Meatless Monday – Avocado Pesto Pasta

Avocado Pesto Pasta2

What’s for dinner?  How about a Meatless Monday meal in minutes?  This delicious avocado pesto pasta is ready just in the time it takes to heat the water and cook the pasta.  It’s that fast, less than 15 minutes, and that easy! I am an avocado lover and think most meals can be improved upon by adding avocado, even if it’s just slicing some into a salad, so bear with me while I wax poetic about one of my favorite foods.  Luckily I’m not the only one…

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Son #2, Dylan, has two food loves, pesto and avocado.  Since he is home on break just having finished his first semester at law school, I wanted to create a dish that included both.  Pesto is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil, however I opted to use avocado rather than parmesan, in part to satisfy Dylan’s avocado obsession but also to experiment with making a pesto without cheese.  Yes, I am trying to wean myself from my addiction to cheese. No,  I’m not giving it up, just cutting back by getting more creative.  It turns out that avocado adds a silky creaminess which makes it a good substitute for cheese.  It also adds a yummy avocado flavor that melds well with the basil, garlic and pinenuts.  Topped with toasted pinenuts and freshly sliced basil, this pasta is divine and oh so simple!  But don’t feel limited to just pasta.  This thick and creamy pesto would be great spread on toast for breakfast, slathered inside a sandwich or piled on top of a tomato half with some freshly ground pepper. Yum!

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Avocados have been much maligned in the past by ‘health experts’ who warned us not to eat them because of their fat content.  They are high in fat but the healthy kind of fat that your body needs and they actually boost the ‘good’ cholesterol in our bodies. Avocados are also loaded with vitamins and minerals as well as being a good source of protein.  Unlike the protein in meat, which is difficult for most people to digest, avocado protein is readily absorbed by the body. So it is no surprise that now avocados are considered one of the world’s most nutritious foods.
I used Ancient Grains penne pasta, made with brown rice, quinoa, amaranth and corn, to make the meal a super healthy one.  Most pasta is fairly empty calories and carbs but there are many really good brands now made with whole grains that add vitamins, minerals and fiber to your meal. They have come a long way from the original gluey whole grain pastas, so don’t be afraid to give them another try if you haven’t in a while.

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TIP:  My friend, David, who is an avocado expert, showed me the best way to get the pit out of an avocado.  Slice the avocado in half. Holding the half that contains the pit in one hand, strike a knife into the pit, twist and it will come out easily. Then you can peel and slice or scoop it out with a spoon.   If you aren’t a huge avocado fan, you might like this recipe better with only one avocado.  You can try adding only one avocado to start, blend, then taste before adding the second avocado.  You might like it just as it is.  A second avocado adds creaminess but also more avocado flavor and less intense garlic and basil flavors. So follow your taste buds…

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AVOCADO PESTO PASTA

3/4 lb pasta (any shape)
2 cups fresh basil (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
1-2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsn lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt(or more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, garnish(optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan, garnish(optional)

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  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and put back into pan.

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  • While pasta is cooking, add basil (leaves only), avocado, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to a food processor and blend until smooth.

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  • TIP: Add one avocado to begin, blend and taste before adding the second avocado.

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  • Add olive oil in a stream while food processor is going and process until combined.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

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  • Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden. Let cool.

Avocado Pesto Pasta3

  • Toss with cooked pasta and serve with toasted pine nuts, sliced basil and parmesan, if desired.

Avocado Pesto Pasta2

Avocado Pesto Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Avocado Pesto Pasta2

3/4 lb pasta (any shape)
2 cups fresh basil (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
1-2 ripe avocados
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsn lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt(or more to taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts, garnish(optional)
1/4 cup grated parmesan, garnish(optional)

  • Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and put back into pan.
  • While pasta is cooking, add basil (leaves only), avocado, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to a food processor and blend until smooth. TIP: Add one avocado to begin, blend and taste before adding the second avocado.
  • Add olive oil in a stream while food processor is going and process until combined.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat until golden. Let cool.
  • Toss with cooked pasta and serve with toasted pine nuts, sliced basil and parmesan, if desired.

Photo Credit:  Avocado – pxleyes.com

4 thoughts on “Meatless Monday – Avocado Pesto Pasta

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