Quinoa Pasta with Salsa Verde

Top Chef: Masters drew to a close last week and even though Rick Bayless was crowned the champion, I wanted to honor all three chefs that made it to the finals.  Tonight I decided to recreate the dish that gave Michael Chiarello the win on Episode 8.  For those who didn’t follow the show, this challenge was a doozy:

Episode 8: Dietary Restrictions
In the Elimination Challenge, the Masters must prepare the perfect meal for an exclusive celebrity lunch thrown by actress and singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel

That might not seem like much, but her restrictions were the following:

  1. The meal must be vegan.
  2. The meal can’t contain soy.
  3. The meal must be gluten-free.

Yeah, she’s not a cheap date, to say the least.  Amazingly, Michael pulled out a win by creating what he called “Quinoa Pasta with Salsa Verde, Gremolata and Tomatoes.”  I decided that as this was an amazingly tough challenge, and because he won, I’d attempt to recreate the dish.  It wasn’t the easiest, but I did it, and it is amazing.  If you didn’t tell me, I’d never guess that it was vegan, soy-free and gluten-free.  I suggest you all give it a try, so take a look and join me on my journey:

Quinoa Pasta with Salsa Verde, Gremolata and Tomatoes

Quinoa Pasta with Salsa Verde, Gremolata and Tomatoes

Now, it doesn’t look exactly the same as his, but I’d say it is about 80%… click here to see his final product.  Not bad for a very amateurish recreation, eh?  Alright, let’s get started!!  Here is our list of goods (to keep it legit, I’m posting the recipe as it is found on the site, changing only for clarification):

Ingredient Breakdown:

Quinoa Pasta

  • 1 pound quinoa spaghetti
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flake
  • 6 small zucchini, cut julienne on Mandolin (length wise)
  • 1 pint salsa verde (see below)
  • 2 cups oven dried tomatoes (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons gremolata (see below)

Salsa Verde

  • 2 bunches (or 3 cups) fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch (or 1 cup) fresh basil leaves
  • 12 cornichons
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 cups mild extra virgin olive oil
  • Gray salt to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

 Pine Nut Gremolata

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup gluten free white crackers
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic, sautéed lightly brown
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Oven Dried Tomatoes

  • 2 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons gray salt
  • 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • Pinch chili flakes

I promise, it isn’t as intimidating as it looks.  Let’s get cookin’!


Oven Dried Tomatoes (takes the longest, start first)

  1. Combine all ingredients gently, spread out on cookie sheet and put in 275 degree conventional oven for two hours.

Salsa Verde

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add herbs and blanch for 15 seconds.
  3. Drain into colander and submerge in ice water.
  4. When cool squeeze out all water and chop with a knife.
  5. Using a food processor or blender, blend all ingredients together, taste for seasoning and adjust consistency (with more olive oil) if need be.
  6. Set aside.

Pine Nut Gremolata

  1. In food processor chop pine nuts, gluten free cracker and parsley until fine.
  2. Add other ingredients and pulse until combined.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Set aside.

Quinoa Pasta and Final assembly

  1. Bring two gallons salted water to a boil.
  2. Add pasta to water, stirring to make sure it does not stick together.
  3. In large sauté pan, sauté sliced garlic in 1 Tbs olive oil, and add capers and chili flakes when garlic is light brown.
  4. Stop the garlic from cooking by adding one cup pasta water to the pan.
  5. Drain pasta, add to pan with zucchini and salsa verde, spoon oven dried tomatoes around plate.
  6. Using tongs or a meat fork create a nest of pasta in the center of the plate and top with Gremlata.
  7. Serve, eat, enjoy!

Now, this is a very garlic heavy dish, but I figure we’re all garlic fans here so you won’t mind.  How did yours come out?  I am in love with this and will probably try it again in the future using non-vegan ingredients to compare, but honestly I love it as it is.  If you make this, let me know how it turns out (also, if you made changes, please share)!  Next up will be something from Rick Bayless and Hubert Keller… I can’t wait!!

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2 Responses to Quinoa Pasta with Salsa Verde

  1. Pingback: Roasted Jalapeño-Tomato Salsa | Food Geekery

  2. SalsaGuy SalsaGuy says:

    This recipe rocks! I especially like the Salsa Verde. Thanks for recreating it and sharing it with us to make the world a tastier place to live.

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