Monday, August 27, 2012

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta + How to freeze Pesto

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

I'm excited today because I have the honor of introducing you to your new favorite pasta. Chances are you don't know about it. The pasta I'm talking about is the single BEST pasta I have ever eaten. It has a deliciously chewy and al dente texture, is hard to over cook, and tastes like white pasta. Ahem, excuse me, it gets even better: Remember the pasta scene in "Eat, Pray, Love"where Julia Roberts twirls her fork in that marinara sauce with thick, white noodles in girlish delight? Yeah, it tastes like that looks.

And if that wasn't enough to make you leave your computer screen and hustle to the store, this pasta I'm raving about? It's organic brown rice pasta. I'm not kidding. It's wheat free and gluten free, 100% whole grain, NON mushy pasta.


I'm talking about this pasta specifically. Tinkyada brand. I'm not getting paid. I haven't been contacted by this company. I'm just nuts for their pasta. I can't vouch for any other brands. I got mine at Whole Foods.

Why is this pasta so good for you? People have a hard time digesting wheat. I'm not preaching a gluten free lifestyle here, I don't follow one, but hear me out. We don't have the enzymes in our saliva and stomach to fully break down and absorb gluten for our nutritional use. Even if you are not a celiac, or sufferer of wheat allergies, you might feel more energetic by limiting your wheat intake. Dr. Michelle Pietzak, a celiac expert at USC says 

"Depending on your genetic make-up, you can have an allergy, you can have celiac disease, or it could be that you're just not digesting it well." 

Your body can assimilate the whole grain nutrients in brown rice pasta easily and quickly, which does not tax our immune systems, and doesn't require so much energy for our body to digest. Which, basically means we aren't left feeling heavy and fatigued, like a traditional pasta dinner would and our bodies can recover faster. Cool?

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

The second part of this post is about the recipe. I have as much adoration for this recipe as I do the actual pasta if you can believe that. This meal was hands down the best I've eaten in weeks, maybe months. Please take into consideration that I tend to be extremely dramatic when it comes to food. Even so, this pasta was exceptional. The toothiness of the thick al dente pasta against the soft crunch of mild squash, and all swaddled together in a thick little pesto; that because of it's oil and cheese content (neither of which are that bad) becomes so silky and creamy that it causes the pasta to stick together when twirled with a fork. All this for a light dish. This pasta is many things, but heavy is not one of them. Glory be. 

Do you all know how to freeze pesto? You know, so you can save summers bounty for a cold winters night when you could use a cozy little bowl of pasta wrapped in summers warmth? 


Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

This meal comes together in a snap.

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta

Creamy Zucchini Strand Pesto Pasta
serves 4-6

1/4 cup plus 2-3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
2 small garlic cloves
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or 1 tbsp pine nuts, and 1 tbsp walnuts)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese contain stabilizers that won't allow the cheese to melt properly)

1 package Whole Grain Brown Rice pasta
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups zucchini and yellow squash strands (either julienned by a mandolin or by hand)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper
1 recipe frozen pesto (recipe above)

Make the Pesto at least the day before and up to three months ahead of making this dish so it has time to freeze. 

Place 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon olive oil, plus the rest of the pesto ingredients in a magic bullet or mini food processor and blend to combine. Place pesto into a mason jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil (about a quarter inch). Make sure the entire surface of your pesto is covered by the oil. Put the lid back on and place upright in your freezer. It will keep for about 3 months. To defrost, just plunge your frozen jar, lid securely on, in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes. Replace with fresh warm water if it didn't thaw all the way through the first time.

Defrost pesto, and get a pot of salted boiling water going for the pasta. Boil pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is boiling, heat a large skillet and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add julienned squash and saute for about 5 minutes, or until squash is soft, but still has some texture to it. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to low, and add the pesto. Let it slowly heat and melt through the squash. When the pasta is done, drain and rinse under cool water for a few seconds. Toss the pasta with the pesto and squash until combined and heated through.

I'm pretty sure the thickness of the sauce in this pasta has to do with my pesto ratios, and being previously frozen. Perhaps due to the higher oil content? I highly recommend freezing the pesto before using it for this recipe since the cheese and oils melt together to create that blanket of sauce that covers the noodles so well. If you really can't spare the time and are hell bent on using fresh pesto, I would recommend adding a tablespoon or so more of oil to your mix.


  1. Delicious... flavorful pasta!