There are still plenty of summer picnics, parties, and patio dinners coming up, and I have a great recipe for you. Why buy the same old rotini pasta salad with Italian dressing at the store, when you can take a couple of minutes, and make a Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad? Do not confuse spinach pesto with basil pesto, because the two taste very different. Spinach pesto has a nice light and fresh flavor and this salad is a great way to use up any of your fresh garden vegetables.
1. Wash your hands.
2. For this recipe you will need a large bowl, a large spoon, a knife and cutting board, a food processor or blender, a small sauté pan, a pot to cook pasta, and the stove.
If you are not allowed to use a knife, food processor or the stove by yourself, you can ask an adult for help.
ChefElla’s Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad (6-8 Servings)
2 Cups Spinach Leaves, Fresh, Packed (3-4 oz.)
½ Cup Flat Leaf Parsley, Fresh (about 1 bunch)
½ Cup Walnuts, Toasted (2 oz.)
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated or 1 Cup Fresh Shredded
¼ Cup Water
3 ea. Garlic, Cloves or 1 Tbl. Minced Garlic
½ tsp Salt, Kosher or Sea
¼ tsp Black Pepper
1 Tbl. Lemon Juice, Fresh (about ½ lemon)
1 Box. Medium Shell, 16 oz. (You can also use rotini, large elbows, or other pastas if you would like.)
8 oz. Chicken Breast, Cooked & Diced (I used a rotisserie chicken from the store for my recipe.)
8 oz. Strawberries, Fresh, Medium Dice
2 ea. Avocado, Medium Dice (about 12 oz.)
8 oz. Mozzarella, Fresh, Medium Dice
-If you purchase Ciliegine Mozzarella you can cut them in half, and if you purchase Bocconcini you do not need to cut them.
3. Place your small sauté pan on the stove on medium low heat. Add your walnuts to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir the walnuts and cook for another 2 minutes and then stir again. Continue cooking and stirring until the walnuts are a nice tan color. Do not leave the walnuts unattended while you are cooking them. Remove the walnuts from the heat and let cool. This is also a good time to cook your pasta as you will be watching the stove.
4. Prepare your pasta following the direction on the box. Drain your pasta. If you have room in your refrigerator you can mix the warm pasta with a little olive oil, spread the pasta evenly on a baking sheet and cool in the refrigerator. If you do not have room in your refrigerator, drain your pasta then run it under cold water until the pasta is cool to the touch. Let the pasta dry in the strainer.
5. Add all of the pesto ingredients to your blender or food processor except for the olive oil and water. Pulse the food processor a few times to cut down the large pieces. Turn on the food processor and slowly add your oil. When the ingredients have formed a paste add your water and you are done.
6. Prepare all of your other ingredients. To prepare your Avocado.
a. Place the avocado on your cutting board. Cut into your avocado length wise. There is a pit in the middle of the avocado so you will only be able to cut to the pit. Turn the avocado over and make the same cut on the other side of the avocado. Turn the avocado on its side and slice into the top and bottom so all of your cuts meet and your avocado is now cut into two halves. Twist off the top of the avocado. Using a spoon gently pry the pit out of the avocado. If your avocado is ripe the pit should come out easily.
b. Using your paring knife gently make thin slices through the avocado while it is still in the skin. Turn the avocado 90 degrees and make cross slices through the avocado. This will cut the avocado into dices. Remove the flesh by scooping it out with a spoon. The avocado will now be diced.
c. There are other methods to removing a pit, but if you are not comfortable removing the pit with a chef’s knife then this is the safest way.
7. Add your drained pasta to your large bowl. Add the spinach pesto and mix well. Add 2/3 of your chicken, avocado, strawberries, and mozzarella to your bowl and fold the ingredients together until they are mixed.
8. Place your salad into your serving container and use the remaining ingredients to garnish the top of your Spinach Pesto Salad.
9. Refrigerate your salad until you are ready to serve.
This is a great salad for picnics, lunches, brunches, or dinner. To make your own pesto salad recipe, try some of your favorite foods. Substitute kale or other hearty green for your pesto, try hearts of palm or artichokes instead of avocados, raspberries or blueberries instead of strawberries, fresh tomatoes, or even pancetta, crispy lardons, or toasted chick peas instead of chicken.
ChefElla’s helpers can help by:
Adding the ingredients to the food processor
Mixing the salad
Measuring out the ingredients
Older helpers can help by:
Running the food processor
Preparing / cutting the ingredients
Cooking the pasta