Fiddlehead, Asparagus and Sausage Pesto Pasta Bake


I have a few problems with pesto.
I'm a little ashamed to admit it because pesto is decent tasting and it's easy to make.
My first problem is that I never know quite what to do with it.  It's supposed to work with pasta - just tossed in pasta... and not much else.  I'm not a tossed pasta kind of person typically so that's just lost on me.  D is not much of a tossed pasta kind of person either.
I've also seen it used to coat meat.  Usually chicken.  Chicken that I'm going to stick in the oven and bake or that I'm going to cook on the stove top.  Just chicken and pesto.  I'm not much of a 'just chicken' cook.
Pesto works well on bread.  As an appetizer.  With tomato and cheese or something.  I'm not much of an appetizer cook either.
The texture is weird.  It's creamy/goopy but also leafy.  That feels odd on my tongue.
It can also be a pretty intense flavour depending on how you make it - and because I make my own it can get pretty intense.  I use a lot of parmesan.  The intensity can overwhelm easily I find and it has to be well balanced out.  I always reach for cream or a creamy cheese to add in but it does add to the richness.
As you can tell by now, even though I like the idea of making pesto I'm a little lost when it comes to using it.  This means, of course, that the pesto remains in my freezer for undetermined (read: LONG) time.  This is not good for pesto... or pretty much anything.


I'm not exactly sure that pesto and asparagus/fiddleheads are a good combination but somehow this worked.  Considering I found the pesto in the back of the freezer and it had no date on it, it's amazing that this worked at all.  At least it worked the first day.  This is not one of those baked pasta things that gets better the second day.  It gets way too dry for my taste.  I would recommend making this at a time when you have a few hungry friends coming over and maybe not when you are undergoing kitchen and house renovations.
I'm not really selling this recipe I realize but if you have the right situation to serve it in OR like a sane person make about half of the recipe then you will be fine.


Asparagus and Sausage Pesto Pasta Bake
serves 8

1 lg bunch asparagus (about 1 1/2 cups), ends removed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 - 2 cups fiddleheads, stems removed
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 - 4 cups spinach, washed, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 lb sweet sausage (I used honey garlic), casings removed
1 boullion cube
1 1/2 cup pesto (I used homemade but store bought is just fine)
1/2 cup chèvre (soft goat cheese)
1 cup milk or half and half (5%)
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pepper sauce (optional - you know I'm gonna throw in a little half tsp or so)
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup parmesan, finely shredded
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
3 cups cooked pasta (rotini, penne), cooked to al dente, drained (save the water though) and set aside

Preheat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
Add in about 1 1/2 tsp of olive oil.
Add the asparagus and onion, turning down the heat to med/low.
Cook together for about 4 minutes.
Add the fiddleheads, red pepper and garlic.  Cook for another 4 minutes, stirring regularly.
Add in the sausage meat and mix well, cooking together just until the meat browns.
Add in the bouillon cube and mix well.
Add in the pesto, chèvre and milk.  Mix well and let everything come back up to temperature.
Add in the worcestershire, honey and balsamic vinegar.
Add in the spinach, parmesan and 1/2 of the mozzarella.  Mix well and cook just until the spinach has wilted and the cheese has melted.
Check tastes and add salt and pepper as necessary.
Add in the cooked pasta.  Mix and add enough of the pasta water to make the mixture reasonably thin (I used probably about a half a cup)
Pour everything into a large baking dish and spread evenly.
Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top of the pasta.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the mozzarella on top is bubbling and golden brown.
Cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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