There are days when making a meal can feel cumbersome. It’s just too much effort. For those days the availability of fresh herbs and some pasta is a god sent. For me, at least. Once you’ve tried pesto, you will agree!
At the end of a day when you want to put up your feet and just eat comforting food in front of the TV, nothing gets done quicker than linguine with pesto.
The dog days of August with their unpredictable heat are upon us. On the bright side, I finally have fresh herbs in the backyard. A night ago, I picked a twig and more of mint, oregano and basil.
Ground them up with spinach, olive oil, salt, pepper and believe it or not, sunflower seeds and almonds to get dinner ready. The sunflower seeds and almonds were an experiment that turned out to be a delicious and easy replacement for pine nuts.
So here is my recipe for a cheese free, nutty 3 herb pesto.
Prep time: 10 mins, cooking time: 10 mins.
1 cup spinach,
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup almonds,
1/3 cup fresh oregano, (2-3 twigs)
12-14 fresh basil leaves,
1/3 cup fresh mint, (2-3 twigs)
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil,
3-4 garlic cloves,
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 green chilli* (only if you like it spicy)
2 tbsp water for grinding.
1 pack whole wheat linguine. (13.25 oz or 376 gms)
4 quarts water to cook linguine. (16 cups or 3.7 litres)
2 green onions,
Cilantro or celery leaves.
- As always, first get all your leaves washed and let them drain in a colander. If you are using baby spinach then the stems are usually removed, but in case of regular or curly leaf spinach, wash well and then break off any thick stems.
Peel garlic. I read a very handy tip recently, I will put up the source as soon as I remember. The writer had advised microwaving garlic pods for a few seconds, I did 15. This helps loosen the peel and makes it easy to pull off.
As you get ingredients ready, toss them into the grinder jar you will be using.
In the meanwhile, put on a pot of water on medium high heat for cooking the spaghetti. You can flavour this with salt or not if you are trying to control the salt content in your diet. I do not add oil. I find that running cold water through the pasta when it is cooked a little more than al dente works well and prevents it from sticking. Alternatively, you can also add just a teaspoonful of oil once you have drained and rinsed the pasta. Run your fingers through it a couple of times until all of the strands are coated.
To the leaves and garlic in the jar, add sunflower seeds, almonds, olive oil and salt and pepper. I did use one green chilli. Use it at your own peril! Grind until you get a grainy mix. Sometimes, if the jar is large, you will need to add water to get it going. Add a spoonful at a time as required. Try not to end up with a watery mix. The sunflower seeds and almonds will create a grainy texture.
Finally, in a serving bowl layer the pasta and pour the pesto over it. Mix well. You can also do alternate layers of pasta and pesto and then mix. Doing so will ensure a wholesome serving of pesto in each bite.
For garnish I chopped up two green onions and their stalks. Also since I was using celery for salad, I utilized the leaves on those stalks. Celery’s flavour profile is very similar to anise (fennel) and it should be since they belong to the same order/family of plants. Read here. That made me wonder if celery leaves could work as garnish just like cilantro and they do.
Serve and dig in! We had spiced chicken sausages, carrots, celery and radishes as accompaniments.
Other recipes on the blog that are just as much fun to cook and eat: