Pasta making cannot be done simply by copy-paste, you have to think of a “copy-pasta” recipe to make sure the pasta becomes irresistibly appetising. On this late summer day in London when the rain-gods opened the doors in the sky, nothing was better to whole-heartedly throw in some wholemeal pasta to boil. Along with the usual accompaniments such as a handful of basil leaves, parsley, rosemary and mint – there was the usual cheese standing by to be grated as topping. Something rather unusual was waiting in line to join the pasta party and it was nothing but some minced chicken. No need to chicken out and think that this is not for you, because the alternatives to minced chicken that I am going to share with you below is perfectly suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike.
Ingredients I used:
1 large bunch fresh basil
4-5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 small bunch of fresh parsley
1 small bunch of fresh mint
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons of cream
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
300gm penne rigate or other ridged small tube pasta (I used wholemeal pasta from M&S)
250 gm Chicken mince meat or 1 and a half cup of chopped mushrooms (if you are vegetarian)
Lets Make Now
Step one: Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil over high heat and salt it generously. Add the penne and boil, stirring occasionally, until done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water and save about 1/4 cup pasta cooking water. Keep it aside.
Step two: Meanwhile, pluck the basil leaves, mint leaves, rosemary and parsley from the stems. Wash the leaves in a large bowl of cold water. Smash and peel the garlic.
Step three: Put the basil, mint, parsley, rosemary, garlic (I used pre-homemade garlic paste that I had in the fridge), and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the processor running, gradually add the olive oil and process until the pesto is smooth. Add cream now and blitz one more time.
Step four: In a frying pan, add 2 teaspoon of olive oil, add the chicken mince meat or mushroom (whatever you are using) and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add a handful of fresh basil, mint and rosemary leaves to it. Transfer the pesto to the pan and stir in the chicken/mushroom. Add the penne to the pan. Use tongs and toss with enough of the cooking water so the pesto coats the pasta evenly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the penne pasta with some parmesan cheese. Serve warm.
1.To keep it healthier, you can avoid using cream. Cream is used to make the pesto creamy.
2. You can make this pesto penne pasta without using chicken or mushroom, it will be as tasty as it is with it.
3. If you are a pescatarian, you can use shrimp instead of Chicken mince meat.
4. In place of pine nuts, you can use walnuts.
5. If you don’t have any of these herbs available at home, you can still make it. A combination of 1 cup parsley, 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves will still work fine.
Note: Pesto freezes beautifully. If you know your batch is headed to the deep chill, don’t add the cream and cheese. Adding the cheese right before serving brightens the flavor and avoids a gummy texture.