Sometimes you may find yourself in a need of a really, really quick meal. In those cases pasta is always your friend, and no-cook pasta sauces make things even quicker. I know, you can always reach for a jar – and I don’t have anything against jars and pasta sauces. But, pesto and similar type of sauces, or perhaps I should them dressings?, come together in a snap and can help you get out of the tomato-based pasta sauces rut.
Traditionally, pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan cheese. It can be well balanced, but it is often too oily, and the cheese, for those who eat dairy, and olive oil can often overpower the delicate basil flavor.
I prescribe to a very broad definition of what pesto is. To me it usually means a sauce (spread, dressing) made with some green leafy vegetables and/or herbs and nuts – and that’s it! Any combination that gets you there counts as a sort of pesto in my book. You can think of combining green things like basil, spinach, arugula, parsley, mint, kale, on one hand, with pine nuts, almonds, pistachios or seeds of different kind (like pumpkin, sesame or sunflower) on the other hand, and you will end up with a flavorful “pesto”. My examples here include Pumpkin Seed and Parsley Pesto and Kale Pesto with Cashews.
Given that most seeds and nuts have plenty of fat in them, I usually don’t add any additional oil, although drop or two of good quality olive oil can certain enhance the flavors. The recipe below does not use any oil, and I don’t think you will miss it!
Pomegranate molasses is perhaps the only unusual ingredient included in the recipe for this snapy pasta dish. If you’ve never tasted this molasses prepare yourself for something tangy and tart, while at the same time sweet. I like to use it in my pasta sauces as it works as a sort of mix between a bit of balsamic vinegar and a bit of sugar, which some pasta sauces may need. If you don’t have pomegranate molasses on hand (I got mine for a very reasonable price at my local Indian store and I bet Middle Eastern stores would carry it), you can always use some balsamic vinegar. Or, if you are really adventurous, you can mix some balsamic vinegar with some regular molasses or maple syrup in equal parts, and use that instead. You only need a tiny bit to drizzle over the pasta just before serving!
Final note: the recipe below lists red lentil pasta as a ingredient. I like this variety because it has a deeper and nuttier flavor. But: you can of course use any pasta you have on hand. In my view, tubular (think macaroni) or short flat (think bow tie pasta) types of pasta work better with pestos than long ones (think spaghetti) – but this I leave up to you and your pantry!
Red Lentil Pasta with No-Cook Spinach Sauce
What you’ll need:
- 1 box (12 oz, 340 g) red lentil pasta macaroni
- 1 lbs (450 g) baby spinach (or chopped frozen spinach that has been fully thawed)
- 1 cup pistachios, lightly salted
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
- Optional: more molasses (balsamic vinegar) for drizzling on each serving
What you’ll do:
- Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box.
- While pasta is cooking, place the rest of the ingredients into a food processor equipped with an S-blade and process until smooth.
- When pasta is done, drain and rinse with cold water to cool just slightly, then toss with the rich, cream sauce. Serve immediately, or store in the fridge overnight to serve the next day – this dish is definitely a make-ahead friendly!
- Serve room temperature and drizzle some pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar) right before serving.
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019