According to the camera time stamps I made this in May but the photos are sitting in my media library and I should probably do something with them at some point, so here we are.
I love pasta. I just adore it in all its forms so not being able to really eat the stuff post-surgery has been tough. Consequently, I have been trying a plethora of not quite substitutes, by which I mean pasta made out of things that are not wheat. This time around, I went for Banza, which is made with chickpeas and has a whole lot more protein and fiber than the standard stuff. The texture is pretty good and it tastes just fine. The elbow shape is good for a pasta salad although I like mini shells too when they are an option. Anyway, Banza costs like three times as much as a box of standard pasta and is only half as big (8 oz) but that is to be expected when you get into specialty foods. Because we were feeding a small crowd (six people) we made two boxes of it.
It is weird how much the water foamed when boiling the pasta but I don’t think it was an actual problem since I stopped it from boiling over. That sort of thing makes a big mess on those flat top stoves like my grandma has when that happens.
My mom loves making pasta with pesto as a quick and easy dinner that does not require too much work or thought but I am not great at that, overthinker that I am and I baked tofu and sautéed mushrooms to add to the dish. I seasoned them both with pesto, partially to be lazy and partially because I had a big jar of the stuff that I got at Costco. I do love making my own pesto but this was (a) on sale and (b) in my fridge so it won out.
As per my mother’s usual “recipe” I also cut up a few tomatoes and grabbed a handful of pine nuts. Since we had the already toasted kind from Trader Joe’s, I did not have to do anything to the latter but if I get the raw ones, I usually toast them for a bit in a dry pan on the stove. They are super easy to burn though so the pre-toasted ones are a great idea if you have an attention span like mine, by which I mean almost non-existent.
While I was in charge of the pasta dish, my mother made her classic five bean salad to accompany it. I love the stuff but rarely make it because I cannot handle such a big dish but do not want to give up any of the types of beans in order to make it smaller. The bean salad consists of:
- 1 can lima beans
- 1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
- 1 can green beans
- 1 can yellow wax beans
- 1 can lima beans
- 1 small bottle zesty Italian salad dressing
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 small handful of parsley, chopped
The ingredients are all mixed together, allowed to sit, then eaten. It is both easy and delicious. I actually like the garbanzo beans least, which is weird because I like them so much in other things but I think it is that they are firmer than the other beans so it makes the texture a little weird in my mouth. I still would not give them up though! My mom usually buys a little half-size can of lima beans because they tend to be unpopular no matter how many times I tell her they are my favorite bean in the salad. I think maybe she just doesn’t like them!
Anyway, I grated some parmesan cheese over the completed pasta salad and we had a pretty decent and low-ish carb dinner!
Pasta with Pesto Recipe
- 2 boxes Banza (pasta made from chickpeas)
- pot of salted water
- 1 cup pesto
- 2 large tomatoes
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 8 oz package cremini mushrooms
- 14 oz package extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus more for serving, if desired)
- Slice the tofu into slabs ~3/4″ thick and place on slightly angled cutting board (I put a small book under one end) with paper towels and a baking sheet on top. Place something heavy on the baking sheet and wander off for about half an hour to let the tofu drain.
- Preheat oven to 400° F at some point during the waiting period.
- Remove everything on top of the tofu slabs and cut them into cubes.
- Mix together 2 T of the pesto and 1 T of the olive oil in a large-ish bowl then add the tofu cubes and toss them until they are all evenly coated.
- Spread the tofu cubes onto the baking sheet (wipe the bottom off first if it is the same one you used in step one) and put them in the oven for 15 minutes.
- While the tofu is baking, wash the mushrooms (in whatever way best calms your anxiety about eating fungus that lives in dirt) then slice them sort of thinly.
- Heat the remaining 1 T of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. nce the it is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and 1 T of the pesto.
- Sauté until the mushrooms are done – first they will get wet then dry again as they release their water and it evaporates. They are done with they start to brown after that.
- When the timer goes off for the tofu, stir the cubes gently, turning as many as possible, then return it to the oven for another 10 minutes.
- Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil then add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking (and tofu is baking) chop up the tomatoes and set them aside.
- If your pine nuts are not toasted – toast them.
- Drain the cooked pasta and mix it together with the remaining pesto in a bowl you don’t mind serving in.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, folding gently so as not to break the tofu up too much, it is sort of fragile.
- Put more parmesan cheese on the top if you like that sort of thing.
I don’t really know how many people this serves. We had leftovers but we also had crackers / bread for the non-carb-conscious and the aforementioned bean salad.