Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recipe: Linguine with Creamy Scallion Pesto

When I started my new job a few months ago, everyone told me, "Oh, you're not going to be poor anymore!" or  "Now you'll be able to go out for drinks (or concerts, or plays, etc.) on the weekends!"

Being a realist and knowing exactly how dire my financial situation was, I knew none of that would be true for a long time.  And you know what?  That's okay.  Because life after unemployment is a perpetual game of catch up, I'm nowhere near being out of debt or even having enough money for a bit of retail therapy.  But I've gotta say it feels incredible to be able to do things like send in my rent payment.  On time.  In full. 

Of course, being able to do that means I'm left with very little money until my next payday.  So once again I find myself in Scary Week: that week right before your non-rent paycheck when you're left with about $6 and need to figure out how to make those precious dollars last.  Way better than unemployment, but scary nonetheless.

"OMG, six dollars?  Are you okay?  How are you going to live?  What will you eat???"  I was asked recently.

I food shop from my cupboards & fridge, of course. 

Granted, the cupboards are currently stocked way better than the fridge because I loaded up on some bare bones staples at the Co-op the last time I was there.  But because New Apartment's fridge is so much tinier than the one downstairs (its one tragic flaw), I can't keep too much in it.  Which means I have to shop more often.  IF I can afford to.  Since I can't do so right now, I use what I have and make the best of it.

Here's what I had at my disposal: a bag of frozen pineapple chunks from TJ's, a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts, half a loaf of whole wheat bread, and some ice packs for my neck & back.  In the fridge I had one giant block of tofu, assorted condiments, Neufchatel cheese, portabella mushroom caps, eggs, a couple of broccoli crowns, a bag of kumquats (mmm... kumquats...), and a rather large amount of scallions.  Not the best line up of food, but there were some serious possibilities; especially with all those scallions (a.k.a. green onions, a.k.a. spring onions, a.k.a. mouthwatering...).

My first instinct was to make a hefty batch of pique, a Colombian scallion sauce that is used pretty much the same way chimichurri is used in Argentina.  Alas, pique requires a generous amount of cilantro and white vinegar, neither of which are in my kitchen right now.  So I regrouped and decided to try my hand at making some pesto out of my scallions instead. 

Making this was as much fun for me as my foray into cilantro-pistachio pesto-making last year.  The result was just fabulous!  Rather than the crisp coolness that basil lends to traditional pesto, the scallions made this version slightly more savory & piquant.  The almonds added a subtle nutty sweetness that helped to round out the overall flavor of the pesto.

The "creamy" factor doesn't come from added cream or butter; it comes from the white parts of the scallions, which even out the vibrant greens of the onions' tops.  This pesto is perfect on pasta, over steamed veggies, mixed into other grains like couscous or quinoa; the possibilities are truly endless.

But the best part of this little concoction wasn't the beauty of its pale spring green hues, nor its enticing aroma; it was its teeny, tiny little price tag.  Because scallions & almonds are generally less expensive than the standard basil & pine nuts (unless you're growing your own basil, of course), making this versatile sauce is much more affordable. 

Poor Girl Tip: Got a garden?  Harvest your own scallions & the price tag goes even further!  If not, no worries; you can always get them at the store.  But to get the most bang for your buck, avoid major chain grocery stores and head to your local farmer's, Latin or Asian foods markets instead.  You'll find some lovely beauties for a fraction of what you'll pay at places like Safeway or SaveMart, and they'll be far more flavorful to boot.

Linguine with Creamy Scallion Pesto (makes 4 servings; total cost per serving: $1)

1 8 oz. package linguine
2 bunches scallions, rinsed & coarsely chopped (about 15-20 stalks)
1/2 c almonds, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1/4 c olive oil
3 T parmesan cheese
2 T lemon juice
1/2 T sea salt
1/4 t ground black pepper
Extra olive oil for drizzling

Cook the linguine according to package instructions.  Drain & drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking.  Set aside.

In a food processor (or hand blender cup), combine the chopped scallions, almonds, garlic, olive oil, cheese, lemon juice and seasonings, and purée until almost smooth.  Check for seasoning and adjust according to taste.

