I love trying out different variations of pesto and since fresh basil is only available for a limited time every year (which makes me very sad), I try to find decent substitutions. This pesto surprised me with how well it turned out. The bit of freeze dried basil that I added gave the pesto enough basil taste for a person to not be able to tell that it wasn't made with basil. I was happy that it tasted like regular pesto even thought it's made with spinach instead of basil, walnuts instead of pine nuts, and no Parmesan cheese. I added some ground flax seeds (I was adding them to everything for a while) and smoked tofu (which was a bit overpowering when eating the leftovers). The raw garlic made the pesto a bit spicy, so next time I'd either use half as much or maybe roast it. Overall a great discovery and a recipe I will make again. And full of healthy spinach!
Oh and if you have yet to try smoked tofu, you must make every effort to find it! The taste and texture are similar to smoked gouda, at least to me. My mom who isn't a big fan of tofu really likes it, so it could be a good way to get non-tofu lovers to eat tofu and/or as a "gateway" tofu product.
Spinach Walnut Pesto with Smoked Tofu & Whole Wheat Rotini
modified from Quick-Fix Vegetarian
makes about 1 1/2 cups, serves 2-3 when with pasta
3 cups fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup firmly packed fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp freeze dried basil
2 tbsp ground flax seed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil or walnut oil
1 block of smoked tofu (about 8 oz)
Cook your favourite whole wheat pasta (I'm sorry I can't remember how much I cooked, but if you have leftover you can make pasta salad?).
Meanwhile, steam the spinach over boiling water for 1 minute, or wilt it in a covered bowl in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Mince the garlic with the salt in a food processor. Squeeze any moisture from the spinach and add to the food processor along with the parsley, basil, flax seeds and walnuts. Puree until smooth. Add the olive oil gradually and process to a smooth paste.
Cut up smoked tofu into squares or small strips. In the pot that you cooked the pasta in, add the pesto and the tofu. Heat over low until tofu is hot.