Sunday, 26 January 2014

Overcoming Pesto Paranoia- A Very Middle Class Problem...

I just don’t get Pesto Pasta. I know this is a bold statement; a bit like saying I don’t fully understand the concept of Ant and Dec, or can’t get my head around Miley Cirus and PVC hotpants (actually, that one’s true), but I just don’t see it. I know, I know; the combination is as synonymous as Simon Cowell and a pair of high-waisted stonewash jeans, but there is something about the oily gloop of slightly muddy looking green goo that means the gold-topped jar in question remains firmly at the back of the fridge.

Now, I have tried- I was a student, for goodness sake, but it’s simply not happening. Give me beans on toast any day I reckon; take your pesto and boil me an egg. But, saying all that, last night, I had a bit of a groundbreaking moment with the green stuff (no, not that green stuff, don't panic...) Yes, during my nightly staring blankly into the fridge ritual, I stumbled across a slightly limp bag of Kale stuffed in the back of the salad drawer. In need of something quick and easy-as-peas and gravy, I made this drop-dead delicious, fresh and zingy version, faced my green spaghetti based fears and discovered that, actually, it’s not all that bad.

In fact, it was bloody good. With kicks of chilli, fresh lemon and chunks of walnut, this super-healthy creation is well worth digging out the blender for. Swirled into fresh pasta with a spoonful of ricotta, the result was a creamy, gorgeous revelation (and, coincidentally, a dinner of the exact shade I would like to paint my bedroom walls- Not sure how Dulux would feel about colour matching a string of spaghetti, though...)

But the crowning glory of this 15 minute dinner was not only the realisation that I have another running-out-the-door dinner in the bag, but the crunchy pancetta, rosemary and walnut combo that I (very generously) scattered over its top. Crunchy breadcrumbs and walnuts provide just the right amount of crunch to contrast with the soft, creamy pasta; add some smokiness from the bacon, fragrance from the rosemary and freshness from a scattering of lemon zest and you have an absolute winner in the bag. Or, should I say, in the bowl. Well, it changed my mind, anyway...

Kale Pesto Pasta with Pancetta and Walnut Crunch
Serves 4

So easy, and quick enough to make even scrambled eggs look like hard work. Leave out the nuts, add more chilli; just make sure you keep the delicious crunchy topping...

For the Pesto-

150g kale, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

½ red chilli

Small handful of walnuts

3 tbsp Olive oil

50g parmesan cheese, grated

Juice 1 lemon

For the Crunch-

Olive oil

100g breadcrumbs

50g pancetta, chopped

Sprig of rosemary, leaves chopped

Small handful crumbled walnuts

Zest 1 lemon

To serve-

400g cooked pasta

3 tbsp ricotta

To make the pesto; blend all of the ingredients in a food processor, adding enough oil to make a thick but loose paste and season well.

To make the crunch; fry the pancetta in a glug of olive oil until crisp. Add the breadcrumbs (and a little more oil, if needed), coat in the delicious bacon oil and fry until lightly golden and crisp.

Add the crumbled walnuts, rosemary and lemon zest and cook for a minute or so more, being careful not to let the mixture burn. Season well with salt and pepper.

To serve, stir the pesto and ricotta into the cooked pasta, adding a spoon or two of the cooking water to loosen.

Pile into bowls and top with the crunch pancetta mixture. Enjoy!

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