Pesto Pasta with Veggies
When I picture comfort foods, my brain immediately thinks of pasta and bread - foods that have been a staple in my Italian household. Lots of people assume that because I’m Italian we eat pasta every other night and make it from scratch. The reality is that while we do make homemade pasta on some occasions, a majority of the time we make simple pasta dishes with fresh ingredients. Pesto pasta has been one of my favorite dishes and since coming to college I’ve made it a habit to cook this recipe at least once a week. While this dish is very simple, I keep coming back to it again and again because of the pure comfort it brings to me when I sit down and eat it. This pasta is both perfect as a main dish or a side dish to complement any dinner party.
I normally use Trader Joe's vegan kale pesto out of convenience, but at home I like to make my own from scratch. I find that it triumphs over any store bought pesto and is actually very easy to make. All you’ll need is fresh basil, walnuts, olive oil, garlic, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. You can make your pesto more budget friendly by using walnuts instead of pine nuts and substitute spinach or arugula for basil. The great thing about this sauce is that it also stores well in the freezer, so if you end up with extra pesto you can simply freeze it for another time! If you’d like your pesto to be brighter green you can blanch your basil leaves before blending. Simply add the basil leaves to a pot of boiling water for 5-10 seconds and immediately remove and add to a bowl of ice water.
I’m a big fan of adding lots of colors to my meals, which is why I like to add sauteed zucchini or yellow squash to the pasta. It adds a beautiful green to complement the pesto and also helps me incorporate more veggies into my meals. This dish is also very customizable, so if zucchini are not your favorite, feel free to substitute any veggie of your choice. If I want to make this dish more hearty, I serve it with roasted tofu or chicken. This pasta makes for great leftovers throughout the week – Perfect for a busy college student!
For the pesto: Makes ~1 cup
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves*
⅓ cup walnuts**
2 to 3 cloves garlic
⅔ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon pepper
For the pasta:
1 lb pasta of choice (I like farfalle)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
½ yellow onion, diced
2-3 medium sized zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise and cut into quarter moons
Parmesan for topping
*You can also do 1 cup basil and 1 cup arugula or spinach.
** I like to toast mine in the oven for 5 minutes until aromatic
Make the pesto:
In a food processor, blend the basil and walnuts together until broken down.
Add garlic and parmesan cheese and blend again until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. (I like to add my oil into a liquid measuring cup to make pouring easier).
Add in salt and pepper to taste and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
Make the pasta:
Add olive oil to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes and then add your minced garlic. Cook for 1 minute and then add your zucchini.
Sautee the zucchini for 10-15 minutes or until they have softened and browned. Stir constantly to prevent burning.
While the zucchini is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add your pasta and cook as directed on the package.
Strain your pasta and add into the saucepan with the zucchini. Add the homemade pesto and mix to combine. Top with freshly grated parmesan and more salt to taste.