Just Chop It Fresh and Easy Pesto

Certain foods are ubiquitous. One such food is Pesto. Of course you can buy jars of it in supermarkets and specialty food markets, but there is none to compare to what you make at home. Most pre-made pestos are too oily, too smooth without any character and with little flavor. One of the easiest things to make at home is pesto.  This is a version that doesn’t even call for a food processor. I just chopped it!

I want my pesto to have texture and lots of flavor. I want the olive oil to enhance the pesto, not be the main ingredient.  I often use greens other than basil such as kale or parsley. Hardly ever do I use pine nuts as I feel they are too oily. Walnuts, pecans, pistachios and pepitas are some of my favorite nuts to use. The constants in my pestos are good fresh garlic, the best olive oil I can afford and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Paired with a good short pasta noodle such as Campanelle, this pesto is divine and delicious.

First I smashed two garlic cloves using the flat side of my knife and then finely chopped them, adding toasted walnuts to my board and giving them a medium to fine chop together with the garlic. Grated parmesan was added and chopped into the garlic-walnut mix.

I harvested my first basil of the 2019 season and gave it a medium to fine chop as well. All the ingredients I then put into a bowl, adding a generous sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

All the ingredients I then drizzled with a good olive oil and smushed it all together with a wooden spatula.

I cooked some Campanelle noodles, topped them with a few spoonfuls of this chopped pesto. Bon Appetit.

Just Chop It Fresh and Easy Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 large fresh garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano – 1 cup or more divided
  • 2 cups or more fresh basil leaves
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1 lb Campanelle pasta noodles or other short noodle

Directions:

  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles.
  2. Meanwhile working on a cutting board, smash the garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and then chop. Add walnuts and give them a medium to fine chop along with the garlic. Every now and then smush it all with the side of you knife. This releases the oils from the garlic and walnuts.
  3. Add half of the grated Parmigiano and chop into the garlic-walnut mix and scrape all into a mixing bowl.
  4. On the same board chop the basil medium to fine and add to the bowl tossing with other ingredients. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle olive oil over all and toss together well. Taste and adjust to suit your palate.
  5. When you pasta water boils add the noodles and cook al dente. Drain well.
  6. Serve pasta topped with a generous serving of chopped pesto and more Parmigiano, sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle with additional olive oil if you like. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn.         http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Valentine’s Dinner Trio – Spinach Gnocchi, Easy Marinara Sauce and Miles Davis

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Fight the restaurant crowds this Valentine’s weekend if you choose, or have a cozy dinner for two at home that takes no time to prepare and is stunningly delicious and fresh.  A bowl of spinach gnocchi, a glass of wine and thou……while listening to Miles Davis’s album & title song “My Funny Valentine”.images-1

 Gnocchi are usually small dumplings but my gnocchi are made with fresh spinach leaves and ricotta and are a little bit larger. Served in a pool of fresh marinara will no doubt pave the way for another year of love and romance. A good full-bodied red wine  and freshly shredded Parmigiano Reggiano will seal the deal.

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Fresh spinach leaves steamed, chopped and mixed with….

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ricotta cheese, eggs, nutmeg…..

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…parmesan, flour, salt & pepper….

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…formed into gnocchi ready to be sauted…

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….until lightly browned.

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Treat yourself to the really good Parm for this dinner.

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The simplest of red sauces using skillet roasted cherry tomatoes and herbs.

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A good meal, Miles Davis and a glass or two of well-chosen wine…a deliciously romantic trio.

Peace and Love.

Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi and Roasted Tomato Marinara

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

Ingredients for Sauce:

  • 2 cartons of cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • olive oil for skillet
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herbs
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Spinach Gnocchi:

  • 1 to 1.5 lbs fresh spinach leaves, steamed, well-drained
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded or grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese + extra for serving
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil for cooking

Directions for the Sauce:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add cherry tomatoes to the pan along with the garlic and shallots. Stir to coat with oil and turn heat to medium.
  2. Cook mixture until tomatoes collapse and juices are released which takes about 10-15 minutes. Stir every now and then.
  3. Add chicken broth, herbs, salt & pepper to skillet tossing well. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Process mixture in a food processor or blend in a blender just until smooth.  Return sauce to pan over low heat, keeping warm while making gnocchi.

Directions for Gnocchi:

  1. Blend steamed, well-drained spinach and ricotta together in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add shredded Parmesan, eggs and nutmeg and blend well.
  3. Sprinkle flour and dry bread crumbs, salt and pepper over mixture. Blend well. Mixture will be somewhat wet.
  4. Form gnocchi into 1.5 inch balls and then roll gently to make them oblong. Dip your fingers into water as you work so it will be easy to form shapes. As you work place finished gnocchi on a sheet pan covered with parchment. You should have about 15 to 20 gnocchi.
  5. Brown gnocchi in batches in a non stick skillet over medium high heat that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Turn to lightly brown on all sides and cook inside. Place cooked gnocchi loosely covered in a warm oven to keep warm until ready to serve.
  6. To Serve: Portion hot tomato sauce into bowls and top with gnocchi and a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan. Pour a glass or two of vino, light a few candles, turn on some Miles and enjoy!

