In an effort to be healthier, I make sure we’ve all attempted switching out whole wheat pasta, and possibilities are you were disappointed with the result. I have actually yet to satisfy somebody who actually prefers whole wheat to standard white pasta, ourselves included. And yet we endure it because the health benefits are so evident (less processing implies the grain retains more of its nutrients, including vitamins E and B, anti-oxidants, fiber, protein, and healthy fats.)
The important things about entire wheat pasta is it needs a sauce that can hold its own against the thick, nutty noodles. Delicate butter sauces need not use, what this pasta needs is a vibrant, flavorful pesto, to transform it from something that is tolerated to something that is enthusiastically devoured.
Not just any pesto will do. Technically speaking, pesto is a generic term for anything that is made by pounding (as it is typically made with a mortar and pestle, from which the name derives). While it is most typically made with basil, I completely think that anything green can be made into pesto. Ok, perhaps not green apple jolly ranchers, however any leafy green, vegetable, or herb. Select your plant, pick your nuts, add some cheese, olive oil, flavoring, and voila! Pesto.
I’ve made pesto with spinach and beet greens, asparagus and kale, but my favorite version, aside from the traditional basil, is most certainly arugula.
This specific model likewise contains cherry tomatoes, making it rather of a hybrid between standard Genovese pesto and trapense (or Red Pesto, a variation from Southern Italy made with almonds and tomatoes). Pistachios instead of almonds to enhance the dynamic green color and nutty flavor, a splash of lemon juice to balance out the spicy arugula, and naturally, red pepper flakes (totally optional, obviously, but I love the addition of spice to my pesto).
We topped the pasta with golden beets, roasted until they are sweet and tender, and a generous stack of carefully shredded pecorino cheese, the fragile saltiness the ideal compliment to the nutty pesto and sweet beets. (Huge surprise, I initially used goat cheese in this meal, which you could most absolutely do if you like, but found that the pecorino brought so much more to the table.)
While you can replace a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano (an aged cow’s milk cheese with an extremely nutty taste), Pecorino Romano, which is made with sheep’s milk, has a more powerful taste and salty surface that I discover holds up much better to the strong flavors of this dish.
Arugula Pesto Pasta with Roasted Golden Beets
- 3 medium golden beets, stems trimmed
- olive oil, salt, and pepper, for roasting
- 16 ounces DeLallo ® Organic Whole Wheat Gemelli pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 4 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 3 ounces (half a bag) infant arugula
- 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 3 big garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon newly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rub beets with olive oil and spray with salt and pepper. Wrap beets in aluminum foil. Put on a flat pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or till tender. Let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, rub beets with paper towels to remove skin (it should come off cleanly), then slice into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain, scheduling 1/2 cup pasta water, and set aside.
- To prepare pesto, combine tomatoes, arugula, pecorino cheese, pistachios, and garlic in the bowl of a food mill. Include lemon juice, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Pulse until carefully chopped. Drizzle in olive oil, and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Toss pesto with pasta, including a splash of reserved pasta water as required to assist the pesto coat the pasta uniformly. Divide among serving bowls. Top with beet cubes and extra pecorino cheese as preferred. Serve warm or at room temperature.
All images and text © Lindsay Landis/ Love & & Olive Oil
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Disclosure: This post was produced as part of an ongoing partnership with DeLallo Foods. As constantly, all opinions composed are simply our own.