By Sangeeta Pradhan
INDIA New England Columnist
A pesto sauce that pops with flavor and nutrients! Nothing spells spring and summer like tender, fresh, sweet corn, served straight off of the cob. Shallots, garlic and walnuts sautéed in olive oil, and then blended into the pesto sauce, add an unexpected, and delicious variation to the traditional version, making it burst with flavor. The fresh corn adds a delightful crunch that will have your guests drooling for more. What’s more, this recipe also packs a hefty nutrient punch with the antioxidant power of spinach, omega -3 fatty acids from walnuts, Vitamin C from tomatoes and a hefty dose of fiber from the whole wheat pasta. Great way to sneak in the spinach for fussy kids (and a few grown ups)! So go ahead, dig in and enjoy!
Servings: 8, 1 cup servings of pasta salad
Pesto sauce: Yield : 1 cup (This is more than enough for this recipe and you may have some left over)
- 3.5- 4 cups spinach leaves
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves + a couple of extra leaves for garnish
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, or per taste
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3/4 tsp salt, divided
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped garlic
- 3 tbsp coarsely chopped walnuts
- 3 cups dry pasta (penne or rotini spirals)
- 2 ears corn on the cob, husks and silk removed
- 3/4 cup yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved
- In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, saute the garlic in 1 tbsp of the olive oil until a mild, golden brown. Be careful to ensure that the garlic does not burn, and adjust the heat accordingly.
- Add shallots to the garlic in the pan, stirring for a few minutes until soft and translucent.
- Stir the chopped walnuts until coated with the onion, garlic mixture, remove from the stove top and set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions, making sure to add 1/2 tsp of salt or per taste, to the boiling water. Drain and keep covered on a warm platter or serving dish.
- In a food processor, add the spinach leaves, basil, the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil, lemon juice, 1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese, and pulse until mixture begins to come together forming a paste.
- At this point, add the onion-garlic and pecan mixture from step 3, and blend on high-speed until completely incorporated into pesto sauce in the food processor. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice as desired.
- Steam corn on the cob until tender, about 12 minutes or so. Using a small, sharp knife, remove corn kernels.
- Add corn, and chopped tomatoes to warm pasta .
- Add prepared pesto to the pasta-corn-tomato mixture and toss to coat all ingredients evenly.
- Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Registered Dietitian’s tip:
When it comes to pesto, you would be hard pressed to find one that is nutritionally superior to a spinach-based pesto sauce.
Spinach can pack a hefty punch owing to it’s impressive nutritional profile which includes the powerful antioxidants, Vitamins A, and C as well as the key mineral, iron. In addition, like most leafy greens, spinach is a potent source of Vitamin K, the B vitamin folate (think “foliage”), and the minerals potassium and magnesium. A good source of fiber, spinach offers all of these wonderful nutrients in a very low-calorie package.
Combating oxidative damage: Spinach has important nutrients called lutein and zeaxanthin that may possibly have a protective effect against age related macular degeneration by acting as antioxidants that quench free radicals (single, highly reactive oxygen molecules), that may damage the eye as a part of the aging process.
Disclaimer: This blog is strictly for informational purposes, and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your personal physician or registered dietitian for recommendations tailored to your specific needs.