Just like the season, this summer pasta is light, fresh, simple, and filled with sun kissed goodness. Perfect for a family dinner or pre-making a stock for the week and portioning out for lunches, the 30 minutes it takes to put this together will give you plenty of long term benefits.
Ingredients for Summer Pasta and Goat Cheese Pesto
Your ingredient list for summer pasta is as breezy as the dish: Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Red Onion, Cherry Tomatoes, Bell Peppers and Pasta! A favorite bell pepper we like is red both because of the sweeter flavor and the nice burst of color it gives. You can add a few different peppers or pick your favorite.
We love Cavatappi pasta for this dish, because the curls hold onto the pesto nicely and it’s just the right size to mix with the vegetables and give a balanced taste of the whole dish with every bite. Cavatappi has the thickness and density of a macaroni noodle but is a little longer and twists in the shape of a corkscrew.
Your ingredient list for the pesto is again short: Basil, Goat Cheese, Olive Oil, Garlic, Walnuts, and Salt and Pepper.
You might be looking at this list and thinking, what? Walnuts instead of pine nuts? Goat Cheese instead of parmesan? What is happening?
What is happening is we’re playing with the flavors of your pesto just a little bit, but you’re still going to have that lovely pesto flavor.
First, the goat cheese. Using goat cheese gives the pesto a little bit of a creamier texture and a slightly sweeter flavor than a parmesan cheese does. It’s not a drastic difference, but it’s a great summer twist and will help lighten up the nice summer flavors in this pasta.
The walnuts are a common substitute in pesto for a couple of reasons. First, they’re pretty easy to find and often times a staple that’s already in the kitchen, so you might not even have to go to the store. Second, they’re cheaper! Sometimes we all need to save a buck and still make ourselves a nice, flavorful pesto. Finally, they do have a slightly less smoky flavor than the pine nut, which we prefer paired with the goat cheese.
Can you use pine nuts if you choose? Of course you can! But give it a try with the walnuts!
Assembling the Pasta and Pesto
This is a short, simple dish, even if you are making the homemade pesto.
First, pre-heat your oven to 400. Put about 4-5 quarts of water in a pan on your stove and set it to the second highest setting to get it warming to a boil.
Slice your zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers, and red onions into bite sized pieces. Place them on a baking pan and put them on the second rack in your oven to roast for 20 minutes.
While your vegetables are roasting your water should now be at a boil. When it is at a gentle, rolling boil, gently add your pasta to the water and stir to move around so it doesn’t clump together.
Cook pasta about 9-12 minutes to “al dente,” which means the pasta is tender when bitten into, but still has some firmness. It should be cooked all of the way through and not have any “crunch” in the center, yet not be limp. You can use a spoon to pull a couple of pieces out, let them cook, then bite into them to see where they are in the cooking process as you think they’re getting close.
While your pasta is cooking, you will make your pesto. This is again, really simple.
Give a coarse chop to your nuts and lightly pan fry them for about two-three minutes to a light brown.
Place your basil, garlic, chopped nuts, and goat cheese in your food processor. Pour in your olive oil and pulse the mixture to get everything started. Stop a couple of times to scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula and get everything into the blend. Once you’ve started the base, go ahead and hit the blend button for a good 30 seconds or so and get everything blended.
You’ll want a mostly smooth but not runny consistency, You should be able to scoop it with a spoon and not have it run off the sides, but be a consistency you could spread like a soft butter.
We use the Cuisinart Mini Food Processor for this as it’s the perfect size, easy to store, and easy to clean.
Your pasta and vegetables should be done at this point. Drain the water off of the pasta in a strainer over the sink and pull your vegetables out of the oven.
Putting your Summer Pasta together
OK! Your vegetables are roasted, pasta is al dente, and pesto is blended. This is it! We’re ready to go!
Very simple here. While your pasta and vegetables are still nice and warm, put them in a large bowl together. You can use the pan you used for boiling the pasta if it is large enough, just make sure you have taken it off the stove so it doesn’t keep cooking.
Mix your pasta and vegetables together. You’ll now layer in your pesto and stir it all the way through. The heat will allow the pesto to mix nicely with all of the flavors and give it a good coating.
Why we love this for a MS Diet
First and foremost, this dish is really easy to make. If you know anything about multiple sclerosis, you know it causes fatigue. If you know fatigue is a factor, you know healthy eating is important for maintaining MS and for helping combat fatigue.
This meal doesn’t require much energy at all to make, and can be simplified even more if you purchase pre-cut vegetables or pre-made basil. Yes, we love fresh and love homemade, but we know sometimes it’s just not always in the tank.
The second thing we’re going to talk about is Vitamin A. We don’t always take time to talk about the health benefits of vitamin A, but we’re going to here because Zucchini and Yellow Squash are full of it! They’ve got lots of other nutrients, too, but we’re going to talk about Vitamin A right now.
Why Vitamin A? First a foremost, it has anti-inflammatory properties. We talk about this a lot, but know that eating foods that decrease inflammation is a crucial component of an MS diet. There are a lot of health conditions that reducing inflammation is good for, but but in laymen’s terms for MS, a lot of it has to do with decreasing the level of released cytokines.
In addition, and this we don’t talk about as much with some of the other nutrients we have discussed, is that vitamin A has been shown to suppress the formation of pathogenic T cells in MS patients. Granted, as with many multiple sclerosis studies more information needs to be gathered, but in a controlled trial study of MS patients receiving Vitamin A, the multiple sclerosis functional composite (MSFC) of patients receiving Vitamin A increased significantly over those who were not. This is not telling you to run out and purchase Vitamin A supplements, but it is indicating that adding Vitamin A to an MS diet is a positive thing, so we’ll take our summer squash!
Please visit our Resources page if you are interested in finding some of the tools and gadgets Dre uses to make cooking accessible while combatting MS.
Summer Pasta with Fresh Goat Cheese Pesto and Roasted Summer Squash
A quick, simple, and healthy summer pasta with a creamy goat cheese pesto is the perfect addition to the summer recipe repertoire.
Goat Cheese Pesto
Preheat oven to 400.
Slice Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Red Onion, and Bell Peppers.
Place zucchini, squash, red onion, and mini bell peppers on baking sheet. Season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
Bake for 20 minutesIf you do not have time to roast the mixture you can pan sautee these.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
Drain pasta when done and reserve 1/2 cup of cooking liquid.
In a large bowl add cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, basil pesto, and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking liquid. Toss to coat.
Serve. Top with additional goat cheese cheese if desired.Start with 1/4 Cup of Pesto and Slowly stir in more to taste
This dish will support most pasta types. Long pastas twirl nicely, try-color rotini for color, stars for fun!
2. Feel free to switch out with your favorite veggies! Broccoli, Sweet potato, Asparagus, grape tomatoes.…whatever you have/want!
3. Meat can definitely be added. Cut beef, chicken, pork or sausage into bite-sized pieces, season with salt/pepper and sauté to desired doneness (5-7 mins) And add to pasta with the veggies.
4. If using shrimp, salmon, crab or scallops, I suggest using whole and presenting on top instead of mixing in.
5. This dish is vegetarian, but to make it vegan, use nutritional yeast instead of cheese.
Goat Cheese Pesto
Coarse Chop Walnuts. Lightly roast on a stove top pan for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.
Add basil, garlic, roasted walnuts, goat cheese, and olive oil to food processor. Pulse food processor to roughly blend all ingredients. Scrape sides of food processor to get all chunks into blend then thoroughly blend the mixture to a consistency that can be spooned and spread like a soft cream cheese.
Caesar salad, caprese salad, garlic bread with cheese/pesto spread