plan and creates a shopping list from the planned recipes. However, I didn’t find it very intuitive to use, it’s not very customizable and I often had to do a lot of clicks and workarounds to achieve simple things. When I saw that the paid option Plan to Eat had a free trial for which you didn’t have to provide payment details, I decided to give it a try. And was pleasantly surprised by the fact that all the shortcomings of the other site weren’t an issue. Customization options are endless, it’s an extremely interactive site which allows for almost everything I can think of regarding meal planning (like simple dragging of recipes into the planner, add notes, organizing meals in the freezer, start the week of the planner the day you decide, scale servings, import recipes from all over the web with a bookmark, organizing your shopping list by stores, add and remove items, see for which recipe each ingredient is and so on and so on). It also comes with a whole lot of instructional videos, as well as a team behind that responds within 24h. Initially I just wanted to see how it worked and didn’t plan to continue using it after the free trial, but when I suddenly couldn’t continue using it, I had been too spoiled to go back to the free options and decided to pay. Note: I do get a commission if you decide to subscribe through the link provided here, but I only subscribed to the affiliate program because I wanted to talk about the app anyway, just because it’s being so useful for me.

Back to the advantages of meal planning and batch cooking: after 2 months of meal planning I have even accumulated so many reserves in the freezer that we could it for at least a week without cooking anything, something that comes in handy when I’m a little late with the planning or failed to do so (yes, not everything has been perfect yet).

Today’s lemon and sage pasta doesn’t have to be prepared ahead as it comes together in a flash. It’s a super simple recipe, but one we enjoy very much and always have second servings of. If you want to take a step up from the simplest version and add some grilled vegetables, those can be made in advance. The same goes for maple caramelized walnuts (you could also make a larger portion and save some for sprinkling over your breakfast or other meals).

Serves 4.

  • 500g wholegrain spaghetti (or pasta of preference)
  • a bunch of fresh sage (in my opinion, the more the better), leaves picked
  • zest from 1 organic lemon (the skin of non-organic citrics is usually heavily treated)
  • 3 tbsp/ 50g butter
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


  • vegetables (carrots/ zucchini/ eggplant/ mushrooms/ onion/ garlic/ …) + 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • feta cheese
  • parmesan
  • maple-caramelized nuts:
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1 tsp maple syrup
    • pinch of sea salt

If you do the grilled veggies, preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF. Cut the vegetables into bite sized pieces (any shape of preference), put them onto a baking tray and toss with the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Bake for about 20min, until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned, you can add the grill for the last 2-4min. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the package instructions. In a pan, heat the butter on medium-high temperature and once it’s molten, add the sage leaves. Fry them for a few minutes until they sage starts to get crunchy and it’s color has darkened. If you want to do the caramelized nuts, add them to a pan (you can reuse the sage pan) and toast on medium temperature for a couple of minutes. Add the maple syrup and salt and toast for a couple more minutes. Wash the lemon with hot water, pat it dry and zest it. Once the pasta is ready, mix it with the sage and add the lemon zest. Serve with vegetables, caramelized nuts and cheese if you wish.

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