We’re all familiar with red sauce or white sauce to accompany pasta, but I think we need to pay more attention to green sauce. Traditional basil pesto is probably the most well known green sauce but it isn’t exactly healthy. This broccoli pesto pasta was the next green sauce we tried and it was such a hit, I knew we were on to something. I like to call this particular version “great greens pasta” because it includes a sizeable dose of spinach, avocado and basil. Andrew calls it “green dinosaur pasta” because to him, it’s the dinner equivalent of his favorite smoothie (now renamed green dinosaur smoothie because green monster is sooo 2011.) Even though we like all the ingredients in this dish individually, I was a little skeptical of how this would work all blended together. Turns out, we all loved it!
This meal is totally doable on a weeknight which is perfect because now even when I’m looking for a quick pasta dish, I have a recipe that fulfills that requirement while also being pretty nutritious. The dish is great even without the roasted tomatoes so if you don’t have time for them, it’s okay – I would just toss in some fresh tomatoes if you have them. However, if you have time for the roasted tomatoes I recommend it because really, they just make everything better.
Yield: about 6-8 servings
For the roasted tomatoes:
1½ pints grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of sugar
For the pasta:
12-16 oz. pasta (I use whole wheat)
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
16 oz. baby spinach leaves
1 avocado, split and pitted
6 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, packed
6 tbsp. greek yogurt
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
To roast the tomatoes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper, and sugar on a rimmed baking sheet and toss well to coat. Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water for use in the sauce.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter with the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute more. Add the spinach to the pan, cover, and reduce the heat to medium. (If you can’t fit all the spinach at once it’s okay – just add it in batches as it wilts.) Stir occasionally until all the spinach has been wilted.
In the bowl of a food processor or blender combine the onion-spinach mixture with the avocado, basil, yogurt and Parmesan. Process until the mixture is smooth, adding in a splash of pasta water at a time as necessary to achieve a smooth consistency. Toss the sauce with the warm pasta noodles and serve immediately topped with the roasted tomatoes and additional Parmesan, if desired.