Saturday, March 6, 2010

Penne with Arugula and Walnut Pesto

I have been entering a competition using Catelli Healthy Harvest Pasta in which the challenge changes every week. I entered for the first time last week and then challenge was to use whole wheat spaghetti with fruit. It took a while for me to think of something creative enough to prepare. I was thinking peaches, and then I was thinking should I try a dessert, but then I settled on creating a peanut chicken curry with coconut milk and adding fresh pineapple and lime juice. It actually worked out quite nicely.

This week the challenge was to create a recipe using whole wheat penne and nuts or seeds. Immediately I thought of a pesto - classic nuts & herbs with pasta, but the taste of whole wheat pasta is earthy and nutty in itself and I thought it would pair wonderfully with walnuts.

The rest of the recipe came together when I scoured through my fridge (my latest resolution is to never throw food away again. It drives me crazy to think of how much I throw away on a weekly basis...not anymore!). I found parsley which was a good base and then I had a whole container of arugula which would add some peppery bite, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil and it was pretty much done. I added some sauteed mushrooms because they were in my fridge, but also because it seemed to lack something by itself. Turned out, it added another earthy element to the pasta.

For a super easy dinner, this was it. And I didn't buy anything special (except the pasta which you have to include to enter the competition). Feel free to mix up the ingredients - more parmesan cheese, less salt, different herbs, you name it, you could probably do it!

Let's see what they come up with next week to make us all think outside the box! If you like the recipe go to the Catelli website and cast your vote!

Penne with Arugula and Walnut Pesto
Makes 4 serves

1 packed cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 packed cup baby arugula
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cold water
1 package (375g) Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Penne
1 tablespoon butter
1lb mushrooms, thickly sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook penne for 13 minutes, drain and set aside.

In the meantime, combine the parsley, arugula, garlic, walnuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper in the base of a food processor.

Pulse until the mixture is coarsley chopped. With motor running, slowly pour in olive oil and water and process until almost smooth. You may need to add a little more water if too thick. Set aside. You are looking for a smooth-ish paste texture. Soft enough that it will fold through hot pasta, but firm enough that it will hold it's shape if you make it into a ball shape.

Melt the butter in a large pan and brown mushrooms. You may need to do this in two batches so the mushrooms brown nicely.

Combine the pesto and mushrooms with the penne and mix well. Serve with extra parmesan cheese on top.


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