The smell of fresh basil growing in my herb garden might just be my favorite thing about summer. Combining it with easy ingredients that I already have on hand is a close second.
This recipe is pretty easy and forgiving, just aim for three cups of any combination of greens that you love the flavor of (here I use arugula and basil). I personally love the flavor of arugula, but if it’s not your thing, you can use spinach, kale or more basil.
Choose a healthy whole grain and/or gluten-free pasta that is high in protein and fiber. I love the brand TruRoots ancient grain gluten-free penne. A linguini or spaghetti cut would also work, but I love how the pesto gets trapped inside the penne in this dish.
Real Parmigiano Reggiano is a long-fermented hard cheese made in Italy. The standards for the product are so high that there are actual laws in Italy to protect it. Just don’t mistake parmesan-in-a-can for the real thing because that type of parmesan is high-processed, contains additives, and should be avoided. Real Parmigiano Reggiano is expensive but is sold by weight so ask your store for a small piece if buying it, and remember that a little goes a long way.
Pecorino Romano is a delicious Italian sheep’s milk cheese that is similar to Parmigiano Reggiano and full of robust flavor. I generally avoid cow’s milk cheese because it makes my skin look terrible, but I find that both real Parmigiano Reggiano (cow’s milk) and Pecorino Romano (sheep’s milk) cheese much easier to digest and they don’t affect my skin. A little here and there adds great flavor to any dish and, again, doesn’t seem to affect my skin. However, this recipe is still delicious without it. Omit the cheese to keep this dairy-free and vegan if desired.
This recipe is easily doubled for second-day leftovers, which I highly recommend.Print
- 1/2 pound gluten-free penne pasta
- 1 large clove garlic, peeled
- 2 cups loosely packed arugula
- 1 cup loosely packed basil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large ripe avocado
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- Reserved pasta cooking water
- Optional: 2 tablespoons grated (real) Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese (leave this out to make this dish vegan)
- Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, cooking it one minute less than recommended for an al dente texture.
- Method 1 for a chunky texture: While the pasta is cooking, pulse the garlic in the food processor until finely chopped. Pulsing the garlic alone before the rest of the ingredients are added ensures that large chunks of raw garlic don’t end up in your pesto. Add the arugula, basil, pine nuts, cheese if using salt and pepper to the food processor and processes until finely chopped. Transfer the chopped greens mixture to a large bowl. Add the avocado, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water (or just purified water) to the food processor and blend until smooth. Add the avocado mixture to the bowl with the chopped greens. Toss with the cooked pasta to coat, adding extra pasta cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time if needed to thin out the sauce. Garnish with freshly chopped basil.
- Method 2 for a smooth texture: Add all of the ingredients except the pasta to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Toss with the cooked pasta to coat, adding extra pasta cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time if needed to thin out the sauce. Garnish with freshly chopped basil.
- Store leftovers in a glass airtight container in the refrigerator up to two days. This dish is also delicious cold.