After our orientation to Italy in Chianti we hopped into our rental car and drove north to the Mediterranean coastline for a three night stay in Cinque Terre. The three hour drive highlighted the range of geography across Italy as we drove through farms, saw white capped mountains in the distance, and eventually arrived at the turquoise blue Mediterranean waters.
These five villages have been active fishing communities for hundreds of years. By boat the colorful buildings carved into the hillside make a stunning picturesque scene but also attracted pirates in the 16th century (for which they developed a slew of strategies for for defending themselves). In the 1970s travel writers began to discover these previously hidden gems and then in 1997 the area was named a UNESCO world heritage site. Today they are loaded with tourists and shops but if you are willing to venture off the well-trodden path then you can find stunning rocks to watch the sunset and restaurants that serve delicious seafood.
I celebrated my birthday (4th of July) in Cinque Terre and for this meal we had a seafood antipasti which surprised us with plate after plate of octopus, squid, oysters, raw salmon, anchovies two ways, and large pasta shells stuffed with crab. For a main dish I had homemade pasta covered in local pesto, and the dish needed nothing more. The dish was creamy and rich with pesto, garlic, and cheese all shining in the dish. But the creaminess. Oh, good gracious: the creaminess.
In honor of that meal I made a pesto dish this evening with basil from our garden. Traditional Pesto alla Genovese uses a mortar and pestle and often uses two types of hard cheese such as Grana Padano, Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano. I don’t own one so I resorted to a food processor but the danger there is over processing which can leave the pesto too oily or broken down. So I am sure to pulse-pulse-taste, adjust and repeat until it is perfect.
The pesto pasta I made this evening comes from Give Me Some Oven and was filled with pantry staples. Each bite was hearty and the large roasted brussel sprouts were crunchy and salty wonders. The only addition I made was that I poured some white wine into the sauce pan for the last few minutes while the sausage and garlic sauteed and added a spoon of pesto. Next time I would add a bit of pasta water to this as well to make it a bit saucier. We enjoyed this one bowl meal with a cool glass of white wine.
For the third leg of our trip we visited Florence – more on that soon!
- Brussels Sprouts (I used 10 oz which was about 15 sprouts)
- Olive Oil
- 1 pound orecchiette (we used whole wheat)
- 4 chicken sausages (we used roasted garlic) sliced into ‘1/4” thick coins”
- 5 cloves of garlic
- Splash of white wine
- 1/3 cup pesto
- Pecorino Romano cheese
Steps and Notes:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Prepare the brussel sprouts by trimming the edges, cutting in half, and removing any wilted leaves
- In a large bowl cover the halved sprouts with olive oil, and hearty sprinkles of both salt and pepper. Then, spread on a baking sheet covered in tin foil
- Bake the sprouts for 15-20 minutes- checking at 10 and stirring once.
- Prepare the water for cooking the pasta and cook al dente.
- Meanwhile, cook the sausage coins in olive oil in a hot skillet for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a splash of white wine and cook for 2 more minutes.
- After the pasta is cooked save 1/2 cup of pasta water for the final steps.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the warm pasta and pesto and mix well. Then, add the sausage, and sprouts. Add some pasta water to adjust the sauce thickness then top with pecorino romano and serve
Thoughts for Next Time:
- Swap the brussels for roasted broccoli, cauliflower or green beans
- Use closer to a full cup of pasta water to make a pesto and white wine sauce
- Add some lemon juice to the pesto