Not Your Typical Pesto Pasta Recipe!
Hi everyone, Kyle here to share with you a new plant-based recipe we put together this week! Both Amanda and I took one bite and looked at each other with the ughhhh my gawd face due to the flavor. It just hits all the notes you want in a pesto pasta, and then some! I love that this pasta not only for the insane flavor but that it is entirely plant-based but packed full of protein, fiber, and nutrients thanks to the pasta, quinoa, kale, and sauces. I’m not saying this dish is exactly “healthy” if you are trying to be on a strict diet because it is calorically dense but it sure is a tasty, healthier comfort food option. The best way I can describe this meal is decadent yet delightful! It is also quite filling but that did not stop me from eating two large bowls of it. This can also be reheated the next day so having leftovers is great. This recipe makes a lot so I would probably estimate this would certainly feed a family of 4-5 people. I’m going to try and break it down as easily as I can in this blog so you all can try it too. Let us know how you and your family enjoy it!
Time to Make- Roughly 2 hours
If you try and make this dish from scratch with all the components you’re probably looking at a total cook time of about 2 hours from start to finish (including prep and after cleaning). That might be because I am not the greatest cook and these things take me a while so it might be a shorter time window for someone with more experience but there are quite a few steps. So just prepare accordingly and as always, choose Organic as much as possible!
STEP 1- Prep the Quinoa
- Quinoa- 2 cups
- Water or Organic Vegetable Stock- 4 cups
- Spices- Garlic, onion powder, red chili flakes, cayenne pepper, pink Himalayan sea salt, black pepper, chili powder – Depends
- Sliced Raw Unsalted Almonds- 1 to 1- 1.5 cups
The first thing I recommend making ahead of time is the quinoa. I used Bob’s Red Mill brand Organic Tri-Colored Quinoa mix. I have found that this one is the best I’ve tried and it’s nice to have a few different colors in the dish. Follow the instructions on whatever brand you purchased but this one was very simple.
I brought 4 cups of water to a boil and then added 2 cups of Quinoa. As the water was getting warm I added some spices. I don’t have any exact measurements here but I just threw in a couple of good sprinkles of cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, red chili flakes, and chili powder, sea salt, black pepper. If you’re feeling like water is too bland just substitute it for vegetable stock. This will definitely change the flavor profile. Bring the Quinoa back up to a boil and cover the pot with a lid and reduce to a nice simmer for about 12 minutes. Once all the water is absorbed, remove from the heat, fluff with a fork and let it cool in the bowl for about 15 more minutes. You definitely won’t use all 2 cups of quinoa in this pasta dish but it’s always nice to have some leftovers. After completion, pour the quinoa into a glass Tupperware container and let it just rest for a bit.
As the quinoa is cooking, take the desired amount of sliced almonds and place them into a hot skillet. You can use slivered almonds I’m sure to but I would not recommend using full raw almonds. If that’s what you have, I would just give them a good chop before toasting them. We use a cast iron skillet and it works really well for this step. Stir the almonds regularly so they do not burn. Once they get a little brown and you like the amount of “toast” put them aside. For me, I know they’re done when the flat side is a brown color and when you bite into one it kinda snaps. After the Quinoa is cooled, pour the almonds into a bowl and set that piece of the dish aside. Try not to snack on them!
STEP 2- Prep the Sauces
Golden Oil Dipping Sauce: This is also amazing for dipping bread!
- 3 garlic cloves chopped finely – Don’t add more because the Pesto also has garlic. If you know you don’t love Garlic cut the amount(s) in half here and in the pesto.
- 3 Tbsp of (drained) capers
- 1/2 Tsp of dried oregano
- About 2-3 Tsp of fresh thyme
- About 2-3 Tsp of fresh rosemary
- Pink Himalayan Salt as desired
- Black pepper taste
- 1/4 Tsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 Tsp Crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup of (quality) olive oil
Simple Pesto Sauce: This is amazing on any pasta alone too!
- 3 cups of densely packed fresh basil with stems removed
- 4 Tbsp of pine nuts
- 3 garlic cloves
- A squeeze of half a small lemon
- 1 Tbsp of nutritional yeast (this give the cheese flavor so can easily be left out of you don’t want to use it)
- Olive oil – Add the desired amount depending on how you like your pesto
- Pink Himalayan Salt as desired
Alright, this is where things get interesting… At first thought, you really wouldn’t think these two sauces would go well with one another but I assure you they do! The first sauce to make is the “Olive oil dip.” I want you to make this one first so that all the herbs and ingredients have time to absorb into the oil; longer the better. After this oil is done then you can move onto the actual pesto sauce. After they both are complete, set them aside in separate dishes so they can continue to get better.
