A comforting pesto pasta supper dish with the vibrant Sicilian flavours of lemon, garlic, capers and sultanas, chopped with blanched kale and stirred into your favourite pasta shapes with soft ricotta cheese.
We in the northern hemisphere are fast approaching the shortest day of the year and, despite the distinct lack of snow in my corner of the UK (everyone else seems to be building igloos), the low light has got us craving pasta.
Oftentimes I wimp out and heat up a pack of no-carb Japanese shirataki noodles. You know, the thick, slippery yam starch noodles with a paltry 9 calories and completely fool you once slathered in sauce. But when the sun barely skims the rooftops before setting at 3.38 p.m. (today’s official sunset time. True.) indigestible dietary fibre pasta that basically leaves your body ain’t going to cut it. We want the full-on, tummy-lining experience. Usually if carb-craving hits I will boil up pasta while fossicking around in the freezer for a labelled bag of homemade pasta sauce (usually sauce that’s in this lasagne recipe) or some tapenade, like one here in my Cauliflower and Green Olive Tapenade Gratin. To it all I will add whatever veg I have around, hoping that there are some leftover roasted vegetables in the fridge. Usually a dog-end of cheese that needs using up will also be co-opted. Proper fridge-raid food.
For this easy supper dish, I was inspired by a recipe I saw in the Waitrose 2018 calendar. Their gorgeously lush recipe was an artful tangle of linguine spiked with these Sicilian flavours and parsley. It is simple but very enticing. Maybe more enticing because it is so simple.
For my rather messier but still super-easy effort, I had some leftover ricotta from a catering gig that needed using as well as a bag of organic cavolo nero from Phantassie Farm (my homegrown supply is completely, and sadly, exhausted except for some cute fluffy tips). The other ingredients are store cupboard bits and bobs that give this blender pesto the Sicilian sweet-sour-salty thing many of us love. After spending all of 10 minutes prepping I then opened up my favourite pasta and got boiling. If you are making this in the summer (hello, Australia and New Zealand!), roast or saute some little cubes of eggplant and chuck those in, too. Vegans, try this with dollops of cashew ricotta.
If you want to make this creamier, mix a little creme fraiche with the ricotta before stirring it in. I popped this in the oven, but really you can just stir the cheese and pesto in and serve immediately. For extra texture why not add some olive oil-fried breadcrumbs? Some stale ciabatta would be perfect. For more protein, chuck in some warmed white beans, lightly crushed and doused in a little garlic-flavoured olive oil. That’s certainly my next iteration.
As I type, “festive” hail is skittering on the rooftops. I wonder if I can make a tiny igloo with it?
Sicilian-Style Kale Pesto Pasta
A comforting pesto pasta supper dish with the vibrant Sicilian flavours of lemon, garlic, capers and sultanas, chopped with blanched kale and stirred into your favourite pasta shapes with soft ricotta cheese. xx
75g kale leaves, stripped from the ribs and chopped (50g prepared weight)
4 tbsp raisins
3 tbsp capers, rinsed if in salt
2 cloves, garlic, minced
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
1 lemon, zest and juice
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red chilli (seeds removed if you wish)
250g pasta shapes of choice (gluten-free if you wish)
150g ricotta (or a vegan version)
6 Peppadew® peppers, chopped – or similar
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. This is optional.
Boil the kale for three minutes, along with the raisins. Drain.
Add the kale, raisins, capers, garlic, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, lemon juice, zest, olive oil and red chilli to a blender or small food processor bowl. Pulse/blend until you get a chunky – or smooth – pesto sauce. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper if you like.
Meanwhile, prepare the pasta as the package directs, saving some of the pasta water when you drain it.
Stir the Sicilian kale pesto into the hot pasta, along with the ricotta and about 4 tablespoons of pasta water. For a creamier taste, stir in a few tablespoons of creme fraiche, too. Pour into an ovenproof dish, top with peppers and bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Or, you can eat straight away without extra heating.
RIPE FOR PINNING!