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Pesto with a Twist

This dish is perfect for those weeks when there’s a lot on your plate, so to speak, but you still want to make a satisfying meal. I made this meal in under thirty minutes. If it sounds too good to be true, here’s a helpful tip: select a no-boil pasta, which will allow you to forgo boiling in a pot so you can cook your pasta directly in a skillet with minimal water. Otherwise, feel free to use a pasta of your choosing for this pesto inspired penne dish.

To further enhance the fragrant basil, I used Crushed Basil Olive Oil. This oil offers a perfect combination of subtlety and delightful flavor, likely resulting from the method of “crushing”, or rather, cold pressing the basil leaves right along with the olives, making it a flavorful yet balanced infusion.

In true Apricots form, I wanted to make a pesto with a Middle Eastern twist, so this rendition of pesto includes flat-leaf parsley and sumac.  More than a garnish, parsley is actually a bit of a star in Arabic cuisine, as the main ingredient in tabouli, not to mention its recurring cameo in fattoush and other table salads, and among the ingredients for the rice stuffing in warak dawali (grape leaves) or mahshi (stuffed vegetables).  Parsley has a very mild bitterness, so I figured this recipe can withstand the tanginess of sumac as even a traditionally all basil pesto calls for a bit of acidity. It worked out quite nicely in the end, and I’ll probably repeat this dish if I have a smattering of leafy herbs lying around the kitchen.  I simply love the way pine nuts look peppered over a dish, but feel free to blend them into the pesto.

Serves 3-4

Pesto Ingredients

Garlic, 2 cloves

Lemon, 1 juiced

Fresh basil leaves, 1 cup packed

Flat Leaf Parsley, 1/4 cup packed

Crushed Basil Olive Oil, 4 to 5 Tablespoons

Sumac, 1 teaspoon

Preparing the Pasta

Crushed Basil Olive Oil, 2 to 3 Tablespoons

Penne pasta, 1 1/2 cups

Pine nuts, 3 Tablespoons

 Sun-dried tomatoes, 1 cup sliced 

Small onion, 1 chopped or thinly sliced

Garlic, 3 cloves minced or pressed

Water, 3 cups

Baby spinach, 1 1/2 cups

I suggest making the pesto first. It can also be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Blend the ingredients in a food processor until smooth and set aside. 

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet, without any oil, by continuously stirring them until lightly browned and they begin to waft a toasted scent.  Keep a close eye to prevent from burning.  Remove the pine nuts from heat, and set aside.

Cook penne according to packaging directions of selected pasta. Drain and set aside .

In the same (now empty ) pot or skillet, lightly sauté onion and garlic in the Crushed Basil Olive Oil, adding the the sun-dried tomatoes about less than a minute after, when the onion and garlic have begun to soften. Now fold the cooked pasta in with the sauté mix.

Turn the heat off the pasta mix, and stir in the baby spinach, which will wilt on its own.

Scoop the pesto sauce onto the penne mixture while it’s still hot. You can fold the pesto in either while the penne is still in the skillet, or in a separate bowl. Top with toasted pine nuts before serving.


For more recipes by Sarah, visit When Apricots Bloom​.

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