My husband loves to grow his own herbs. He is truly the cook in our house, and he prefers to use his own ingredients when he can. Recently, we have had an abundance of basil, so we decided to make a pesto pasta dish!
Making pesto from scratch is surprisingly quick and easy, especially with a tool like our beloved Vitamix. And the kids love the task of switching the Vitamix on and watching the ingredients quickly blend together. It seems to fascinate them!
We served the pesto over some whole wheat penne, along with sugar snap peas and oven-baked grape tomatoes. The combination was delicious! There was almost a bit of a fruity taste to the dish, maybe from the sweetness of the sugar snap peas, which made it perfect for a warm spring day.
Personally, my favorite part of this dish is the roasted tomatoes. The tomatoes were so juicy and delicious! I found myself snacking on them constantly. Just be sure to leave a little extra time to preheat your oven. Roasting the tomatoes takes the most time, so pop the tomatoes in the oven before starting any of the other tasks. While the tomatoes are roasting, you can get the pasta water going and prep the pesto.
Now, the only challenge with this meal was convincing my kids to eat the green, pesto-covered penne. For some reason, the look of this dish intimidated my kids. Yet, once they tried the noodles, they were surprised that they actually tasted pretty good. If you have picky eaters (like I do!), maybe set some plain penne aside and serve the pesto-covered veggies as a side dish.
🌈 KIDIFY THE MEAL 🌈
🍅Set aside some raw tomatoes & sugar snap peas. My kids prefer some of their veggies raw, so I set some aside before cooking.
🍅Set aside some cooked plain pasta & veggies. Some kids may not like the pesto.
🍅Serve with a surefire side. None of us ever know if our kids will dig a new dish we’re trying out. So, I served this dish with a a side of baby carrots, salami, and sliced cucumbers, which are always a hit.
🍴 MODIFY THE MEAL🍴
🍅Make it Vegan! Replace the parmesan cheese in the pesto with 2 T nutritional yeast.
🍅Make it Gluten Free! The only ingredient in this dish that contains gluten is the pasta. You can remedy this very easily. Some of the gluten-free pasta products I like are Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta (just be careful not to overcook cause it can get mushy) and Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli Pasta. These days, though, even the most mainstream pasta brands are making gluten-free versions, i.e. Barilla and Ronzoni
🍅Make it Dairy Free! See the vegan modification above.
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- 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved)
- 1/2 T olive oil
- 1 t salt
- 1/2 t pepper
- 12 oz pasta (we used penne)
- 8 oz sugar snap peas (trimmed, if necessary)
- 1+ cup spinach or fresh basil leaves (packed firmly)
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley (de-stemmed)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (finely grated)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 clove garlic (quartered)
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 400. [And take a second to start heating water for pasta]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix together tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread tomatoes on parchment paper, cut side up. Roast for 10-15 mins. Set aside.
Combine all pesto ingredients (except olive oil) into a Vitamix or blender. Turn machine on and off several times, scraping sides with spatula in between. Turn machine on low and slowly add in olive oil, stopping again to scrape sides as needed.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to instructions on package. Add snap peas to pot during last 3 mins of cooking. Drain pasta and snap peas in a strainer and return to pot or large bowl.
Stir pesto sauce into pasta and snap pea mixture. Mix in roasted tomatoes. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled atop, as desired.
Top with extra parmesan cheese.
We recommend that all meals for children be served with milk.