Monday, November 8, 2010

Pasta with cauliflower and walnut pesto

This post is the first of my two entries for this week's Fall Fest, which features brassicas. Brassicas are a category of vegetable that includes cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage, to name a few. Even for a vegetable lover such as myself, it's not exactly the most exciting group...I'll admit that it took me a while to get inspired for this one. But after flipping through several cookbooks, I found this cauliflower pasta recipe, which is a keeper, as well as a few other brassica recipes that I'm looking forward to trying.

The pesto in this dish is made with cilantro, parsley, garlic, and walnuts. It's got a really interesting flavor, much more subtle than I expected. I thought it was a great match for the cauliflower and other vegetables. The recipe calls for fresh bell peppers, but they're no longer in season here, so I had to improvise. I'm determined to continue eating as much local produce as possible through the colder months, so I substituted some roasted red peppers (frozen from the summer) and a carrot. We also stirred in some chickpeas for added protein, but I forgot to add them before Andrew took pictures. I really liked the final dish with these additions - it's a satisfying single-bowl meal, and is good served warm or cold.

Pasta with cauliflower and walnut pesto
Adapted from Food & Wine 2009 annual cookbook
Serves 6

1 cup cilantro leaves (I packed the cilantro in while measuring, but not too tightly, and I didn't bother the remove all the stems)
1/3 cup parsley leaves (same notes as for cilantro)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound rotini (I used one 13.25 oz. box of whole wheat rotini)
1 small head of cauliflower (1 - 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch florets
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 2-by-1/4-inch strips, or equivalent amount roasted red bell pepper
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 can chickpeas (15.5 oz.)
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. While water is heating, combine cilantro, parsley, garlic, and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the 1/4 cup oil and process until mixture is smooth. Season with salt. Note: I had to add quite a bit of salt to get the flavors to pop.

When water is boiling, cook pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and then drain pasta in a colander. While pasta drains, heat 2 tbs oil in the same pot used for cooking pasta. Add cauliflower florets and cook over moderate heat for 5-7 minutes, until cauliflower is browned in spots. Add the carrots and fresh bell pepper, if using. Cook for 5-7 minutes longer, until vegetables are tender and browned in spots. Add roasted red pepper, if using, and chickpeas and cook until just heated through.

Add pasta, reserved cooking water, and pesto to vegetables and toss until pasta and vegetables are evenly coated with pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold.

1 comment:

  1. I have got to try this. I think I have everything I need except the parsley.


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