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Monday, February 5, 2018

Pasta with Kale Pesto and Winter Squash

Here's a pesto made from kale that stays green for as long as you have left overs, unlike some varieties that oxidize soon after preparation. Even better, you don't have to wait until summer provides you with baskets full of basil.


Pasta with Kale Pesto and Winter Squash

Adapted from: New York Times
Yield: 3-5 servings 

1 1/2 pds winter squash (butternut, banana, acorn, etc.)
1/2 c oil, vegetable or olive
3/4 teas kosher salt, more for roasting squash
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of kale (about a half pound) center ribs removed
8-10 oz pasta
1/3 c toasted pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
1/2 c grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash and remove seeds. Peel it and cut it into 1-inch pieces; place it on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Mix with your hands to ensure each piece of squash is well oiled; then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Make sure squash is in an even layer and roast until golden brown and tender, approximately 30 minutes. Stir a couple of times. You'll want to have warm squash when the pasta is ready so once it has cooked keep it in a warm oven.

Meanwhile heat a large pot of  water, 2 quarts or so, and bring it to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and stir in the kale. Cook for a minute or two (if you are at sea level--use the lower amount of time). When the kale is limp, remove from the boiling water (don't drain the water) and cool. You can shock it in cold water or spread it out on a tray to let it cool rather quickly. Bring the water back to a boil. If you think you'll need more water for cooking pasta, add some now.

When the water has returned to a boil, place the pasta in the pot and cook according to package directions. I like to leave it with a little bit of chew since it will keep cooking once the pesto is mixed in.

Drain the kale well and wrap it in a dry kitchen towel. Squeeze the towel over the sink until the kale is quite dry. Chop the leaves roughly and place into a food processor. Add the pine nuts, garlic, salt, and lemon zest and process together until the mixture is very finely chopped (almost smooth) and salt has dissolved. Spoon some of the pasta water into the mixture and run the processor again until the pesto is fairly smooth.

When the pasta has cooked, drain it but remember to reserve a couple cups of cooking water. Return the pasta to its pan and stir in pesto. You may want to hold some out to make sure you like the ratio of pesto to pasta (I thought it fairly heavy and was glad I reserved some). Toss and add more pasta water to loosen the pesto, if needed, so it coats all the pasta.

Add the grated cheese, and a teaspoon or two of lemon juice. Taste to check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Serve topped with roasted squash and more cheese.

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