With the apartment to myself, a hunger underway, and a silence lingering from the mid-day calm, I choose to set my work aside and make my way over to the kitchen. I search online for a lengthy traditional Turkish music instrumental playlist and press play.
The lights are on through the house and I don my apron. Tonight’s meal: pesto pasta. I retrieve the ingredients from the fridge and cabinets before I begin my prep. Prep includes boiling water for the noodles and slicing mini sweet bell peppers – a simple recipe follows.
The tambourines and guitar instrumentals trigger my longing for Turkey, and although I’m not preparing a Turkish meal, it still frames the evening with a raw authenticity that I crave so often. Regardless, there’s nothing like a simple delicious homemade meal to provide some much needed comfort.
Aside from rolling out the pasta dough, this meal is very easy to make from scratch. When possible, use organic, raw and or natural ingredients for optimum flavor and health benefits. This recipe is intended to serve one, but can easily be doubled or multiplied, per head, to serve your entire family. I enjoyed this meal with a chilled glass of chardonnay.
Mini Sweet Bell Pepper Pesto Pasta
4C water, boiling
1/2C penne noodle
1 dash salt
1TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1TSP pine nuts, roasted & set aside
1TSP extra virgin olive oil
2TBSP white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 mini sweet bell peppers, cores & seeds removed, sliced 1/4in. thick
1TBSP grass-fed butter, salted
black pepper, to taste
1-1 1/2TBSP basil pesto, store-bought or homemade
celtic grey sea salt, to taste
parmesan, freshly grated
1 glass chardonnay, Robert Mondavi Winery, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 2014
1. Heat 4 cups water on HIGH in a medium-sized sauce pan until water boils. Meanwhile, prepare white onion, garlic, and mini sweet bell peppers.
2. Once water reaches a boil, add 1/2 cup penne noodles and reduce heat to MEDIUM-HIGH. Set timer to 10 minutes (for al dente). Stir in salt and olive oil. Stir occasionally until timer goes off.
3. When the timer goes off, test noodles for doneness (by eating one). Add more time in 1-2 minute increments until preferred doneness (I cooked mine for 14 minutes).
4. When noodles are cooked to your liking, strain them in a colander in the sink. DO NO RINSE. Allow noodles to drain while preparing sauce.
5. While the noodles are cooking, roast pine nuts until golden brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
6. SEE “Onion note:” BELOW. If using raw onion, onion must start cooking before bell peppers.
7.Add chopped onion and olive oil to hot pan, sautéing over MEDIUM heat until the onions begin to brown. Add minced garlic. Sauté until garlic begins to brown. Add sweet bell peppers and butter. Sauté until peppers brown on all sides. Season with black pepper, to taste.
8. Fold in pesto, sautéing just enough to combine with bell pepper mixture and to warm the pesto fully.
9. Fold in drained penne noodles until well coated in pesto mixture. Pour into a bowl and garnish with celtic grey sea salt and freshly grated parmesan. Serve immediately.
10. Enjoy with a glass of Robert Mondavi Winery’s Napa Valley 2014 Chardonnay.
Noodle note: rinsing the noodles removes the starchy water that helps the sauce stick to the noodles. For best results, DO NOT RINSE the noodles. Also: 1/2 cup of noodles doesn’t seem like a lot at first, but I guarantee you will be full with this serving suggestion.
Onion note: I used baked onions leftover from a previous meal, thus the time I spent sautéing them was to merely bring them up to meal temperature and to continue browning them from there. Allow for a little more time for your chopped onion to caramelize if starting raw.
Garlic note: garlic is optional in this recipe. The store-bought pesto I used had garlic in it already, and smelled plenty pungent, so I didn’t add more while sautéing. Depending on the pesto you use, store-bought or homemade, adjust the garlic to your liking, and enjoy. Freshly roasted garlic is wonderful in this recipe.
Spice note: for a spicy version of this recipe, consider chopping just a couple slices of a Serrano pepper and sautéing at the onion step. The onion I used actually had some red pepper flakes, so I didn’t add any more, but the meal can be tossed with a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes just before serving.