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A Variation of Pesto Pasta

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I can’t get enough of pesto these days! Whenever I have to buy basil for a recipe, I just get a bunch and make some spinach pesto to have around for a week or so. MM has been training really hard lately for Ironman Texas (one month away!), so pasta has been a staple for his diet. I get sick of pasta pretty quickly, so I’m always trying to make slight variations to my usual go-to recipes to make it more exciting. Last night I decided to use tri-color vegetable pasta (yum!), my spinach pesto, medium Italian chicken sausage (casing removed), 1 head of broccoli florets, and 3 chopped plum tomatoes. It hit the spot, and felt healthier and lighter than the usual pesto pasta with sausage – which I will credit to the use of the veggie pasta. I’ll bet it would also make a great base for a cold pasta salad (similar to the one on the cover of the box).

Start by boiling a medium size pot of water. Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet over a medium-high flame. Remove the sausage link from it’s casing, and add to the skillet. You do not need any oil because the sausage will cook in it’s own fat. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the sausage once it starts to cook. Saute frequently until it begins to brown.

When the water is almost starting to boil, add the broccoli florets for about 2-3 minutes to soften. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and add to the skillet with the sausage (save the boiling water for the pasta). Saute for about a minute, then add the chopped plum tomatoes. I also added red pepper flakes (obviously) and a dash of salt and pepper. There is already some salt and pepper in the pesto sauce, so add to taste. Continue to saute for about 4 more minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as directed (about 8-10 minutes). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water to make pesto sauce. Add about 1/4 cup of the water to the skillet with the sausage, broccoli and tomatoes, then add 2 TB of spinach pesto. Saute until the pesto is well blended with the water and it starts to form a sauce. Lower the heat to low-medium and stir occasionally until the pasta is cooked.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and transfer to a colander. Add the other 1/4 cup of pasta water to the hot pot and one table spoon of spinach pesto. Stir for about 30 seconds until it turns into a sauce and add pasta back into the pot, stir to coat. Then add the sausage/broccoli/tomato/pesto mixture to the pasta and toss. Plate and top with shredded parmesan.

In honor of my previous post on Rosé, I served this with the bottle of 2011 Navarro Rosé that I opened last night before heading over to MM’s to make dinner. The crisp, fruity (but not sweet) wine was a delicious compliment to the meal, but I mostly drank it on it’s own before and after dinner. I couldn’t resist.

For further variations on this recipe, you could use zucchini or asparagus instead of broccoli, add goat cheese and toasted pine nuts (though, there are already pine nuts in the pesto) instead of parmesan, or leave out the sausage to make it vegetarian. One things for sure, the veggie pasta was a nice change of pace.

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

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