Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Work with what you've got

"What's for dinner tonight?"
It's the perpetual question in our house. I love planning meals, looking through recipes, and thinking about interesting new ingredients to try. Something I don't love? Making a trip to the store. And sometimes, on days like today, when I've just gotten home from work and the thought of combating gale-force winds in the grocery store parking lot makes me want to stay indoors forever, it's just not going to happen. So the question becomes, "What do we have in the house that can be put together into what might resemble a meal?".
Luckily, our little vegetable garden is beginning to come in handy. While not abound with produce, one thing that it has actually managed to produce is just enough arugula to do something with. Just enough, maybe, to whip up some arugula pesto. I can always count on having Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, and some kind of nuts knocking about in the pantry. Arugula lends a nice spiciness to the sauce and makes it a little different than your basic basil version.
So pesto, there's that.
I know there's also pasta in the pantry, but there doesn't seem to be a decent amount of any single shape. No matter! A master of rationalization, I tell myself, what better way to make plain old pasta fun and exciting than a myriad of shapes and sizes, each handling the sauce in its own way? So I toss together a few kinds, making sure that they have similar cooking times, and away I go.
I also just so happen to have a couple of leeks and some zucchini in the fridge, so I cook those up as well. Et voilà! This springy green meal is starting to come together.

Mixed pasta with Arugula pesto and Veggies 
For the pesto:
1c arugula (or any green, really), loosely packed
1/4c toasted pine nuts (I happened to have the classic, but I think almonds might also be good here)
1/4c Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
a few tbsp olive oil, depending on your preference
salt and pepper to taste

Process arugula in a food processor until it's very finely chopped. Then add garlic, nuts, and cheese,
processing after each addition. Finally, drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency is achieved. Taste 
and add salt, pepper, and any more of any ingredient you feel it needs.

For the Pasta:
1lb pasta (any kind you wish)
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 clove garlic
about 3 medium zucchini, or your vegetable of choice, chopped in 1/2" pieces
a splash of white wine
a handful of sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1/2c pesto
olive oil
grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta to just short of al dente in boiling salted water. Drain and save about a cup of the pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet and add leek and garlic. Sautée until leeks are softened, then add zucchini, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until zucchini is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
Add drained pasta to skillet along with pesto, a handful of cheese and some of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat the pasta in that delicious sauce that forms, and serve immediately.


  1. I am seriously going to make this. That is my kind of dinner!

  2. I love arugula in pesto! But then again, I love arugula in just about anything