Joco Diversions

Eat for Life recipe: Alternative pesto pasta swaps red peppers and walnuts for seasonal basil and pricey pine nuts

Red Pepper Pesto Pasta is a nutritious alternative for the winter months.
Red Pepper Pesto Pasta is a nutritious alternative for the winter months. The Kansas City Star

Until basil days are upon us once again, The Star’s alternative Red Pepper Pesto Pasta is a nutritious and delicious variation for the winter months.

Although Italian basil pesto is traditionally pounded in a mortar and pestle, a new wave of pestolike sauces made from parsley, cilantro, mint, arugula and even olives or red peppers can easily be whirled up with the pulse of a food processor.

For the cook who values convenience, jarred roasted red peppers are a year-round staple at most supermarkets. Nutritionally speaking, red peppers are a rich source of vitamin C. Red peppers also contain large amounts of beta-carotene, an antioxidant pigment that may help prevent eye diseases, certain cancers and heart disease.

Walnuts, which are high in omega-3, make a tasty (and more affordable) substitute for pricey pine nuts.

Many traditional pesto recipes use a ratio of 1/4 cup olive oil to 1 cup basil. By adding a bit of fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth, our red pepper pesto requires less olive oil. Yes, olive oil is a healthy, monounsaturated fat, but it’s important to keep in mind it still contains 120 calories per tablespoon.

Shopping tip: This recipe calls for 1 cup drained, jarred roasted red peppers. That’s equal to 2 (9-ounce) jars.

Cooking tips: To toast the walnuts, place walnuts in a single layer in a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted.

To chiffonade the basil means to cut the basil leaves into thin strips or shreds. Stack leaves on top of one another, roll lengthwise and slice with a sharp knife

Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

Makes 6 servings

1 cup drained, jarred, roasted red peppers (see shopping tip)

2 cloves garlic, cut in half

1/4 cup fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted (see cooking tip)

1 (12-ounce) box multigrain or whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli, fettuccine or other favorite shape

1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade (see cooking tip)

Place peppers, garlic, chicken broth, 2 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, olive oil and walnuts in work bowl of food processor. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides, until mixture is smooth; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Toss pesto with hot pasta. Divide between 6 bowls and garnish with remaining Parmesan and basil chiffonade.

Per serving: 259 calories (20 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 2 milligrams cholesterol, 45 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 49 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.