Gently fold about 1 cup of pesto into the linguine and stir until well-coated.  Serve as a side or entrée with a couple sprinkles of extra parmesan cheese, and enjoy!


  1. Wow that sounds really good. I would have never thought of this. Scallions are great, I love them. I will try this soon. Maybe once they get big enough in my garden, if I can wait that long :D

  2. Not only does this sound yummy, it looks it!

  3. This is very smart - I tend to want pine nuts in my pesto ut... you know... they cost more.

  4. Not a HUGE fan of scallions, but ten points for creativity! The cilantro pistacho pesto is something I'll have to try out...

  5. Kimberly, what a gorgeous dish you have here and a fabulous cost-effective way to celebrate the flavor of scallions. Keep 'em coming girl!

  6. Yum! This looks fantastic! I will have to try this over the weekend...one of these days I will need to get a food processor, as using the blender all the time isn't cutting it anymore.

  7. Uh, yeah i'd eat this. For sure. But with a soft poached egg ontop!

  8. This is a wonderful recipe, and a great way to use an inexpensive vegetable to make pesto at a fraction of the cost. For 'real' pesto, basil can sometimes be expensive as well as the pine nuts most recipes call for. I see another pesto recipe in my future... (and am excited to try out the cilantro-pistachio recipe you linked!)

    And ps. I know all too well that feeling of poverty during the last weekend of the month. *sigh*

  9. I'm in the same financial boat as you these days, grateful to be working 2 days a week, but it's not enough....we are getting very creative in the kitchen though, it's kind of fun! This is a great recipe to stretch the dollar, good job!

  10. Yum! PS Thanks for the tip on Latin/Asian markets. After readiing one of your posts a few months ago re trying those markets, I went that same day. The prices are so much less! I've been comparison shopping since and now find I buy many items from these markets and less from the regular grocery stores!

  11. Any suggestions for modifying this recipe to exclude almonds? Darn allergies...

  12. I think I've told you before about how I have an inability to follow a recipe as written and that it has nothing to do with how good the original is, so I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but...I went and switched out the olive oil for Greek yogurt. I'm trying to get more protein in my diet and Greek yogurt is basically a gift from God when it comes to sauces and whatnot, so I wanted to share this with you and your other readers to get the inspiration flowing. When I saw "creamy" I knew I just had to try it, and it worked! My blender might hate me, but it worked! I had to add a little more lemon juice because the yogurt is so thick. It definitely needed a little drizzle of olive oil for serving, but boy was it good!! Thanks for always being a great source of inspiration, even if I go and muck it up!

  13. I love how this recipe seems like so much more than the sum of its parts - it's really lovely. Re: anonymous' question about almond alternatives, I like to use sunflower seeds in pesto sometimes & they're great. I actually tried it initially because I had no other nuts in the pantry, but now it's a regular thing because it turned out so well.

  14. Oh My!!!!! This really does turn out super creamy! I had a little bit of leftover tomato sauce I'd made the other day, so I tossed that in, as well as some wilted spinach. Lovely!

  15. I will definitely try this when i got home this coming April 30. It seems my mother will loved this new and interesting recipe. Thanks for sharing! : )

  16. Maybe it was just my batch of scallions but this was potent with onion flavor that my eyes were watering while I was trying to eat it!

  17. Good stuff, I could see this going very well with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc--Two Buck Chuck, of course!

  18. This looks yummy and so cheap! I just got laid off myself and I am now trying to be the queen of cooking cheaply. Just found your blog, yay!

  19. I just made this with these gorgeous scallions I bought way too many of..... It was fabulous! I did have a little trouble getting it to a puréed state, but that's probably because my food processor died last year and I used my blender that happens to be a POS! I did use more like a 1/2 cup of olive oil, but again, probably needed more liquid to get it moving in my cheap blender. My husband loved it too. I will definitely make it again and share this recipe with my friend who has a huge garden this year and feeds 6 people 3x a day! She will love it! Thanks, you're experiment is a hit!

  20. This was delicious! Thank you so much! I added some spinach by stirring it into the pasta for 2 minutes while it cooked, and it was great.



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