Pasta e Fagioli

December 31, 2011

Margaux says…

I think I’ve had enough meat and potatoes to last me a lifetime. I can’t believe those words are coming out of my mouth…I’m a total meat-and-potatoes kind of girl. But we had the most rich food over the holidays (like, for example, potatoes whipped with a stick of butter, 8 oz. cream cheese, and a cup of sour cream!), and then had them as leftovers, and I think I’ve really had enough.

I found this recipe last year on Food 52, and have made it a couple of times. It’s quick and easy, and very heartwarming. And you can easily make it vegetarian by omitting the bacon,  instead using 2 tbsp olive oil to saute the veggies, and vegetable broth or water in place of the chicken broth. We’re definitely going to be eating things like this for the next several weeks!!

Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from “Jenny’s in the Kitchen” blog on Food 52
serves 4-5

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small stalks celery
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dittalini
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
grated Parmesan

1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring until crisp. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and transparent. Add celery and cook another couple minutes. Add broth, salt and oregano and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.

2. In a bowl mash 1 cup of the beans, then stir them into the onion mixture along with the remaining whole beans, tomatoes, and pasta. Simmer the soup, covered, for 15 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Then remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in parsley and grated parmesan (I used about 1/4 cup). Serve with crusty bread.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

I saw this recipe in Food & Wine this month and since it has fall vegetables paired with some of my favorite aromatics and ingredients, I thought I’d give it a try.  I thought it sounded good, but was delighted by how delicious it was – it way outstripped my expectations!  Of course, I made adaptations – I can’t help but tinker!  I thought this would be too difficult to eat with bucatini, so instead used a my favorite small pasta shape, fusilli bucati.  I think other small pasta shapes would be excellent, or you might want to try the bucatini of the original recipe.  (Actually, I think this would make a great side vegetable dish without the pasta.) You might be inclined to skip the toasted breadcrumbs, but I would advise against this.  They added both flavor and texture and, to me, really made the dish.  A bonus is that this took only about 30 minutes start to finish!  We served this with roasted salmon and an Italian Orvieto white wine.  I will definitely make this again!

Ingredients

The Bread Crumbs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
The Pasta
3/4 pound small pasta shapes
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking water
The Vegetable Mixture
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound cauliflower florets, cut in 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
3/4 pound brussels sprouts, halved or quartered if large (about 3 cups)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, finely diced
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme
Finishing
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving

Directions

In a small skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 1/4 cup of the oil on medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the cauliflower and brussels sprouts and season with salt and black pepper.  Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the oil to the skillet along with the onion, garlic, crushed red pepper, rosemary and thyme; cook, stirring, until the onion is slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Cover and cook over low heat until the cauliflower and sprouts are tender, about 3 more minutes. Keep warm.

Add the pasta and reserved cooking water to the vegetables and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until the water is nearly absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir in the 1/2 cup of grated cheese.  Serve the pasta in wide bowls, passing the bread crumbs and additional cheese at the table. (Alternatively, you can skip stirring the cheese into the pasta and add it instead to individual servings along with the bread crumbs.)

Aunt Suzy says . . .

Recently we had an early September cold snap and I immediately thought “soup!”.  I had some Parmesan cheese rinds in my fridge and had just made some chicken stock, so I thought “minestrone!”.  Not sure I’ve ever made it before, but I love soup with lots of vegetables.  I have a 1973 paperback of Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cooking, so I started there.  I looked at many recipes for this classic Italian soup – as you might expect, there is no one set recipe.  Marcella’s included “meat” stock made from beef for which I substituted chicken stock.  It did not include meat as many recipes do.  I had some chicken sausages on hand and added those, although I think it would be delicious without.  I found her method of adding ingredients to the base one at a time interesting and unique to all the recipes I looked at.  (This is probably so you can chop the next ingredient while the previous is sauteing!)   This recipe made many meals, so I think it could easily be cut in half to serve 4 people with left-overs.  Enjoy with some crusty bread and a Chianti or Valpolicella!

