And coming to the recipe my hubby is a very big fan of pesto especially the basil pesto and he is not at all really fond of tomato based sauces.So I always end up making different kinds of pesto sauces and among which spinach pesto also has become our favorite.I generally add bechamel sauce to this pasta as I like my pasta bit rich and creamier without extra calories.I have mentioned some healthier options in the recipe for especially weight watchers which is equally delicious as the one with calories and if you are not really bothered about extra calories just follow the procedure and you will definitely enjoy this cheesy delicacy.This is a great dish for parties,get-together's and special dinner's and check the notes for a serving method for those occasions.
4 cups penne pasta
12-15 button mushrooms,thinly sliced
1 carrot,finely chopped
1 big onion,sliced thin horizontally
4-5 big garlic pods,finely sliced
1 tsp mixed dried Italian herbs
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp grated parmesan to garnish(optional)
1 tsp chopped parsley for garnish
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil(EVOO)
salt and ground pepper to taste
For Bechamel Sauce:
1/4 cup all purpose flour(or 1/4 cup whole wheat flour as a healthier option)
3 tbsp butter (or 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil as a healthier option)
approx 300 ml hot milk
a pinch of grated nutmeg
a generous pinch of freshly ground pepper
salt to taste
For Spinach Pesto:
1 medium bunch spinach
a small bunch of fresh parsley(approx 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup pine nuts or 1/4 cup walnuts
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese(optional,I did not use it but makes it more rich)
2 garlic pods
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
To Cook Pasta:
- Cook according to the instruction of your package or follow this procedure:
- Bring water to a boil in a big pot (filled to its half) and add salt,1 tsp olive oil and pasta and cook over medium flame for 10-12 mins until al dente(cooked and tender to teeth).
- Drain and reserve 1/2 cup of water for later usage.you can even give a cold bath to the pasta by running it under fresh tap water which helps in keeping the pasts separate.
- Boil water and add salt and chopped spinach and blanch for a minute or two and immediately let it go under a cold bath which helps in retaining the color of spinach.
- Blend spinach with all the other ingredients under the pesto section to a slightly coarse sauce.If needed add some strained spinach water to ease in grinding.
- Heat butter/olive oil in a pan on medium flame and add flour/wheat flour and whisk immediately with a balloon whisk until it forms a smooth paste of it.
- Now add slowly hot milk into this paste and whisk continuously until you get a smooth uniform mixture.Cook it for 2-3 mins until the raw smell of the mixture goes away by stirring it continuosly.
- Season it with enough salt,pepper powder,ground nutmeg to it and mix well.
- Heat olive oil in a wide bottomed pan and fry sliced garlic until slight brown and crisp and add thinly sliced onions and fry until they are pink and soft.
- Now add sliced mushroom and chopped caroot and cook until tender.
- Add the spinach pesto sauce,bechamel sauce and mix well.Add 1/4 cup reserved pasta liquid if required add more to get a medium sauce consistency.
- Add cooked pasta and mix well until all the pasta is covered with the sauce and is warm.Now add red chili flakes,Italian herbs,salt and pepper and mix well.
- Dish it out to the serving platter and sprinkle some cheese over it.Garnish with chopped parsley.
- You can make Basil Pesto in a similar way by just replacing blanched spinach with Italian basil while making pesto sauce.No need to blanch basil,just add it raw.
- You can even avoid bechamel sauce in the above recipe but I personally add to give a nice creamy texture to the pasta.
- You can even fill the pasta in a baking dish and cover with grated parmesan cheese(1/4-1/2 cup) and cover it with a foil and bake it in oven @ 160 degrees for 20 mins until the cheese melts.Serve it hot right from the oven.This would be a exclusive dish for parties especially or for special romantic dinners.