Vegan Penne with Spinach and Zucchini in Pesto

 Penne with Spinach and Zucchini in Pesto Sauce

First written: 1/31/21 

Intentionally unedited to be a stitch in time of my past :)

The sky is bullet grey, and the heavens have just opened up. I’m feeling particularly slothlike today. To keep my spirits up, I've thrown on a comfy oversized wooly cardie and slipped on some brightly colored Moroccan socks over my jeans. On such a day, it’s fitting to offer an easy heartwarming recipe to get us all through the drab months of winter. Many of you may be snowed in or flooded for that matter. My objective is not to have you bobsledding or canoeing around town trying to find this or that. The ingredients in this recipe can all be found in one pit stop to your supermarket shelf and produce section.

This recipe was inspired by my love of pasta. I adore carbohydrates. In fact, they're my very own frenemy,  friend/enemy in case you were wondering. I've learned to fight the yearning of yeasty yummies by simple, wholesome, and satisfying recipes. Before we move on to the recipe, I’d like to let you in on a few of my Carbo-driven fantasies:
Fantasy #1 Take the freshed, crustied loaf of Ciabatta, tear off a hunk, bathe in a pool of olive oil, and nibble away while watching Oprah. Repeat with another hunk of Ciabatta. Oprah’s show would be particularly gripping, relevant, and not a repeat. My “To do” list would be finished, and Jake would be having a monster two hour nap.
Fantasy #2 Eating Raclette a deux with a girlfriend, gossipping away. Toby would opt for grilled cheese on toast with a cup of tea on the sofa, so he is out out out. Cheese on toast is yummy, but we are talking my fantasy...
Fantasy #3 Slice from a loaf of my favorite bread, Poilane toast, rub it with garlic, drizzle on olive oil, adding a slice of fresh tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mange. Repeat.
After such dastardly temptation, you may be hungry, possibly snuffling around the kitchen for food. How convenient that I may offer you an option in your time of need. Penne with Spinach and Zucchini with Pesto is quick, filling, and wholesome. It’s also tasty and practical, and rather conveniently camouflages my son's veggies. Bliss.
After a lifetime of loving my white flour pasta, my family and I have recently converted to brown rice pasta and love it. Since this may be a leap of faith for many of you, try this recipe with regular white pasta first. When you’re feeling frisky, for pasta, you rascals), experiment with the brown rice style. My experience is that we feel lighter after eating brown rice pasta, and the taste just as satifying. Either way, it's delicious.
Penne with Spinach and Zucchini in a Pesto 
1 bag of penne pasta (white penne or brown rice penne)
1 bunch fresh spinach rinsed, drained, then chopped
2 medium zucchini cubed
half onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
5 cups fresh basil leaves rinsed and blotted dry
1 cup pine nuts (also called pignolis)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup vegan parmesan cheese, or dairy style if you prefer.
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a pot, cook the penne as per the recommendation of the packaging. Drain in a colander. Return to pot.
In a pan, saute the onions until translucent, then add the garlic, cooking until soft. Bring the heat up to medium and saute the zucchini for 2 minutes, then add the spinach. Stir to incorporate vegetables and cover to wilt the spinach for a minute or two. Be mindful to not overcook. I stand by the stove and check every minute or so. The vegetables should still have a slight firmness to the bite. This is important as cooking destroys 100% of nutritional value of food, so be sure to keep in a little life in the poor chaps. Set the vegetables aside uncovered.
Using a food processor with a S blade, process the pine nuts and garlic to a smooth paste. Add basil, salt, and pepper. While the processor is running, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube until pesto is fully pureed. Add the parmesan and process until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Combine the pesto with the pasta in the pot and mix, taking care to cover the pasta evenly. Warm the vegetables at low heat for a minute, then add to the pot and stir. Serve in a bowl. Sprinkle with vegan Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste.