Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Cashew-Pesto Pasta

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – July 30, 2010
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Every Day with Rachael Ray, February 2011.

Pesto has quickly become one of my favorites.  You can put it on pasta, salad… heck you can even put it on a sandwich!  Traditionally, pesto is made with basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts/walnuts.  Of course, I’ve also tried alternative pesto, including one that used asparagus and I’ve enjoyed it every single time.

When I was flipping through my copy of Rachael Ray, I saw this recipe and thought it sounded delicious.  Bonus points to it being a meat-free dish as well.  Of course, as I was assembling the ingredients, I feared that it wouldn’t have a lot of flavor.  Cashews are my favorite nut, but they don’t have the most kick and parsley – eh, not one of my favorite herbs.  I decided to go ahead and make it though, although I did make it on the same day I cooked something else.

My finished product:

© You Want Me to Cook?

Picture published with recipe:

© Every Day with Rachael Ray

Since you know how I HATE it when they don’t use the same thing, let me tell you it was my choice to use a different type of pasta.  I stuck with the same kind, but used a tri-color (more on that later).  Also, my tomatoes are a little more roasted, but I also did that by choice.  Finally, both recipes used Parmesan, but I chose the shredded variety and I plated it with the extra on it as well.  Still, it looks pretty close and I was pleased with the presentation portion.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – You have to use several pieces of equipment to make this recipe, but none of them ended up being a horrific mess to clean.  The prep work was minimal and I didn’t spill anything on to my counter, which is a miracle.

Start-to-Finish Time: WELL UNDER AN HOUR – As usual, the longest part of the recipe was getting the water to boil.  Not only was the recipe speedy, but I also had ample time to clean-up as I cooked, meaning the after-mess was truly minimal.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – At first glance you were probably thinking, “crap.  Herbs.”  The excellent thing about pesto is that it is all pureed.  That means all you have to do is pluck the leaves off the stem.  No chopping is required.  So other than that, you have the tedious task of halving cherry tomatoes, but it is nothing that requires a lot of chopping finesse.

Ease of Recipe: MORE THAN I BARGAINED FOR – This really should be in THE BASICS territory, but I had to bump it up a level since you NEED a food processor.  Mini-chop and blenders will not do the trick here.  Good food processors are not the cheapest thing either.

OverallSORRY HONEY, NO LEFTOVERS – I was hesitant to let my husband try this because I feared he was going to eat the rest of it.  I left out a small portion for him to taste & tucked the rest of it in the back of the fridge.  He did find it though, which was a bummer for me.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep/Total Time: none given
Servings: none listed

Nutritional Information
None listed

On the slightest chance anyone from this magazine reads this blog post – ARE YOU SERIOUS?  It is clearly another “guest recipe” but don’t magazines, especially food magazines, have a ridiculous number of people on staff to test these recipes, verify ingredients, etc…  I already know her stance on nutritional information, but this is ridiculous.

Here’s what I came up with in terms of time:
  • Water to boil: 22 minutes
  • Prep ingredients: 10 minutes
  • Hands-on cooking: 25 minutes
The ingredient prep and hands-on cooking can be done simultaneously while the water boils & pasta cooks.  Overall, you’re looking at about 35 to 45 minutes.

We figured we got about 5 meals out of the recipe.  I ate it with salad and bread to complement the dish and get a little more out of it.

Changes denoted by red text

1 box (12 ounces) tri-color farfalle pasta
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup roasted cashews
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 clove garlic
Juice of ½ lemon

Ingredient Notes:
Tri-Color Farfalle Pasta
  • This pasta (pronounced far-FALL-lay) is also known as bow-tie pasta.  You can substitute fusilli or any kind of tube pasta if you wish.
  • I initially searched for wheat farfalle pasta, but saw this delightful tri-color pasta instead.  I was worried about the flavor of this dish and also wanted to give it some visual interest.  I’m glad I did, it looked (and tasted) gorgeous.

Olive Oil – should you use your really expensive extra-virgin olive oil or not.  Olive oil is what holds your pesto together and gives it that smooth texture.  I’m not a big advocate of buying expensive ingredients, however, if you have the expensive stuff to use, now is the time to use it.

Grape Tomatoes – you can also use cherry tomatoes, but stay away from chopping up large ones for this dish.  It will lend an entirely different taste and texture to your dish.

Flat-Leaf Parsley Leaves
  • Often, you can substitute dried herbs for fresh ones in a small ratio.  You ABSOULTELY CANNOT DO THAT WITH THIS DISH.  The fresh herb IS the dish.
  • Note that it calls for the leaves, NOT the stalks.  The stalks can be bitter, so base your measurement on the leaves that you pluck off of the stem.  You might need more than one bunch.
  • Curly-leaf parsley isn’t as flavorful as the flat-leaf variety and a much bigger pain to pluck off the stem.  However, if that’s what you’ve got, then use it.

Parmesan Cheese – the recipe called for grated, but I had shredded on hand, so that is what I used.

Garlic – to save some time, I used the pre-minced variety, although I will admit that I’m always heavy handed when adding it to the dish.

Equipment Needed:
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Pasta pot/Large pot with lid
Wooden spoon
Baking sheet
Large spoon
Food processor
Serving bowl/Large bowl

Equipment Notes:
Food Processor – One of the keys to making a great pesto is being able to finely chop all of the ingredients together.  One of the reasons a mini-chop will not work in this instance is that there is no way you’ll be able to fit all of the ingredients into it at once.  Also, you’ll need the ability to add the olive oil while it is running and I’ve never owned a mini-chop that had that ability.  Blenders simply won’t do the job here.  I won’t even get into it – they just won’t.

Ordinarily I tell you to prep your ingredients prior to starting the dish.  This is one of those cases where you don’t need to do it.  Read on for more information…

(1)  Preheat the oven to 375°F.

(2)  In a large pot, start enough water boiling to cook your pasta.  Prep your ingredients prior to finishing the rest of the recipe.

(3)  Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain, return the pasta to the pot and toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover to keep warm.

The olive oil will keep the pasta from becoming a stuck together clump (and also helps the sauce as well) so make sure you toss it well so that the pieces are well coated.

(4)  Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

© You Want Me to Cook?
(5)  Roast in the oven until wrinkled, about 12 minutes.

You want them to look like they are about to burst as in the picture to the right.  Withered and juicy is the key.

(6)  Using a food processor, finely chop the parsley, cashews, parmesan, garlic and lemon juice.

(7)  With the machine on, slowly add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil and process until smooth; season with salt and pepper.

(8)  In a serving bowl, combine the pasta, tomatoes and pesto. Serve with more parmesan.

For the love of all that is holy… this was one of the best pesto dishes I’ve ever had.  I was truly skeptical since I’m used to pesto being made with basil and walnuts/pine nuts.  Also, parsley is bitter and cashews are buttery – it just didn’t seem like it would be that flavorful.  Seriously, the tastes all blended together perfectly and I like to use any extra parsley making a batch of the pesto sauce, even if I don’t make the entire dish.

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