Even though spring has not yet sprung here in the far, forgotten northern regions of Manitoba, Canada, a girl can dream and as someone recently reminded me, spring always comes after winter; we might have to tarry a little longer this time but spring will come (gonna preach to myself y’all!). So while I have been dreaming about wearing my flip flops to work and long sunny days at the lake, my culinary interests have turned to basil. ‘Cause nothing tells your mouth that food should be vibrant and alive like the distinct, fragrant scent and intensely pleasing flavor of fresh basil. Easy to grow in a little pot by the window, basil can be accessible all year long; unless you are like me and your basil just would not grow properly last summer. I don’t know if I had a bum pot of basil or if it was its placement in the kitchen (the year before we had been living in the apartment and my basil plants had thrived) but either way, I have been basil-less all winter. Sad. And since basil can be fairly expensive and sometimes not very fresh in the store, I have steered clear of my fave basil recipes. But this week, I figured I would help my goal of maintaining an “attitude of gratitude” if I had a satisfying pasta recipe to soothe me (snow? Ha! I laugh in the face of relentlessly falling snow!). Guess what? It helped! It definitely helped. If you are not convinced, here are some basil fun facts: basil has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects as well as nutrients essential for cardiovascular health! Basil is also “an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese; a very good source of copper, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.” Armed with all that basil-y goodness, a girl can continue to trudge past sky-high snowbanks on her way to work and have a smile on her face. This basil-icious recipe is an adaptation of a Robin Robertson favourite (Linguine with Cannellini Pesto) from Quick Fix Vegan. Robertson’s recipe is stand-alone good but I am often a one-dish kinda gal, especially for after work suppers, so I threw in some extra ingredients to up the veggie factor and round out the meal.
Linguine with Cannellini Spinach Pesto
- 12 ounces linguine
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cube of frozen spinach, half thawed or 1/2 cup fresh spinach
- 1 heaping tablespoon of nutritional yeast
- 1-1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1/2 cup hot pasta water
- 1 large red pepper, seeded & chopped
- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/3 cup pine nuts (optional)
Cook the linguine in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 10 minutes or as per package instructions. During the last minute, add the chopped red pepper. While the pasta is cooking, combine the remaining ingredients, except for the sundried tomatoes, in a blender and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Add as much of the hot pasta water as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Drain the cooked pasta and peppers, return to the pot and toss with the pesto and sundried tomatoes until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt as needed. Top with the pine nuts (if using) and serve immediately.