This pasta is one of the few ways I can get Little Man to joyfully eat something green. Hubby and I love it too. And I especially love that it uses spinach as a base for pesto instead of basil (as in a traditional pesto). Spinach is a “Super Food” so its a great alternative. You can also throw in some kale if you have some on hand…but really…who ever has that on hand?
Honestly I almost always have the stuff I need to whip this up, just waiting to be used.
1 box whole wheat spiral noodles
2 cups frozen spinach or half a bag of fresh (or any other greens you want), I prefer fresh greens
1/3 cup onion diced
3 tsp. minced garlic (or 2-3 fresh cloves minced)
1 tsp. garlic powder, onion powder
1/2 tsp. basil, parsley, and oregano
2 tsp. salt
2-4 tsp. olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes or 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a large pot bring water to boil and cook noodles according to package in salted water. In a small sauce pan saute onions in little oil until translucent. Add minced garlic and cook over med. heat for a min or two making sure not to burn. If using frozen spinach add in greens and a few tbsp. water to get it cooking. Cook over med heat for 5 min. adding water as needed to keep from burning (not too much though because this will be your pesto and pesto can not be watery and you don’t want to have to strain it and loose flavor). At end of the 5 min. add in all spices and salt, stir, and cook another 1-2 min. Remove from heat. Put spinach into blender and puree until smooth adding olive oil as it purees.
(If using fresh spinach, pack the raw leaves into your blender and pour in all spices and salt and cooked onion and garlic with a few tsp. water and olive oil. I prefer to use fresh greens because you don’t have to cook them at all and you get tons more nutrients this way!)
Reserve a coffee mug full of the noodle water to add to pasta as needed if it gets dry as you add the cheese. Strain pasta and place back into large pot. (At this point feel free to toss in any left over roasted or steamed veggies you may have on hand. We like to add sliced cherry tomatoes, roasted zucchini or yellow squash or sometimes I will throw in a few hand fulls of frozen peas into the cooking noodles.) Add the pesto from the blender to the hot noodles and stir until all noodles are coated. Add in Parmesan cheese, reserving any you would like to sprinkle over the top. Salt to taste. Add any of the reserved cooking liquid you need to receive the texture sauce that you’d like at that point. Dish it and serve it!
There are LOTS of variations to this lil’ recipe of mine. You could stir in some mozzarella cheese or cook the noodles to just before al dente and put it in a casserole dish, cover with cheese and bake it for a delicious pasta bake. You could add grilled chicken, sprinkle bacon over the top, add any and all veggies till your hearts content… Let me know if you try anything new with it that you enjoy!