Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Going Greek on a Meatless Monday - Greek Pesto Pasta: A Nomi Original

I love pasta.   I don't discriminate among shapes or sauces - I adore them all.

Growing up I knew of only 3 ways to eat pasta - with Mom's delicious meat sauce (the closest I've come to recreating it is Gloria Kobrin's fantastic meat sauce), with jarred tomato basil sauce, or with jarred Alfredo sauce.

In fact, until I met Carlo, I did not know you could make your own sauce!  Embarrassing but true.

This little tidbit is even more shameful when you consider that I have always gravitated towards Italians.  My closest girlfriends in high school were Italian - Nadia, Luciana and Elsa - and it seemed like I was always eating at Nadia's house - ie. I was eating the real deal, no jarred sauce would ever pass their threshold.
Then, when I went to university I met Diane, and she introduced me to Mary - they've been my closest friends since my late teens, and they, too, are Italian!

So you see, while I have always treasured and embraced my Jewish heritage,  have also fallen head over heels in love with everything Italian.  The country, the cuisine, the people - especially the people!

So it made sense that, as I was working my way through university, I would meet a handsome Italian man with whom I struck up an immediate friendship.  As I got to know him better I decided to play matchmaker and introduce him to my best friend, Diane, who was also Italian.  She came to meet him after work one evening, and afterwards she asked me why I introduced her to someone who I was clearly nuts about, and that it was just as obvious that the feeling was mutual! ... and so began my dance with destiny.

Carlo and I started dating soon after, and then he invited me to his place for dinner.  I asked what I could bring, and he said "sauce and bread".  That was easy enough...I went to the grocery store and bought a jar of Ragu tomato sauce and a loaf of Wonder bread.

Really, I did.

What does a nice Jewish girl know about Italian cooking?  And what was this nice Italian boy thinking when he asked the nice Jewish girl to bring sauce and bread!?!?

Well, we laugh about it (read: "at me") all these years later.  Soon enough I learned to appreciate the fine flavour of a fresh, home-made tomato sugo, and eventually I even learned how to make it!

Fast forward to the present and my current predicament...my beautiful family gets tired of the same old sugo week after week.  So I have incorporated a couple of new sauces and shapes into our family menu.  Carlo loves fusili, Sara loves spaghetti, Becca is pretty easy and I adore pennine rigate.  And for sauces...well, if you follow me on Facebook you know that Alessandra Rovati's pasta cacio e pepe is a huge hit in our household.

This week I needed to shake Meatless Monday up a bit.  We are falling into a pasta rut, alternating between the two.  Then I remembered a pesto, feta and vegetable pasta I used to make.  The family used to really like it.  So, I declared it "Greek Night at the Brunis", stopped by my neighbourhood No Frills for a bottle of pesto, and a fresh dinner idea actually made it to the table.

As I began sauteing the vegetables in olive oil, the girls started making their way to the kitchen, sniffing the air and asking what smelled so good.  Then, Sara abandoned all her EQAO preparations to stir the sauteing veggies, add the pesto and grate the feta ("it just tastes better that way Mom").  Becca was setting the table and photographing the final dish.   FINALLY...dinner was served.  We sat down, exchanged a B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito, shared our day's happenings with one another, and started to eat.  All you heard were a lot of "mmms", "this is really good", "make this at least once a month please" and "can I have this for my lunch tomorrow?".

All in all, it was a lovely, refreshing, healthy and flavourful dinner - one that I will happily recreate again next month.  A pictorial step-by-step of my Greek Pesto Pasta follows the recipe below..

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Greek Pesto Pasta: A Nomi Original

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Chinese eggplant, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 1 cooking onion, diced 
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ½ green pepper, diced
  • ½ yellow (or other colour) pepper, diced
  • 1 package white button mushrooms, rinsed & quartered (cut of the ends!)
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 6 - 12 cured ripe black olives
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce
  • ¼ C feta cheese, grated
  • 1 package of pasta (whatever shape you like)

Heat oil (medium heat) in large skillet.  Add both the red & cooking onions, eggplant, zucchini, green & yellow peppers (all vegetables are diced) and saute for about 5 minutes.  In the meantime, boil a large pot of water for your pasta.  Around the same time you add the pasta to the boiling water, add the mushrooms and tomatoes to your veggies, and saute for 5 more minutes.  Then add 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce and the cured ripe olives to the veggies and cook for 5 minutes longer.  Remember to stir occasionally throughout. 

Drain the pasta and add to sauce in skillet.  Toss and serve with a garnish of grated feta.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Add 3 tbsp olive oil in large skillet
Add  ½  red onion, diced 
Add 1 medium cooking onion, diced
Add  ½  yellow pepper and  ½  green pepper, diced 
Add 1 Chinese eggplant, diced
Add 1 zucchini, diced
Saute all veggies in olive oil on medium heat 
Add 1 package white mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
Add mushrooms to sauteed veggies
Add 1 tomato, diced
Saute all veggies, then toss in ripe cured olives
and 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto sauce 
This photo does not do the sauce justice
...it smells & tastes delicious!
My dinner plate, garnished with grated feta,
because `it just tastes better grated Mom`