Spaghetti with Basil Pesto Sauce
One of my favorite questions to ask people is “What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten”? It’s so fun to see everyone’s eyes light up as they describe a wonderful meal that is memorable for them.
I was so excited when this month’s Recipe Redux theme was to take a “Vacation Inspired” dish I’ve had and put a healthier spin on that one unforgettable meal.
I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling (and coincidentally eating) in my life. I’ve had some amazing meals in in Napa, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Chicago, Miami, Thailand, Fiji, Hawaii, France, and Greece. However, my hands-down all time favorite meal took place when my husband and I were traveling in Italy years ago.
We were staying in San Remo, Italy and just decided one night to take a walk one night. After walking a few miles, we stopped in front of this tiny brick building on a cobblestone street in the middle of nowhere. Inside we found a quaint little restaurant that had only one other couple inside. We were greeted in Italian by this robust, friendly man and immediately led to a table and handed menus that were completely in Italian. We knew a few key Italian phrases but were a little overwhelmed when the owner (who doubled as the waiter) started talking a mile a minute to us in the fastest Italian I’ve ever heard. Thankfully the other couple in the restaurant were from Australia and spoke both English and Italian so they were our unofficial translators during dinner.
We ended up just telling the owner to give us what ever he recommended. Luckily neither of us is picky, so we were looking forward to eating whatever the owner brought out.
I couldn’t even tell you what my husband had but I remember my meal like it was yesterday. The best spaghetti with basil pesto sauce I’ve ever had. The pasta was made from scratch by the owner’s wife who did all the cooking for the entire restaurant. Everyone referred to her as “mama”. The homemade pasta was tossed with an amazing tasting homemade basil pesto sauce. It was so full of flavor and just tasted so fresh and creamy I couldn’t get enough!
When I decided to try and recreate this dish in a bit healthier form, I knew I didn’t want to do anything drastic to the dish. I believe that good food is meant to be enjoyed and that everything (in moderation) fits into a healthy lifestyle. So I decided to keep the dish as true to form as possible by keeping the spaghetti but lightening up the basil pesto sauce by omitting the parmesan cheese. I tried five different basil pesto recipe variations before I deemed this one the winner. This recipe offers that great, creamy pesto taste with the same bite of saltiness that usually comes from parmesan cheese.
While I don’t think anything will ever hold a candle to the dish I had in Italy, this is close! The combination of walnuts, pine nuts and salted cashews gives the pesto a hearty, nutty flavor and salty bite at the same time. You don’t really even notice the absence of all the cheese. And trust me, I love cheese. Lighter than traditional pesto but still the same great flavor!
I’d love to know. what’s the best dish you’ve ever eaten? Check out the vacation inspired dishes from my fellow Recipe-Reduxers below…
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 2 cups basil leaves
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup cashews, roasted and salted preferred
- handful walnuts
- 2 garlic cloves
- ⅔ cups olive oil
- pinch of salt
- Boil pot of water on stove
- Once boiling, add spaghetti pasta and cook until tender, about 8 minutes
- Meanwhile, add basil, pine nuts, cashews, walnuts, garlic, olive oil and salt to food processor and mix until blended
- Once pasta in tender, strain over a bowl to reserve pasta water for later use
- Add strained pasta back into pot and combine with basil pesto sauce
- Add 1-2 tablespoon of reserved pasta water to spaghetti with pesto sauce until desired consistency is met
- Serve and Enjoy!