Much to my co-workers surprise, I opted to make a main dish rather than dessert for the holiday potluck. Of course, given that I am a vegetarian and prefer to eat “sides” as main dishes, those going for the KFC at the potluck table would argue that the pasta, pesto, and peas salad, inspired by the Barefoot Contessa, was not a main course. However, there wasn’t a teaspoon of sugar or chocolate involved — shocking, I know. The original recipe calls for “good mayonaise” but I don’t care for it. I tried to use to the fat-free, because I personally think it’s just a waste of calories to go whole-hog, so to speak. But, there’s this after-taste. I find that the plain, non-fat yogurt works well. It has a slight bitterness that balances the heavy olive oil of the pesto and combines well.
I’ve adapted the recipe from one of Ina Garten’s because it enhances the pesto with spinach. I’ve always loved spinach. Even when I was kid and hated nearly all vegetables, I would prefer spinach, swimming in melted butter. Being a veg-head, or the “tofu queen” as my dad likes to say, I prefer to make dishes that maximize the nutrients. Spinach, a dark leafy green, has calcium and iron. Also, you can buy it frozen, so it’s still cheap and readily available, whenever.
Karen’s Pasta, Pesto, and Peas:
1 8 oz package of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
1 jar of pesto
2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 cup of cheery or grape tomatoes, halved
1 small red oninon, diced
1 can of olives, sliced
1 1/2 cups of peas (drained, if canned, or defrosted if frozen)
1/2 to 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1 cup of chopped walnuts
12 oz of wheat, or enriched pasta
Combine spinach and pesto in a food processor and blend together, adding lemon juice and garlic once incorporated.
Add the yogurt and blend. The mixture should be thick but still spreadable. If, for some reason, it’s so think it’s unweildy, add a little olive oil. Salt and pepper to your liking.
Cook and drain the pasta and prepare the vegetables. Combine veggies, pasta, and pesto mixture.
Gently stir in the walnuts and parmesan, as desired.