Creamy Pesto Pasta

I don’t cook pasta very often, so it seems funny to me to post a two pasta dishes in a row.  I didn’t actually cook them two nights in a row…I think they were about two weeks apart.

We could smell the bushel of basil as soon as we got the vegetables home.  I love the aroma of basil and it was calling out to me all week.  “Make pesto,” it said.  When I saw some leftover heavy cream in the fridge, I knew what I had to do.  My very favorite restaurant dish from my childhood at Semolina’s Restaurant in New Orleans–creamy pesto bow ties.

Semolina’s was always a special treat and remember going most often with my high school friends.  We would fill up on soft French bread and garlic butter, but leave enough space to lick up the bowl of creamy pesto.  I don’t remember ever eating dessert there, we were always way too full.  So, sometimes when I want to head back to that place I like to mix my pesto with cream.

Ingredients:

1 bunch fresh basil

2 cloves garlic

High quality extra virgin olive oil

Handful Parmesan cheese

8 oz mushrooms (sliced)

Heavy cream (I used about 3/4 cup, but you can use what you like; half + half would also work here)

Bow tie pasta

Fresh tomato

Instructions:

Step 1: Make the pesto, by pulsing the basil, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan in food processor.  I dropped the cheese straight into the dish.

Step 2: While cooking the pasta, sautee mushrooms in butter.  After the mushrooms are soft, add the pesto and cream sauce to combine.

Step 3:  Drain pasta and coat with pesto cream sauce.  Incorporate fresh tomatoes.

Pasta, salad, and bread

Yum!

WOULD I MAKE THIS AGAIN? Absolutely.

TIPS FOR NEXT TIME: Fresh tomatoes are a great addition!  Semolina’s always had a tomato sauce, but the fresh tomatoes were a perfect compliment to the cream.  Remember to make garlic butter for the bread.

WHAT DID BABY THINK? She ate this up.  She especially loved the mushrooms and tomatoes.

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Perfect Pasta Primavera

I had a lot of veggies in the fridge and hadn’t made pasta in a while, so I thought that a nice Pasta Primavera would be good for dinner.  I found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman.  I had never made a recipe from this blog and thought it this recipe looked good enough to try with this week’s veggie box.

Kale, cucumber, blueberries, cherries, onions, squash, and potato

While the pasta boiled, I chopped up all my veggies.  I didn’t have everything called out in The Pioneer Woman’s recipe, but chopped yellow squash, red onion, green onion tops, garlic, red pepper, and mushrooms (not from the farm box).  I also had some herbs from the farm box.

Chopped vegetables

I sauteed these in butter and added in half + half, Parmesan cheese, broth, and basil.  This was seriously rich and creamy.  The perfect pairings for our perfect Pasta Primavera.  I dumped the cooked whole wheat pasta spirals in and we were ready for business!

Pasta mixed with veggies and cream

I served the pasta with a cold salad of cucumber and tomato from the farmer’s market, topped with olive oil and feta cheese.  This might seem like too much cheese in one meal, but we decided you really can’t have too much cheese on one plate.

Pasta Primavera with Cucumber, Tomato + Feta Salad

WOULD I MAKE THIS AGAIN?  Yes

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY: Not much, this was pretty darn good!  Using half + half instead of the heavy cream was a fine choice.


Hot Summer Day Salad

Whenever you land at the airport in New Orleans, you walk outside and are immediately hit by the thick air. You wade your way through the tangible, wet heat from the terminal to the waiting area, letting the moisture soak into your skin while you take it all in.   Although I left New Orleans over ten years ago, I regularly visit my family and steep in air while I wait to be picked up.

So, last week when I stepped out of my well air-conditioned office building into this summer’s mid-western heat wave, I was hit by a familiar humidity.  Like New Orleans, Chicago’s air was wet and tangible, soaking into my skin.  It was the kind of heat that had my fellow office workers in uproar.  The people that complain about weather year-round had something to say about this.  But for me, it was rather comforting and comfortable, reminding me that I live in a city with four distinct seasons.

This evening, standing at the stove is the last thing that I want to do.  Instead, I pull all of the vegetables out of the fridge to assess the situation.  I decide to make an entree salad–filled with as many vegetables as I can fit or that make sense together.  I have discovered that Andy doesn’t mind eating salad for dinner, as long as I make it substantial enough to be filling.  Through trial and error, I realized that we need to have at least two proteins, such as avocado and black beans,  in the salad to make it an entree fit for a dude.

Tonight I made two hard-boiled eggs and added a tin of oil-packed albacore tuna to the greens–making a really substantial meal.  I also included chopped cucumber, heirloom tomato from Henry’s Farm at the Evanston Farmer’s Market, roasted red pepper, and red onion.  At the last minute, I threw in some goat cheese.  I think that there is some rule that says that you aren’t supposed to eat cheese with fish (except perhaps for lox and cream cheese), but I disregarded that rule tonight.  I had picked up some herbed focaccia at the French Market at lunch and thought the cheese would pair nicely.  I was right.  But they key to making my salad “fantastic” (to quote Andy) is the homemade salad dressed.  I read an article in today’s Slate about the importance of  homemade salad dressing versus store bought–there is just no discussion on which is better.  The homemade dressing wins by a long shot–I always make my own if I have time.

Easy vinaigrette makes the salad

Simple Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons vinegar (can use White Wine, Red Wine, or Balsamic)

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or rosemary

Really really good extra virgin olive oil (quality makes a BIG difference)

1. Combine the mustard and vinegar.  Whisk together.

2. Season with garlic and herbs.

3. Add enough olive oil to cut through the vinegar, about 1/4 cup.

Plated salad + Focaccia bread