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, sliced and cut in 1/4 rounds

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

3 cups diced unpeeled potatoes, red or yellow

2 cups fresh green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces

4 cups cabbage, preferably napa, cored, quartered and cut crosswise in 1/4-inch slices

2 flavored chicken sausages, sliced in 1/4-inch half moons (optional)

7-9 cups chicken stock

1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juices

1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dried basil, or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper to taste

2 15-ounce cans beans, cannellini or kidney or a mixture, drained and rinsed

1-2 parmesan cheese rinds (optional)

Cooked pasta, ditalini or small elbows (optional)

Grated parmesan cheese

Chopped Italian parsley

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  When it shimmers, add the butter and stir to melt thoroughly.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add each ingredient, garlic through sausages, one at a time and saute for about 2-3 minutes each, stirring constantly.  Next add the stock, the tomatoes and their juices, the herbs, salt and pepper, the cannelini and kidney beans and the parmesan rinds if you are using.  Adding more or less stock depends on whether you like your soup on the thick or the brothy side.  Stir to blend thoroughly.  Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about an hour.  The vegetables will be cooked through but not mushy.  When the soup is finished cooking, remove the parmesan rinds.

To serve, put a little cooked pasta (if you are using) in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Pour the soup over the pasta. Pass the grated parmesan and parsley.

NOTE:  As with many soups, this only gets better after a day or two.  If you want to make this to freeze for future use, omit the potatoes.  I’ve found that they turn to mush in the freezer.  Cooked cubes of potatoes can be added later.

Aunt Suzy says . . . .

It’s been a long time since I’ve made this dish, but since spring has just burst on the scene I tried to think of recipes that could be served at room temperature.  Not that it’s terribly hot, but it feels great to get out of the soup/stew pattern of the last many months.  I love mint and enjoy cooking with it – I’m always on the lookout for savory recipes that use mint.  This is from Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s The Italian Country Table cookbook, which is packed with delicious recipes.  She mentioned that this can also be made with tuna, which is more traditional than chicken.

I would rate this dish as easy but impressive! We served it with Lemony Quinoa and Oven Roasted Asparagus – the first of the season! It pairs well with a Sicilian white wine, but we had a rose on hand and it was a delicious match.

The Chicken

1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Slice the chicken cross-wise in 1-inch (or so) strips.  Toss the chicken with the remaining ingredients, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 1-6 hours.  When ready to cook, heat a gridded skillet, griddle or 12-inch saute pan to medium-high heat.  Saute the chicken, sprinkling it with salt.  Turn the pieces until they start to pick up color, then turn down the heat to medium to medium-low.

Continue to cook about 5 more minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is barely firm when pressed.  Transfer to a serving platter and cover with the mint sauce.  This can be served warm or room temperature.

Mint Sauce

1/4 medium red onion, small dice

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon EV olive oil

1/4 tightly packed cup fresh mint, finely chopped, or more to taste

About 30 minutes before cooking the chicken, stir together the onion, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt/pepper in a small bowl.  Let sit 20 minutes, then add the olive oil.  Stir in the mint right before serving.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This is the first time I’ve made Chicken Cacciatore, and I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten it.  The impetus for cooking this dish was a bottle of Italian wine called Bug Juice that I had purchased for my niece Katie’s visit over the weekend – that’s her in the photo slicing mushrooms. 

Katie has been called Katie-bug for as long as I can remember so it’s fun to find bug-related gifts for her.  I got the wine out to tell her how this red wine inspired the idea to cook this recipe and . . . . . lo and behold, the wine was not red!  It was a Moscato d’Asti, which will taste great this summer on the deck when the temp is 90 degrees! 🙂 We went ahead and cooked the Chicken Cacciatore anyway, and we were glad that we did.  It was tasty and made the house smell great, something that Joy of Cooking remarked about in their recipe.  I have since looked at recipes online and found there are many variations, which makes sense since the translation is “Hunter’s Chicken”.

We served this with “faux risotto” – tastes like risotto, but uses a traditional rice cooking method making it lots easier. We also served Arugula and Mint salad with sliced kumquats.  A nice meal for the end of Katie’s visit to Minneapolis.

Margaux says…

I’ve actually made this recipe twice now, and it’s one of my favorite chicken dishes.  I always use the skin-on, bone-in chicken parts, and always use oil-cured black olives.  I’ve served it both with linguine noodles as well as basmati rice, and love both, but I have to say that the rice is my favorite.  I love to pour the juice from the chicken dish over the rice…..it is so yummy!

Joy of Cooking Chicken Cacciatore

2 – 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken (a combination of breasts and thighs) OR

3 – 3 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken parts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry wine, red or white

8 ounces diced tomatoes, with juice

3/4 cup chicken stock

1/2 cup oil cured black or Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

AUNT SUZY’S NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  The recipe called for bone-in/skin-on chicken parts, but I thought I’d try it with boneless and skinless for less fat.  It worked perfectly and likely was easier to eat!  You can see that Margaux uses the bone-in with great results. I used a Portuguese red wine, also perfect.  I used Crimini (baby bella) mushrooms – regular white button mushrooms will work as well. When I make it again, I will use an entire 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice.  I think this will work fine and will make sure I don’t have 7 ounces of tomatoes lurking in my fridge for who knows how long.  I will also try dusting the chicken with a little flour before browning.  I think this would add flavor, keep the chicken moist and thicken the sauce a little.

