Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pesto Pasta Perfection

First off, I might as well go ahead and dedicate this entire post to my mom.  First of all, she let me use her wifi card at my apartment so that I can avoid the crappy internet issues when I need to.  Second, she gave me the best tip ever that I will pass along to you in the spirit of good will and good food.

As both are necessary components of LIFE.

Today, we are making a little dish I like to call "Pesto Pasta Perfection" as our craft.  I love food.  I spent my entire senior year of college watching the food network (I really did not have homework).  And I have attempted to try new things and new recipes while at college.  Pesto is something I have been in love with for quite some time, although I have not progressed into making my own yet.

But I have progressed into a multitude of recipes for it and great ways to stretch it further.

Without further ado...

- 1/2 cup or so of pasta (basically however much you make for yourself, I do all my recipes in one person measurements, as I am one person).  My version of measuring pasta is a couple of handfuls really.  And like rice, I always make too much.
-3-5 mushrooms, I prefer bella, amount varies by size and how many you prefer, cut into slices or quarters (I like to do first one way and then the other)
-1/2 a vine tomato, cut into large cubes
-A handful of spinach leaves (I prefer baby spinach)
-About 1/4-1/3 c of pesto (I used a soup spoon scoop, you may tailor yours to your OCD and to your taste preferences)
-About 1/3 c of sour cream (again, I used a soup spoon scoop but had it more mounded than my pesto)  I would say 1/4 pesto and 1/3 sour cream is nearly spot on to what I did.
-Salt and Pepper to taste
-Olive Oil
-Mozzarella Cheese

Here is a little teaser of what we are shooting for.  Ignore my lack of fancy photography, I live and die by my iPhone camera.

Anyway, cook your pasta, as you can see here mine is tri color rotini, until it is as you like it. Some like it al dente, I prefer mine a little more cooked.  I don't time my pasta (go figure).  Pasta tends to get less translucent when it is nearing completion, so I check it every so often until then and when it looks right, I taste it.  Usually it needs another 2 minutes, sometimes not.
I am so sorry if anyone reading this is OCD.  I am just really not a precise person when it comes to cooking. 

While you are cooking this pasta, get a skillet heating with some EVOO and/or butter.  You just need enough to grease up the bottom a bit, I often end up using both, starting with EVOO and inevitably adding butter at the end.  I don't know why I do it, I just always have.

It is perfectly ok and possibly even a little helpful if the mushrooms are frozen.  At first I thought the water they release from freezing was going to mess things up, it does not.  You will want to add the mushrooms first, cook them a minute or two and flip them over, give them another minute or so, and throw in your tomatoes.  The spinach will just need a few minutes to cook down, so that can come in later toward the end.  I would say I probably cooked all of them in a skillet for maybe around 8-10 minutes, as I had the mushrooms started not too terribly long after my pasta.

After your pasta is done, drain it in to a collander or strainer of choice, I like to leave mine sitting for a second, and grab your mushroom mixture and drain it over the pasta.  This is why I said it is perfectly fine that the veggies juice up when cooking.

Tump everything back into the pot you cooked the pasta in, you can set it on your stove, counter, or back on your burner, whichever you choose, and add in the pesto and sour cream.

Give it all a good stir and watch it turn into a creamy yummy awesomeness.  All technical terms.  You can add in a handful or desired amount of mozzarella at this point, or add parmesan if you prefer.

Either mix it in while it is on your burner on a lower heat setting and let it heat up and melt, or do what I did, put it out into a bowl, add the cheese, and zap it for 30 seconds in the microwave.  The coolness of the sour cream and pesto cool down your dish a lot, so it likely won't melt the cheese as much as you might hope on its own.

Then it will come out looking like this.  YUMMY!  The sour cream is great because pesto tends to have a really strong flavor that can be a bit of a turnoff to some people.  I can easily eat straight pesto but I only use very small scoops at a time (this dish was a slight bit larger of a scoop than usual, but I also have leftovers).  Sour cream tends to be less expensive than most pesto, unless you find it on manager's special at Kroger and such, which I occasionally do. It is a great way to stretch the pesto while still having an incredibly flavorful sauce.

You can also add flavor by adding herbs to your veggies when you cook them.  I only put salt and pepper on mine, and I love how it all turned out.

If that happens, stock up and freeze it is my opinion.  It unthaws well.  Maybe even freeze in smaller containers if you are savvy like that!

I tend to be a lazy bum on garlic bread and usually don't bother turning on my oven for it, and cannot justify to myself the calorie counts on those frozen texas toast ones, so I put some wheat bread in the toaster, buttered it immediately on pop up, and sprinkled some garlic on it.  Simple, satisfying, quick, all words that I like.

This is a super simple dish to make and one that can easily be upscaled to your household needs.  It is something that I think a wide range of people would like the taste of, much more so than only using pesto in it.  For variations, do this with ravioli, tortellini, different pastas, and additions like chicken seasoned with rosemary and basil (another personal favorite of mine). 

College never tasted so good.
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