easy recipe

Easy Pesto Pasta

Nut Free Pesto Pasta

Nut Free Pesto Pasta

Pesto has got to be one of the easiest, most delicious pasta ideas out there. Unfortunately for a nut-allergic person like me, pesto can be off limits much of the time. In an effort to enjoy pesto safely, I’ve developed a recipe that my whole family can safely enjoy!

There are no nuts or seeds, and it calls for both lemon juice and lemon zest to boost the brightness. The end result is a zesty, satisfying sauce that works deliciously on pasta (and chicken!) and packs beautifully in a lunchbox. With just 7 ingredients, this recipe comes together in the blink of an eye. I love it not only because it’s nut free but also because I can make a giant batch and freeze leftovers.

If you give this a try, drop a comment or tag me and let me know how it goes!

If you’re looking for more lunchbox ideas using pasta, I’ve got you covered.

Pesto ingredients

Pesto ingredients

Just 7 ingredients for this Pesto: fresh basil, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, nutmeg and salt (with an 8th optional ingredient: fresh cracked pepper). My family loves this with pepper, but they actually prefer to put the pepper on themselves, so I usually leave it out of the recipe.

Pesto made in the food processor

Pesto made in the food processor

Place all ingredients into a food processor and this comes together in minutes!

Nut free pesto

Nut free pesto

Ready in minutes, bursting with flavor - this recipe is a winner! Just add this to already cooked pasta and you’re done!

Pesto

Pesto

Pesto Pasta

1 packed cup fresh basil 
1 small garlic clove
1/3 - 1/2 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup Parmesan 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest 
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste. 

Place the basil, garlic, 1/3 cup of olive oil and Parmesan into the food processor and process until the basil leaves have begun to break down. Add the lemon juice, zest, nutmeg, salt (start with a 1/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Process to desired consistency, and add oil as needed. 

You can freeze leftovers for up to 2 months.

Taco Pasta

Is there anything better than the simple comfort of pasta with the simple deliciousness of taco seasonings? I think not. I’m not sure why the idea to combine the two took me so long to figure out, but I’m glad I finally did!

Taco Pasta

Taco Pasta

This simple recipe combines my taco seasoning with fridge-forage veggies and cooked pasta. It’s a riff on pasta salad, which means you can serve it cold or hot and everyone will celebrate. The possibilities are endless: serve this with chicken, or meat free; with shredded cheese or dairy free; and always load on the veggies to make it a one bowl wonder. This works perfectly for dinner and for lunchbox leftovers.

If you’re looking for more pasta ideas, I’ve got you covered!

If you make this, I’d love to hear what you add! Tag me so that I can see!

Taco Pasta Lunchbox
taco sauce ingredients

taco sauce ingredients

Taco Pasta

Sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
*optional: pinch of cayenne pepper 

Pasta
8 oz dry pasta, cooked as directed
1-2 cups of chopped veggies (I used cherry tomatoes and bell peppers)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Method

  1. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

  2. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta with chopped veggies and toss to combine.

  3. Add sauce and toss again to thoroughly combine.

Quick and Easy Turkey Meat Sauce

Quick Meat Sauce

A Quick Meat Sauce is a back pocket essential as far as I’m concerned. Most of the time, I make ours with ground turkey, but occasionally I’ll use half turkey/half ground pork, or a turkey/pork/beef combination. I love this dish because it comes together in under 30 minutes, and works beautifully in the lunchbox as leftovers. My kids will eat this cold or hot, but they definitely prefer it packed in a thermos.

With just 7 ingredients, this simple recipe is perfect for a busy weeknight. Add veggies like spinach or chopped bell peppers, and you’ve got a one-pot wonder on your hands. This pairs well with any pasta shape, and we’ve also made it with polenta.

If you make this, let me know how it goes or tag me on Instagram.

Quick Meat Sauce

Ingredients
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground turkey 
28 ounce can of chopped or crushed tomatoes
Chopped basil to taste (I used about 1/4 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat a large saucepan to medium heat and add the olive oil.

  2. Sauté the shallots for about 2-3 minutes or until they become translucent. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute.

  3. Add the ground turkey and combine thoroughly. Sauté until the turkey is almost cooked through.

  4. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked through. 

    *Note: my kids like it “meaty.” If yours like it more saucy, simply decrease the amount of ground turkey that you add. 

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein is on repeat at my house these days. The veggies and the noodles may change depending on what I’ve got in the fridge and pantry, but the sauce! That’s the key here. 😍 

I switch frequently between gluten free pasta and other times I use regular pasta, depending on what I have in my pantry. I often add chicken to this recipe, but it’s definitely doable without any meat. I love this dish because it’s loaded with veggies, protein, and fiber — basically a “bowl in one!” 

veggie loaded

veggie loaded

I’ve adapted this recipe from my friend Karen @healthygffamily and my kids are psyched to get leftovers in their lunchboxes. Check this out if you’re looking for more pasta-inspired lunchboxes.

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein

lo mein ingredients

lo mein ingredients

INGREDIENTS

Sauce
5 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Lo Mein
12 ounces of dry pasta (gluten free or regular)
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2-3 cups chopped vegetables (I used broccoli, carrots, shitake mushrooms, snow peas and bell peppers here but you can use anything you’d like).

Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (we prefer the thighs for their juiciness but you can use any chicken part that you prefer)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

Pasta

  1. Cook pasta as directed.

Sauce

  1. Whisk the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

Chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

  2. Place the chicken parts on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

  4. Roast for approximately 25-30 minutes until the thighs are cooked through and still juicy.

  5. Remove from oven and slice into chunks.

Lo Mein

  1. Heat the neutral oil and sesame oil in a large skillet or wok. Add the vegetables and stir fry until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes, depending on which vegetables you use.

  2. With the heat set to medium low, add the cooked chicken and noodles to the pan with about half of the sauce. Toss to combine. Taste and add more sauce if desired.

chicken and veggie lo mein

chicken and veggie lo mein

Mango Salad

‘Tis the season when mangoes are starting to crop up everywhere and I couldn’t be happier! Ataulfo mangoes captured my heart years ago, and I look forward to their return every year. I can eat one every day, if given the opportunity. You too?

Mango Salad

Mango Salad

Mango

Mango

I developed this Mango Salad because I love mango salsa, and really wanted to just eat it with a fork. You know what I mean? That’s the situation here, and it’s incredibly satisfying. Feel free to eat this with a spoon, a fork, with chips, in a lettuce wrap, on avocado toast, whatever. The recipe is versatile. If you give this recipe a try, tag me @lalalunchbox.

Mango Salad ingredients

Mango Salad ingredients

MANGO SALAD

6 cups champagne/Ataulfo mangoes cut into 1 inch cubes (from 8 mangoes)
1 cup diced red onions
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon diced jalapeño (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon flake salt
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
fresh cracked pepper to taste

Chop the mangoes and place them into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, add the chopped red onions and lime juice. Let that sit for at least 5 minutes so that the acid from the lime juice mellows the bite of the onion slightly. While that sits, add the chopped parsley and chopped cilantro to the mango, as well as the chopped jalapeño, if using. Combine thoroughly. Incorporate the lime-onions. Add salt, lime zest and cracked pepper and combine again. Eat immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The longer this sits, the more intense the flavors will become.