Thursday, November 5, 2009

Comfort food

Last week, after a long, hard day at work, I decided the best way to unwind would be by making my favorite pesto pasta and savoring it with a glass of Pinot Grigio. And boy, did it do the trick. So much so that I have a pot of boiling water on the stove as I type. I figure, after the week I've had, some comfort food (minus the wine) is in order, even for lunch.

Now, I have mentioned my "famous" pesto pasta on this blog before (most recently here) and while it is really not that famous, it is always a crowd pleaser and it never lets me down. And it's so easy to make, too! There's no measuring involved; I just eyeball it and adjust according to how many people I need to feed. If you can boil water and stir, you're good to go.

Here's what you need:
:: Pasta. Last week (and today) I used linguine, but I have also made this with penne, farfalle (bowties), even spaghetti. You get bonus points if you use whole-wheat!
:: Sun-dried tomatoes, drained. I use julienne cut tomatoes that are packed in oil, but you can use the dehydrated kind, too. They work just as well since the heat of the pasta and oil in the pesto rehydrates them.
:: Pine nuts (also called pignolis), toasted.
:: Store-bought pesto. I like Buitoni best but there are several other brands so it's good to try different types to see which you prefer. And there's always homemade! Which is simple to make but we're going the super simple route here.
:: Salt, for the pasta water.
:: Extra virgin olive oil, also for the pasta water.
:: Freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

The dish takes about 15 minutes to make, depending on what pasta you are using. In a medium to large pot (size depends on how many you are feeding) bring generously salted water to a boil. The salt is important because this is the only chance you get to flavor the pasta itself. Add pasta and a splash or two of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast pine nuts. I use about a palmful when I am just cooking for myself. You don't have to toast the pine nuts, but it really brings out their nutty, woody flavor. Just keep the skillet on medium (or low if you're nervous!) and don't walk away. These guys take only a minute or two to toast. Give the skillet a little shake every 30 seconds or so. You can smell when they are done but you can also see... don't let them burn! Dump pine nuts onto a paper towel until ready to use (don't leave in the skillet because they will keep toasting).

Once the pasta is done cooking, drain and return to pot. Stir in pesto, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes--  this is all to taste, but I like a lot of sun-dried tomatoes! If the pasta is sticking together, you can drizzle a bit of the oil from the sun-dried tomato jar or a bit of EVOO (as Rachael Ray would say!). Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serve family style or in individual bowls and enjoy! (I am right now. Yum.)

To up the protein in this meal, you can easily add grilled chicken. That's delish, too.

Other than being a fast and easy lunch or dinner, this pasta is also great to take to parties or potlucks because it tastes just as good cold. Same goes for leftovers.

Well, I hope some of you will try my "famous" pesto pasta. It really is my favorite dish. And if you do, be sure to let me know how you liked it!

Till then, what is your go-to comfort food?


Shoshanah said...

I love pretty much everything in there, the pesto, the pinenuts, the sun dried tomatoes. Sounds easy and perfect for me! The boy is not a big fan of sundried tomatoes, but worst case scenario he could just pick them out right?

bianca said...

You don't even know, pesto pasta w/sun dried tomatoes is my favorite meal in the entire world!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

That looks DELICIOUS, Carissa!

I will most definitely be trying it. Yum :-) I LOOOVEEEE me some pasta!

jennster said...

that looks soooo good!!!!!!!! YUM!! love that you're in simi! that's my hometown! :)

You Are My Fave said...

I love pine nuts added to everything. I think this is what I'm going to have for dinner tonight.

Andhari said...

That looks insanely good! Pesto Pasta is my FAVORITE foood :) EVer.