Friday, June 1, 2012

Pesto Pasta with Edamame, Spinach and Almonds

Edamame is a relatively new favorite of mine.  Since it's a really healthy food I was looking for new ways to eat more and came across a recipe that pairs it with pasta.  I was even more intrigued when I realized the recipe has only six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper) and that three of them are superfoods.  Amazing!  Almonds and spinach are well-known superfoods, but you may not know that edamame (soybeans) are high in calcium, soy, protein and fiber while low in calories.  The high protein content is one of the reasons this recipe is very satisfying and filling even though it's vegetarian.  How can I count the number of good things about this recipe?  It's healthy, fast, delicious, beautiful, vegetarian (or not), light, versatile, unusual, elegant and easy. 

It also taught me a new technique for preparing almonds - not chopped, not sliced, not slivered - but cracked.  The resulting coarse pieces vary in size and shape and have a nice crunchy texture that greatly adds to the overall dish.  The recipe actually called for crushed almonds but I really didn't know how to crush them so I made up my own technique which I think more closely resembles cracked rather than crushed.  Basically take a whammer (meat mallet or other heavy object) and lightly hit one almond at a time.  If you try to hit a bunch at the same time they end up all over the kitchen.  Trust me.

I used the opportunity to go to the farmer's market and found some wonderful krinkly-leaf  spinach that also added to the overall crunchiness of the dish because it's thicker than baby spinach and therefore didn't wilt.  I'm usually a fan of baby spinach but for this dish I liked the texture of the slightly thicker spinach.  Your call either way.

The versatility comes in with regard to temperature - you can serve this pasta warm, room temperature, or cold which makes it great for get-togethers, picnics or weeknights.  Just note that if you choose to refrigerate it, add a little olive oil to moisten before serving.  The other way it's versatile is that it's vegetarian but you could easily add some chicken (or any leftover meat) if you have people who Really Want Meat.

* * click here for a printable recipe * *

Pesto Pasta with Edamame, Spinach and Almonds
Serves 4 to 6

8 ounces spaghetti
2/3 cup pesto
8 ounces spinach
2 cups frozen edamame, prepared according to directions
Juice from 2 lemons plus additional fresh lemon wedges for serving
¾ cup whole almonds
Salt and pepper

Coarsely crack the almonds by placing on a cutting board and using a meat mallet (or other heavy tool) to lightly pound one almond at a time until it cracks into several pieces. (Trying to crack more than one at a time results in almonds all over your kitchen.) Lightly toast in a dry skillet or oven until fragrant and set aside.

If baby spinach is used, not further chopping or tearing is needed. If using regular spinach, tear the larger leaves into two or more bite-sized pieces.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions, then drain. In a large bowl, stir together the spaghetti and pesto until thoroughly combined, then add the spinach, edamame, and juice of two lemons and toss well.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with cracked almonds and lemon wedges for squeezing at the table.

May be served warm, room temperature or cold. If the pasta has been refrigerated, toss with a small amount of olive oil to moisten before serving.

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