Meat Free Mondays – Presto! Pesto Pasta

There’s no better way to warm up on a cold winter’s night than a steaming bowl of pasta and vegetables. But if you add a little fresh pesto sauce, you can transform this everyday dish into something special.

This low-glycemic recipe will fill you up without slowing you down. Its inexpensive fresh vegetables are available year-round and won’t break the bank. Plus it can be prepared in just a few minutes.

To make basil pesto sauce, simply combine fresh basil leaves, toasted pine nuts, crushed garlic and olive oil in a food processor and blend. This versatile sauce can be used to add flavor to a variety of foods, including pastas, salads and even soups. It will stay fresh in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

During the summer months, basil is cheap and plentiful and making fresh pesto is a breeze. In winter, many grocers carry a pre-made pesto that has all the flavorful goodness of homemade. It’s handy to have around any time of year, but especially in winter when your flavor options are more limited.

The vegetables in this dish are all steamed in the same pot, but for various lengths of time – with the denser carrots taking much longer to steam than the more fragile zucchini.

Presto! Pesto Pasta

1 box whole wheat penne pasta

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS pesto sauce

3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced on the bias

1 cup broccoli florets

2 small zucchini, cut into medallions

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions and drain. Return to pot and toss in olive oil to keep from sticking together.

2. Bring water to boil in stovetop steamer. Add carrots to the perforated insert and steam 5 minutes, then add broccoli and steam another 4 minutes. Finally, add zucchini and steam another 2 minutes.

3.Add vegetables and pesto to pasta pot and toss. To plate, pile pasta and vegetables in center of pasta bowl and garnish with a little parmesan.

Programming Note: It’s the start of a new year, so here at Budget Cooking Blog we are launching a new feature. “Wines on Wednesday” will be spotlighting inexpensive yet extraordinary wines for under $10/bottle to complilment some of the dishes we’ve been cooking. “Wines on Wednesday” also will give tips on how to select the best wines, and how to successful pair wines with food to enhance your dining experience. Look for “Wines on Wednesday” starting this Wednesday on Budget Cooking Blog!