28 July 2013

Basil-Hater's Roasted Garlic Spinach Pesto

Shana doesn't like pesto. I don't understand her dislike. As long as it's vegan, I love pesto. Throughout our relationship I've tried numerous variations on pesto, always trying to find one she'll eat - even if we only eat it periodically. I knew all along that I had to essentially get rid of the basil, as that's Shana's primary complaint with pesto. So I've tried cutting down the basil, switching it out for parsley, and any other number of variations. Finally, I decided that I really just needed to move away from the zingy, vibrant, and fresh flavors of pesto (*sniffle*) and move to flavors I knew she liked. Folks, I was successful tonight! She ate it, said it was good, and then said, "but I still don't love pesto." I pressed to see if this was something we could eat occasionally; the answer was yes!

We also had grilled red peppers for dinner - yum!
Like most pesto recipes, this one has just a few ingredients and is a snap to come together in your food processor. Unlike most pesto recipes, this one requires just a bit of forethought, as you need to roast the garlic. In the end, the roasted garlic flavor is totally worth it. And although there's not the same zingy freshness, there's still the lightness I associate with pesto, making this perfect for a summer dinner.

Basil-Hater's Roasted Garlic Spinach Pesto
5 oz. (2+ c. when packed) spinach
1 head garlic
1/2 c. pine nuts
1/4 - 1/3 c. olive oil
1 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
pepper to taste

1. At least one hour before dinner, roast your head of garlic. To roast garlic, cut off a bit of the top of a head so that the cloves are exposed. Place on foil then drizzle lightly with olive oil. Wrap in the foil and then roast for about 40 minutes at 350 (see Helpful Hints). 
2. Roast (also at 350) or toast your pine nuts and allow them to cool some while you assemble the other ingredients. At this time, also start water and cook enough pasta for two people. 
3. Put the spinach, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into the food processor and squeeze out the cloves of garlic in there, too. Process for a bit until everything starts to combine. You may need to scrape down the sides of your food processor bowl. 
4. Pour in the olive oil while still processing. Continue until there are no longer any large leaves of spinach or pieces of pine nut. 
5. Drain pasta and stir in pesto. 

Helpful Hints
  • Roasting garlic changes the way it tastes considerably. It's far earthier, sweeter (though not sweet), and mellow. I roast my garlic in my toaster oven (which is also where I roasted my pine nuts). Using the toaster oven is the perfect size for a head of garlic and it doesn't heat up my whole kitchen like the big oven would. 
  • Pine nuts are a traditional ingredient in pesto, but you can certainly use other nuts. The most common other nut to use is walnut, but I've seen pesto recipes with almost every type of nut I can think of. Different nuts will change the flavor slightly.
  • If, like me, you enjoy the fresh flavors of a more traditional pesto, you could certainly add some fresh parsley or fresh basil to this recipe. A tablespoon or so shouldn't change the texture too much, but if you want to add more than that, remove some of the spinach. This version, however, would be good for little people who may not like the stronger flavors of basil or parsley.
  • Speaking of the spinach, the 5 oz. I call for is one of those plastic boxes of spinach in the refrigerated area of your produce section. 
  • We both added a bit of salt at the table. You could add more to the recipe if you'd like. 
  • As you can see from the pictures, we use whole wheat pasta. I think that makes the dish a bit more filling, so if you'd like it be lighter, use white pasta. Oh, and not all whole wheat pastas are vegan. The one we like the best is the Barilla Whole Wheat, but NOT the Barilla Plus, as that isn't vegan. If you use a rice pasta, this is a gluten-free dish (and it's already soy-free!). 
  • Finally, pesto freezes brilliantly! I used half of this recipe for dinner tonight and put the other half in the freezer for a future dinner. 
The post "Basil-Hater's Roasted Garlic Spinach Pesto" originally appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.

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