Friday, October 21, 2011

Pesto Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage

Over the summer, the basil took over the herb patch. Our drip irrigation system stopped working, but the basil didn’t seem to notice. It had taken gargantuan proportions and I even had to stake it to keep it under control. I did, however, hack off many branches in an effort to drastically cut it back (the picture here was taken after the drastic cutbacks). I’m not one to waste food, though, so I made a few batches of pesto that I froze. I started with my standard recipe (liberal amounts of fresh basil, grated parmesan, roasted pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil thrown in a food processor), then I tried Jamie Oliver’s recipe (his quantities aren’t any more precise than mine, but he does add salt and garlic on top of my ingredients). If you can’t have nuts but still want some crunch in your pesto, try toasted breadcrumbs or roasted soy beans. The parmesan isn’t absolutely necessary, and you can totally make vegan pesto, but since it tastes wonderful and doesn’t have lactose, I like to use it.

I ended up using some of the pesto to make this dish I found in last May’s Real Simple, omitting the parmesan (since I already had a lot of it in the pesto). I really loved this recipe, and so did the Engineer! When he had his first bite, he exclaimed “Oh, yeah!”, and later said it was “a triumph of masking green beans and peas”. He also says not to compromise on the shape of the pasta; orecchiette really are fantastic here. The recipe makes 4 servings.

12 oz orecchiette
½ lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz fully cooked Italian-style chicken sausage links, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pesto
½ cup grated parmesan (2 oz)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the green beans and peas during the last 3 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage pieces and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the sausage, pesto, parmesan, and ½ cup of the reserved cooking water to the pasta and vegetables and toss to combine (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry).

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