Beep beep. Boop boop. One zero one zero zero zero one. I. Am. Recipe. Robot. Yeeeeesh, sorry, I am a little sleep deprived over here. I’ve been working almost around the clock on the cookbook manuscript, analyzing the logic and clarity behind every list and instruction, while trying to make the head notes as informative and entertaining as they can be.
I read through all 115 recipes yesterday with a fine-tooth comb. My publisher wants Oxford commas in the book and I’m an AP style girl, so my commas are all mixed up right now. Among other things. Zero zero one boop.
I took a break to share this recipe with you all. It was supposed to be a pretty straightforward riff on a recipe I found in July’s Bon Appetit magazine, a cherry tomato and walnut pesto. However, their recipe called for anchovies, and a lot of olive oil and Parmesan, and I need energizing meals right now.
It also suggested cranking up the oven for the walnuts and cherry tomatoes, and I wanted to make it all on the stovetop since it’s so hot outside. When I made a lightened-up version of it without anchovies, on the stove, it turned out lackluster.
I took Cookie on a walk after my disappointing pasta experience, and had a light bulb moment along the way: sun-dried tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes have lots of umami in them like anchovies and Parmesan do, and they seemed like an obvious fit with burst cherry tomatoes. Boom! We had ourselves a winner. My final adjustment was to replace some of the pasta with zucchini noodles, which makes it even more fresh. Make it for dinner tonight?
- 8 ounces whole grain spaghetti (DeLallo is my favorite)
- 1 large zucchini
- 2/3 cup walnuts
- 2 pints (4 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves, larger leaves torn into small pieces
- Freshly grated Parmesan or nutritional yeast, for serving (both optional)
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Spiralize the zucchini with a spiralizer (here's how), or turn the zucchini into noodles with a julienne peeler, or grate the zucchini the long way on a large box grater.
- Toast the walnuts: In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the walnuts, stirring occasionally, until they smell nice and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Cook the cherry tomatoes: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have burst open and they are cooking in their own juices, about 7 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
- In a food processor, combine the walnuts, half of the cooked tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several twists of freshly ground black pepper. Blend until the mixture is pretty smooth, then season to taste with additional lemon juice, salt and/or pepper until the flavors really sing (if that doesn't do the trick, add some more sun-dried tomatoes). Blend again.
- Pour the pesto over the spaghetti and toss to combine. If you'll be consuming this dish in one sitting, go ahead and toss in all of the zucchini noodles now, too. (If you plan on having leftovers, store the zucchini noodles separately from the rest, as they leach water when they're exposed to salt—I just pile the noodles on top of my individual bowls and wait to stir them in when I'm ready to eat. Hope that makes sense.)
- Pour the rest of the cherry tomatoes on top of the dish, and sprinkle the basil over them. Toss gently, and divide the mixture into bowls. Top individual bowls with Parmesan or nutritional yeast, if you'd like, and a light drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Skip the Parmesan and add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, if you'd like. The sun-dried tomatoes make it plenty savory.
Make it gluten free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta, or serve entirely with zucchini noodles.
Make it nut free: Technically pine nuts are seeds, so if those work for you, try about 1/3 cup pine nuts instead of walnuts. I often use pepitas in pestos, but I'm not sure they'd work well with the tomatoes here. You would still get a really tasty tomato sauce without any nuts/seeds at all.
Change it up: You could make this with all zucchini noodles instead of spaghetti (I think you'd need about 3 large zucchini) or all spaghetti (you'd need a full 12 ounces).If you love this recipe: Check out my pasta archives here.