Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Monday: Whole Grain Spaghetti with Spinach-Walnut Pesto

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Spinach-Walnut Pesto
Big news--the ultimate diva herself, Oprah Winfrey, announced last week that she's adopting Meatless Monday at Harpo, her company (read about it here)!

This was on the same episode that she put over three hundred of her staff members through Oprah's Vegan Challenge for a week, which I think is a great exercise for anyone looking to reform their eating habits. The episode also featured the veganist advocate Kelly Freston and the omnivore himself, Michael Pollan.

As Oprah declared, Meatless Monday is a simple way to "lean" into being a healthier and more conscious eater. Anyone can cut out meat one day a week, and it's a great way to broaden your palette and rely on ingredients other than meat to provide protein and generate flavor. It will make you a better cook.

Now everyone I know loves pesto, a dish that originated in Northern Italy. The word itself literally means "to crush," a reference to the way the herbs and garlic are crushed together, generally in a mortar and pestle. However, in this modern age, I rely on my trusty Cuisinart Mini Prep food processor, which is only $35 dollars. I use it to make all sorts of sauces and pesto.

While traditionally made with basil and pine nuts, I love making my pesto with other types of greens like spinach (I don't need to tell you how healthy raw spinach is, do I?) and walnuts (great source of omega-3's and healthy protein). I toss the pesto with a whole grain spaghetti (I love this Vitaspelt Organic Whole Grain Spelt Spaghetti), but any whole grain/wheat pasta works.

I also make my pesto as a vegan dish (no parmesan)--you'll be blown away by how great it tastes without cheese, the nuts making it super creamy. Instead, I shave a little parm on top with my microplane tableside for anyone who desires it, but feel free to add the parm to your pesto if you prefer.

Whole Grain Spaghetti with Spinach-Walnut Pesto
Whole Grain Spaghetti with Spinach-Walnut Pesto
Serves 4-6 people
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Print Recipe

1 pound whole grain spaghetti, cooked per package instructions and drained
3 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and well-packed
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
optional: parmesan reggiano for grating

Place the spinach, walnuts, garlic, salt, and pepper (everything except the oil) in a food processor and combine well. Use a spatula to scrape the sides and process again. Using the feed tube, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until everything is smooth, but not oily. You may only use 2 tablespoons of the oil.

Pesto may be kept in the fridge in a sealed container topped with oil, or frozen in ice cube trays or in a plastic freezer bag (lay flat so you can break off desired amounts for soups, crostini, or pasta). Makes about 1 cup of pesto.

To plate, toss desired amount of pesto with the whole grain spaghetti (you may not use all of it). Divide into portions on plates or in pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated parmesan reggiano if desired. Enjoy!

Source for Ingredients
organic baby spinach, organic walnuts, Vitaspelt whole grain spelt spaghetti, extra virgin olive oil, and parmesan reggiano from Whole Foods

organic garlic from the Hollywood Farmers Market


  1. I've been eating vegan for just over a month, and it's been a very eye-opening and fulfilling experience. There are tons of dishes that can be veganized of course. Pesto is an easy one!

  2. Wow, that's great! I think going without meat can be a great experience--and make you a better cook. I LOVE making veggie meals, and do so several times a week. I made fabulous roasted beet risotto the other night--to make it vegan, use a vegetable broth and whip in good olive oil at the end instead of butter and cheese.

  3. Wow, this recipe is just chock full of green! Thanks for linking this up to the Healthy Hop.