March 28, 2012
Do you ever want to thank your food? Not Mother Earth for making the ingredients available. Or even the farmer who harvested them. I mean your food—the meal on your plate that you shovel into your mouth. Do you ever want to thank it for coming together easily and for tasting so good?
I do. Not so much when I’ve mastered a new recipe or successfully whisked ingredients into submission. Then I thank, well, myself. (You know, for being awesome.) But when I’m rushing like a mad woman, the the clock is tick-tocking, a toddler meltdown interrupts my already staccato rhythm and dinner still manages to come out well—then I thank my food.
Thank you for cooperating, for defying time, for being tasty despite how little proper attention I was able to give.
Thank you, pasta.
Thank you, pesto.
Merci, haricots verts.
You will thank this dish, too. For all the reasons mentioned above and also for being so adaptable. Endlessly so! The classic version of this dish is a combination of pasta, pesto, haricot verts and potatoes. Its composition is flawless, yet it’s just as good deconstructed. In other words, you can build on this dish even if you don’t have all the ingredients. The way, for example, I made this dinner without potatoes.
You can toss green beans with pesto for a wonderful side dish, or satisfy your carb craving with a mound of pasta and potato slicked with bright green pesto. You can even use a nontraditional kale pesto or this spinach one. It all works.
And you know that pesto freezes perfectly? That’s right, keep the thanks coming! But be careful: I might steal one “thank you” for myself. Just one. (What? Don’t you think I’m awesome, too?!)
Pasta with Spinach Pesto and Haricots Verts
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 lb haricots verts, washed and cut in half
1 lb cut pasta, such as penne or shells
1/4 cup pine nuts
About 3 packed cups spinach, washed
1 packed cup fresh basil, washed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1. Create an ice water bath and set aside. Bring one gallon of water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil over medium heat. Add haricots verts and cook for 2 minutes, until they are bright green and just cooked through (they should still have crunch). Using tongs or a hand-held strainer, scoop the beans out of the pot and into the ice water bath. Return the pot of salted water to medium heat and bring back to a boil. In the meantime, remove haricots verts from the ice bath and pat dry. Set aside.
2. When the salted water returns to a boil, add pasta, stir, and then begin measuring cooking time; cook pasta 2-3 minutes fewer than indicated on the package. Drain pasta, but do not rinse it; set aside.
3. In the meantime, toast the pine nuts: Add them to a small skillet set over medium-low heat and toast until they turn golden brown, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
4. Add toasted pine nuts, spinach, basil, cheese, zest and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse two times before letting it run on slow speed while you slowly drizzle in the olive oil. You want the pesto to be more creamy than pasty, so add more olive oil if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper before pulsing one last time.
5. Toss pasta with haricots verts and pesto (how much pesto will depend on your personal taste; this recipe should give you leftovers to freeze), finish with a drizzle of oil and sprinkle of cheese, and serve.
*Note: This is safe for any child 6+ mos already eating nuts. Just puree or pulse pesto, pasta and/or haricots verts to an age appropriate consistency.