Pasta with Pesto & Roasted Vegetables

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About eight months ago I got talked into signing up for a half marathon with friends, although at the time I couldn't run a mile.  Out of generosity, I also decided to share this experience with my husband.  Or in his version, I coerced him.  I was really motivated by my friend's encouragement, invested in training regularly, and by last weekend, we were picking up our race numbers and carb-loading.  (I was as surprised as anyone.)

 This is basically the perfect food for fueling up before a big run.  Pasta is the traditional choice for race preparation.  But since you also don't want to over-do it on vegetables before a long run, it's great that tomatoes, summer squash and mushrooms all have a fairly low fiber content.  This particular pesto also calls for very little olive oil, and all the components can be made ahead of time.  We ate this for dinner Friday, and Nat and I both felt full of energy on race day.

We discovered this recipe last summer and I've been tweaking it since then, but I think that roasting the vegetables was the missing link that made this recipe easy and delicious enough to be a frequent repeat.  We had a great time training for and running the half marathon, so running is going to be another frequent repeat for us.

I tweaked the Three Basil Pesto recipe from Epicurious to use what was available here this time of year.  Of the greens above, I used all the basil (left), about half the bunch of spinach (middle), and a cup of the parsley leaves (right).  It will be nice when the farmer's market is full of basil, but spinach is a decent substitute until then. I also grated in a little lemon zest, and used sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts.  Don't worry that the pesto is very dense - you loosen it up with half a ladle of hot pasta water before dressing the pasta.

You can serve the veggies on the side, or mix them with the pasta.

Pasta with Pesto & Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from this recipe from Bon Appetit.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb cremini (or baby portabello) mushrooms, halved
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pint whole cherry tomatoes

1 T. olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 pound rotini
1 7-ounce package purchased pesto, or about 1 c. homemade pesto
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 450.  Toss the vegetables with olive oil.  Season with kosher salt, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The mushrooms will brown best cut side down.  Roast until beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes.

2.  In a small pan, warm 1 T. olive oil.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir gently into the finished roasted vegetables.

3.  Meanwhile, boil the water and cook the rotini until al dente.  If you are using the Triple Basil Pesto recipe, place the measured pesto in a large mixing bowl.  Before draining the water, ladle about 1/2 c. of hot liquid into the bowl and stir until combined with the pesto.  Add pasta and vegetable mixture to the pesto, and toss to combine. Season pasta with salt and pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.
Do you have a food that helps you feel ready to take on a challenge?  Tell me about it:

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