The Mediterranean Diet + Pasta with Artichoke Walnut Pesto Recipe
This post is sponsored by Barilla. As always, my opinions remain my own.
Many of you have reached out to me, asking me to write a blog on the Mediterranean Diet.
This one’s for you!
I’ve been partnering with Barilla for years now, promoting their pasta and the Mediterranean way of eating – fresh whole foods, lots of plants, olive oil and, just as important, balance and a relaxed attitude towards food and eating. When I was in Italy this past fall, I really lived the Mediterranean lifestyle and I noticed everyone doing the same. People ate very little ultra-processed food. They drank wine at meals, but just a bit. They ate pasta, fish, olive oil, cheese, ice cream (well, gelato), bread, vegetables and fruits. They took a really long time to eat, relaxing and enjoying both the food and the company. I went searching for a to-go coffee place in Milan and couldn’t find one, because even with coffee, Italians won’t grab-and-go. They’ll sip their coffee in the coffee shop, standing up at the bar.
I feel like the only thing I really saw Italians eating on the go was gelato. And yes, I saw a LOT of gelato being consumed (I consumed my fair share, too…OMG it was otherworldly). People didn’t seem paranoid or anxious about what they were eating or how much they weighed…it was La Dolce Vita all around. I came home refreshed and renewed.
The Mediterranean Diet has been in the news a lot in the past few years. US News and World Reportson its widely-respected ‘Best Diets’ list for 2018 and 2019, and in 2017, it made the runner-up spot, second only to the DASH diet.
PREDIMED, a 2013 Spanish study of over 7000 people, concluded that the Mediterranean Diet cuts heart disease risk by 1/3, but was unfortunately riddled with methodological errors, causing the New England Journal of Medicine to retract it.
Even though PREDIMED wasn’t the proof we all hoped for in terms of the benefits of a Mediterranean style of eating, this doesn’t mean that we should disregard what we suspect to be true about it:
Eating lots of plants is never bad.
Eating healthy fats like nuts, and olive oil is never bad.
Relaxing about our food is never bad.
Being permissive, not restrictive, about what you eat, is never bad.
Eating foods like pasta and cheese, in moderation, is fine.
Drinking a moderate amount of wine is okay.
All of the above points echo exactly how I feel about food and eating. Maybe I should have been born in Italy, not Toronto… oh well!
In the spirit of Mediterranean Diet Month, I’ve developed this scrumptious kale, artichoke, and walnut pesto pasta recipe. It’s simple and elegant, with its pretty green flecks and lemony taste. It has good fats from the walnuts and olive oil, plus gut-healthy prebiotics from the artichokes.
This recipe went through a few renditions before I settled on the final version.
I used raw kale first, and that was wayyyyy too bitter. YUCK. Blanching the kale is an essential step in this recipe, in order to lessen its bite.
Then, I over toasted the walnuts. EW, BITTER.
The final product was so good, I set out a plate for my husband when he got home late that night. He got up to get something and my daughter went over to the plate of pasta and literally started to stuff her mouth with it.
“This is GREAT!” she said, with her mouth full.
When my 11-year-old approves, you know it has to be good. She made quite the dent in my husband’s dinner before he came back in the room and shooed her away from it. Then he finished it all off.
The next day, my 9-year-old daughter turned up her nose at this pasta, because artichokes. She whined and carried on until I convinced her to just try it.
She took one bite and didn’t stop until the entire bowl was gone. It was nothing short of spectacular.
The pesto uses marinated artichokes, because ain’t nobody got time to mess with raw ones. If you don’t like walnuts, feel free to use pine nuts instead. I’d even try pistachios!
You can also throw some parsley in there, and basil. Feel free to customize this recipe however you like.
This recipe makes enough pesto for around 2 1lb boxes of pasta.
This easy, sophisticated recipe will be a hit with everyone!
- 1- pound Barilla Fettuccini or your favorite shape
- 2 cups kale stemmed and packed
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts liquid drained
- 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme stripped
- 2/3 cup raw walnuts
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Salt to taste
In a shallow pot, boil 1-2 inches of water and add kale.
Cook for 1 minute, then run under cold water, remove from pot, and dry.
Toast the walnuts by putting them in a dry frying pan and heating on medium heat just until fragrant. Remove and set aside.
In a food processor, combine kale, artichokes, walnuts, olive oil, cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and thyme. Process until not quite smooth.
Drain, and put back into the cooking pot.
Add several large tablespoons of pesto into the pasta and heat gently, tossing until the pesto is evenly distributed throughout.