Is beautiful food overrated?
Sometimes people argue that it doesn’t matter what the food looks like as long as it tastes good. I must disagree. It is possible for unattractive food to be delicious, but if said food is made attractive, it will always taste better. This is psychologically proven. We like pretty things. Pretty things taste good. Now, of course there are exceptions here as well, but 99% of the time, visual appeal is directly correlated to how food tastes.
Don’t believe me? Then feast your eyes upon this gorgeous Spinach-Nut Pesto with Roasted Tomatoes and Rotini. Have you ever seen a prettier dish? Just look at those fresh, vibrant colors, the whimsical rotini, and the plump roasted tomatoes. And not only is this dish pleasing to the eyes, it’s palate pleasing as well.
The spinach pesto is a fresh take on the classic basil pesto you’re used to. The flavor is mild, but wonderfully spinach-y and fresh. The addition of oven-roasted nuts adds another layer of toasty, nutty flavor, while the complex taste of olive oil brings it all together. Not to mention spinach pesto is 1,000 times better for you than basil pesto. Basil pesto holds little to no nutritional benefits, but this spinach pesto is bursting with vitamins and other good stuff. If you’re going to indulge in some delicious pasta, you might as well get some nutrition out of it. This pesto is a double whammy of awesomeness.
The juicy oven-roasted tomatoes are the perfect compliment to the pesto. Oven-roasting literally transforms the tomatoes from lack-luster produce to sweet, juicy gems that burst with flavor the second you bite in. Their juices incorporate themselves into the pesto, adding even more flavor to this already taste bud-tantalizing dish. Plus, let’s be honest; those bright red tomatoes look beautiful against the earthy green pesto.
Let me give you one more reason to make this pasta: it’s so easy. The oven does all the work in roasting those tasty tomatoes. Then, all you have to do is boil some pasta and grind up the pesto in a food processor. Hello quick! Hello simple! Hello make this for dinner tonight!
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- You must, must, must toast the nuts! Toasting them brings out this incredible flavor that does not exist in their raw state.
- I used walnuts and macadamia nuts for this, which was a beautiful blend. The walnuts are traditional, but the macadamia nuts give it something special. However, you can use any nuts you want. Cashews, almonds, pine nuts…it’s all good!
- This is great for weeknights when you’re short on time but still want something that’s good for you and absolutely delicious.
- You can use cherry tomatoes in place of the grape tomatoes.
- I say this every time I make pasta: use whole wheat or whole grain pasta. It’s got so many health benefits, tastes just as good as white pasta, and even has more of an al dente bite than white pasta does.
Spinach-Nut Pesto w/ Roasted Tomatoes & Rotini
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 pound whole wheat rotini or fusilli
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1/2 cup macadamia nuts
- 5 ounces spinach, tough stems removed
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground pepper
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
- Additional chopped nuts, for topping
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the halved tomatoes and garlic cloves out in an even layer on the sheet. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until plump.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs; drain.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto: Remove the garlic cloves from the tray with the tomatoes and pulse with the the nuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the spinach in batches, pulsing until chopped. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a steady stream; process until smooth, 1 minute. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste.
- Add the pesto and tomatoes to the pot with the hot pasta, season with salt and pepper and toss. You may heat the pasta over low heat for a few minutes if you would like it warmer. Divide among bowls; drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese and chopped nuts.