Speedy Pesto Pasta with Veggies

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Ah, tax season. I finally forced myself to sit down and pull out all the paperwork this week and am happy to say I’m almost done. Adding that in on top of the other computer-related things that must be done while children are sleeping made for a busy week, though, and quick dinners were in order. This recipe, which I first threw together a few years ago on a last-minute night, is always at the top of the list when I’m running short on time.

When I made this the other day, I was short on fresh vegetables. (Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite chores, and it got shunted this week as other tasks took priority.) I did, however, have frozen spinach on hand, so I used that instead of fresh greens, which also saved some time. The dried tomatoes are a result of last year’s garden: We planted a host of Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes, which have to be the sweetest little gems I’ve ever tasted off a tomato plant. We had more than we could eat, though, so I resorted to the dehydrator and dried several bags. I squirreled these away, and now they’ve been making appearances in salads and pasta dishes. If you don’t have home-dried tomatoes around (and I’m assuming most of you don’t), you could certainly use the type packed in oil or try one of the variations below.

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The pesto also came from basil we grew last summer. I make a huge batch every year and freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop out the cubes and store them in big ziplock bags to use through the winter. This is a great way to save money even if you don’t have a garden, as fresh basil is always drastically cheaper in late summer than any other time of the year. I haven’t included a pesto recipe here, though, because it’s probably as cheap to buy pre-made during these wintery months, and, in my experience, pesto is an item where home-made doesn’t seem significantly tastier than a pre-made version.

There are a million variations you could do here, depending on the season and what you have handy in your panty. I love adding a cup of frozen edamame or chopped broccoli. In the summer, I’ll use fresh cherry toms instead of dried ones, and you could even get away with canned, if you have some flavorful ones around (like the Italian Style diced tomatoes, or home-canned ones). To make this a more complete meal, add some protein in the form of tofu (cube it into bite-size pieces and sautée in olive oil with salt until golden brown), some garbanzo beans, or, as I suggested before, edamame.

Veg Meal with Meat Option: As I mentioned above, I like to add sautéed tofu or garbanzo beans to this dish to amp up the protein. When I do that, I’ll usually bake a chicken breast and dice that up to add to Ryan’s serving.

Special Diets & Allergies: Soy free, gluten free if you use brown rice pasta (I like the Trader Joe’s brand). I think it would be fairly easy to make a vegan or dairy-free pesto (just omit the parmesan cheese) and then those of you in those camps would be good to go.

Speedy Pesto Pasta with Veggies

Serves 4 – 6

This is a great last-minute, all-in-one dish. The garlicky pesto infuses the pasta with an intense flavor that goes nicely with the concentrated sweetness of the dried tomatoes. Serve it with a green salad or lightly steamed fresh or frozen vegetables, like broccoli.

Ingredients:

4 C whole wheat rotini pasta, uncooked
3/4 – 1 C prepared pesto
1 1/2 C frozen spinach or 6 C fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1/2 C dried cherry tomatoes
Salt to taste
Paremsan cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add the frozen or fresh spinach. Once the pasta is done and the spinach is heated through (if using frozen) or cooked (if using fresh), drain the pasta, making sure to remove as much liquid as possible.
  3. Stir in the pesto and dried tomateos. Serve immediatley. Pass the parmesan cheese at the table is using.

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