In some of my older posts, I talk about spiralizing vegetables in place of pasta. I chose not to do that here, but if you were wondering what might be a good vegetable alternative, sweet potatoes receive my highest recommendation. The extra sweetness adds a whole other element to the pistachio-lemon-chili combo. Both cubed and spiralized potatoes work well. Zucchini and yellow squash come in second for their mild flavor and flash cooking time.
And if you don't like mushrooms? There are many other choices that would work well too. Sautéed fresh asparagus, broccoli, peas or carrots. Even easier, root around in your freezer and toss some frozen vegetables in with the pasta during the last 2-3 minutes before draining it. Then add a smidge of salt and pepper to taste, stir in the pesto and voilà! Whatever you choose, make sure the flavor isn't so strong as to overpower the pesto.
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
2 cups flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons water, as needed
1/2 cup finely grated dairy or vegan parmesan cheese
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Pasta and Mushrooms:
16 ounces fusilli pasta, (quinoa, brown rice and wheat pasta all work well)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
16 ounces sliced mushrooms
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the pistachios on a small cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes depending on your oven. Remove and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
In a food processor or high speed blender, pulse the pistachios, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth. If needed, stop to scrape the sides and loosen the pesto mixture near the blades with a rubber spatula. If the machine struggles to smooth the pesto out, add the water one tablespoon at a time until a thick paste forms. Blend the cheese and the chili powder (1/4 teaspoon at a time to determine spice tolerance), into the pesto and set aside.
Pasta and Mushrooms:
In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown on all sides, turning frequently. Set aside. Boil the pasta according to package directions and drain into a colander. Return the pasta to the pot, add the mushrooms and gently stir in the pesto. Divide among 8 bowls and garnish with a bit of parsley. Serve alone or with a tossed salad and warm bread.
Yield: approximately 1 cup pesto / 8 total servings when combined with the pasta and mushrooms