I adore all things basil: Caprese salads, adding it to pastas, and of course, pesto. The challenge is, Shay, my fiance, does not like traditional pesto (insert sounds of shock and slight outrage here). So when my mom recommended that I start reading Heidi Swanson’s blog www.101cookbooks.com and then generously bought me one of her cookbooks, “Super Natural Cooking”, I was excited to see a pesto alternative recipe!!
For those who are unfamilar with Heidi Swanson, she is a San Francisco native who practices and preaches healthy eating with natural, organic, sustainable ingredients. Her recipes are inventive, varied, and absolutely delicious.
Heidi calls this recipe, “Straw and Hay Fettuccine Tangle,” which for her version represents the two pastas: Egg and Spinach linguine that she uses. For mine, I used whole wheat penne, which added a wonderful nutty flavor to the citrus, creamy flavors of the pesto.
- 1 bunch of asparagus, generously trimmed at the ends, and then cut in 1 inch pieces
- 3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
- 2 large or 3 medium gloves garlic
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of 1/2 lemon (preferably Meyer)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 16 ounces whole wheat penne
- Black pepper to taste
- Red pepper flakes to taste
Prepare two pots of boiling water, one large and one medium filled two inches with water and a steam basket. Place the asparagus spears into the medium pot in the steam basket and place lid on. Steam for 2-3 minutes or until just tender and then, transfer to a food processor. Add the spinach, garlic, Parmesan, and lemon zest and start blending. While its running, add the olive oil. Add the lemon juice, and salt. Add more lemon zest or salt as needed.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Once the pasta is aldente, remove from heat and drain. Add a cup of the pesto and stir completely. Depending on how much sauce you prefer, continue to add pesto in small increments until you have the desired balance of pasta and sauce. Season with some ground pepper, a few shakes of red pepper flakes for a kick, and if you are like me, additional parmesan as needed.
While Shay may not be a fan of traditional pesto, he loved this lighter, citrus filled alternative. And for me, while it was not basil, it was creamy, light, and flavorful. All and all, another winner from Heidi Swanson. Happy Meatless Monday!!