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Tri-Color Rotini with Pesto Bianco

Can you love a recipe too much? When it’s this yummy pesto bianco, I’d have to say no way! For me, it was love at first bite when I first sampled a “white pesto” in Italy. I developed my own version as soon as I got home. Since then, however, I’ve made the recipe more times than I can count, changing it each time and loving it just as much with each variation.

I’ll begin at the beginning. When I first had it as a primi piatti, the “pesto” consisted of artichokes, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and salt, all ground to a paste (that’s where the “pesto” comes in), but with not a leaf of basil in sight (hence the “bianco” or white). The flavor is garlicky like a pesto but with a more sublime, wonderful flavor from the artichokes. I include some soy milk to give it a bit of creaminess and use a combination of pine nuts and cashews (instead of all pine nuts). My original version uses cooked frozen artichoke hearts, but I have since made it with canned artichokes and it tasted fine, so use whatever kind you have on hand. By the way, if you want more of an artichoke flavor to come through, you can add a few extra when you’re making the pesto.

I always sprinkle the finished dish with fresh parsley to add color, but you don’t need to stop there. As you can see in the photo, this time I’ve also added pitted kalamata olives and chopped roasted red bell pepper. Other good additions are green peas, pieces of roasted asparagus, or even some chopped artichoke hearts. For a more rustic flavor, you can use walnuts in the pesto instead of cashews and pine nuts. And of course, adding extra garlic is always a good idea.

For a more elegant-looking effect, I’ve also made the pesto in the Vitamix (instead of the food processor) and added a little extra liquid to transform it from a coarse pesto into a smooth and creamy sauce that looks like an Alfredo sauce but packs much more flavor than one.

This is one of those fun recipes that you can play around with to get just the way you like it and so far I’ve liked it every way I’ve tried it. This recipe (and a few others) are featured on Amazon linked from the 1,000 Vegan Recipes page. If you try it, let me know what you think.