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Zucchini and Tuna Pasta Salad with Spinach Pesto

I LOVE traditional pesto and was sad to find, once I’d made it, that it can pack a serious calorie punch. For that smooth, glossy consistency a good amount of olive oil needs to be added, not to mention high calorie pine nuts. Not only does this version bulk up the pasta with tons of veggies, but the pesto itself is lightened up with the use of lemon juice – all of the flavor with a fraction of the fat and calories.

The plan was to meet my husband at the pool, where Tess and I would head after her nap. I needed to pack our dinner, which would then sit outside (albeit in the cooler). I didn’t want to pack a lot of plates and utensils, but I wanted a meal that all of us would be satisfied with. Besides the scary amount of green stuff that got stuck in my teeth, I was hugely happy with this dinner. It was whole grain, lean protein, healthy fats and plenty of veggies all in one dish (which is always my favorite kind of dinner). Because the pesto was made with mostly spinach, it didn’t change color (basil has that affect on pesto). All three of us dug into our ultra green dinner, my toddler included! We ate it cold but it would be just as delicious warm or at room temperature.

Check the packages of tuna – 11 oz. might sound like a weird size but Chicken of the Sea makes a tuna pouch that is 11 ounces and serves 3 people. It was so easy to just slice open and dump in – no draining required.

This is a great summertime lunch or dinner. So great, in fact, that you could bring it to a picnic and know that if you’re not feeling another hotdog, you have a fantastic, healthy, delicious option. Props for generosity and hotdog avoidance – score!

Zucchini and Tuna Pasta Salad with Spinach Pesto

Serves 4-6

1/2 lb. whole wheat rotini, fusilli or penne

3 c. tightly packed fresh baby spinach

1/2 c. tightly packed fresh basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Juice of 1 large lemon

2 tbsp. olive oil

11 oz. light tuna

3 scallions, sliced

1 zucchini, diced small

1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 c. chopped roasted almonds

1. Bring a large saucepan or pot to boil over high heat. Add 1 tsp. salt. Add pasta and cook as package directs. Drain and rise with cold water.

2. Meanwhile pulse spinach and basil in food processor until decreased in volume. Add garlic, salt and cheese and pulse until finely chopped.


3. Combine lemon juice and olive oil and add in through the chute while the machine is running. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once, about 30 seconds.

4. Combine cooked pasta, zucchini, tuna and scallions in a large mixing bowl. Add pesto to bowl and mix to combine.


5. Add beans and almonds and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate, covered, up to three days.