Max La Manna: a zero-waste vegan cook-along

14 October 2020 | OVO Energy

Recently, the OVO team spent an awesome week looking at ways we can get to zero carbon faster. There were all kinds of inspirational ideas, projects, and talks on our favourite topic.  But a real highlight was a cook-along with Max La Manna (perfectly timed for just before lunch). 

Max la manna pasta recipe

Max is both a zero-waste chef and an award-winning author and educator, who uses his platform to get us all to think about the food we put on our plates, where it comes from, and what happens when we waste it.

For over 1,000 days, Max has eliminated his food waste to nearly zero. He constantly challenges people to explore the environmental impact of their food waste. And as well as clever tips and tricks to cut waste at home, he shares easy, mouth-watering recipes that save you money and food! 

We were lucky enough to have Max walk us through the preparation of one of his signature pasta dishes. So before we share some of Max’s genius tips on how to nail a zero-waste culinary lifestyle, here’s the recipe!

No-waste broccoli stem pesto pasta: recipe time!

Ingredients (for one):

  • 1 broccoli 
  • 60g cashews (any nut or seed is fine) 
  • 40g nutritional yeast (or any type of cheese, if you’re not making it the vegan way) 
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • Handful of basil 
  • Handful of spinach 
  • Salt and black pepper 
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 1 lemon 
  • 100-150g spaghetti (or any pasta)

You’ll need

  • Saucepan 
  • Knife and chopping board
  • Blender 
  • Sieve 
  • Bowl – to eat from!


  1. First of all, wash your hands – along with all your produce. When you’ve done this, fill up the saucepan with water, add a dash of salt, and turn on your stove.  Pop a lid on your saucepan to make sure you’re being as energy-efficient as possible in the kitchen!
  2. Prepare your broccoli head by cutting the florets and the stem into small pieces. Little known fact: the stem is actually a delicious part of the vegetable. Add the stem to the now-boiling water and leave it to boil for 2-3 minutes until it’s softened.
  3. Remove your broccoli stems and set these aside. Then add your pasta to the same saucepan of boiling water. At the same time, you might want to toast your cashew nuts. This not only softens them but also really brings out their flavour.
  4. When your pasta has about 6-8 minutes left, add your broccoli florets to the same saucepan of boiling water. Let it all cook together – and just before it’s all ready, add your spinach to the boiling water for about 5 seconds. You can then drain the pasta, broccoli, and spinach all together – and turn off the hob. 
  5. Put the softened broccoli stems, toasted cashews, and extra virgin oil in the blender, along with the nutritional yeast, basil, salt, and pepper – and some garlic should you wish. Top it off with a splash of water, blend it all together, and then you have yourself a pasta sauce!
  6. Add the sauce to your pasta, broccoli florets, and spinach along with a squeeze of lemon, and enjoy the delicious, zero-waste goodness!

Here’s how to go zero waste in the kitchen: Max's top tips

We hope you enjoy trying out this delicious dish. For what it’s worth, Max rated his creation an 11 out of 10 on the cook-along, so we have high hopes! But it wasn’t just the delightful pesto goodness that Max treated us to during the cook-along. He also shared some brilliant tips on zero-waste cooking and sustainable living with us.

How to practice zero-waste eating on a budget

Max’s main point here was that people can only do their best within their means. But there are a few simple things that we can all try to weave into our everyday lives: 

  • When it comes to cooking vegetables, be sure to make the most of all edible parts of the ingredient – just like Max did with the broccoli stem.
  • Try and use up everything before it goes off.
  • Make friends with your freezer! If you’re going to struggle to eat something before it goes off, popping it in the freezer will let you save it for another time.
  • And now for our favourite tip. Did you know that you can regrow basil at home? When he has a few leftover basil stalks from the packet, Max pops them in water. He changes this water everyday. And then in 2 weeks’ time – when you notice new stalks magically sprouting – just pop the basil into some soil and let it continue growing!

Health benefits of a vegan diet

Max has been fully vegan since 2016 and loves how much easier it’s becoming to live this way. Vegan living is said to be the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on Earth. And it’s helped Max loads, making him feel:

  • Naturally energetic
  • More alert thanks to better sleep
  • Happy with his improved skin
  • And overall lighter in himself when it comes to his triathlon training!

Max’s most surprising zero-waste cooking hack

Max swears by never throwing away the water in a can of chickpeas, which is known as ‘aquafaba’. Here are just a few things Max uses it for:

  • Making vegan butter
  • Preparing baked goodies and desserts
  • Whisking up to make a light, fluffy alternative to whipped cream. Genius.

As you can see, it’s much easier to be less wasteful in the kitchen than you’d think. We love how Max is encouraging more awareness around the food we eat. And if you feel the same, check out his brand new 5-part series with BBC Earth, Regeneration Food, and his award-winning cookbook, More Plants, Less Waste. You can find him on Instagram too.

Zero-waste living right up your street? Then learn more about our mission to help our members start your own journey towards zero-carbon living.

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