Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bring on the Pesto

More food. Hope that's okay. At least it's dinner this time.
There are a few things I always keep on hand in the kitchen besides the usual flour, sugar, rice, etc. I always keep Trader Joe's chicken sausages in the freezer in varying varieties. I always seem to have a package of tortellini or raviolis. I also buy a little tub of pesto at the grocery store pretty much every time I go (you really can't make it from scratch for the $3 it costs to buy it). These ingredients, combined with fresh sauteed veggies tend to become my last-minute quick-fix dinner. It's one of my favorites and I make it every couple of weeks. It takes less than 30 minutes including all the chopping.
I have been making a variation of this since I discovered how easy it is to saute vegetables back in high school, I just recently discovered how much a little pesto improves the meal. By the way, my non-stick saute pan of choice is Analon professional. I have 4 sizes. They are very heavy and even after 6 years, mine are hardly flaking at all. Plastic spatulas and hand-washing only.
Here you go, my one-bowl dinner (and the toddler-variation that I now inevitably must make to accompany it):

Danielle's Italian Pesto Pasta One-Bowl Dinner
1 medium onion (yellow or white) diced

2-3 cloves garlic minced

2 chicken sausage links sliced, casings removed (chicken sausage because it is lean and won't add extra saturated fat to the meal thus causing it to congeal a bit...eww...)

1 head broccoli cut into approximately 1 inch pieces

1 zucchini sliced and then cut into half-moons

10-12 white mushrooms sliced

2-3 roma tomatoes diced

1 tub store-bought pesto (in the refrigerated pasta/sauce section)

9oz tortellini of your choice (fresh or frozen, either work fine)

Saute onion in about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil until almost tender. Add garlic, saute one more minute. Add chicken sausage and saute until warmed through (a couple minutes). Add broccoli and zucchini, saute a couple more minutes. Then add mushrooms, saute a couple more minutes. Add tomatoes and saute until broccoli is tender (yes, a couple more minutes). Add cooked tortellini and pesto. Stir until all ingredients are well coated. Top with fresh shredded parmesan (is there any other kind?) and serve. Makes about 4 servings.

The sausage can be left, out for the veggie-only people out there, and it still tastes great!

The trick with sauteing veggies is to keep them at a steady heat (somewhere around medium), to add the ingredients by the length of time it takes them to cook (so not necessarily all at once) and to not move the food in the pan very much (as in, do not obsessively stir). If you stir it too much, the veggies turn out mushy. The idea is to cook things thoroughly but fast. The trick to tortellini and ravioli is to only boil them until they begin to float. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop them from cooking further.

...and now, the toddler variation. My nearly-three-year-old is a fairly picky eater. For a long time we felt like we were beating our heads against a wall trying to get him to eat anything green. Then, through having him help me prepare dinner and watching him sample everything I was cutting up fearlessly, I realized that he does not like cooked vegetables and he does not like his food mixed up. In fact, he is much more comfortable with very straight-forward meals of ingredients that do not touch. I found these fabulous plates with separate compartments at Target and it has made all the difference. Now when I make things like the above, I start by pulling out one of his plates and adding the vegetables to his plate while I am cutting them. Since he likes his broccoli cooked, I remove it before adding the pesto - same with the sausage and tortellini. Since making this effort, we have noticed a huge difference in his attitude towards dinner. He now willingly eats most vegetables and often asks for seconds. Tonight he ate everything except the tortellinis and since they are the least-healthy ingredient, I was quite satisfied. I was exactly like this as a child (freaked out at the thought of casserole and didn't like my foods to touch) so I *understand* my son and am therefore willing to humor his neurosis.

1 comment:

  1. Danielle, tried this the other night and it turned out great! The most shocking thing perhaps was that my 4 and 7 year olds ate it all, with my eldest proclaiming "this dinner is healthy AND good!". Easiest way by far to get them to eat zucchini and mushrooms.
    Was as quick to make as you described and will now be a regular on my menu list.