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I made this pesto for my daughter and her vegan friend. My daughter often is not fond of pesto because of the strong basil taste. This recipe incorporates spinach, which makes the flavor much more mild and eliminates the need for a side salad or veggie. I had mine with macerated tomatoes on the side (diced tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, chopped basil and Italian parsley– combine and let sit for an hour or more).

Pesto
In a food processor, combine (amounts are approximate– adjust for your taste– I added a little extra basil when I made it again for myself):

1 (packed) cup basil leaves, rinsed
2 (packed) cups baby spinach, large stems removed if you’re ambitious, rinsed (don’t worry about residual water)
3 cloves of garlic
1 t sea salt
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts, cooled
1/3 cup raw walnuts (adjust nuts to your taste– I like a lot. The walnuts add good protein)
Olive oil until the pesto is combined and soft– approx 1/3-1/2 cup. I like a lot of olive oil– it makes the pesto creamy and soft.
If you like, add a couple 1″ cubes of Reggiano cheese.
Blend until creamy. Combine with cooked pasta– something that hold the pesto well. Serve with macerated tomatoes and red wine (water for the kiddies).

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i love a provencal salad. the same combination of flavors works great in pasta.

over an open flame on your burner, or under a broiler, roast a red pepper. after it has blistered and partly blackened, remove and put into a plastic or paper bag. i try to not use plastic bags, but if i have one around i’m going to throw away anyway, i use that. as it cools the pepper steams, and you can rub the charred skin off of the pepper in the bag without making a huge mess or rinsing the pepper [which rinses away good flavor].

in a hot skillet with some olive oil, wilt some broccoli rabe [rapini]. take out of pan and set aside.

cook your pasta; i like angel hair pasta with shrimp. try to time it with the cooking of the shrimp; you want to be draining the pasta while the shrimp are cooking.

add more olive oil to the skillet and throw in peeled and deveined shrimp. i like to use big shrimp, around the 10-12 pieces/lb. size. the shrimp have a much better flavor at that size, and they are large enough that you can put them in a hot skillet and they will brown a bit before they overcook. let the shrimp brown, then turn them over.

drain the pasta and add [to the pasta] olive oil, salt, pepper, a handful of chopped basil, and a couple cloves of garlic chopped fine. some red chile flakes are good.

when the shrimp are finished cooking [don’t overcook them], squeeze the juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon over them. add chopped olives [i used mild green ones, but you can use whatever kind you prefer], chopped roasted red pepper, and chopped italian, flat leaf parsley.

serve the pasta on the bottom with the rapini, then add the shrimp mixture. garnish with crumbled feta and capers. i’m not a fan of capers, but i used large, wild, salted capers that were not in brine and they were pretty good.

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