Everyone knows pesto, right? The vibrant, fresh, literally green cousin of the full-bodied marinara and the hearty alfredo. Pesto is the black sheep of the family. He makes pasta almost healthy… gasp! How dare he, right?!
Pesto is really easy to make, but doesn’t exactly get the respect it deserves. Okay, I have now officially stopped referring to pesto in the second person and moved on to the third person. It was getting kinda weird. So, to be honest, pesto is not the number one choice on pasta night because of the color. We all know how kids react to the color green on their plates. Boy is no different. He doesn’t care for green sauce on his spaghetti. I am working on it. But us grown-ups have no excuse.
At the most basic level, pesto is a raw sauce made of basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil. But I am a cilantro lover. I can, and do, put it on everything. Just ask my hubby. I’ve always wanted to make a cilantro pesto. It is very refreshing, I can’t believe why it took me so long.
Now, to make it really colorful and healthy, I decided to add spinach. A cilantro-only pesto might be a bit too much. The spinach is perfect here. It gives good body and color to the pesto and it doesn’t taste very spinach-like, once you add some nuts, garlic and lime juice. I used almonds because that’s what I had, though you can do pine nuts or walnuts too. Typically, good pesto has enough olive oil to form a thin layer covering it, but you can always reduce the amount to suit your needs.
A serving of pasta needs just a spoonful or two of pesto, so it is a good thing that it freezes well. You can make extra and freeze the leftover in ice trays. That way, you can use a couple of pesto cubes as and when needed.
You also need a light sprinkling of finely shredded cheese in your pasta. I prefer to add it after mixing the sauce with the hot pasta and not mixed in with the pesto itself, because I’ve found that shredded cheese doesn’t take kindly to being frozen.
From here on, the pasta is like a blank canvas. You can just have it as such or add any kind of vegetable or meat. This time I used pan-fried fresh chicken sausage. The smokiness of the spicy sausage goes perfectly with the freshness of the pesto. A perfect balance.
SPINACH, CILANTRO & ALMOND PESTO
You will need:
- Spinach – a couple of large handfuls
- Cilantro leaves – around half cup (or more as per your taste)
- Garlic – 1 large clove, peeled
- Almonds – 1/2 – 1 cup
- Green chili – 1, small (optional)
- Lime juice – 2 tbsp
- Salt – to taste
- Olive oil – 2-3 tbsp
- Blend all the ingredients from spinach to lime juice in a blender. I also added a small green chili for some heat, though it is optional. Add olive oil, a little at a time, till you get a somewhat smooth paste. Remove to a bowl and season with salt.
- Mix with fresh pasta, spread on breads or use to season grilled meat.
- Store leftover pesto in the freezer. A neat trick would be to freeze in ice trays so that you can take out as many cubes as you need at a time.
SPAGHETTI WITH SAUSAGE & SPINACH-CILANTRO PESTO
You will need: (Serves 4)
- Spaghetti – 1/2 lb
- Fresh meat sausage – 3-4 links (I used red pepper and chicken sausage from our grocer)
- Fresh pesto sauce – 6-8 tbsp
- Shredded cheese – 3-4 tbsp
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove sausage meat from casing and drop tiny chunks in the hot pan. Slightly flatten the sausage pieces with a spatula. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side or till evenly browned. Remove onto a paper towel lined plate and keep aside.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain and reserve a little of the hot starchy liquid.
- Return pasta to pot, add the pesto sauce and toss to coat evenly. Add some of the hot liquid if needed. Mix in the cooked sausage and shredded cheese.
- Serve pasta hot, paired with a lovely salad and a light wine for a delightful meal.
Do you like pesto? And pasta? Then try this non-conventional pesto recipe and let me know what you think.
I am linking this up at these awesome blogs.
- A Blossoming Life
- Skip To My Lou
- Between Naps on the Porch
- Home Stories A To Z
- A Stroll Thru Life
- Cedar Hill Ranch
- Coastal Charm
- Elizabeth & Co
- House On The Way
- Savvy Southern Style
- The NY Melrose Family
- The Turquoise Home
- Living Well Spending Less
- Design Dining and Diapers
- The Shabby Nest
- French Country Cottage
- My Romantic Home
- The Charm of Home
- Crafts a la Mode
- Love of Family and Home
- The Novice Gardener
- DIY Show Off
- Nifty Thrifty Things
- By Stephanie Lynn