For the Golden Oil dipping sauce finely chop the garlic cloves and set them into a bowl. Give the capers a rough chop and add them to the garlic pile. If you like capers you can certainly add more than this recommended amount but just make sure you drain them well because the brine they are in is pretty strong and will overpower the oil. Add in the dried oregano and chop up the rosemary and time. One good tip that I’m sure everyone is aware of when dealing with fresh herbs is the pull them opposite of the way they are growing and you will get the herbs without all the stem and single pluckings. Add a little bit of sea salt, black pepper, and red pepper flake. Top off with the high-quality olive oil and you’re done with this step. Set this aspect of the dish aside after giving it a try so you know what you’re in for!
For the Pesto, it’s best to use a food processor with sharp blades but I’m sure a good blender or Vitamix would work well also. Add the 2-3 cups of fresh basil to the bottom of the food processor. Add in the pine nuts, garlic cloves, and nutritional yeast. Squeeze in the lemon and add a little splash of olive oil. Start the food processor on a low setting and while it’s blending add in the desired amount of olive oil; something around 1/2 cup. The consistency should be a little thick and chunky. Don’t add in too much oil because there is still oil to be added in the rest of the dish. Empty the pesto and set it aside.
Step 3- Boil Your Pasta
- 2 boxes of pasta
Prepare the pasta! We used two boxes of the Chickapea. We have used this pasta before and it never fails and it does not take long to cook. I like using this brand of pasta because the chickpeas and lentil flour add a little more fiber and protein to the dish when compared to the typical brown rice pastas. Make sure not to overcook the pasta here in the boiling stage because it will need to cook some more once all the other ingredients are added in one big pot.
Step- 4 Sautee Veggies
- 2 large heads of dino kale
- 1 large white onion
As the water is brought to a boil go ahead and chop up your white onion. I liked using a white onion in this recipe because a brown onion would make things too sweet. Chop the onion to your size preference. I liked chopping it pretty fine and thin so it could crips nicely. After the onion is cut, heat up some olive oil in your pan. After the oil is hot, add in your onion and stir it around so that it’s all covered. You’ll want to add a good amount of olive oil in this step so don’t skimp here. Flatten the onion to every inch of the pan and then leave it alone for about 3-5 minutes. Add in a pinch of sea salt and black pepper all around on top.
The cooking temperature here should be on medium-high as the goal here is to get the onion pretty crispy. As the onion is cooking, start getting your kale ready. If you are not a good multi-tasker though don’t do these two steps together because if you burn the onions you’ll have to start over with a new onion. You can’t burn the onion! I have found that it’s easiest to starting individually rinsing each piece of kale and setting them aside once rinsed. Then take the kale and pull it down towards the counter to rip off the leaf from the stem. So you start at the thicker part of the steam and pull towards the thinner end. Once you have your kale stripped from the stem. then give it a rough chop to your liking and set it aside.
Check on your onions and make sure they are getting to be a good brown color and shrinking in size. After you like what you’re seeing, Go ahead and mix them all around and cook them for another 5-10 minutes. After you’re happy with your onions, add in the kale (try and get the kale as dry as possible before adding to the pan). Give the kale some time to heat up before mixing everything all around. After a few minutes, go ahead and mix the onions and the kale together. Let it cook together for about another 5 minutes. Make sure not to overcook the kale! Take out the Kale and onion mixture and set it aside. By this time, hopefully, your pasta is done. Make sure to drain and rinse it.
Step 5- Mix All of the Above!
Using the same large pot you cooked the pasta in; add in about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil to the bottom and bring the heat up to medium. After the oil is getting warmer, throw in a little bit of finely chopped garlic (1-2 cloves). As the garlic is cooking, add in a little bit of crushed red pepper and sea salt. Cook for about another 1-2 minutes or until the garlic starts getting a more brown color. It will smell pretty good at this point! Once the base-oil is complete turn the heat down to low, add in the pasta and gently stir it around to ensure you don’t break any of the shells. After you’re happy with the oil coverage add in the kale and onions mixture. Gently stir it around. Then add in your Pesto sauce and stir it all around again. Once happy with the coverage, add in the quinoa (about 2 cups) and stir it around then just let the pasta sit for a little bit with the lid on; about 2-3 minutes (stirring occasionally). Add in the Almonds (about 3/4 cup). Next, slowly add in the Golden Oil dipping sauce. Let the pasta sit again with the lid on for 3 minutes. THEN YOU’RE DONE!
Serving is a critical stage. You’re probably going to want to eat quite a bit of this so I suggest having a good deep bowl to devour from. Our favorite bowls are these ones from Amazon as they hold quite a bit of food with extra room to eat messy 🙂
Let us know how it went in the comments below if you tried this and what you thought! Specifically, I’d really like to know the first word that comes to mind after you take the first bite. If you can film your reaction on the first bite(s) and post it so I can see what worked and what could be improved that will be a good way for me to learn from. Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. I really hope you and your family enjoy this meal!