Pasta Al Pesto with Cream and Green Beans
Give yourself a taste treat, lighten the load on your colon, free up some of the money you spend at the grocery store, and start planning a meal or two each week using pasta and vegetables. Here's another quick, lip-smacking dish that stands alone or if you insist, makes a wonderful side dish to accompany chicken or fish.
I mixed the penne pasta, half multi-grain, half durum wheat. Following my own advice: use what's on hand. This dish is equally good with any pasta shape you wish to use or whatever you happen to have in the pantry. The beans can be replaced with sliced yellow and/or zucchini squash, too. So many pastabilities!
Oftentimes, when thinking of Italian food, we think of red sauce. While the heavy tomato sauces, also known as gravies, are prevalent in the South of Italy, the Northern regions use only a touch of tomato. In Venice, for instance, you rarely see a red dish.
Pesto sauce is thought to have originated in Northern Italy. It's a quick, easy, very rich sauce that is simple to prepare in either a blender or food processor. But there is good quality prepared pesto available frozen in specialty stores. Check the label, watch for food additives. Pesto is made from fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. That's it, anything else in the preparation is out of place. There are different varieties of pesto. The pine nuts can be replaced with walnuts for instance and the basil replaced with parsley. But pesto is simply herbs, nuts, oil, garlic and cheese. If you purchase pesto, read the label. But that's true for any processed foods that you buy.
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil with salt. Parboil 1/4 lb of green beans, trimmed and cut in one inch pieces. (approximately 2 cups). Boil beans for about 2 - 3 minutes and then remove with a skimmer to a plate to cool. Add 3 cups of penne to the boiling salted water and cook until just al dente. Do not overcook. Pasta should be firm yet tender, not soggy and swollen.
While the pasta cooks, sauté a couple cloves of minced garlic in a little olive oil, then add the green beans and sauté until just tender - 5 minutes or so. Mix 1/3 cup pesto and 1/2 cup of half & half. Set aside. When pasta is cooked, drain well, return to pot and stir in pesto mixture and green beans. Toss all together, add salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated Parmesan cheese.
Just a few green beans and a little pasta. My, oh my.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking.