Cooking with a Pesto Pasta Theme: My Secret? It’s the Garlic!

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Last night, I gave Lothar a pot of pesto pasta to share with the busy crew he was working with on night shift. He came back home with delightful comments and a request for the recipe. Since I threw the pasta together over his break, there’s no recipe; there’s no name; there’s no photo. But none of that matters one bit (and thanks for the idea for this blog post!). The most important part of this quick and easy to make fresh pesto was Mark Fisher’s garlic. Locally grown, his Russian Red and Music varieties are outstanding. Now, that’s the secret to success when it comes to pesto pasta—good garlic and lots of it—recipe or not. Another important piece is that the flavour of garlic varies a lot depending on how it’s prepared. When I cook up pasta with a pesto theme, I often use a combination of sliced garlic, which gives it a nutty taste, and crushed garlic, which launches the garlic flavour to its full glory. Cooking the pesto, lengthening or shortening cooking time, also changes the flavour.

I think this recipe is a pretty close approximation of what I put into the pesto pasta last night. I recommend experimenting with it. You could switch up the types of vegetables in the saute, add seafood (e.g., scallops, prawns) or chicken, use another type of cheese (e.g., good quality Romano, Asiago, feta), or mix it up with any variety thereof.

When I’m camping, I make pesto pastas similar to this one by substituting fresh pesto with dried pesto or pesto in a tube and fresh vegetables with dehydrated that I prepare ahead of time. At camp, I saute a bit of fresh onion and garlic in oil to add a burst of flavour. If you read this Tuna Wiggle Casserole recipe, I think you’ll get the idea.

 

 Lothar out on a leisurely ride on his fancy new recumbent bike. Last Sunday was a glorious fall day in the Bulkley Valley. Me: I'm doing the high risk move of taking a photo while riding the same type of bike!
A glorious fall day in the Bulkley Valley (in lieu of an enticing pesto pasta photo): On Sunday, we took a leisurely 30 km training ride with our fancy new recumbent bikes. Taking this photo while rolling was a bit of a high risk maneuver, hence the funky horizon line and my foot!

 

Pesto Pasta: The Night Shift Rendition

Serves 3-4 people. Cooking time: 20-30 minutes. This recipe would go great with Caesar salad or green salad and garlic toast.

Ingredients

Pasta

400 g fettuccine noodles or pasta of your choice

Pesto

1 bulb garlic, peeled

30 g fresh basil

75 g pine nuts

1/2 cup olive oil, add more if or as needed to blend.

Vegetable Saute

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, diced

8 sun-dried tomato halves, finely chopped

1 roasted red pepper, diced

10 mushrooms, thinly sliced

10 asparagus spears, sliced into 1-2 cm pieces

1 Tbsp vegetable oil. Add more as needed.

Cheese

100 g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely shredded

Garnish

15 g fresh basil, finely chopped

25 g pine nuts, whole

3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)

50-100 g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (to taste), finely shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Cooking Instructions

To start:

Roast red peppers by quartering and flattening them and then placing them skin side up under the broiler. Broil until blacked on the outside. Cool and then peel. Discard the blacked skins. Toast pine nuts in the oven at 325 C for a few minutes to lightly brown and then cool. Careful, they burn quickly. Prepare vegetables for cooking.

Note: You can buy roasted red peppers in jars but I don’t find they give the same flavour boost that home roasted peppers do.

In a wok or large pot, prepare sauteed vegetables:

Saute onion and garlic at medium heat until onions are translucent. Add sun-dried tomatoes and continue sauteing for a few minutes until lightly brown. Add remaining vegetables and saute until asparagus is cooked through but still firm.

In another large pot, prepare pasta:

Cook pasta, as per instructions.

In a food processor or blender, prepare pesto:

Add pesto ingredients to processor or blender and pulse to a coarse paste. Add olive oil if or as needed to blend.

Note: If you don’t have a blender or food processor, no problem. I made pesto for years by hand chopping dry ingredients and then adding them oil. You’ll still get great flavour, although slightly different, in a coarser sauce.

To finish:

Add pesto to the sauteed vegetables and cook over low heat for a few minutes, just enough to take some of the edge off the garlic. Add the pasta and grated cheese to the sauce and stir for a few more minutes to melt the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. For pesto, I tend to go lighter on the salt and heavier on freshly ground black pepper.

Garnish with the remaining pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and cheese.

 

Pour a glass of red wine and enjoy!

 

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Recumbent bikes come with a steep learning curve and without training wheels! Redeeming quality: this one is more comfortable than a couch.

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