Fusilli with Basil Pesto

On a recent trip to Italy, I got to gorge on some of the best pasta ever and that included pasta with pesto sauce at a restaurant by the beach. I have always loved pesto but never actually tried making it myself (Costco sells a yummy bottled version!). Inspired during the holiday, I decided to make this beautiful sauce, borrowing from Antonio Carluccio, known to be the godfather of Italian food. You can find the original recipe here

Ingredients:

Basil leaves – 60 gms
Pine nuts – 2 tbsp
Extra virgin olive oil – 1/2 cup
Grated Parmesan cheese – 4 tbsp + extra for garnish
Grated Pecorino Cheese – 4 tbsp
Garlic – 1 clove
Fusilli pasta – 2.5 cups
Broccoli – 1 cup
Salt to taste

Method:

  • Bring water to a boil in a pot, add salt to taste and the pasta; cook for ten minutes till the pasta is al dente
  • With about five minutes left for the pasta to cook, toss in the broccoli florets
  • Combine the basil leaves, pine nuts, oil, cheese and garlic in a blender or food processor and blitz till everything is well-combined and you get a less-than-smooth sauce
  • Drain the pasta and broccoli
  • Mix this with the sauce
  • Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve immediately

Note: I have used fusilli pasta in this recipe. You can use any pasta that has a few curves and twists so that the sauce clings on to it.

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone is an Italian soup, typically vegetarian, that is a very healthy and wholesome meal option for people of all age groups. The common ingredients include pasta/rice, beans and vegetables but it does not have a fixed set of ingredients giving us the option of using the vegetables of our choice or what is available seasonally. It is also a great way to use leftover pasta, pasta sauce (tomato based) or chicken broth.

Minestrone soup

Ingredients:

Pasta, raw – 1 cup
Onion, finely chopped – 1 cup
Zucchini – 1
Potato – 1
Garlic cloves, finely chopped – 3
Red/white kidney beans, cooked – 1 and 1/2 cups
Pasta sauce/ marinara sauce – 1 cup
Chicken broth – 2 cups
Parmesan cheese, grated – 4 tbsp
Oil – 3 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste

Minestrone soup ingredients

 

Yield: 4 servings

Method:

  • Cook pasta al dente and set aside
  • Dice the potato and cut the zucchini into semi-circle pieces
  • Heat oil in a pot, and add the garlic and onion. saute for 3 to 4 minutes
  • Add the potato and zucchini. Sprinkle with some salt and black pepper and saute on medium heat for 5 minutes
  • Add the pasta sauce, chicken broth, additional salt if needed and a cup of water
  • Cover and cook for 20 minutes until the vegetables are nicely cooked
  • Add the pasta and beans and cook with the lid open for another 5 minutes. You can add more water if needed depending on how thick or thin you like your soup
  • Transfer to serving bowls and top with a tablespoon of Parmesan per bowl
  • Tastes best when hot and even better when served with some breadsticks

Note:

  1. I have used Orecchiette pasta but you can use any small shaped pasta
  2. I have used leftover pasta sauce but you can also use fresh homemade marinara sauce (see recipe here) or just crushed fresh tomatoes in which case you will need to add some herbs like dried oregano, basil and thyme
  3. I have used one cup of thick pasta sauce. If your sauce is not as thick, you can increase the quantity to get the right flavor
  4. You can substitute chicken broth with vegetable broth

Tomato Sauce/Marinara Sauce

I love making pizza and pasta. But what I love even more is making my own tomato sauce to use in these dishes. I first made this sauce a few years ago for pasta and absolutely loved it. I recently used this in pizza and it was just as good! I have read several Marinara sauce recipes online and feel that this one stays pretty true to the original. Except may be for the spice level, which of course you can alter according to taste. But for the Indian palate, I feel this recipe is perfect. I have never used store-bought tomato sauce or marinara sauce and never will. And after you try this recipe, hopefully you wouldn’t either.

Marinara Sauce/Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Butter – 1 tbsp
Oil – 2 tbsp
Onion, finely chopped – 1 cup
Garlic – 6 cloves
Tomatoes – 6
Water – 1 cup
Black Pepper powder – 1 tsp
Dry Thyme – 1/2 tsp (optional)
Chilli flakes – 1 tsp
Tomato Ketchup – 4 tsp
Sugar – 1 tsp (optional)
Fresh Basil, chopped – 2 tbsp (optional)
Salt to taste

Method:

  • Puree all the tomatoes in a blender and keep aside
  • Heat oil and butter in a wok or casserole pot
  • Add finely chopped garlic and fry for about 30 seconds on medium heat
  • Add onions and fry till they begin to turn golden brown
  • Add the pureed tomatoes and mix well; cook for 3 minutes on high heat
  • Add about a cup of water and cook for a further 2 minutes
  • Add rest of the ingredients and mix well
  • Continue to cook this on medium heat till the spices are cooked and sauce reaches desired consistency
  • Add to your favorite pasta/pizza

