Pesto pasta was a firm favourite of mine when at university. A cheesy, flavoursome bowl of salty stodge – what’s not to like? Ummm maybe the gluten? Or how about the dairy??? The preservatives so commonly added to jarred sauces? I cringe somewhat to think of the kilogram value bags of dried fusili pasta I used to plow through; economical yes, but a nutritionally leaving a lot to be desired.
Last week I covered replacements for the pasta component here, so today it’s all about the ‘pesto’. I make various versions of pesto, all of which I will be sure to share, but the creaminess of this cashew cream pesto blew my socks off! The thing I love most about it? IT’S SO EASY!!! Since moving to America I have yet to buy a blender, so this little number was made in my NutriBULLET - I cannot recommend it highly enough! Basically zero preparation required and with no effort at all you’ve got a yummy, versatile sauce!
Today’s featured dish serves the pesto with spaghetti squash but it is also great with courgetti. For info on creating both of these marvels, see here.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4):
FOR THE PESTO:
1 cup raw cashews
4 cups/1litre boiling water
1 cup of fresh water
Large handful of fresh basil, leaves picked
1 clove of garlic
Juice of half a lemon
Sea Salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
FOR THE SQUASH:
1 large spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
optional: Salt & pepper
FOR THIS DISH:
1 bunch of asparagus (approx 250g)
2 large handfuls of spinach
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp of coconut oil
200g raw, peeled prawns
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil to garnish
Soak cashews in the boiled water for about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Slice spaghetti squash in half, remove seeds, coat in the olive oil and a shake of salt and pepper if you like. Bake flesh side down until it’s easy to pierce the flesh through to the skin (approximately 30 - 40 minutes depending on size). Once cooked, allow to cool slightly then ‘strip’ it using a fork.
After the allotted soaking time, drain and rinse the cashews, put in a blender or nutribullet with the fresh water and blend briefly. Add all remaining pesto ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
In a large frying pan, blanch the asparagus for 2-3 minutes in boiling water (just enough to cover them) until cooked but retaining some bite. Drain and allow to cool, then chop into bite size pieces.
In the same pan, melt the coconut oil, add the garlic and prawns and cook through.
Return asparagus to pan along with the spinach and continue to cook until spinach has wilted. Turn down the heat and stir in the creamy pesto sauce to warm through. Add a splash of water here if the sauce is a little too thick for you.
Either add stripped spaghetti squash to the pan to mix it all together, or place some squash in a bowl and then top with the sauce, some fresh basil to garnish and hey ‘pesto’, you’re done!
This pesto provides a hugely versatile base to work with so play around with different combos -the opportunities here are endless!
3 OTHER (OF MANY) COMBINATIONS I lOVE:
Chicken, mushroom, brocolli and toasted pine nuts.
Smoked salmon, kale and mushroom.
Courgette, asparagus tips and peas.
- WHY BOTHER??? -
Last week a friend asked me “...but why should I replace pasta with these alternatives?” Well, moving away from the obvious “gluten-free” answer, squash offers an abundance of ‘health-bites’ that in my opinion out-weigh those of pasta, particularly if you’re trying to shed a few pounds. For starters, spaghetti squash has a much lower calorie content; comparatively a 100g portion of pasta has 158 calories compared to only 27 in spaghetti squash. Similarly the squash has only 7 grams of carbohydrates, pasta - 31 grams! Ok so you’re getting less protein than the pasta provides, but this is where the cashew nuts step up to the plate. Worried about the high fat content of the nuts? Don’t be! Firstly the squash is basically fat free, so this offsets totals somewhat. Cashews also have a lower fat content than many other nuts and the fats they do have are GOOD FATS! Full of poly and monounsaturated fats, which are said to lower cholesterol and improve heart health, not to mention the super dooper antioxidant omega-3 fatty acids. ALL essential minerals are found in squash (confession – they’re all found in pasta too), but add to this; dietary fibre, vitamin A, C, B6, antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin and more, and it’s clear why squash is absolutely a healthy choice!
So enjoy my friends, and do so guilt-free, because this creamy bowl of salty stodge is full of health and goodness. HAPPY DAYS :)