Sundried Tomato & Basil Pesto Pasta with Cauliflower

With dwindling supplies, I’m trying to make do with those jars and cans in my pantry, especially those way way in the back, which for me is usually bottles of sun dried tomatoes! This pesto recipe is a great way to not just utilize them but turn them into a delicious lunch or dinner bursting with flavor.

Sundried Tomato Pesto is vibrantly colored, intensely tomatoey, and simple to make at home. It’s incredibly versatile too; great with pasta of course, but also as pizza sauce, or even in sandwiches and burgers.

Today, I tossed in the pesto with some whole grain penne, and cauliflower. The creamy tender cauliflower is such a perfect match with pasta and the luscious velvety tomato pesto.

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This sundried tomato pesto is also a great to make ahead, store in a jar in the fridge up to a week. I mean how often do we stress out last minute over dinner and grab that jar of store bought sauce? Making this ahead is a healthy and simple alternative.

Ingredients for the pesto:
makes about 2 to 2.5 cups

1 jar or ~ 1.5 cups of sundried tomatoes (that’s packed in oil, reserve the oil separately)
4 small cloves garlic (use 2 for a milder garlic flavor)
1 cup packed fresh basil (or use 2 tbsp dried basil)
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (this is optional)
1/2 cup vegan parmesan
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Ingredients for the pasta:
serves 6-8
1 lb box whole grain pasta
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
6-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
a handful of fresh basil leaves, or use 1 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup sundried tomato pesto
1/2 cup water

Prep notes:
– When measuring the tomatoes to use, remove only the tomatoes, and reserve the strained out oil from the jar.
– I use Violife or Follow your heart Parmesan. Both are amazing brands. If you can’t find vegan parmesan, you can just double the quantity of nutritional yeast.
– Using pine nuts are entirely optional. It just adds a different flavor profile to the pesto, but it tastes great without. I’ve made it both ways and they’re both delicious.
– If you have raw pine nuts, toast them in a dry pan over medium heat tossing continuously. They burn easily and need attention the whole time, so make sure you move them around in the pan every few seconds. Toast until they turn golden brown and let cool.
– Fresh basil make this pesto and the pasta dish incredibly fragrant. But, you can absolutely use dried basil instead. Just remember that dried herbs are always more intense and potent, so use sparingly.

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Method:

Pesto:
In a food processor, or a blender, blend all the pesto ingredients together (the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, toasted pine nuts, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and parmesan cheese). Blend until it’s a puree, almost like marinara sauce. Use a few tablespoons of water if the pesto is too thick.

Set aside a cup for use and store the rest in an airtight container in the fridge for later use.

Pasta:
Heat a saute pan with olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and once that’s golden in color, add sliced onions. Saute until they’re softened and start turning golden.

Tear up a handful of fresh basil leaves (or a tbsp of dried basil) and add to the garlic and onion mixture. Let cook for 2 minutes.

Pour in a cup of pesto, along with 1/2 cup of water. Mix well. Also toss in the florets of cauliflower and 1/2 tsp coarse salt.

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Let the veggie-pesto sauce simmer for about 6-8 minutes.

In the meanwhile get a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook the pasta per package instructions (mine took about 8 minutes) to al dente, that perfect firmness not overcooked and soft. Drain and set aside pasta.

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Now back to the sauce; once the cauliflower is cooked to tender, yet remain firm, toss in the cooked pasta and fold gently together.

Adjust the consistency of the pasta by adding a bit more water if its too thick. Adjust for any additional seasoning, add more fresh basil on top and serve hot!

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