Add tomatoes to enliven your pesto pasta
Fresh, flavor-packed tomatoes and basil blend to make this red pesto sauce, a tasty variation on a traditional pesto. It retains its vibrant flavors, because it's not cooked — relying on the heat of the cooked spaghetti. My Italian friend, Ugo, mentioned that he made this sauce for his family and they raved about it. I've adapted his recipe for this quick dinner.
The secret to the sauce is to squeeze the juice and seeds out of the tomatoes. Just cut them in half and squeeze. Be sure to catch the juice and seeds in a bowl to add to bottled dressing for a fresh boost. You can also stir them into mayonnaise for a light mayonnaise sauce.
Wine suggestion: The red pesto would go nicely with a crisp sauvignon blanc.
Tips: Any type of pasta can be used. Two crushed garlic cloves can be substituted for 1 teaspoon minced garlic. Parmesan cheese can be used instead of Pecorino. If your fresh tomatoes aren't the best, use 1 cup drained best quality whole canned tomatoes. Be sure to squeeze out all of the juice.
RED PESTO PASTA
1⁄4 pound fresh spaghetti or dried spaghetti
1⁄2 pound fresh tomatoes, about 1 cup tomato flesh
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1⁄2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
Place a large sauce pan filled with water on to boil for the spaghetti. When water is boiling, add the pasta. Cook two to three minutes for fresh pasta and according to package instructions for dried pasta.
While water is coming to the boil, wash tomatoes, cut in half and squeeze out seeds and juice into a salad bowl. Set bowl aside. Add tomato flesh to the bowl of a food processor. Add garlic, oil, tomato paste and basil. Process until a sauce consistency is reached. Remove to a large bowl and add the pine nuts, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
Drain spaghetti and add to the bowl. Toss well. Sprinkle Pecorino cheese on top. Makes two servings.
SALAD WITH WALNUTS AND CHICKPEAS
2 tablespoons reduced-fat oil and vinegar dressing
4 cups washed, ready-to-eat lettuce
1-1⁄2 cups chickpeas
1⁄4 cup broken walnuts
Add the dressing to the tomato juice and seeds from Red Pesto Pasta recipe. Mix well. Add the lettuce, chickpeas and walnuts. Toss well. Makes two servings.
Linda Gassenheimer is the author of 14 cookbooks including her newest, "The Flavors of the Florida Keys" and "Mix 'n Match Meals in Minutes for People with Diabetes." Visit Linda on her web page at DinnerInMinutes.com or e-mail her at Linda@DinnerInMinutes.com.