Creamy Pesto Veggie Pasta

I don’t always do my best with this “Meatless Monday” gig. I just told a friend, and I’ll tell you the whole truth. Sometimes we totally forget. Sometimes I simply have no inspiration in my bones and we get veggie pizza. I tried the meat substitutes and I don’t even mind tofu, but I don’t want to cook it yet. I’ll get there when I run out of shit to do with chick peas, I suppose.

Today’s meatless meal is a plethora of “p” words. Penne. Pasta. Pesto. Pistachios. Parmesan. Pecorino. Even chick peas. It was inspired by a jar of pesto sauce I had in the pantry, and if you’ve visited this site before, you know that’s how I do things around here.

You can’t go wrong with pesto and pasta, so I knew whatever I threw in there would be fine.

Rummaging through the kitchen I found a half container of cream cheese that would serve as a twist on the pesto. I had the mushrooms and sprouts on hand as well. All I had to grab from the store today was a red bell pepper, cheese and some pasta. I happen to love pistachios. There’s always a bag of them here and it took just a few extra minutes to shell and crush them for the perfect garnish.

I sautéed the onions, mushrooms and bell pepper with olive oil and butter, but I roasted the Brussels sprouts. I don’t know what’s going on lately. I can’t get enough of those tiny cabbages all crispy and burnt. I could have gone an easier route by roasting or sautéing it all together. Fact is, the different methods create complex layers of flavor. I will almost always choose complex over convenient. That’s just my life.

This needed no additional garlic, salt or pepper. Usually I grind pepper in everything. Not today. I was so hungry from smelling it that pepper slipped my mind.

I pulled this off in less than an hour. It tasted like an eight hour endeavor.

I like to put a good meal on the table most nights, but Mondays are extra important because it sets a tone for the week. Plus, it’s probably my man’s least fave day, so he deserves at least a special dinner for all he does. He has given me absolutely no hassle about them being meatless either, so he earns major cool points.

Alright. Let’s get after it.

What You Need:

1 box whole grain penne pasta or whatever you like.

1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained

1 jar pesto sauce

1/2 c cream cheese

1/2 c vegetable stock

2 c Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved

1 red bell pepper

1 c mushrooms

1/2 c sweet onion

Olive oil and butter for tossing and sautéing veggies

Pistachios and Parmesan/Pecorino to garnish

What You Do:

Start by getting all of your veggies prepped and set aside. Wash it all. Dice onions and peppers. Slice mushrooms. Core and halve the Brussels sprouts. You can put all of it in a bowl with the exception of the sprouts.

Oh, and get your pistachios shelled and chopped, too. It’s no fun shelling nuts while juggling two pots on the stove-top along with a roasting sheet in the oven.

Preheat oven to 400°

Start water for pasta in a large stock pot.

In a separate sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Add the mushrooms, onion and bell pepper. Cook on low-medium just until slightly soft and sweated.

Add the pasta and the drained chick peas to boiling water. Cook as directed for al dente pasta.

Toss Brussels sprouts with one Tablespoon of olive oil. Place on a sprayed baking sheet. Grind salt and pepper over all of this and roast while pasta boils.

Drain pasta and chick peas.

Add pesto sauce, cream cheese and vegetable stock back to the stock pot.

Keeping the flame on low, add pasta back to the pot and stir in the veggies and the roasted sprouts. I reserved some of these for the top. It looked super sexy.

Bring it all together in a big ass pasta bowl, garnish with cheese and pistachios.

Now dig in. Enjoy this meal and know that if we all did this just once a week, it would assist immensely in the state of the environment. I’m not going to get all political and pushy about it. I’m no paragon of virtue and I don’t judge. I eat meat like a MF. No plans on quitting either.

I do have to admit that my Mondays feel lighter and cleaner without meat. I think about it from time to time and know I could find a healthy balance and eat a lot less meat. I would have to accept carbs back into my life. Hmmm…

The meal plan for a meatless day looks like this in my kitchen:

Organic decaf coffee with coconut oil and yummy roots (ginger, cinnamon, turmeric) for breakfast. Yes. It is filling and it powers up my brain. No caffeine required. Keeps me straight and technically in my fast until lunch time.

I had a fruit smoothie with vegan vanilla protein powder for lunch. It had spinach, avocado, banana, pineapple, strawberries, chia seeds and almond milk.

This obviously was dinner. It was filling and didn’t leave us feeling weighed down and blah. We aren’t used to pasta and it does have us a tiny bit lethargic. The perfect mood for a quiet recipe write.

You all have a good week and month. Enjoy the first signs of spring and all of the beauty that comes along with it. Sunshine. Blue skies. Green grass. Flowers. Dresses!!

Hey, Cookers. If I haven’t said so enough, I’m grateful to you. Thanks for giving me a place to share, well, anything I like. I find plenty of value in me, but it’s nice to know that someone else does too. I hope you can gather around the table often, and I’m so honored that the recipes from my kitchen find their way to yours. It really warms my soul.

Toodles, Chelle

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