Teresa Blackburn       http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Stove-Top Slow-Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce with Ricotta Cavatelli

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The days are longer and hotter. Dusk holds on to the last warm rays, squeezing out every drop of light until there is none left. These times are for simple suppers that are a pleasure to prepare with no oven involved. Just a few fresh ingredients and a chilled bottle of wine for a June Saturday evening.

A couple of pints of cherry tomatoes, freshly cut basil and shallots are the basics of this recipe for “Stove-Top Slow-Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce with Fresh Ricotta Cavatelli”.

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I wandered into Lazzaroli’s Pasta & Italian Market last week seeking an idea for supper. I bought three types of pasta including this freshly made Ricotta Cavatelli.  This little rolled  pasta, which is like a dumpling,  has just the right shape to hold the sauce while on its way to your mouth.

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The two pints of cherry tomatoes were left over from a photo shoot the week before…various kinds all mixed together which I cut in half.

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Diced shallots slow-roasted over low heat in a splash of good olive oil until almost caramelized to which I added the tomatoes.

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After a half hour of pan roasting I added the fresh basil leaves, a pinch of salt & black pepper.

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 Tossed with the fresh Ricotta Cavatelli and Parmigiano Reggiano, a crusty loaf for sopping and a chilled Italian white made an ideal warm weather supper.

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“Buon Appetito Y’all”

Stove-Top Slow-Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce with Ricotta Cavatelli

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 3 shallots, small dice
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half saving the juices
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water or broth
  • 8 ounces Cavatelli (or similar pasta)
  • freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy pan. Add shallots & garlic. Leave on heat, stirring every now and then until shallots are almost softened.
  2. Add cherry tomato halves to pan and stir to coat with oil. Turn heat to low. Leave on heat for about 30 minutes, stirring often. The tomatoes will begin to “melt” creating a sauce. Add 1/4 cup water or broth and continue cooking stirring often while you cook the pasta.
  3. Bring a pan of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add Cavatelli and stir. Cook for about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta in a colander.
  4. To the sauce add a handful of roughly chopped fresh basil leaves stirring to blend.Remove pan from heat.
  5. Add drained pasta to the pan of sauce.  Stir gently to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding some of the pasta water if need be to thin it out.
  6. Serve with a generous dusting of fresh Parmigiano.

Note: This was just one of the best and easy sauces I have ever made. The perfect pasta storm.

Recipe: Teresa Blackburn June 2015

“Kale, Kale, Beautiful Kale, Pesto”

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Big beautiful bunches of Kale...Red Russian with its purplish-red stems & lacy tips, Lacinato Kale very sturdy with the deepest dark green color, and our old, familiar favorite, Curly Kale rather fluffy with white stems & veins all piled high and dewy fresh at the Nashville Farmer’s Market.

Like the “it girl”, Kale, is the “it green”…the green “of the moment”…the “if you own a restaurant in this century Kale is a must for your menu” green…unless you have been living under a rock or off-the-grid completely you know this…right? Right.

To celebrate the “it-ness” of Kale, it’s bounty, beauty and health benefits I came up with this oh-so-easy recipe for “Kale, Beautiful Kale, Pesto“.

Kale Pesto on Pasta

Here is all you will need:

1 bunch of Kale, rinsed & patted dry, middle stem trimmed out, leaves broken into bite-size pieces.

2 garlic cloves, 1 cup toasted walnuts, 1 cup shredded Gruyère Cheese, good olive oil, 1 lemon, sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, plus a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano to grate over servings.

Kales Pesto Ingredients

Here is all you need to do:

1. Place garlic cloves & walnuts in a food processor fitted with the cutting blade. Pulse until nuts & garlic are chopped, but not too finely.

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2. Add Kale pieces, fresh lemon juice & sea salt to processor bowl. Pulse while adding about 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil to mixture. Stop & scrape down bowl if you need to. Add Gruyère to the mix and pulse a few times to make a nice paste. Add more or less oil depending on how you like your pesto. I prefer a chunkier, less oily pesto.

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Kale Pesto

3. Top a bowl of hot pasta with a dollop of Kale Pesto, grind some black pepper on top,  add some freshly grated Parmesan..and a glass of a crispy chilled wine. So far, so good October!

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Get your “green” on….Eat more Kale, y’all.