I love, love, love perusing fancy and complex dinner recipes around the internet and within the pages of my ever-expanding cookbook collection. Sometimes, I even work up the energy required to make one of those recipes, spending well over an hour in the kitchen, dirtying up all the bowls and making a glorious mess of the place. After all, it’s my love of cooking and eating yummy, healthy food that inspired me to start this here blog. If I’m going to be quite honest with you, though, most nights I’m a wee bit worn out by the time dinner rolls around, and I’m usually operating on autopilot to make the meal. During a typical week, homemade veggie pizza, some sort of stir-fry, a Mexican-inspired dish, and soup or stew are on rotation for dinner, with a few new recipes scattered in when I have more time. I like to have easy options on hand, and I plan my grocery shopping around our usual line-up. This makes cooking dinner a breeze, especially if I’m in tired mommy-zombie mode. I created this Green Pea Pesto Spaghetti one night when I wanted to fix something fast, but still fresh and healthy. This dish is so tasty, yet simple, and you can have the whole thing, from prep to plate, done in half an hour.
Peas Please Me
So I know there are some people who maybe avoid green peas. I mean, after all, peas kind of get a bad rap, much like their starchy friend, corn. Well, just like I stood by corn in my Spicy Corn Chowder post, I’m here to defend the humble, and possibly misunderstood green pea. I hope to wipe out those nasty images of soupy canned peas being ladled into your school lunch tray, and tell you a few good things about this secretly awesome leguminous vegetable.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidants Galore
Did that surprise you too? I was completely unaware that peas were considered an excellent source of antioxidants, or that they have anti-inflammatory properties. Peas contain pisumsopanins I and II and pisomosides A and B, which are anti-inflammatory compounds unique (almost) only to peas. The list of antioxidants is equally impressive, and include flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acids. This variety of antioxidants has led researchers to start making connections between pea consumption and reduction in inflammatory chronic diseases like type II diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. These nutrients help your skin too, keeping it looking vibrant and healthy with fewer fine lines and less acne.
Blood Sugar Regulation
This is another surprising fact about the pea, since most of us associate peas with starch and sugar (they are, in fact, considered a moderately low GI food). It’s the considerable amounts of protein and fiber that help credit peas with regulating the pace at which we digest our food. The protein and fiber further help our bodies handle the passage of carbs through the digestive tract by breaking down starches into sugar. Together with the impressive antioxidant and anti inflammatory compounds discussed above, peas can help reduce chronic inflammation and help keep blood sugar levels steady. These effects are, of course, increased when eaten as part of a high fiber, plant-strong diet.
Most of us have heard of omega-3 fatty acids and know that they are something we need in a healthy diet. What I didn’t know, and many others probably didn’t realize, is that green peas are a reliable source of ALA (alpha linoleic acid) omega 3 fats. This, along with its impressive variety of antioxidants, unique anti-inflammatory properties, and high fiber content, make peas an exceptional food to prevent cardiovascular disease. You may have also heard that omega-3s are good for your skin. That is due to their ability to keep cell membranes nice and healthy, leading to increased moisture levels and soft, wrinkle-free skin.
Good for the Environment
I found the information about how growing peas can actually improve soil to be quite interesting, and being environmentally friendly simply added to my growing admiration for this undercover superfood. Apparently peas and other pulse crops are able to use the bacteria in the soil to convert the nitrogen gas in the air into more accessible forms for the plant to utilize. This means fertilizer is unnecessary. Also, since peas have shallow root systems, soil erosion isn’t a problem, and after harvesting, plant remainders are able to be easily broken down and used to replenish the soil. Finally, growers have found that rotating peas with other crops tends to reduce pests.
How awesome are we feeling about eating green peas, now? I don’t even need to tell you that they offer a slew of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin C, B vitamins, manganese, copper, zinc, iron, etc, and have been studied for their ability to help reduce cancer risk. Plus, they’re pretty cheap! I buy organic frozen petite green peas, and they are around $2.50 for a good sized bag. Combine them with almonds, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and some good quality olive oil, and toss with your favorite spaghetti or pasta, and green peas have never had it so good. Choose any fresh herb you like, I love either basil or cilantro, and I make use of the leftover herbs throughout the week (stir-fry, pizza, smoothies). To make this dinner all you need to dirty up is your food processor and one pot. Ok, and plates and forks. But that’s it! Easy, fast, fresh, gourmet dinner with just a handful of dishes to clean. You’re welcome 🙂
Green Pea Pesto Spaghetti
Makes about 3 servings
- 1 cup of frozen peas
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1/2 cup of fresh basil or cilantro (or other fresh herb of choice, but cilantro or basil are best)
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 Tbsp of quality olive oil
- 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan or sea salt, or to taste
- pinch of freshly ground pepper
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 8 oz of whole grain or gluten free spaghetti (I used about 1/2 of a 16 oz box of whole wheat spaghetti)
1. Fill a medium pot with a few inches of water and bring to a boil. Drop in the peas and let cook for just 2 minutes. Drain the peas and add them to the food processor.
2. Fill the pot again, this time with enough water to cook your pasta. Bring to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add your pasta and cook according to the directions.
3. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the pesto. Add the remaining ingredients to your food processor and process until you create a thick chunky paste. Add more olive oil or lemon juice if needed, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
4. Drain the cooked pasta and add it back to the pot. Scrape the pesto into the pot and toss and fold it into the pasta. I used two forks to do this. No need to reheat anything, the cooked peas and hot pasta make the dish plenty warm enough. Plate the pasta and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice, and garnish with a lemon wedge.