Cashew Pesto and Veggie Pasta
As an Italian, it is a sin to not like pasta. I always had pasta growing up; once a week, twice a week, hell we had it all the time. We even used to have lasagna as an appetizer on Thanksgiving. This day and age, pasta has been given such a bad rap. It’s high in carbs, its not good for you, etc. To me, I don’t see carbs as a bad thing. Yeah, eating bread all day everyday probably isn’t the best thing for you, but it doesn’t mean that you should completely cut it out of your diet. With everything it is okay to have things in moderation, treat yourself occasionally.
Today it’s amazing that there are companies that put out wheat free pasta. Chickpea or lentil pasta is an amazing alternative if you want to cut back on your gluten intake. I have tried many brands, but through and through I always choose Banza. No this is not sponsored, I promise, this brand just never lets me down. Being Italian, I know my pasta, and this honestly gives original pasta a run for its money. Banza pasta gives so much more flavor, their pasta gives off this rich taste and texture, you will not miss regular pasta at all. The one thing you must worry about is over cooking it. When it goes past the point of al dente, it will tend to fall apart a little bit. Other than that, I highly recommend! It also freezes very well which makes it great for meal prepping.
This week, I was really craving a good pesto pasta. Pesto is such a weakness of mine, especially creamy ones, it is such an indulgence I can never get rid of. Besides being wonderful, they are super easy to make. Even the most novice of cooks can’t mess this up. A traditional base is: pine nuts, basil, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan. Now I could have just stuck with the basics, but you know me, I like to spice it up. With my transition into veganism, the first thing I’m starting to cut out from my daily diet is cheese. It has been hard trust me, I don’t want to preach to you about how you should become vegan, but since my cutback on cheese I have felt so much lighter. Lighter being, that I feel like I’m not carrying around an eight-pound bag of cheese on my back, you catch my drift? Dairy can weigh the body down, making you feel heavy and full all the time.
Okay enough of my rant, let’s get back to meal talk.
I took out the parmesan cheese and replaced it with a richer nut, cashews. Using cashews as a base, gives a richer pesto and adds more nutrients than pine nuts does. Cashews are a great alternative to adding cheese to a dish, or sauce. We have all seen many recipes out there for macaroni and cheese using cashews as a base. They make pesto even better, and a lot healthier for you too. I even added spinach to add even more nutrients. It is very easy to add in beneficial ingredients to pesto’s, you can even add kale, switch up which nuts you use. Try any combo and see how it works. Be careful adding garlic to your pesto though. Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with garlic, but adding in five cloves of raw garlic to your pesto is just a little bit stanky, if you know what I mean.
It wouldn’t be one of my meals if I wasn’t adding a bunch of roasted veggies to it. I can’t help myself, roasting veggies makes every meal so much better. And you need to be eating more veggies in your life, they’re just too good for you to not eat them.
On top of the veggies, I wanted to add in some crispy tofu. Add some protein to it, so I can make it through a day or night that way I don’t have some unneeded cravings. Last time I try to make this meal I baked the tofu in the oven, and it didn’t turn out the way I expected it to. I thought it would turn out crispy, but instead it was more of a dehydrated block, we all learn from our mistakes. I threw some coconut oil in a pan, crisped up these little nuggets of protein and they were as good as gold. Feel free to add any choice of protein to it, shrimp would be a great addition to this meal.
Okay, let’s get cookin’!
Vegan and Gluten Free
Category: Meal Prep
Prep time: 15 minutes Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes
o 2 boxes Banza chickpea shells
o 2 packages extra firm organic tofu
o 2 zucchinis
o 1 red onion (use half if you don’t like too much onion)
o 1 large package baby bella mushrooms
o 1 red bell pepper
o 1 small head of cauliflower
o ¾ cup raw cashews
o 6 basil leaves
o 3 garlic cloves
o 1 ½ cups spinach
o ¼ cup olive oil (I ran out, so I used coconut oil, which was interesting to say the least, but it wasn’t terrible)
o 2-3 tbsp coconut oil
o 2 tbsp oregano
o 2 tbsp red pepper flakes
o 2 tbsp thyme
o 2 tbsp black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 F
2. Place a large pot on the stove and bring to boil
3. Prep all veggies, cutting them into 1-inch pieces
4. Take one block of tofu, drain, wrap in paper towels, press between two plates and microwave for 3 minutes; repeat with other tofu
5. Put veggies into large bowl: add in 1 tbsp melted coconut oil along with 1 tbsp of each seasonings
6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray, and lay out veggies evenly
7. Be careful not to crowd, because veggies with steam not roast
8. Let veggies roast for 15 minutes, since this is for a meal prep you don’t want to cook the veggies completely. The more you cook them now, the soggier they will become in your meal prep containers.
9. When water in large pot is at a rolling boil, add a splash of EVOO (to help pasta from sticking) and let pasta cook for the time said on box. When done, strain and rinse pasta. Place in separate bowl and let cool.
10. Once tofu is cooled, cut into 1-inch cubes, season with same seasonings for veggies
11. Heat a large pan on the stove to medium heat, once heated add in 1 tbsp of coconut oil
12. Toss in enough tofu pieces to cover the pan, leave enough space in between so tofu can crisp up.
13. Once tofu is browned on each side, a paper towel over a cooling rack to absorb excess oil
14. When tofu and veggies are down, set aside and let cool
15. For pesto: add all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth.
16. Assembly: Lay pasta on bottom of container, veggies, tofu and pesto on top. DISCLAIMER: Since using coconut oil in pesto it will form a sort of butter consistency. DO NOT be alarmed, once melted it will smooth out into a normal pesto.
17. To divide everything up, I usually eyeball it. I start off with a 3/4th cup measure and add less or more if needed.
Macro and Micro Breakdown:
Calories: 520 cal
Protein: 33 g
Carbs: 54 g
Fat: 23 g
Fiber: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 8 g
Unsaturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
I use #lifesum to track all my macros and to make sure that I am staying on track. This is not an add, I've been using this app for over a year now. It really has kept me on check to make sure I'm getting the right nutrients every day.
Hope you enjoy!
Let me know what you think :)