Mediterranean Pasta with Basil Pesto
I wanted to make this with quinoa. But somehow it turned into pasta. Oh well. At least there is pesto. If you make it with quinoa, invite me over for dinner because I’m pretty sure that would be extra delicious.
By now you know of my love affair with pesto. I wrote about it here. It really is one of those foods that I doubt I could get sick of. My last version was less traditional, so I thought I’d share with you another version of pesto that is easy to whip up and incorporate into any meal (or eat with a spoon…)
Basil is the traditional green used to make pesto and there is no doubt that basil pesto is amazing. I find true happiness in just the smell of a freshly cut bunch of basil. Skip the flowers any day and just bring me a giant bouquet of this sweet smelling herb!
Basil is an incredible source of Vitamin K, which is hugely important for bone health and has been shown to decrease the risk of bone fractures and bone density loss. Lucky for us, there are many, many foods with Vitamin K in abundance including leafy greens (spinach, kale, beet greens) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts.)
Also, did you know that there are about 60 different types of basil!?! Crazy.
For this particular recipe, I decided to add some spinach to the basil in my pesto. If you don’t love basil please don’t let the thought of it keep you from making pesto. You can make amazing pesto without basil using all spinach or using a mix of leafy greens like beet greens, swiss chard, spinach, and arugula. They will all taste slightly different, but you can use this recipe as a basis to start your own pesto experimentation!
I have chosen to use some walnuts in this recipe instead of the traditional pine nuts. Walnuts are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the brain. They are also chocked full of Vitamin E, which is fantastic for heart health.
This recipe is easy to throw together, even on a weeknight. If you happen to have extra (or you make a double batch) you can easily freeze some pesto in an ice cube tray and use it in future recipes. Just toss a cube into your vegetables while they saute or defrost to spread on your favorite bread or crackers.
Now let’s get cooking!
Makes about 1 cup
2 c greens (I used 1.5 c basil and .5 c spinach)
2 sm cloves garlic
Juice of one lemon
3 TBSP nutritional yeast
½ c nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and cashews, but you could use pinenuts as well)
½ tsp salt (or more if desired)
3 TBSP olive oil
Add all ingredients into a food processor and mix, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Mix until there are no large pieces of basil or nuts remaining.
8 oz your favorite pasta (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Spirals)
½ yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
10-15 cherry tomatoes, quartered
10-15 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
4-5 artichoke hearts, quartered
½-¾ c pesto
Prepare pasta according to directions.
While pasta is cooking, add coconut oil to a pan and warm over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or until they start to become translucent. Add diced peppers and cook another 5-7 minutes, until peppers are cooked, but still have a slight crunch to them (or cook them longer if you do not want any crunchiness! I, personally, prefer the added texture.) Add olives, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts and heat through, approximately 3 minutes.
Drain and rinse pasta and then add to pan with vegetables. Add as much pesto as desired and mix together in pan over low heat. Serve and eat immediately. I dare you not to lick the bowl!