This pesto penne has a presidential pedigree

  • Pesto Penne With Chickpeas. Leftovers taste great cold.

    Pesto Penne With Chickpeas. Leftovers taste great cold. Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post

  • Pesto Penne With Chickpeas. Former White House chef Sam Kass says this dish has some positive political karma attached to it, which is why he calls it Lucky Pasta in his new cookbook.

    Pesto Penne With Chickpeas. Former White House chef Sam Kass says this dish has some positive political karma attached to it, which is why he calls it Lucky Pasta in his new cookbook. Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post

 
By Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post
Posted5/29/2018 10:11 AM

"I'm not a health nut or a great chef," claims the man who cooked for the previous administration's first family and performed a pantry makeover at Michelle Obama's request. "I'm a good cook." He is former White House senior adviser for nutrition policy Sam Kass, and we've taken enough of a spin through his new cookbook, "Eat a Little Better," to endorse it in a spirit of true nonpartisanship.

This dish, and its provenance, caught our attention in particular. Called POTUS's Lucky Pasta, it was devised by Kass on the fly before the second of three debates -- tossed together on Air Force One, in fact. It put Barack Obama in such good spirits that it might have been responsible for changing the momentum of the 2012 presidential election. Kass made it for him again, and even on Election Day; hence, the name. To keep things apolitical, we're going with a straight-up descriptive title instead.

 

Pecans lend a sweetness to the pesto, and spinach amps up the green power. (He uses fresh spinach; we have frozen spinach that defrosts in no time.) Kass added cooked chicken breast to the mix for his boss, but canned chickpeas are our added protein of choice here, some of which are mashed to add texture that further brings the pasta together.

The recipe makes enough to feed a hungry bunch and send off leftovers for a future lunch. You'll feel lucky to have it.

Serve with warm garlic bread.

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