Winter Walnut Pesto Pasta for Valentine's Dinner at Home
By: 
Dish Type: Entree
Cuisine: Pasta
Ingredient prep: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Makes: 4 servings
 
A one dish dinner for two that comes together quickly, so you can enjoy date night in...out of the kitchen. Continue the relaxation when you warm the leftovers for the next day's lunch.
Ingredients
Pesto
  • ¼ C raw walnuts (plus more for garnish)
  • 1.5 oz. parmesan (1/3 C finely grated; plus more for garnish)
  • 1 C firmly packed flat leaf parsley leaves (about half a large bunch)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • A pinch of ground black pepper
  • 4 – 5 T good quality olive oil
Pasta assembly
  • 8 oz. strozzapreti pasta (or other shape of choice)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 lb. brussels sprouts (16 to 18); dirty end of stem and outer leaves removed, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds/stem/membranes removed, cut into bite size strips
  • Kalamata olives, sliced into rounds (optional, for serving)
Make It
  1. Toast walnuts in a 350 degree (F) oven on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes, until beginning to darken. Stir once or rotate pan halfway through. Cool slightly, then roughly chop walnuts. While walnuts toast, prepare other ingredients.
  2. Make pesto ahead of time or first. Grate parmesan in food processor, if not pre-grated. Add parsley, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, salt, and pepper. Process, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until a nearly smooth paste forms. Drizzle in olive oil while processor is running, until fully combined. Taste pesto and adjust seasoning or other ingredients to taste (e.g., If you taste too much lemon, add more walnuts, oil, or cheese. Fat will cut the acidity.). Use immediately or store a few days in the refrigerator.
  3. Start boiling water for pasta and cook, al dente, according to package directions as you prepare and cook the vegetables. When draining pasta, reserve ¼ cup cooking water.
  4. Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high. When hot, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until nearly smoking. Add peppers—they should sizzle—and spread in a single layer. Cook 2 minutes, undisturbed, until browned on first side. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once every minute, until crisp-tender and mostly browned. Remove peppers to a bowl. Add another tablespoon oil to pan and allow to heat. Spread brussels sprouts in an even layer in the pan, turning one of the cut sides down. Cook, undisturbed, about 2 minutes, until brown on the first side. Cook another 2 minutes, stirring infrequently, until just edible when you test one. Turn off heat, add peppers back to pan, and allow pan to cool 5 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally if the pan is very hot, to avoid burning.
  5. Add most of the pesto and 2 tablespoons cooking water to the vegetables. Stir until incorporated and a pesto sauce coats the veggies. Add more water if pesto is very thick. If too much water was added, heat to a low simmer to reduce the liquid. Add cooked pasta to pan and stir to combine and coat with pesto. If noodles have cooled, heat the mixture over low to warm. Taste and add remaining pesto, salt, and pepper as needed. Serve warm topped with additional grated parmesan, chopped walnuts, and sliced olives.
  6. Best served fresh for most impressive results, but leftovers refrigerate well for a less formal lunch or dinner.
Notes
To make it extra special, use artisan dried (from a specialty food store) pasta, homemade pasta (if you have a good recipe for it), or potato gnocchi.

To simplify, splurge on a good quality store bought pesto. Many grocers now carry unique flavor combos from small producers, so use a special occasion to justify the price tag.
Recipe by Natural Comfort Kitchen at http://www.naturalcomfortkitchen.com/winter-walnut-pesto-pasta-and-valentines-dinner-menu/