DIRECTIONS:  Cut the chicken into roughly 2-inch pieces.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Heat a large heavy skillet to medium-high and then coat with olive oil.  Add the chicken in small batches and brown on all sides.  Remove to a plate and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the onions and herbs and cook, stirring, until the onions start to soften and brown.  Add the garlic and cook a minute more until fragrant.  Return the chicken to the pan and add the wine.  Bring to a bubble and cook a couple of minutes until the alcohol has evaporated.  Add the tomatoes and chicken stock.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes.

Add the olives and mushrooms, bring back to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, covered.  Remove the lid and bring to a boil and cook until juices are slightly thickened.

Aunt Suzy’s Faux Risotto

1 tablespoon each EV olive oil and unsalted butter

1 small yellow onion, small dice

1 1/2 cups rice (I used Lundberg Wild Rice Blend)

2 2/3 cups chicken stock

pinch of saffron threads

1/2-3/4 cup finely shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Saute the onion until soft, but don’t brown.  Add the rice and saute a few more minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated and has a nutty aroma.  Add the chicken stock and the saffron.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until the liquid is absorbed.  Time will vary depending on the type of rice you use.  When the liquid is absorbed, add the salt and pepper and the cheese.  Stir to thoroughly blend and then turn into a serving bowl.

Panettone Bread Pudding

December 11, 2010

Margaux says…

I have a new obsession: panettone.  I was watching the Food Network because there was nothing else on (I’d already seen every cop show that was on, and had already caught up on all my shows on On-Demand).  So I happened to catch a Barefoot Contessa episode about bread.  Thrilling, right?  That’s what I thought, until she got to the bread pudding recipe.  The panettone, the eggs, and the half-and-half had me on the edge of my seat (well, I would have been had my 2-year-old son not been sleeping on me), and I could practically smell it baking.  I’ve actually never had panettone…I always just passed over it during the holiday season when it pops up at the grocery store because I assumed it was just an Italian fruit cake, which I really don’t like.  Well, thanks Ina, for broadening my horizons!  I seriously couldn’t stop popping pieces in my mouth while I was slicing it for the pudding.  I think I’m going to buy a loaf every week!  This stuff is like candy-bread!  Just think of the possibilities!  Panettone French toast!  Panettone toast and butter!  Panettone plain, with tea, for a mid-day snack!  Panettone and almond butter sandwich!  I’m so excited about this stuff.


This recipe is great for a crowd…luckily my babysitter has a huge family and I was able to send a bunch home with her this morning.  It’s serious comfort food, and I recommend serving it after a nice, comfort-food like dinner.  It would also be great served at a brunch.  The almond topping makes it very elegant, and I could see it at a post-wedding weekend brunch for the family, or for a birthday brunch.

I didn’t trim the crust from the panettone because there wasn’t really any super dark parts, and she didn’t trim it on the show…she actually said you don’t need to bother with that.  Also, I didn’t have extra-large eggs on hand, so I used one more whole egg and one more egg yolk, and it turned out perfectly!  I was a little hesitant about the 2 teaspoons of almond extract…that’s a lot of almond…but went for it anyway, and it was just right.  Tastes great served warm with vanilla ice cream!!

Panettone Bread Pudding
from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa show, Bread Winner episode 2008

1 Italian panettone, about 1.2 pounds
Unsalted butter, for greasing the dish
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Trim the dark brown outer crust from the panettone. Cut the rest of the loaf in 1-inch cubes and place on a sheet pan in a single layer. Toast the panettone for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Grease a 9 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish with the butter. Place the panettone cubes in the baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, half-and-half, vanilla and almond extracts and sugar. Pour this custard mixture over the panettone. Set aside for 10 minutes so the bread soaks up the custard. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top of the pudding.

Place the baking dish into a larger pan and add very hot tap water to the larger pan until it’s halfway up the side of the baking dish. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake the pudding for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes, until the custard is set and the top of the pudding is light golden brown. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Smothered Jerusalem Artichokes

November 16, 2010

Aunt Suzy says

I recently saw Jerusalem Artichokes, aka sunchokes, at our main Minneapolis Farmer’s Market and remembered that Randy had made a delicious dish of these stewed with tomatoes.  I imagine this is probably the last weekend that we would see locally grown produce so I grabbed them up along with a number of bunches of hearty greens for a cooking extravangaza weekend.   Here’s why I think this will be the last of locally grown produce – this happened the following weekend! (and yes, folks, this is a color picture!)