Marinara Sauce/Tomato Sauce on Pizza

Note:
– Instead of pureeing the tomatoes directly, you can also blanch them first. That is, place the tomatoes in hot water for a few minutes. Remove the skin and puree in a blender
– If you are making this sauce with pasta, you can add the pasta water instead of plain water
– You can even use dry oregano instead of thyme in this recipe
– If you are making this dish for children, you may have to reduce the quantity of chilli flakes and pepper powder as it may be a bit too spicy
– You can make this sauce in advance and refrigerate it or even freeze it for a couple weeks
– This recipe is easily sufficient for 2 large pizzas or makes enough sauce for pasta that could generously feed at least 4 adults

Pesto Mozzarella Pizza

Pizza can be your go-to dinner on a busy weekday or game night or a weekend special, be it a get together or a birthday party. Whatever the occasion, it is not all that difficult to make one yourself with the added benefit of making your own toppings (not the same kind you would pick from a pizza joint) and keeping it healthier than the store-bought one. For variety, the recipe below is for a half-and half pizza with two different sets of toppings but the same base sauce. I have used basil pesto and this is a great way to use any leftover pesto. All quantities for toppings are based on half pizza. You just have to double them if you plan to make a pizza with just one set of toppings. There is no limit to exploring!

Pesto Mozzarella Pizza

Yield : One 14-inch pizza

Ingredients:

For the dough:
All purpose flour – 1 cup
Wheat flour – 1 cup
Active dry yeast – 1 envelope
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt – 3/4 tsp
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Warm water – 3/4 cup

For the toppings:
Basil pesto – 6 tbsp, see recipe here
Fresh Mozzarella – 8 oz
Sliced white mushrooms – 1 cup
Tomato – 1 large
Spinach – 1/2 cup

Method:

  • Place the warm water in a small bowl and stir in the yeast. Let it stand for 5 minutes till it gets foamy
  • Combine both the flours, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or your food processor
  • Pour in the yeast mixture and oil and mix together until a sticky dough is formed
  • Transfer to a floured surface and knead by hand
  • Place the dough in a bowl brushed with oil. Make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the dough when it will almost double in size
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep it in a warm place for about an hour to hour and half
  • While the dough ferments, saute the mushrooms with some salt and pepper for 6-8 minutes and set aside. Slice the tomato and the mozzarella
  • Preheat oven to 450F
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer to a floured surface and roll into an approximately 14-inch circle. I prefer thin crust but if you prefer a thicker crust roll into a 12-inch circle
  • With the help of a rolling pin, transfer the base to a pizza baking sheet. Do not assemble the toppings before moving the base to the baking sheet
  • Prick the crust with a fork so that it does not puff up when baking

Pesto Mozzarella Pizza- Base

  • Apply the pesto on the base leaving about half an inch around the edges
  • Add the mushrooms on one half of the base and add the sliced tomato and spinach on the other half
  • Add the mozzarella slices. You can also use shredded mozzarella if you have that readily available in your pantry

                                     IMG_4351 IMG_4352

  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until you see the cheese bubbling and turning slightly golden brown

Pesto Mozzarella Pizza - 2

  • Slice and serve as soon as you remove from the oven

Pesto Mozzarella Pizza - slicesTip: Wrap any remaining slices with foil, refrigerate and reheat in a 450F oven for 3-4 minutes or use a skillet and heat on a stove-top, which is probably easier. Heating it in the microwave will make it soft and the crust will lose its crispiness.

Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms

Basil pesto is my favorite pasta sauce and I make use of every opportunity to try this out at restaurants.This is a dish I prepare quite frequently for dinner and my husband loves it! You can also try this recipe with grilled broccoli or zucchini instead of mushrooms. Pesto is such a versatile sauce that it not only tastes good with pasta but goes great will grilled fish, meat or potatoes. The most common type of pesto prepared is from basil and pine nuts but can also be prepared using parsley and walnuts or cilantro and almonds. All you need is to put on your creative hat when using pesto!

IMG_1251

Ingredients:

Penne pasta – 1/2 pound
Button mushrooms – 1/2 pound (Approx. 2 cups)
Parmesan cheese – 1/4 cup
Olive oil – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Pepper – 1/2 tsp

For the pesto:
Basil leaves – 2 cups
Garlic, chopped – 2 to 3
Pine nuts – 1/4 cup
Olive oil – 1/3 cup
Parmesan cheese, grated – 1/4 cup
Salt – to taste
Pepper – 1/2 tsp

Method:

  • Fill a large pot with salted water and bring it to a boil
  • Add the penne pasta and cook for 10-12 minutes until the pasta is al dente
  • Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan on medium heat and add the mushrooms
  • Add salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes until all the water released by the mushrooms is absorbed and the mushrooms turn golden brown. Set aside
  • Prepare the pesto by placing the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper in a mixer or food processor
  • Pulse a few times until the ingredients are coarsely chopped
  • Slowly start adding the olive oil. Grind until you get a smooth paste
  • Once the pasta is cooked, drain it. Reserve few tablespoons of the pasta water
  • Add the pesto to the pasta and toss well. Use as much pesto as needed to coat the pasta well. Make sure the pasta is not too hot as this will cause the pesto to lose its bright green color
  • Use some of the saved pasta water if you feel the pasta is drying out
  • Add the mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Mix well and serve immediately

Tip: Refrigerate any remaining pesto in an air-tight container and use it the next day as a sandwich spread or as a topping for an omelette.