Ever since my knee operation over a year ago, the “good” Sheila has been holding back on the pasta and other carbs to keep my weight in check to aid in the recovery. Other than fatigue, erectile dysfunction and periods of deep melancholy and incontinence, I have not had any life-threatening reaction to my “pasta-free” diet. Some would say that I have become somewhat more irritable, but I think that is caused by aging and spending too much time watching Wolf Blitzer.
On occasion of our upcoming trip to Italy, Sheila has decided to make a few pasta dishes to loosen my stomach muscles. She immediately turned to Nina Rizzo Renda and Leslie May Rodwick’s delightful cookbook, Grapevines and Olive Branches, which has been kept under lock and key for several months. In this cookbook, Nina shares some family recipes from the Bernardo Winery aided by Leslie’s mouth-watering photography. If you need a little taste of the old-country and don’t have much time, this is a “must-have” cookbook for every harried home cook that needs to prepare a great meal without a lot of time or a dash to the supermarket.
I would be remiss in stating that this cookbook only contains pasta dishes, but like a starving dog I decided to turn my back on the salads and antipasti bar and leap into some of the delectable pasta recipes. Furthermore, there are some great entrees , such as, lamb and fava bean stew and that traditional southern Italian favorite “Chicken Cacciatore.” Among my favorite pasta dishes is penne with pesto sauce shown below:
- 1 lb penne or other short pasta
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup pignoli nuts (pine nuts), lightly toasted
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tbs of salt
- In a blender, place the basil leaves, pignoli, garlic cloves, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Pulse until the pesto is smooth. (This can be prepared beforehand and preserved).
- Bring a large pot of water (4 quarts) to a boil. Add salt and pasta and cook until the pasta is “al dente” – normally 10 to 12 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and coat with the pesto mix until well coated.
- Serve immediately.
It doesn’t get much better than this and my “abs of steel” have now been replaced by a rotund bulge more fitting of a patrician in Rome. Love pasta!