I’ve always loved pesto, I could eat it spooned over crackers or grilled veggies, tossed with pasta, spread as a pizza base, slathered on a sandwich or drizzled over a cheese and vegetable platter. I think you get the point, I like the stuff just a tad bit 🙂 In my little food world, it’s the Italian equivalent of hummus…it can go on almost anything.
While I am all for healthy fats, a tablespoon of traditional pesto can pack a caloric punch…and if used as generously as I do, it also can pack on the pounds. When I came across this recipe for a white bean pesto sauce with penne pasta, I was immediately intrigued. A no-cheese, low-oil creamy sauce or dip with plenty of garlicky herb pesto flavor that can be whipped up in about 5 minutes. I’m in!
This pesto pasta recipe was discovered on Christie’s blog, A Kitchen Hoor, which I was happily assigned for this month’s Secret Recipe Club reveal. Not only has she been cooking since she was “tall enough to see over the counter”, Christie “loves to mutate recipes into her own creations” such as her Corned Beef and Cabbage Enchiladas and her Saffron Baked Beignets. Talk about creativity! Her claim to fame was also being featured on Emeril Live! for her Elegant Sweet Potato Skins!
I seriously contemplated making her sweet potato skins, however with the summer weather approaching I thought a no-cook, versatile sauce and pasta might be more appropriate. I loved this recipe both hot tossed with pasta as well as the leftovers cold from the fridge so that’s a huge bonus in my book. Plus, this pesto sauce can be used as a dip, a spread, or drizzled over rice, vegetables, meats, etc.
I tweaked Christie’s recipe slightly to make it gluten-free and more substantial as a main dish (yes, I like big portions). I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the sauce to bring out the fresh flavors a bit more without me having to add too much salt. I substituted whole wheat penne for this gluten-free multigrain penne and tossed in oven-roasted some grape tomatoes and zucchini for a little extra bulk. I was very pleased with this meal! Full of flavor that was complex yet simple in it’s ingredients and filling! I’ll be making this pesto again, I might even try it as a sauce for potato salad…is this strange? 🙂
White Bean Basil Pesto Penne (slightly adapted from this recipe)
Gluten-free, Grain-free option, Dairy-free, Nut-free option, Vegan, Vegetarian, Quick, Sugar-free, No-Cook
- 1 cup canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (I used low-sodium)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 ounce almonds (could use pinenuts for a variation or use sunflower seeds and hemp seeds for nut-free)
- 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice from 1/3 lemon
- 8 ounces gluten free penne or other pasta*, cooked per package directions
- 1 cup oven-roasted grape tomatoes** (optional)
- 1 medium zucchini, cubed and roasted** (optional)
- Combine beans, basil, broth, almonds, oil, and garlic, lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as desired.
- Toss with hot, cooked pasta and serve!
*For a grain-free option, toss with cooked spaghetti squash, grilled veggies or grilled meat, or use a spread or a dip.
** I added in some roasted grape tomatoes and zucchini but your favorite vegetable could be substituted. I cut 1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes in half and cubed the zucchini, tossed them both with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and baked at 350F for about 25 minutes.
For additional protein, toss in more beans for vegetarian or grilled or roasted chicken or shrimp.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if that suites your fancy or some toasted almonds or pine nuts for a nuttier flare.
Substitute your favorite roasted vegetable or eliminate the veggies altogether if you’re not a fan. Sauteed green would be delicious too. Make it your own!