Basil Pesto and Artichoke Pasta Salad

One of my favorite things in the world is pasta. It’s versatile, it can stretch, you can eat it hot or cold. Give me a noodle and some cheese and I’ll be a happy girl.

 

I decided to whip up a quick pasta salad for my guests. This is a very fresh, light salad. It calls for a homemade basil pesto as the dressing. It is so easy but it seems super fancy. It’s a dump and go recipe; it does not require a lot of labor or preparation. You can make it in advance and whip it out before your guests arrive.

This can be eaten alone or as a side.

 

 

Ingredients:

One box of farfalle, rotini or cavatappi

1 can of artichoke quarter, rinsed and drained

1 bunch of basil

1-2 tsp of lemon zest

5-6 cloves of garlic

1 cup of grape tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ c romano cheese

¼ c parmesan cheese

Optional: 1 cup of fresh mozzarella, cubed


  1. Cook pasta according to box directions, drain.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil (reserve 4-5 leaves for garnish), lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Add more oil if needed.pesto
  3. Roughly chop the artichokepesto2
  4. In a large bowl, combine the basil mixture, the pasta, the artichoke and the cheese.pesto3pesto4pesto5
  5. Top with parm and julienned basil.

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Super yummy warm, room temperature or cold.

 

© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved

Spicy Chicken & Sausage Soup

Autumn is my favorite season. Sweaters, boots, cider, stretch pants….. Okay, stretch pants are year-round over here, sue me. But still, autumn is easily the greatest season for food. It’s September but here in DC, it’s still brutally hot. We cranked up the air today and brought in the new season with a super hearty, flavorful and filling soup.

When it comes to my comfort foods measurements are never exact. You go with the flow, you taste and adjust. You wiggle when you get it perfect. Well, I wiggle. I don’t know what you do.

I love any excuse to pull out Big Red, my large Le Creuset dutch oven (thanks Trina!). You want to use a large, heavy bottomed pot for this dish because it is a one-pot wonder. Everything is happening in that pot. Everything.

Ingredients:

Two large chicken breasts

3 spicy Italian sausages

4 garlic cloves

2 large carrots

3 celery stalks

1 small onion, or ½ of a large onion

½ green bell pepper

1 can of black beans

1-16 oz can of crushed tomato

1 carton of low-sodium chicken broth (always, always low-sodium)

Few tbsp of your preferred cooking oil

1 tsp of fish oil (don’t ask, just do it. Trust me. MAJOR NOM FACTOR)

Spices & such:

Kosher salt, pepper.

Garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, parsley- thyme would work really well, too.

This is an example of measurem-who!? I just eyeball, but you can start with about a tsp of the first three spices, ½ tsp for the remaining ingredients, and adjust as you taste. Always taste, taste, taste!

 

Prepping is the name of the game. Chop up your veg right away. Just get it over with, when it’s go-time you can just dump it right in the pot and keep on moving.

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In your heavy-bottom pot over med heat, add about 2 tbsp of cooking oil. Add your sausage, I made little sausage balls. Allow the sausage to caramelize and brown, the bottom of the pan may start to change color. That is nothing but food’s way of saying, “hey, you. here’s some love”. Seriously, this is a good sign. You do not want the sausage to cook through. Transfer to a paper towel lined bowl.

If the pot is beginning to dry, add another tbsp of oil. Add your chopped chicken breast to the pan. Season with kosher salt and pepper. You want the chicken to brown up and add to the brown love marks on the pan. Once the chicken is mostly cooked, carefully transfer to a bowl.

In the very same pot, right on top of all of that #BrownLove, you’re going to add your holy trinity (onions, bell pepper and celery) and your carrot. Sprinkle a bit of kosher salt and stir. Allow the vegetables to sweat, they will become very aromatic. It’s intoxicating, really. When you smell the trinity you know major NOMS are about to occur.

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As the veg starts to sweat, you’ll notice the brown bits start to loosen up. Now, this is where magic happens.

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Once the vegetables start to soften,  you’re going to add your spices. Stir it up really well and just keep moving the veg around the pot. We don’t want to burn the spices, we just want to toast them a bit. Bring out some of that aroma and flavor.

 

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The veg will be releasing some moisture, which is why this doesn’t look dry. And, would you look at that!? The #BrownLove is mostly off of the pot and incorporated in the veg. FLAVOR! Now, you’re going to add a capful of red wine vinegar and a tsp of fish oil to this. You want to stir to incorporate. I will admit. This part is a bit funky, but it is adding some major nuance and umami.

(Umami. The sophisticated sister to Nom. You’re welcome for that useless and totally made up bit of information).

Now, you’re going to add your chicken broth and your crushed tomato. Stir well to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil and then turn down low. Allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes, then you’re going to add your chicken and sausage back into the mix. The sausage and the chicken are going to finish cooking gently in the simmering soup. After about 5 minutes you can go on and add your beans. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

 

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That line of soup residue? That means the soup has reduced. That means the flavors are more concentrated. That means….Yes, you guessed it: NOM. At this point, you really just want to taste and tinker. More salt? More garlic? (The answer to more garlic is always “yes” in this house.) This is your dish, adjust as your tastebuds demand. I wound up adding a smidge more fish sauce and another pinch of salt.

Mason demanded a taste and told me it was “deeeeelicious.”

So, clearly it’s amazing.

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(Notice the darker color. Reduced -> concentrated flavor -> NOM)

 

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At the last minute I decided to serve it with some cornbread so I whipped some of that up. I’ll do a post on that another day. But just know this is some sweet, salty and moist conrbread. It’ll make you wanna cuss.

 

Wait. This is my blog.

This cornbread is good as shit. So is the soup. Trust me.

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© 2016 by Alexa Mason. All Rights Reserved