CREAMY AVOCADO AND SPINACH PASTA

Yields:  4 servings (sauce makes about 1 .5 cups)   Prep Time:  25 minutes       Total Time:  35 minutes

This pasta dish is a favorite for kids, getting the creaminess from potassium rich avocado, and folate and vitamin A from spinach.  Cashews  add extra richness, bringing a good dose of copper, manganese, magnesium and even some vitamin K.

Ingredients

10 ounces dry pasta (can be rice, corn or quinoa based to make recipe gluten free)

1 cup raw spinach

1 medium avocado, ripe

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked for an hour or so for creamier texture, raw works well, too)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1 clove roasted garlic (roasting takes the bite out of the garlic for those sensitive, especially the kids)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

 

Directions

1. Cook pasta according to directions and desired doneness and set aside.

2. Roast garlic at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  I use a counter top small toaster/oven combo, so if you don’t want to heat the whole house, you could always lightly sauté in a pan on low heat.  The idea is to take the strong “bite” out of the garlic, and release the depth of flavor.

3. Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until completely combined.  Toss immediately with warm pasta and enjoy!

 

One of my favorite go-to dinners, this one is simple, fast and full of nutrition.  It is really dense, with the avocados, cheese and cashews, so you don’t need serving after serving.  (Although, your taste buds may disagree!)

I really favor recipes that have multiple health benefits and yet are quick to prepare.  A huge bonus is the kids all devour these noodles.  Roasting the garlic gives a little depth of flavor, yet doesn’t overpower the sauce as raw garlic tends to do.

 

Cashews are loaded with many nutrients such as copper and vitamin K, and are actually free of cholesterol.  Spinach and avocado are not shy when it comes to nutritional benefits, from antioxidants, to fiber, iron and healthy fats.  And let me repeat – the kids love it!

Best of all, it comes together (minus the pasta cooking) in less than 10 minutes.  We’ve made it both with spaghetti noodles, penne, rigatoni, whole wheat, and gluten free noodles.  All work well, making this versatile to any needs.

UPDATE: I have had many questions with regard to cashews and how necessary they are to the recipe.  Honestly, I leave them out half the time when I make this simply because I want it done immediately, and I haven’t given the cashews a good soak.  It isn’t necessary to soak them, but it does give a tad creamier texture.  My middle went through an INCREDIBLY picky stage and any difference in texture caused issues, so I began soaking the cashews because I wanted to include them for the extra nutrition (for her especially).  Thankfully, we are passed that, and I don’t need to soak.  The sauce turns out delicious either way.  I also keep nuts in our freezer, so the soaking warms them up a bit prior to using.

So, speaking of versatility, you can keep the ingredients simple, leaving out the cashews if you prefer.  Sometimes, I get home from a lesson or practice for the kids, get noodles going, and whip up the sauce with spinach, basil, avocado and cheese (plus seasonings).  I started off with cashews as it does make for an extra creamy sauce.  Plus, cashews are cholesterol free and a great source of nutrients for picky eaters (and the kiddos that need extra healthy calories when they can get them).  But do what works for your family, and I hope you enjoy this as much as our family does!

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