20-Minute Mediterranean Pesto Pasta with Grilled Vegetables
I live in a house of carbo-vores. That's right; carbo-vores are people that consume carbs a LOT and love it! Carbohydrates are not a "bad word" in my house, and I (really do) think I would be voted out of the family if I said "for my next culinary trick" we were going "carb-free." I get it, that's not the story for everyone. For some people, processed carbohydrates such as bread and pasta are limited or avoided to ensure they maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle - I used to limit and avoid as well. Turns out, it was the stuff in the bread and the stuff on the pasta that was adding to my waistline. You guessed it, dairy and other animal products that went along with the carbohydrates; not the carbohydrates in and of themselves.
Since going vegan, my battle with carbohydrates has become a detente and everyone is happy to enjoy as they see fit! We still don't eat processed carbohydrates for every dinner, but I certainly don't mind making pasta once a week. Pesto is my absolute favorite option for pasta because you can load it up with various vegetables and herbs for a gorgeously verdant and highly flavorful dish. Oh, and the pesto itself is loaded with "good for you" ingredients that boost your health and vitamin intake!
Sustainability Spotlight: Here's my sales pitch: Process once and earn three "free" meals for your efforts. But wait, there's more! The initial investment (effort) only takes 10 minutes. "10 minutes!" you say. Yes, only 10 minutes. For 10 minutes of your time, you can have not only one delicious meal the first day, but two more for the week. What does that do for your sustainability efforts? It means that you are guaranteed (yes, guaranteed!) to eat at home at least 3 meals this week for limited muss and limited fuss. That means, you will not be using petroleum resources to go to a meal, you will not be using any external resources such as disposable paper or plastics for your packaging or meal containment, and you will NOT be throwing all of those resources away to the landfill.
Look, I'm a busy person (just like you); I have a family (that includes a husband, two kids and two dogs), a professional gig and I moonlight on this blog for delicious vegan recipes and sustainability spotlights. I can't take all the time in the world to make every meal, and I certainly cannot stomach (in more ways than one) eating out very often. We maybe have fast food / go out to eat a breakfast, lunch or dinner once a month. Yes, you read that right; once a month. Accordingly to multiple surveys & studies online, the average American eats out (i.e. - commercially prepared meal) 4-5 times a week. Now that we have more options for fast-food home delivery (Grub Hub, Uber Eats, Caviar, Postmates, etc.), that number may be increasing for the average household. As we utilize food services more and more, our waste generation to landfills is also increasing. Eating at home relies on you wanting to eat what you have at home, actually having fresh foods to prepare meals at home, AND (this is the big one) ease of making the food.
With this recipe you have that; the pesto is delicious (you will want to eat it), it's fresh and homemade (so you are set on what you are eating), and it's SO easy to build 3 dishes around 1 "ingredient." Are you ready for the list?
20-Minute Mediterranean Pesto Pasta with Grilled Vegetables (this recipe)
"Green" Eggs and Tomato Toast: Toast a big bakery style wheat bread slice (to preference), smooth 2 tbsp pesto over the bread, top with JustEgg (make in a skillet with a pinch of herbed salt and 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast - cook like an omelette sized to fit your toast), thinly sliced tomato and a small handful of arugula.
Layered Tuscan Quinoa Bowl: Cook 1 cup rinsed quinoa (fluff); layer in bowls with roasted broccoli florets (silpat lined pan at 425 degrees F; broccoli tossed with salt and a bit of olive oil - roast for ~15-18 minutes until vibrant green), some great northern white beans (rinsed) and chopped sun-dried tomatoes. Now drizzle with pesto and serve.
1 lb pasta of your choice (we used spaghetti)
1/2 eggplant (small cubes)
1/2 zucchini (cubes)
1/2 yellow squash (cubes)
1/2 red onion (chopped)
salt, pepper & dried oregano (to taste)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Mediterranean Pesto Sauce:
18 oz jar of marinated whole artichokes (drained)
1 handful parsley
1 handful basil
3/4 cup sliced almonds
1 lemon (juiced)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3-4 garlic cloves
1 handful spinach
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth (or stock - whatever you have open)
Heat a large pot of water over medium-high heat. Once it boils, add pasta and cook according to package directions (~12-15 minutes) until al dente. Drain (do not rinse) and set aside. Remember, you can use pasta water as a great way (once cooled) to water your indoor plants!
While your pasta is cooking, add all ingredients in the Grilled Vegetable list above in a bowl; toss to coat with spices and oil / vinegar. Heat an indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Dump your veggies onto the grill pan; stir infrequently for ~8-10 minutes until vegetables soften and get grill marks. Remove from heat.
Add all ingredients of Mediterranean Pesto Sauce to a large food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Blitz until you have a consistent sauce but not too much so that it is a liquid. You want "small bits" of your pesto ingredients still visible for texture.
Add all but ~2 cups of the pesto to your noodles, stir to coat and to warm the pesto sauce a bit. Put pasta in bowls and top with grilled vegetables. Serve warm.
This was my husband's favorite pesto I have ever created; definitely one he found worthy to eat multiple times in the week. With each iteration, I think he loved it even more!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie