Do you ever pick up groceries at the farmers market just in case you don’t have any and come home to find you already have too much in the crisper? Yeah. This happens to me often, especially with fresh herbs which I always want to have on hand.
In a perfect world, I would take the time to find out everything I hid in my fridge. All foods would be labeled, dated and packaged in neat little jars and containers and would look perfect for a magazine photo shoot. Maybe I would even write a book. Oh wait, it’s done. And I didn’t buy it. Why? Because I know myself! Once my fridge looked clean and organized, I’d take a picture and post it to social media… then slowly but surely I’d go back to my tried and true system of hunting and gathering amidst the chaos and aha! I have cilantro! Two bunches that must be eaten.
Because I cook so much now, sometimes my recipes are created from what I need to use. I believe it’s a much more useful kitchen tool than being an organization freak. Being able to develop recipes from what I have on hand and need to use immediately has been creating delicious dishes, including this recipe.
And yes, I bought a bunch of cilantro last week; not realizing I already had 2 bunches in the crisper drawer. But damn, I’m glad I did because this cilantro/lime/pistachio pesto was created from that abundance. It may now be my favorite pesto. And that says a lot about someone who is obsessed with basil.
Of course, I apologize to those of you with the “cilantro tastes like soap” gene. I understand. Tarragon is like that for me.
For those of you who love cilantro, try this version. The taste of cilantro is subdued when mixed with the other ingredients, including fresh spinach, giving it a rich green color. I used a few drops of 1867 Handcrafted Pepper Sauce, from Underwood Family Farms, which is similar to Green Tabasco but better, in place of fresh ground pepper. It is available at the Larchmont Sunday Farmer’s Market. Either works.
Please note that mixing the pesto with hot pasta cooks the pesto somewhat and changes the bright green color to a more olive tone. Rinse the pasta with cold water to stop the cooking then let drain for 15 minutes so that the pasta salad is not liquid. Of course, if you want to serve it hot, mix it with hot pasta. Chef’s choice!
Cilantro-lime pesto pasta salad with pistachios and tomatoes
2 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups packed cilantro leaves (pack the leaves)
½ cup spinach leaves, (pack the leaves side down)
½ cup unsalted toasted pistachios, divided (recipe for toasting follows)
Juice of 2 small limes, about 2 tbsp
½ teaspoon kosher salt
A few drops of 1867 green hot sauce or similar
½ cup buttered and unpepper EVOO to avoid creating a bitter pesto
½ cup grated vegan parmesan cheese
17.6 oz package rottelle pasta
2/3 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
In the bowl of a food processor, add the garlic, cilantro leaves, spinach leaves, ¼ cup roasted pistachios and lime juice. Blend until the garlic, leaves and nuts are broken down and incorporated, scraping down the sides. Add the salt and hot sauce and mix for another 10 seconds, again scraping down the sides. With the engine running, slowly hose down the EVOO. Scrape the sides again. Add the cheese and stir to incorporate. The pesto should be smooth with some texture. Set aside to cook the pasta.
Cook the pasta al dente, drain, rinse with cold water and let drain again so that it is not saturated with water. In a very large mixing bowl, toss pasta with pesto until all noodles are well coated. Add tomatoes, chopped cilantro and remaining ¼ cup toasted pistachios and toss to incorporate. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve as a dish with a salad and bread or as a side dish.
If you want to make the pesto a day or two ahead, let it come to room temperature before tossing it into the pasta.
Toast the pistachios on a sheet pan in a preheated 375 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring halfway through. Be careful not to burn them.