That is all I have to say about this dish.
I admit, I followed a recipe (mostly). I got this great book at AfterWords, one of the best used book stores in the city (in my humble opinion). It's called Quick Vegetarian Pleasures - and don't let its simple name fool you: the recipes are definitely quick, easy, and pleasurable, but the ingredients are diverse and the way they're put together is inventive.
The book is very much in line with my cooking philosophy: use whole, simple, ingredients, use fats, dairy, and oils in intelligent quantities, and make grains and vegetables the stars of every meal.
This is the first recipe I've made from the book, but if they're all this good, I can't wait to make more! Anyone could make this, and I'm pretty sure anyone would like it, too.
I've posted the recipe below exactly as it appears in the book, but I'll denote the few things I changed/added.
TOMATO PESTO CAPELLINI WITH SPINACH AND TOMATOES
1/3 c. pine nutes
One 6-oz. can tomato paste
1/2 c. minced fresh parsley
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh basil, or 2 tsp. dried
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound vermicelli, capellini, or spaghettini (I used whole wheat)
large handful fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
Lightly toast the pine nuts in a 350 degree oven until golden*, about 5 minutes.**
*I totally burned mine on one side, but it made no difference. Still delish.
**I chose to finely chop my pine nuts, making the finished pesto less chunky and more like a traditional, blended pesto. You could also put all the pesto ingredients into a food processor.
To make the sauce, combine the pine nuts with all the remaining ingredients except the pasta in a medium bowl. (This step may be completed up to 24 hours in advance, covered, and chilled. Bring to room temperature before mixing it with the pasta.)
Bring a 6-quart pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Before draining the pasta, beat 2 tablespoons of the boiling pasta water into the sauce. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot or drop it into a large bowl. Spoon on the sauce and toss quickly. Serve immediately.
In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil. Add the tomatoes and spinach, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve alongside capellini. (I also garnished everything with a little grated mozzarella, because, why not?)
I started with slightly more than one can of tomato paste (the whole reason behind me making this was to get rid of said tomato paste). I also increased the amount of fresh herbs, and added some fresh thyme, since it was in the fridge. I didn't really measure anything but the olive oil, and then I added just about a tablespoon more, to account for the greater volume of everything else I added. I also threw in some red chili flakes for heat.
I wanted to add more vegetable-y goodness, hence the semi-side-dish of tomatoes and spinach, but this would be great with grilled chicken or shrimp, tofu, or really topped with any meat or veggies you want. It's also delicious all by itself - it's very flavorful!
You could also swap out any herbs you like - if you're more of an oregano person, you could use that. You could also try it with different types of nuts - walnuts might be nice. I can also see using the pesto to spread on top of tilapia or halibut, then baking it to make a sort of herb-y crust. It would also be delicious spread on crostini or stirred into hummus - you could even stir a tablespoon into mashed potatoes or polenta for a special side dish.
You should all go to the store and make this TOMORROW NIGHT! Let me know how it comes out in the comments.
Thanks for reading! More soon...