Health & Fitness

Red pepper pesto pasta nutritious winter choice

With the basil days of summer gone, this recipe for 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.

Meanwhile, a shortage of pine nuts in both the United States and China is pushing prices sky-high. Walnuts, which are high in omega-3, make a tasty (and more affordable) substitute.

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.

This recipe calls for 1 cup drained, jarred roasted red peppers. That's equal to 2 (9-oz.) jars.

To toast the walnuts, place them in a single layer in a baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees 5 to 7 minutes or until they are 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

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

2 cloves garlic, cut in half

1/4cup 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 box (12 oz.) multigrain or whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli, fettuccine or other favorite shape

1/2cup 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. Makes 6 servings.

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

The Wichita Eagle—11/30/10