Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pasta with Fresh-Herb Pesto and Green Leafies

I love discovering new pesto recipes, especially ones that don't include cheese! Yes, I love cheese but with a family history of not-so-wonderful cholesterol, I have to cut back when I can. Take it from this cheese-lover, you won't miss it here! :) I'm sure all that oil has something to do with that... Oh well, isn't olive oil supposed to be good for your heart? Either way, it's not as cholesterol-laden as some pestos.

This dish is low in sodium and has only 13 grams total fat with a scant 2g sat. fat (and, what do you know? 0mg cholesterol! yeay!) Additionally, it's a good source of plant-based proteins, complex carbohydrates (esp. if you use whole wheat pasta) and fiber. Plus, dark green, leafy veggies are full of goodies like calcium and vitamins.

I made this with spinach but the original recipe called for kale (black kale to be precise). I've never actually tried kale but I seriously need to branch out and use more greens in my cooking! I know all the health benefits of them and I'm sure they all taste great. That can be a goal for the year.

Make all the pesto, even if you're only cooking the pasta part for one or two people. Pesto freezes well and is great to keep on hand for quick lunches!

Fresh-Herb Pesto
Serves 6
3/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, strip the leaves from the stem
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, strip leaves from the stem and chop them up a bit
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Serves 2-3
1/2-1 cup spinach, chopped (or kale..)
5 or 6 mushrooms (oyster, baby bellas, button, cremini), cut in half
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 large sprig thyme (do not remove the leaves)
1 large sprig rosemary (do not remove the leaves)
1/2 cup organic white wine (organic wines are usually vegetarian/vegan-approved)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
6 oz. capellini, spaghetti, or fettuccine noodles
A little additional olive oil

1. Pulse the parsley, walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp. thyme, 1 tsp. rosemary, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and lemon juice in a food processor until well-blended.

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions but add the whole sprigs of thyme and rosemary plus the sliced garlic clove to the cooking water. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, remove the herb sprigs with a tea strainer or tongs and then add in the spinach. Drain pasta.

3. While the pasta cooks, heat a little olive oil in a small skillet. Add the onion and mushrooms and saute until tender. Add the wine and let it reduce for a few minutes (to about half the original amount of wine).

4. Pour the wine-mushroom-onion mixture into the pasta-spinach mixture and stir to combine. Toss in some of the pesto along with the sun-dried tomatoes. You can sprinkle some freshly-shredded Parm on the top but you won't need it (this is vegan if you leave the cheese off. To keep it vegan but add some "creaminess," try grinding up some almonds in a coffee grinder and sprinkling those on top).

Based on the recipe "Fettuccine with Three-Herb Pesto, Black Kale, and Oyster Mushrooms" from the February 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times magazine.

I made it my own by...
*Using white wine in place of veggie broth
*Adding lemon juice in place of some of the oil in the pesto
*Tossing in the sun-dried tomatoes
*Using cappelini in place of fettuccine
*Using spinach in place of black kale
I also switched around the method quite a bit since I thought this way would be faster and would use fewer dishes!

Ooh, bonus! I just read that while spinach is a source of iron, it also contains these pesky iron-absorption inhibitors.. but, if you add in iron-absorbing helpers like, oh, white wine, you can help keep those inhibitors at bay and get more of the iron from the natural, whole-food spinach source.

While I'm on the iron note, I just read somewhere else (it was either Veg Times or VegNews) that non-heme iron, while not as bioavailable to the body (meaning it isn't as well absorbed as meat-based heme iron), is actually better for you since the human body is able to better regulate its non-heme iron absorption. God, what a sloppy sentence! To think, they gave me a Masters! In teaching of all things! lol :)
Anyway, get back to your point, blondie! That all means that our bodies are able to put up a big "Stop" sign to prevent us from absorbing too much non-heme iron. That isn't the case with the iron from meat-based foods - the body will just keep on absorbing it with no overdose protection. I realize iron deficiencies are bad but so are iron overdoses so I'll take my plant-based iron and just make sure I have a glass of OJ (or wine!) along with it. :)

Now I have to find the source of all that so I can blame someone else if it is wrong! heh ;) Made me feel better to read that, though, since iron is one of those "but where will you get your...?" questions I hear all the time (and I do not like to get nutrients from supplements).


elly said...

Yum, this looks delicious!

Joelen said...

This looks awesome and definitely give kale a try! We love it especially in soups.

Holler said...

That looks especially delicious! I love that yuo added sun-dried tomatoes to the pasta too! This is my kind of dish. Yum :P

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