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Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers and Walnut Pesto

September 3, 2008

Last night’s post-tennis pasta installment of our program was Pasta with Cauliflower, Peppers and a Parsley-walnut pesto.  It was really good and didn’t take that long to put together.  Plus, parsley is available year round, so this would be a good winter pesto dish when basil isn’t at its peak.  This Food & Wine recipe really called for 1 1/2 c of cilantro and 1/2 c of parsley, but Publix didn’t have cilantro.  After a bit if pouting (maybe more than a bit) and going back into the produce stock room to find someone to ask where it was, I  inverted the parsley and cilantro quantities (I had a little bit of cilantro from a previous dish), and I think it came out quite good.  Because Greg put up with my pouting (at the grocery store) and poor sportsmanship (on the tennis court), I cut sliced up a left-over spicy Italian sausage for him and topped his pasta with it.  I would highly recommend that addition for meat lovers.  This would also be good served hot, room temperature, or cold as a pasta salad.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups lightly packed flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves (about 1 1/2 bunches)

1/2 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves (about a half bunch)

3/4 cup walnuts

2 large garlic cloves (or 3 smaller ones), peeled

about a 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

1 lb gemelli, farfalle (bow ties) or orecchiette

1 small head of cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)

1 small red bell pepper, cut into 2-by-1/4-inch strips

1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-by-1/4-inch strips

2 plum tomatoes, diced (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

Grated Parmesan

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Save 3/4 c of the pasta water.
Cut up cauliflower and peppers.  Heat 1 T of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, and add the cauliflower, cut sides down.  Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is browned in spots.  Add the peppers and stir occasionally until they are tender, about another 5 minutes.
While the vegetables are cooking, add the parsley, cilantro, walnuts and garlic to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add 6 tablespoons of the oil and process until smooth. Stir in some salt, to taste.
If using Italian sausage, slice into rounds and brown in a skillet until cooked through.
In a large pot, combine the pasta, pesto, vegetables, diced tomatoes and reserved pasta water; toss until the pasta is coated. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle liberally with Parmesan.
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