Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pesto pasta - Minty fresh pasta with nutty goodness

Is there anyone out there that doesn't like pasta? Confession here, I am not a fan of pasta, something about the texture of cooked pasta puts me off. The husband and daughter both love pasta in all its shapes and size which set me off on a hunt for a good home made pasta recipe.

Pesto is Italian for 'pound' or 'crush' and refers to the way this sauce was originally made by pounding the ingredients together. Typically pesto has the usual suspects, basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese and olive oil. But there are also all kinds of innovative pesto sauces. I normally add a handful of nuts from my refrigerator in addition to the basil. I once saw a pesto recipe that had frozen green peas in it and have been religiously adding it as my family seems to like the taste. This makes the sauce a tad bit healthier too. I got a bag full of fresh green peas which I sat down and shelled patiently the other day and put them into the pesto. It seemed to work wonders if I can go by the smile on DD's face as she ate it. So then it became a norm to add either frozen peas or fresh ones if I could get my hands on them.

When something clicks and becomes a regular at home, I tend to go off and make modification (and tell my unsuspecting family they are improvisations) :-) which sometimes works and sometimes I get told sternly to stay away from that modification and stop killing a wonderful recipe :-). I had made pudina chutney (the regular South Indian chutney with coconut and mint) and the bowl was still on the kitchen counter when I started to put the ingredients for the pesto, so I just added a couple Tblsp of the chutney into the pesto and the reaction was, "Amma, this is the best pesto pasta you have made so far" immediately followed by a suspicious, "What did you do??" :-).

The coconut lover that I am, I would love to tell you all to go ahead and add some chutney into your pasta sauce to make it yummy but I won't. That would make some puritans cringe totally, coconut in a pasta sauce? So, not to break the order in the World, just go ahead and add a whole bunch of fresh mint leaves to make it minty and yummy. I have found that this recipe is a total comfort food in my daughter's age group and they love it every time it is made.

On another note, I got a stand mixer sometime back, it was one of those - "do I need it, do I want it" deliberations that had been going on with my inner self and finally I gave in during the last black Friday sale. To give myself some credit, I had a long unused gift card (so I didn't deny my family from any basic necessity) and the store had this stand mixer stacked outside with a huge sale board. So it was like destiny, I went and picked one up, came home and gave a long explanation of all the wonderful things I could make with that stand mixer including bread dough and how this machine would revolutionize my kitchen and make it a wonderfully efficient place. BH, the ever patient man, nodded very encouragingly (he does that when he sees a lost cause), I saw the lips curl ever so slightly as he probably thought about the other similar gadgets I have acquired previously. What I have found with this stand mixer is that it is a really powerful machine and does what it claims to do including the bread dough but I have a 7 cup mixer which I wrongly understood to be the amount of dry flour it can mix at a time. But the reality is I can only put about 2.5-3 cups dry flour and the remaining ingredients will fill the capacity.  So, you see it is too much of work, doing it in batches and cleaning up all the different attachments and so I have fallen back to my kneading by hand (good exercise and calms my nerves too). But I use this mixer every time I make pesto as it crushes frozen nuts like a bulldozer and produces a wonderfully textured sauce. So, it was not a bad buy after all :-)
Update on 9/24/14: I am revamping this post as an entry for Indus Ladies kid's lunch box event since the first thing DD mentioned when I asked her what her ideal lunch box recipe was this :-)
So here is a recipe for a minty, creamy pesto sauce to jazz up your pasta.
What do you need to make pesto? 
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 Tsp dry basil (or a handful of fresh basil leaves)
1/2 Tsp dry oragano
1/2 Tsp dry thyme (optional but recommended)
2 cloves of fresh garlic (adjust quantity to your liking)
1/4 Tsp black crushed black pepper
1/2 Tsp salt
1/2 cup grated cheese (suggestions: mozarella, parmigiono)
2 Tblsp olive oil
To make pasta:
2 cups of pasta (I normally use any of these types - penne, fusilli, bow tie)
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tsp oil (I use saffola oil)
1 cup mixed vegetables (I use green beans, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower) - chopped into thin slices or small pieces.

How do you make pesto?
  • Add all the ingredients under pesto except for cheese and olive oil into the bowl of your food processor or mixer and pulse it a few times until the nuts crumble down. 
  • Add the cheese and stream the oilve oil little at a time to grind the pesto into a smooth chutney like consistency. 
  • Taste and adjust any herbs or spices you like. 
How do you assemble pesto pasta? 
  • Cook pasta per the package instructions. Drain the pasta and reserve the cooked water. 
  • Heat 1 Tsp oil in a big pan, add the chopped vegetables and saute for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. The vegetables should be barely cooked and should not lose their crunch. 
  • Add the cooked pasta into the pan, add the pesto and adjust the consistency using the reserved water. Switch off the stove and serve warm. 
  • If you are using a regular mixer, be kind on the motor and thaw the nuts to room temperature before running the mixer. Also use about 1/4-1/2 cup water if you need to help the grinding process. 
  • The above quantity makes enough pesto for 2 cups of pasta, you can make pesto in larger quantities and refrigerate up to 3 days. 
  • The above proportion is how my family likes it, you can increase/decrease any of the spices or herbs and cheese to make it perfect for your taste buds.
  • The consistency of the final dish is an entirely personal choice, DD loves to slurp every bite with a little bit of sauce so I make it slightly liquidish. Adjust the amount of water you use. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

wonderful recipe , though i don't like the pasta very much. the pictures are very attractive and taste also must be very good. next time i can taste it. very good one with a hard work.

prathibha Garre said...

Love the pasta especially with pesto !! never thought of adding coconut to pasta, I wonder how it would taste..might b I shud try it when I get crazy..:) good 2 see u back 2 blogging

kitchen queen said...

yum yum lip smacking tempting pasta with an awesome presentation.

Nandita SS said...

Just love pesto pasta. Looks so yum!!

Priya Suresh said...

The addition of coconut sounds mindblowing here, wonderful platter.

Swathi Iyer said...

Delicious pesto, Looks perfect and yumm.

Sushma Madhuchandra said...

First time to your blog! Nice to meet another Kannadiga in the blogger world :)