Penne with Kale Pesto, Almond Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Eating out used to be a no-brainer.  Step one: choose restaurant.  Step two: decide what sounds good, debate a bit and order.  Step three: chow down.  Now, it’s a little more complicated.  When planning to eat at a restaurant now, first, I temper my expectations.  Second, I scope out the menu from the comfort of my own home to determine a few possible options.  Third, go to said restaurant and re-create the Spanish Inquisition, where I question my server (kindly of course) about how everything is cooked, looking for clues about hidden dairy.  I proceed with the cross-examination, asking if they know for sure that this piece of fish isn’t cooked in butter, or that masala doesn’t have the slightest swirl of cream stirred in at the end, usually requesting they double-check with  the chef just to be sure.  If only there were a restaurant that I could rely on every time to meet all my expectations of dairy-free deliciousness at any hour of the day, on the whim of this craving or that.  Well, if the restaurant can’t bring you the dairy-free food of your dreams, I say, bring the restaurant to you!

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Here’s a pasta recipe for all my dairy-free compadres, because sometimes we just want to eat like the normals.  Back in the day, I used to love the creamy tang of goat cheese.  There’s just something about the way that it adds a contrast to the bright flavors of pesto and tomatoes that I just love.  Alas, those days are gone, and anyways, why cry over spilled milk?  And I’m armed and ready with a lemony almond ricotta that has the tang of the creamy cheese I’ve missed for so long.   The cow has left the station, and here I am, ready to get creative with my end-of-summer garden, bursting with cherry tomatoes and kale.    

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Recently, I shared my recipe for kale-pistachio pesto.  I just love bright green kale pesto, blended together with the perfect combination of greens, basil, lemon, garlic and pistachios.  It’s my go-to when I find myself with a hearty crop of kale.  I’ve used this kale pesto on crackers as a snack, on my morning sprouted grain bagel, and just eaten it by the spoonful from a mason jar in the fridge.  Last post, I shared a recipe for a creamy vegan almond ricotta, and now I’m ready to unveil the pièce de résistance, putting all the pieces together.  

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This is a dish I could have only dreamed about before.  This is the type of pasta that, at a restaurant, I would ogle on the menu, only to have to interrogate the waitress and regretfully adapt to make edible for me (removing all the things that give it balance and excitement).  Well, welcome to restaurant Chez Spoon.  I’m your chef, Jenny, and surprise–in this magical place, the pesto comes perfectly balanced thanks to the sweet creaminess of the pistachios, and that cheese you’ve been ogling…well, it’s nuts!  Literally and figuratively.  We toss the penne of your choice– whole grain, gluten-free, you name it–in this glorious pesto creation, and dollop it with a lemony ricotta that will take you right back to a place and time where such things didn’t cause so much strife.  Thanks, Chez Spoon!  

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Penne with Kale Pesto, Almond Ricotta and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Once the pesto and almond ricotta are made, this pasta comes together very quickly.  Be sure to pre-plan to soak the almonds the night before for the ricotta.  The pesto can be made a day ahead.  Any extra pesto or ricotta make a great addition to sandwiches, wraps, or on a cracker as a snack.  

1 pint cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

1 recipe Kale Pistachio Pesto, about 2 1/2 cups

1 recipe vegan almond ricotta

1 pound whole wheat or brown rice penne

crushed red pepper to taste, optional

Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Toss the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil and salt to taste on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until wrinkled and golden in spots, shaking the pan occasionally during the cooking process to toss them around for even cooking.

Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions.  Toss the cooked pasta with enough pesto to coat, top with the roasted cherry tomatoes and a dollop of almond ricotta.  Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper if desired.

 

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