It's a Keeper: Three Vegetable Penne with Tarragon-Basil Pesto

In an effort to save a little dough and mix things up a bit, I've started trying to do at least one vegetarian meal a week in the Miller Household. As part of that effort, we recently tried Rachael Ray's Three Vegetable Penne with Tarragon-Basil Pesto.

Let me begin by saying that the pesto was just outstanding. I don't know what made it so darn yummy, but it just works. The whole wheat pasta made it filling enough for a dinner, so you don't even miss the meat. I didn't serve any side dish, but a nice glass of white wine would go well with this meal....

Here's the recipe with my comments in brackets:

1 pound penne or whole-wheat penne rigate pasta
Salt
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed of tough ends
1 small zucchini
2 handfuls, 1/4 pound, haricots verts (thin green beans) trimmed of stem ends [I just used regular old green beans and they were just fine.]
1/4 cup pine nuts [These aren't cheap, but they are worth the money. Rach says to store them in the freezer.]
1 cup basil, 20 leaves
1/2 cup chopped tarragon leaves (10 to 12 stems) [I'm not usually a fan of tarragon, but I'm glad I included it.]
Handful flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, zested
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls, plus more to pass at table
Coarse black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it

Heat a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Salt the water and add pasta to cook to al dente or, with a bite to it. Cut asparagus spears into 2 inch pieces on an angle. Cut zucchini into matchstick shapes. Cut haricots verts or green beans into 2 -nch pieces on an angle. Add vegetables to pasta after penne has been cooking about 5 minutes. Cook veggies and pasta together 2 minutes. [See, you save having to clean a separate pot! But don't forget to save some of the pasta water for later in the recipe.]

While pasta cooks, toast pine nuts in a small pan until golden, then cool. Place nuts, basil, tarragon, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, cheese and a little salt and pepper in a food processor. Turn the processor on and stream in the extra-virgin olive oil until thick sauce forms.

Scrape pesto into large, shallow serving dish. Add a ladle of hot, starchy pasta water to the pesto. Drain penne and veggies and add immediately to pesto. Toss to coat pasta and vegetables evenly. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with extra grated cheese to pass at table.

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