How about cooking up something green this weekend to celebrate St Patrick’s Day??
I have the perfect dish called Tallarines Verdes for you to prepare. It is definitely not Irish food — it’s actually a Peruvian version of pesto — but it’s super green and tasty!!!
Italian influence on Peruvian food
Many different cultures and immigrant groups made contributions to the flavors of today’s Peruvian food over the years. I recently wrote about the influence of the Chinese. But the food here has also been influenced by other groups, including the Italians who relocated here to make a life. One dish where the fusion of Peruvian-Italian food is evident is in Tallarines Verdes.
Tallarines are a type of noodle here that is more flat than round, but not as thick as fettuccine noodles. I feel like it most closely resembles linguine noodles. The sauce is basically a Peruvian pesto which contains a bit of milk, cheese and spinach in addition to the traditional basil.
The flavor isn’t as pungent as pesto. I think this is due the addition of the spinach which mutes the basil flavor just a bit. But it still reminds me of pesto and tastes great when combined with noodles.
It’s so easy to make. Using a blender it requires 5-10 minutes to mix up as well as an additional 3-5 cook time to heat the sauce and the time to cook the noodles. You could even make a batch of the sauce and then keep it on hand to add to your noodles whenever you want to eat them.
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My changes to the traditional version of tallarines verdes
I made a few adjustments to the tallarines verdes recipe in an attempt to make it healthier and eliminate some of the dairy from the original recipe.
Changing the dairy
I have found that eating tons of dairy aggravates my skin, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. Usually, I can eat yogurt and cheese in small amounts which is why I left the cheese in the recipe. Plus the cheese serves to add a bit of flavor as well.
I tested this recipe for tallarines verdes with coconut milk, the stuff in the can, not the beverage. Peruvians cook with a lot of evaporated milk which is a bit thicker than regular dairy. Using the canned coconut milk makes sense because it is more closely similar in texture.
In my opinion, the coconut milk worked fine and added a bit of creaminess to the sauce. Of course, you can use the traditional evaporated milk or another plant-based milk of your choice. Just remember that these other plant-based milks have a thinner consistency and may not result in as creamy of a sauce.
The cheese may be difficult to find in stores in the US. If you live in a large city with large Latin American population, you may be able to find Queso Fresco. There are different varieties of Queso Fresco because each country has its own version and they may be slightly different from the Queso Fresco found here in Peru.
But basically Queso Fresco is a semi-firm white cheese that is generally on the salty side. If for some reason, you are unable to locate it, you can use feta cheese. However, I recommend rinsing the feta with cold water first to remove some of the saltiness as feta is a great deal saltier than Queso Fresco. But it is likely the closest substitute for Queso Fresco.
Choosing a protein
Most often when Tallarines Verdes are served in a restaurant, it comes with a piece of beef on top. I didn’t include a protein in the recipe so you can simply add your favorite or if you want, keep it all veggies.
In the photos my tallarines are shown with germinated mung beans which I quickly sautéed up in a pan. Honestly, I think just about any protein will work with the dish. My top choices are shrimp, salmon fillet, chickpeas, lentils, fried or poached egg or any germinated legume.
Using whole wheat pasta
I also replaced the regular pasta in the dish with whole wheat pasta. I like to eat whole grains as much as possible and while, the whole wheat pasta is still refined, I feel like it is the healthier choice.
Overall, I prefer noodles over other shapes of pasta with Tallarines Verdes, but since the shape of the pasta doesn’t really affect the flavor, you should choose whatever shape noodle you want.
You may also want to consider trying out this dish using noodles made from quinoa, chickpeas or any other flour replacement.
I also tried out the sauce with a blend of rice and quinoa. This combination was fabulous and is a great idea if you want to eliminate the pasta completely.
Adding some veggies
The last change that I made to the traditional recipe for Tallarines Verdes is to add some vegetables to the dish. Peruvian cuisine is generally not packed with vegetables for some reason and while you get nutrition from all the greens in this sauce, I feel like I wanted a bit more to increase the satiety and nutrition of the dish.
Peruvian Pesto - Tallarines Verdes
- 16 oz whole wheat pasta preferably noodles
- 2 T +1 tsp olive oil
- ½ cup red onion diced
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 large bunch basil leaves about 5 ounces
- ½ # fresh spinach leaves
- ½ cup queso fresco
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 2 cups of assorted green veggies Asparagus/Green beans/Peas/Fava beans
- Salt to taste
- Heat a large pot of salted water to boil. When boiling, add noodles and cook until tender. When ready, drain and hold until sauce is ready. Heat another medium pot of boiling water to blanch the green veggies. When water is boiling, add the veggies and cook for one minute. At the end of one minute, plunge the veggies into cold water to stop the cooking process.While the pasta is cooking, saute the onion in 1 teaspoon of oil, on medium heat until translucent. Be sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn.When the onions are done, add the spinach and cook just until wilted. In a blender process onion, spinach, basil, garlic, coconut milk, white cheese, walnuts, olive oil. When it is blended, taste and add salt and pepper to taste.In a pan heat the sauce stirring frequently. Serve with your choice of protein. Pictured here with a poached egg!!
- Heat another medium pot of boiling water to blanch the green veggies. When water is boiling, add the veggies and cook for one minute. At the end of one minute, plunge the veggies into cold water to stop the cooking process.
- While the pasta is cooking, saute the onion in 1 teaspoon of oil, on medium heat until translucent. Be sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn.
- When the onions are done, add the spinach and cook just until wilted.
- In a blender process onion, spinach, basil, garlic, coconut milk, white cheese, walnuts, olive oil. When it is blended, taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a pan heat the sauce stirring frequently. Serve with your choice of protein. Pictured here with sprouted mung beans!!
Notes on the nutrition facts for Tallarines Verdes:
- Sodium doesn’t include salt added to taste.
- Nutritional info doesn’t include the addition of a protein such as egg, beef or other.
- I used 1 cup of green beans and 1 cup of peas to calculate the nutritional information shown here. The actual nutrition may change depending on your choice of veggies.
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