Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meatless Meals #1: Penne with Tomato "Pesto," Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, and Spinach and Apple Salad

Growing up, we had a lot of meatless meals. We also had a lot of salads as main dishes. My dad (yes, I said that right--my DAD) isn't a huge fan of meat, and he LOVES salads. So I just thought this was a normal thing. Lately, I have heard so many people say things like "just add some chicken, and this salad is a meal!" or "Just add your favorite meat to make it a meal."  And I thought, why can it not be a meal sans the meat? Is the rest of the food just not good enough? Can we give meatless dishes a chance, here? What about equal rights?!?!

I digress. Anyhow, that is basically why I decided to start this new thread of Meatless Meals on my blog. Plus, it's fun to get creative in the kitchen and this gives me a great excuse to do so! 

So here is the run down on our meatless meal of Penne with Tomato "Pesto," Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, and Spinach and Apple Salad we had tonight:

We'll start with the potatoes. So easy! Just cut up some red potatoes (Russets or any kind work, too, but red are my favorite!), drop some olive oil on and stir them around, add a bit of sea salt and some rosemary. I was very excited to use my fresh rosemary sprigs! But dried works great, too.

 Toss it all in a dish and put in the oven at 400 for about an hour--until they are brown and crispy. The crispier the better, really.
Doesn't it look pretty with the fresh sprigs of rosemary???
 And here is the finished product--although next time I'd probably let them get a little bit crispier/more brown.

Now for the pesto sauce! The whole recipe is listed below. Here is a picture of everything that needs to go into your food processor--although I used garlic powder (1/4 tsp) instead of cloves, and walnuts instead of pine nuts (works like a charm!). Also, I actually juiced a tomato for the tomato juice. That was an experience!!!

Wondering why I have a giant container of cayenne powder? So am I...
The original recipe said to use the tomato paste can to measure the olive oil--one of those full. So I tried it that way and it seemed to work great.

I managed to fit everything into my little food processor! Yay! And...as soon as I took this picture I realized it wasn't working, had to dump it all into a different bowl, fix the problem, and try again. Yeah...we won't talk about the giant mess that made. Yes another reason I want a blend tec!

Process all that yummy stuff until it's a paste, like this (another perk of a blend tec is that I wouldn't have to do it in shifts and it wouldn't take so long to blend....sigh....)

Now time for the pasta. I have discovered veggie pastas--they provide a whole serving of veggies and they taste great. A perfect way to slip in a few more veggies, especially if you have some picky eater/vegetable-phobia issues at your house. This kind is Barilla, but Kroger has a brand and I bet other store brands offer it as well. 

Another tip I learned from this Italian spaghetti cook book is to generously salt the boiling water before putting the pasta in--like, 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt. Wow! Apparently it brings out the natural flavor of the pasta.

While bringing the pasta to a boil, I made the salad. Fresh spinach (I always keep a bag on hand--it's great to use for so many occasions!) with thinly sliced apples, craisins, feta cheese, and crushed pecans. You could even add some red onion slivers if you like that kind of zing. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and you're good to go!

Now back to the pasta. before draining, make sure to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Then drain it, and return it to the hot pot. Stir in enough of the pesto paste mixture to cover it to your desire, and add pasta water a little at a time if it's too thick. I ended up using nearly all of the pesto and nearly all of the reserved water for mine. One of my beefs with pasta dishes is that they always cool down so fast! I suggest putting a lid on that hot pot until everything is ready, then serving it up just before you eat. Sprinkle the cheese on top and eat!

Isn't that a lovely plate?

A delicious, healthy, and filling meatless meal. 
Bon Apetite!

Penne with Tomato Pesto

3/4 cup (one 6 oz can) tomato paste
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp pine nutes
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne or red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp tomato juice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lbs penne (or pasta of choice!)
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Put all ingredients (minus pasta and cheese) into a food processor until you have a paste. Set aside (make sure it's at room temperature when you combine with pasta). Generously salt the boiling water for the pasta, then boil until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Transfer pasta to a heated serving dish, add enough pesto to coat the noodles generously. Add a little pasta water, a Tbsp at a time, if it seems too thick. Sprinkle with cheese and pass remaining cheese and pesto around the table.

Recipe from On Top of Spaghetti by Johanne Killeen and George Germon

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