Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus - The Rising Spoon

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus

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Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus

Do you have a love affair with pasta, but totally hate the carb coma afterward? I was the same way until I discovered einkorn wheat noodles! I used to fix huge bowls of saucy spaghetti back in the day with all the fixings (wine, salad, garlic bread) and always planned on changing into my pajama pants soon after the meal in order to get comfy. I always felt suuuuuuper full and tired from all that pasta. I'm sure you can relate!

Well, this all changed when I picked up a box of einkorn spaghetti and gave it a try one night. Like my typical self, I ate a ginormous helping expecting to feel sleepy immediately. Instead, I felt normal. Full, but not overly full. No need to unbutton my pants or curl up in a ball. I even went back for a second helping just to prove myself wrong. That made me a bit more full, but still no carb coma.

I was flabbergasted. 

My first thought was "What the heck is so magical about this pasta?" but I quickly recovered and began hatching plans for weekly pasta dishes since I could add it back into my normal cooking rotation.

Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus
How is einkorn wheat different than normal (durum) wheat?

Okay, you probably want the deets about einkorn wheat, right? I'm no expert (I use my body and how it reacts to certain foods as a compass), but here's what I rustled up about some key differences when compared to modern wheat.

Einkorn wheat:
  • is the most ancient and pure wheat
  • is the only wheat never hybridized
  • has a higher protein count than modern wheat 
  • has slightly higher amounts of vitamins, trace minerals, and fiber
  • has less starch than regular wheat
  • has a different type of gluten than modern wheat, so it may be easier to digest for those with gluten sensitivities 

Other Pasta Options

If regular ol' pasta makes you feel just fine, that's awesome--use whatever you have on hand! However, you might still enjoy the slightly nutty taste and higher protein count of einkorn noodles if you have a chance to try it. 

Or, maybe you're thinking "I can't have any gluten". Well, it's super easy to subsitute a gluten-free penne pasta instead. And if you're totally grain-free...zoodles or spaghetti squash would make an awesome starchy base for this dish.


Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Coconut Milk

Because, really...the star of the show is this creamy pesto sauce with coconut milk in combination with tender asparagus + bursting tomatoes.

Although I'm a huge fan of saucy tomato-based pasta dishes, it can take a bit of time for the seasonings to develop on the stove-top. When you want something quick and fresh, homemade pesto or the jarred stuff is a lifesaver! 

There is so much bursting flavor (from garlic & herbs) packed into a teensy amount of pesto sauce (basil & kale are my favorites)! And I love that you can make it in 5-10 minutes using a regular ol' blender or immersion blender. No food processor needed or fancy, expensive pine nuts either. No matter what Ina Garten says. ;) 

Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus

To make the pesto sauce stretch even further for covering pasta (I'm a big fan of saucy), I mix it with full-fat coconut milk, shredded cheese, and a few seasonings to form a delicious creamy pesto sauce. The best part? This sauce only takes a few minutes to come together on the stove. 

If you already have the pesto ready, all you have to do is boil the water & cook the pasta (this probably takes the longest out of everything), saute the asparagus and tomatoes (they're both quick cooking), stir together the creamy pesto sauce, and combine everything once the noodles are cooked and drained!

Oh, and top everything with cheese. 
Then add extra to your bowl. 
And if you like it uber saucy, drizzle spoon extra pesto on top. 
I may or may not do this. 
Ahem.


Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus

Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus
A quick and easy penne pasta recipe with tomatoes, asparagus, onion, and a creamy pesto sauce made with coconut milk. A simple vegetarian meal that's packed full of flavor!
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
12 oz of penne pasta, uncooked (I used THESE einkorn wheat noodles)
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, butter, or ghee
1/2 a medium onion, diced
1 lb of asparagus, ends trimmed
1 pint of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups (approx.) of creamy pesto sauce with coconut milk (click over for the quick & easy recipe)
Sea salt, to taste (THIS is my current favorite)
Black pepper, to taste
Mozzarella or parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

Directions
Heat up a large pot with water, bring to a boil, add salt, and cook pasta according to the package's instructions. Meanwhile, chop up the onion, asparagus (I trimmed off the ends and then cut into pieces), and tomatoes. Heat a skillet to medium, add in the oil or butter, followed by the onion, then cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. 

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in the asparagus and tomatoes (put in a bit more oil if needed), cover skillet partially with a lid, and cook until the asparagus is fork tender (or your desired crispness). Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat until ready to stir into pasta. Prepare the creamy pesto sauce according to the directions in this post (it only takes a few minutes). 

When the pasta is ready, drain off water, place the noodles back into the same pot, and pour in the cooked veggies + pesto sauce. Stir gently, top with extra cheese (if desired) and serve immediately.

Notes & Tips
  • If you really want something spectacular, make homemade pesto and roast your tomatoes the day before or earlier in the day. :)
  • Want extra protein? Top the pasta with roasted chicken, slow cooked pork, or shrimp!
  • Need a bit more sauce? Drizzle the top of the pasta with extra pesto sauce or extra virgin olive oil.

I'd like to hear from YOU!

What's your favorite go-to pasta dish? Have you ever tried einkorn wheat or a gluten-free or grain-free alternative? 

Creamy Pesto Penne Pasta with Tomatoes & Asparagus


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Elaina Newton is the creator, writer, and foodie behind the blog, The Rising Spoon. She's a self-taught cook and passionate about spreading basic cooking skills and information about real foods. She loves reading fiction, crafting, video games, dark roast coffee, cats, and rainy days. Connect with her on Pinterest, Facebook, Google +, and Twitter

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