Pesto is a sauce that originated in Genoa, the capital city in Leguria, Italy. Traditionally made with basil and pine nuts, this variation is influenced by the Sicilian coastal city of Trapani, swapping in almonds and vine-ripened tomatoes.
I love using what’s in season because you get to experience fruits and vegetables at their best. The closer to the source you can get them, be it a farm stand, farmer’s market, or grocery store that focuses on locality – you’ll be able to experience the full flavor of the season. As we are in the middle of summer, you will find squash readily available. I know I can’t think of a summer dish with out it. Having grown up on a farm, I also can’t imagine summer squash without squash bugs! My hat, I take off to the growers that manage to keep their plants healthy without the use of pesticide and other measures that are strenuous to the environment.
I love to sneak in as much leafy greens into my dishes as appropriate to the flavor or texture addition to a meal. One of my favorites to use with Italian, whether it’s pasta or pizza, is arugula. Arugula belongs to the same Cruciferous family as kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. And for someone who has a sensitivity to the riffinose in some of these other veggies, arugula is a happy alternative. It provides ample dietary nitrate – which studies have shown that high intakes lower blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise.
Eating Cruciferous vegetables has been associated with lower risk of cancer, particularly lung and colon cancer. They contain sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that is being studied for its ability to delay and/or impede cancer by its ability to impede the enzyme HDAC which is known to be involved in the progression of cancer.
Consuming more leafy greens will help you achieve not only your very important fiber needs, but will help you get essential vitamins and minerals such as K, A, C – which aid in the prevention of collagen breakdown – and calcium and chlorophyll which aid in the production of collagen.
7 oz pasta (here, I’ve used fresh cavatelli, but use what is readily available – I more often grab a box of Jovial gluten-free rotini or penne)
2 zucchinis, sliced into quarter-sized half-moons
4 or 5 sprigs of fresh parsley
Sicilian spices(1 Tsp onion powder, 1/2 Tsp garlic powder, 1/2 Tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 Tsp turmeric)
3 oz or 2 handfuls of arugula
salt and pepper
avocado oil* (while weighing the pros and cons of cooking oil, read this regarding the Omega 3 to 6 ratio and the benefits of using avocado oil over others)
Pesto alla Trapanese:
6oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 Tbs parmesan*
1 garlic clove
1/4 Tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a processor or small blender, adding 1 oz of water at a time until you get a thick sauce.
If you’d prefer not to use dairy parmesan, add to the pesto 1 Tbs of cashews and 1 Tsp of nutritional yeast.
Recipe for Two:
Bring your pot of water to a boil (I like to add a dash of iodized salt). Cook pasta according to instructions, reserving 1/3 cup of pasta water before draining.
In a large, deep pan over medium heat, add oil* and spices, until spices become fragrant after about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and season with about 1/8 Tsp of salt and pepper, cooking for about 3 minutes until slightly brown and softened. Remember to stir about every minute. Stir in the pesto, pasta, and cooking water. Add arugula, seasoning with about 1/8 Tsp of salt and pepper, and stir until the leaves become wilted. Chop your fresh parsley, plate your art, and garnish to your heart’s desire.
Enjoy your art and may you live well!