 I came home with the Jerusalem Artichokes and asked Randy about the dish he had made a few years ago.  He finally remembered that it was from an old Marcella Hazan cookbook.   I fell in love this cookbook, which I have never perused before.  Each recipe has a big descriptive paragraph in front of it where she talks about the ingredients, the history of the dish, her feelings about it.  Sometimes she gets off on tangents, like in this recipe she talks about how the method in this dish represents the underpinnings of the Italian approach to fresh cooking and then launches off to talk about how many restaurants take shortcuts now, much to the detriment of quality dining.  It’s sort of like a blog in print.  I think the book is totally cute also, hearkening back to paperbacks of the 70’s (it was published in 1978).

The recipe is called “smothered” rather than stewed and it is a snap to make once you have peeled the sunchokes, which is not the easiest thing to do!  But it’s worth it.  Find out more about Jerusalem Artichokes here.  We served this dish with salmon and green rice, which Margaux has mentioned a couple of times in other posts.  One of us will make it and put up a post about it soon – it’s a favorite!

Jerusalem Artichokes - Fuseau

2 pounds (or so) Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled and diced in 1/2″ cubes (about 3-4 cups)

2 Tablespoons EV Olive Oil

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, inced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, including juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Place a medium pot over medium high heat and add the oil.  When shimmering, add the onion.  Immediately turn the heat down to medium and saute until soft and starting to turn golden.  Add the garlic and stir for about a minute until it becomes fragrant.  Add the parsley and stir one more minute.  Add the tomatoes and then the Jerusalem Artichokes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until tender.  This can be made ahead and reheated.  But just once says Marcella or you will become like those restaurants who don’t care about quality anymore :-).

Aunt Suzy says . . .

What do you do when you’ve got a rosemary plant going wild like this?  Make this standout soup!  This is another recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which is so delicious it’s tied for first on my list of favorite homemade soups with the Chipotle-Lime Soup with Pumpkin.  Whichever one I’m eating at the moment is my favorite :-).   A nice Pinot Grigio or Soave works well as a wine pairing.

Margaux says . . .

This is one of my favorite soups to make in the winter!  Although, I’ve already made it this year, and it wasn’t even really cold out yet!  I double the pasta amount, and serve it with a lot of pasta in the bottom of the bowl in order to make it even heartier.  That also stretches the soup further, which is good when you’re on a budget! 

The Rosemary Oil

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh or dried rosemary

2 garlic cloves, sliced

Slowly warm the above ingredients until the garlic begins to color – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

The Soup

2 cups dried cannellini beans or 2 15-ounce cans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary OR  2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1 onion, minced

2 carrots, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2 1/2-3 quarts filtered water or chicken stock

1 parmesan rind, optional

1 small can diced tomatoes or 1 cup diced fresh tomatoes and their juice

To make with dried beans: Brine the beans by dissolving 2 tablespoons salt in 3 quarts of water in a saucepan. Add the beans, bring to a boil, turn off heat and let rest for 1 hour. Heat the oil with the rosemary in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook until the onion is softened and beginning to brown a little – about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook until fragrant – a couple of minutes.

Drain the beans, rinse well and add them to the pot along with the liquid  and optional parmesan rind.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat, then simmer covered until the beans have begun to soften – 30 min-1 hour.  Add 2 teaspoons salt and the tomatoes and continue cooking for 30 minutes more or until the beans are cooked through but not mushy.

OR

To make with canned beans:  After cooking the vegetables, add the beans and tomatoes along with the liquid and optional parmesan rind.  Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Aunt Suzy’s Cook’s Notes:  For years I made this with canned beans. But after reading about brining dried beans before cooking, I have been making many of my bean based soups using this method. It also helps that I am now retired and have plenty of time to cook. 🙂 I also use fire roasted diced tomatoes, although this is great with plain diced. I always make this with chicken stock, but it can be made vegetarian with water or vegan by omitting the cheese that comes in the next step.  Originally this did not call for the parmesan rind, but I’ve also been using a rind in many of the soups we make here at S&SK. If you like a brothy soup, leave as is.  If you like a thicker soup, you can puree part of the soup, to your taste.  This makes a lot of soup, so you can put any extra in the freezer as this soup freezes very well.

