Rainbow Chard & Sunflower Seed Pesto

Dearest pasta peeps, 

Boy oh boy do I have something for YOU. It’s a little nutty, a lot green, and definitely not good just on pasta. In fact, it’s suitable for just about all of your dippin’ and spreadin’ pleasures–potatoes, sandwiches, crackers, roasted veggies, fingers…you get the point.

In case you couldn’t guess from the title of this post, it’s pesto. Why? Because pesto is simply the best-o…especially when it combines a few of my favorite summer ingredients, can be made in under 10 minutes, and is as jam packed with healthy fats as my suitcase is for beach vacation.

Speaking of healthy fats, let’s talk about the nutritional highlight of this recipe:

Sunflower Seeds 

Using sunflower seeds instead of the pine nuts typically used in most pesto recipes is one of my favorite tips & tricks for two reasons:

  1. Sunflower seeds are much more affordable than pine nuts (save those dollhairs $$ for your beach vacation, right?)
  2. Sunflower seeds have a bold & distinct nutty flavor that stands out and says “HEY! You deserve better than all the other pestos out there. I’m different–and I won’t let you down, baby.” (Yes, it actually said those words to me!)

I feel an almost spiritual connection to these little guys because, although they may be small, they’re pretty mighty (something I’d like to at least think that I am).

One, 1 oz. serving (think a shot glass that’s filled about 3/4ths of the way) contains about 170 calories, fiber, zinc, folate, and vitamin B6. Like eggs, sunflower seeds are also a good source of the essential nutrient choline that is needed for the synthesis of the ever-important neurotransmitter acetylcholine, as well as fetal memory + brain development. Not to mention–they’re also a great way to help boost your protein intake from a plant-based foods1.

Sunflower seeds also contain polyunsaturated fats (a type of healthy fat), as well as phosphorus and Vitamin E–a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin that helps protect the healthy cells of the body from potentially damaging molecules (aka free radicals).

A diet rich in different types of nuts and seeds (including sunflower seeds!) is also associated with higher average intakes of phytosterols. These compounds are similar in structure to the cholesterol found in our bodies, therefore, they help to reduce cholesterol absorption and lower overall cholesterol levels in the blood2.

Have I convinced you to give this recipe a try yet? If not, just think about all of the other nutrients that the other ingredients have to offer–rainbow chard, walnuts, olive oil, spinach, garlic, basil…I mean, what’s not to love? Bone apple teeth!

Yours chewly,

 

 

 

P.S. I made this for my family one night for dinner and then took the leftovers to Aidan’s house when I went to visit over the weekend. We had it on some gnocchi, followed by a dinner conversation that went something along the lines of “can you leave the leftovers here??” To which I sweetly replied (you know, as a nice girlfriend does) “Of course! Is a weekend visit really complete if I don’t leave behind a trail of nutrient dense foods??”

Sources + Additional Readings: 

  1. Sunflower Seeds: These Kernels Pack a Big Nutritional Punch. Food & Nutrition Magazine. https://foodandnutrition.org/may-2013/sunflower-seeds-kernels-pack-big-nutritional-punch/. Published May 18, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2018.
  2. Velasco L, Fernández-Cuesta Á, Fernández-Martínez JM. New sunflower seeds with high contents of phytosterols. OCL. https://www.ocl-journal.org/articles/ocl/full_html/2014/06/ocl140036-s/ocl140036-s.html. Published September 22, 2014. Accessed June 27, 2018.

 

Print Recipe
Rainbow Chard & Sunflower Seed Pesto
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, Lunch, Pasta
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Rainbow Chard -Washed, stems removed
  • 3/4 cup Spinach
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. Lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts
  • 1/3 cup Water -See note below
  • 0.2 oz. Fresh lime basil -See note below
  • 1/2 tsp. Lemongrass -Optional, see note below
  • 1 box Banza Pasta
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, Lunch, Pasta
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Rainbow Chard -Washed, stems removed
  • 3/4 cup Spinach
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. Lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup Sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts
  • 1/3 cup Water -See note below
  • 0.2 oz. Fresh lime basil -See note below
  • 1/2 tsp. Lemongrass -Optional, see note below
  • 1 box Banza Pasta
Instructions
  1. Begin by washing the chard and separating the leafy greens from the stems. Roughly chop the leafy greens and place them in a blender (or food processor, either will work). If you'd like to make use of the stems, you can also chop and lightly saute them in olive oil. Tossing these in with the pasta at a later point adds color + additional nutrients to the dish!
  2. Place all remaining ingredients in the blender (or food processor) with the chard leaves. Nothing really needs to be chopped--the blender will do all of the work for you!
  3. Pulse until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and smooth. If needed, add extra water (1 Tbsp. at a time) to loosen consistency of sauce. Final consistency should be smooth, scoopable, and not too runny.
  4. Follow instructions on the box to cook the Banza pasta. I love this product because of its protein + fiber content not typically found in conventional pastas. Remember that, since it's made from chickpeas, it takes much less time to cook than normal pasta. Watch and time carefully to avoid overcooking.
  5. As soon as pasta is done cooking, combine with about half sauce and serve warm. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper, a basil leaf, and parmesan cheese, if desired.
  6. Other half of sauce keeps well in the fridge for about a week and is great to use on sandwiches, veggies, or another box of pasta!
Recipe Notes

Water: You can also choose to use a vegetable stock here to add a little bit more flavor. Keep in mind, however, that this may cause the sauce to have a slightly darker color.

Fresh Lime Basil: This is a variety of basil that I had never experimented with (or even heard of) before I used it in this recipe. I ran across it at a local farmer's market and absolutely love it--but if you can't find it, "normal" fresh basil will work just fine!

Lemongrass: This ingredient is optional and definitely won't kill the deliciousness of the dish if you don't happen to have any. I buy it in paste form in a small squeeze bottle in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery store--this removes any need to chop and extends the shelf life.



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