Several weeks ago, a friend of mine made a delicious brunch that included this very simple topping of crushed walnuts and cilantro over a bed of steamed kale. I’d never had anything like it and weeks later, it’s been hard to forget it. So, I started to think of other ways to incorporate it into a meal and, one late night after work when I was too hungry to go grocery shopping and had to make do with what was already in the house, this is what I came up with. This recipe has definitely replaced my standard, too-lazy-to-cook-“pasta and sauce”-go-to and is now living comfortably next to my smoky mac and cheese recipe on the list of easy, quick, comfort meals.
I love the unique flavor of this dish, how filling it is without being overly heavy like most pasta dishes, and how easily and quickly it’s put together. The flavor isn’t overly powerful, but it’s present, if that makes sense. It’s pleasantly delicious, somewhat creamy without using cream, and sure to hit the spot if you want to make a pasta dish that isn’t your standard red sauce and grain meat and cheese variety, but is still comforting.
All the ingredients are healthy, vegan pantry basics and easily found in your standard grocery store. They are also easy to substitute for a gluten free version. Even better yet, this recipe is a two for one deal: the walnut, mustard, and cilantro mixture itself would make a nice dip for crackers, if you’re so inclined. Personally, for that purpose I’d go with a cracker that’s just a simple base–like a rice cracker–to highlight the flavor of the dip.
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp agave nectar
4 cups cooked fusilli pasta (I used whole wheat)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 cups broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 large carrot, shredded
salt and pepper, to taste
Process the walnuts in a food processor by pulsing them a few times, until they resemble coarse sand. Be careful not to pulverize them, you don’t want a powder! Pour them into a bowl and add the cilantro, soy sauce, dijon mustard, and agave. Mix well with a spoon until you get a nice paste or “dip” like consistency. Set aside.
In a non-stick skillet on medium heat, saute the onions in the olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and stirring, cook for another minute. Stir in the broccoli and cook for another 4 minutes or until the broccoli is bright green, cooked through, but still firm to the bite. Add in the salt and pepper, to taste. Remember not to add too much salt if you’re using a high-sodium soy sauce. Add the vegetable mixture to the cooked pasta and toss well. Now add the walnut-cilantro mixture and combine well with a spoon until the pasta is evenly coated. Add the shredded carrots and toss until evenly distributed. Serve and enjoy!