Finishing and Serving the Soup

1 cup or more dried small pasta – elbow macaroni, shells, rotini, cavatappi, etc.

Thin shavings of Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta al dente according to directions.  Strain the rosemary oil.  Place a little pasta in the bottom of soup bowls.  We loved this pasta (new to us), Fusilli Bucati, which had a great texture and mouth appeal!

Ladle the soup over the pasta, drizzle a little rosemary oil on top, pepper to taste and top with the Parmesan cheese.

Serve with crusty bread. Check out Randy’s idea for the garlic and rosemary used to create the oil.   I didn’t try it, but he said it was delicious, so don’t discard these after straining the oil.

Aunt Suzy Says

This is another great recipe from Lynn Rosetto Kasper’s cookbook The Italian Country Table.  It’s a variation on Panzanella – tomato/bread salad – with the addition of green beans.  It’s beautiful as well as delicious, especially when made with red and yellow tomatoes (or a variety of heirloom tomato colors).   This salad is fast and easy, taking advantage of the current bounty available from gardens and farmers’ markets.  Serve with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese for a main dish salad.

3/4-1 pound fresh green beans

3 to 4 3/4-inch-thick slices of coarse-grain bread

1 large clove of garlic, cut in half

4 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks

1-2 tablespoons basil, sliced

2 tablespoons EV olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Splash of red wine vinegar

Salt and black pepper to taste

Prepare the green beans by snapping off the ends and snapping into 2-inch lengths.  Cook the beans by either plunging into boiling water or steaming.  Either method should take about 4-5 minutes to cook to perfection – not too crisp, not too limp.   When finished cooking, plunge into cold water.  Drain and cool, then pat dry in a towel.

Rub a salad bowl with half the garlic.  Toast the bread or, if you’ve got a grill going, grill it.   Rub the bread on both sides with the garlic.  Tear into 1-inch pieces.  Toss the cooled green beans, the tomatoes, bread pieces and basil together in the prepared bowl.

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar together.  Add salt and pepper.  Pour over the salad and toss to fully blend all ingredients.

Notes on the ingredients:  Sour-dough based bread is delicious with this salad.  Trader Joe’s has a sour-dough seeded bread that I like to use when I can get it.  This is one of those recipes that you can experiment with amounts of various ingredients, more or less, to your taste.

Aunt Suzy says

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Italian Country Table by Lynn Rossetto Kasper.  It’s another no-cook pasta sauce recipe, although not quite as fast and easy as the one we recently posted.  I love cooking with mint and this recipe blends mint and 3 kinds of nuts into a course pesto that is just delicious.  I just peeked into the cookbook before writing this post and saw that the original recipe uses string pasta of some sort (linguine, spaghetti or buccatini).  I recall the first time I made it, I decided that I would use small pasta shapes in the future.  But I would not dissuade anyone from making it with string-style pasta!  As with a lot of these fresh pasta dishes, it goes really well with a flavorful pinot grigio or a dry rose wine.

Margaux says

I just made this dish last night, and it was fantastic!!  I love the nutty flavor of the pesto, and the freshness of the mint!  And super easy, like Suzy says.  I think it would also be good served with some grilled salmon or chicken, especially if you’re feeding more than 4 people.  We had it with a simple green salad, and it was a perfect summer dinner!

The Pesto

1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted

1/2 cup shelled salted pistachio nuts, toasted

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves

1-2 cloves garlic

pinch (or more!) hot red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons EV olive oil

Mix the cooled toasted nuts.  Coarsely chop about 1/4 of the nuts and set aside.  Process the remaining nuts, the mint, garlic and red pepper in a food processor to a very coarse meal texture.  Slowly add the olive oil and process until blended and a little smoother.  This will not be as creamy as a classic basil pesto.  NOTE:  I have a mini-Cuisinart and recommend to first chop the nuts before processing with the rest of the ingredients if that is what you will use.  It had a hard time with all those whole nuts!

The No-Cook Sauce and Pasta

1 pound small pasta (fusilli, cavatappi, penne, etc.)

3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water

3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered OR 3 1/2 cups seeded and chopped large tomatoes

The mint pesto

The reserved chopped nuts

1/4 cup sliced mint leaves (if large)

Cook the pasta according to directions, reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water after done and then drain the pasta.  Return the pasta to the cooking pot and toss with the pesto, adding enough cooking liquid to make a creamy sauce.  Add a little at a time to make sure it doesn’t go beyond creamy to runny.  Toss with the tomatoes and stir to blend.  Toss in the chopped nuts and mint for garnish.