Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fresh Basil


Let's go back in time, shall we?  We are traveling back to 1981.  Reagan was President.  Princess Diana and Charles got married.  And Toni Basil gave us "Mickey."  Remember that?  "Oh, Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind."  I remember standing in the living room with my legwarmers on and 15 bracelets watching her video on MTV.  Yes, they really used to show music videos on MTV.  I would watch videos all day long.  I am a huge fan of '80s music, and I think some of the best videos came from the '80s.  You may disagree, and that's okay.  But just Google Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" video.  Or "Take on Me" by Aha.  Or "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.  One more...Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer."  Good times.

So what does any of that have to do with cooking?  Nothing, except that, when I was thinking about this post for Chicken Pesto Pasta, the word "basil" reminded me of Toni Basil.  You know how you sometimes wonder what led your thoughts to something and then you have to backtrack to think of what the heck it was that got you to that thought? That's what just happened to me.

Now back to business.  This pasta turned out amazing.  There are a lot of ingredients in it, but I made it easy by roasting all of the veggies and the sausage in the oven.  Roasted veggies take on so much flavor.  Then I just had to boil pasta and make pesto in the food processor.  There is chicken, sausage, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, tomatoes, pasta and pesto in this dish.  It was so full of flavor.  You can use whatever sausage links you like here, even chicken sausage.  My husband, who doesn't like the smell of fresh basil, actually really liked this pasta.  I think you will too.

What's your favorite '80s song?

CHICKEN PESTO PASTA
1/2 onion, chopped
One 8-ounce package of mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb brussels sprouts
4 cloves garlic, skins removed
1 lb sausages, sliced (I used a chipotle and Monterrey Jack sausage)
2 C cooked, shredded chicken (keep warm)
1 lb pasta (I used cellantani)
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil

FOR THE PESTO:
One 4-ounce package fresh basil (the bigger box)
One 2 1/2 ounce package pine nuts
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, skins removed
2/3 C olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the outer leaves of the brussels sprouts.  Cut off the root end and cut them in half.  Drizzle some olive oil around on a large sheet pan.  Lay the brussels sprouts cut side down on the sheet pan.  Place the onions, peeled garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms and sausage slices in a single layer on the sheet pan (you may need two sheet pans).  Drizzle the top of all of this with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Put the pan(s) in the oven and cook until the veggies are all tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and chop the garlic.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and reserve 2 C of the water before draining.  Put all of the pesto ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor or blender.  Blend well.  Turn on the food processor or blender and stream in the olive oil and process until well combined. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

Toss the roasted veggies, garlic, sausage and chicken with the pasta.  Stir in the pesto.  Add in 1 C of the reserved pasta water and mix.  If the sauce is too dry, add in the other cup.  Garnish with additional shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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