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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad



For anyone reading who doesn't know...I am a high school math teacher.  I love my job for many reasons - aside from math being awesome and kids being funny, I always have a roomful of people with whom to share my thoughts.  So naturally, this food blog comes up quite often.  Do you remember being in school and having a teacher go off on a tangent and thinking, "This is awesome!  Please, please, please keep going long enough so that we don't have homework tonight!"?  Well, now I am on the other side of that, and my students know fully well that the best way to get me off topic is to bring up food.  My students have been the most ridiculously supportive of this blog, and although I am sure that part of that is because it can sometimes lead me to rant about where to find the best cannolis in the North End or how and why you should spatchcock a chicken, I also know it is because many of my students also share in my love of food and cooking.  I am always uber-excited to the point of near speechlessness when I hear that my students - past and present - are cooking my food.

So today was the seniors' last day of school.  I am not gonna lie...I am incredibly happy to be seeing the end of the school year near and summer come along.  Yet it was bittersweet - saying goodbye to some of my students today.  I have had the honor of teaching some of the most amazing kids in the state...the country...maybe even the world.  I hope they are reading this right now and know how proud they have made me with the kindness they demonstrate toward others, their enthusiasm for life, and their perseverance even when math can be a struggle.  I hope one student in particular is reading this now and will get to know how much her thank you meant to me.  She presented me with something truly special and her lovely words brought me to tears.  I apparently brightened her days as much as she brightened mine and it's really nice to know that I actually made a difference and wasn't just another annoying, naggy, math teacher force feeding unsolicited numbers and advice.  One of the negatives of teaching is that you rarely get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.  So sometimes an unexpected thank you can bring you to tears with happiness.

Speaking of students...another one of mine asked me if I would bake him a pie to go with his math project on...you guessed it,,,pi!  I told him that if I had any time whatsoever to do so this weekend, I would.  Otherwise, he knows where Stop and Shop is.  (I am going to do my best.)  However, it is Memorial Day weekend and that means a barbecue with friends.  So the priority now lies in this pasta salad...which is awesome.  It is officially my favorite pasta salad ever.  Have a told you how much a hate mayo?  Well the dressing of this pasta salad is a pesto made from spinach!  (It feels kind of weird calling this a pesto when it has no basil, but I'll get over it.)  This pasta salad is so good that I couldn't stop tasting it.  I had to have Jim take it away from me before there was nothing left to bring.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do and I want to wish my seniors another sincere congratulations.

Spinach Pesto Pasta Salad
inspired by the kitchn

1 lb rotini pasta
6 oz baby spinach, divided
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 lemon, halved
4 Tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup sliced sundried tomatoes
1 small shallot, diced small

While your pasta is cooking, place half of the spinach leaves in a food processor and top with the cheese, almonds, garlic, salt, and the juice of half of the lemon.  Pulse until the spinach is finely chopped.  Then add the rest of the spinach to the food processor and, while running, add the olive oil.  Process until smooth.  By now, your pasta should be finished cooking.  Drain and return to its pot.  Add the pesto while the pasta is still warm so the flavors can be absorbed.  Add the rest of the lemon juice, olives, tomatoes, and shallot.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  You can serve this salad warm or cold.

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