Meatless Monday: Pesto Pasta With Spinach

Sure, this recipe from America's Test Kitchen uses mayonnaise where it perhaps doesn't strictly need to. But on the other side of the ledger, it also adds in a mess of spinach: not necessary for pesto either, but it certainly adds some nutritional oomph. Finish with a dusting of Parmesan -- for the calcium, of course.

Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen
Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen

Pesto Pasta With Spinach
Serves 4 or 5
3/4 cup pine nuts
2 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 pound farfalle (bow ties) pasta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 additional tablespoon
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about 4 ounces)
1 cup baby spinach (packed), about 1 ounces
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 2/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered, or grape tomatoes, halved

Bring 4 quarts of water to rolling boil in a large pot. Toast pine nuts in small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally, until just golden and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.

When water is boiling, add garlic and let cook 1 minute. Remove garlic with slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop cooking; set aside to cool. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to water, stir to separate, and cook until tender (just past al dente). Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, drain pasta, toss with 1 tablespoon oil, spread in single layer on rimmed baking sheet, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

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When garlic is cool, peel and mince or press through garlic press. Place 1/4 cup nuts, garlic, basil, spinach, pepper, lemon juice, remaining 1/4 cup oil, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in bowl or food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl if necessary. Add cheese and mayonnaise and process until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to large serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.

When pasta is cool, toss with pesto, adding reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time until pesto evenly coats pasta. Fold in remaining 1/2 cup nuts and tomatoes; serve.

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