I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m feeling a bit rough around the edges after this holiday weekend. While we still technically have another week or two of summer, school is now back in session, the campus is flooded with undergraduates again, and I’m fairly certain I have never before started an academic year feeling this haggard and un-refreshed. It’s like that feeling when it’s Monday morning and you’re already majorly sleep-deprived…except times a hundred.
So when I’m running on fumes and can’t be bothered to make anything too fussy, I often gravitate towards pasta. This dish is a slightly fancier—but still super simple—version of something I used to throw together while in college: pasta, pesto, broccoli, and chicken sausage. If you’re uber pressed for time, you can use pesto from a jar and steam the broccoli in the microwave, but if you’ve got just a few extra minutes, I highly recommend whizzing up some homemade pesto and roasting the broccoli. The delicately crispy and charred tips of the roasted broccoli provide an unbeatable depth of flavor, and the pesto…well, one bite of this basil walnut pesto and you’ll be in love!
I prefer walnuts over pine nuts for pesto for two reasons: first, the mellow richness and faint bitterness of the walnuts complement the flavors of sweet basil and briny parmesan remarkably well, and second, I have a feeling that walnuts may be a more common pantry staple than pine-nuts (they certainly are in my household, at any rate). It always bugs me when I buy an ingredient for a specific recipe, use a bit of it, and then the rest just sits there because I don’t have (m)any other dishes that call for it.
So there you have it: one of my tried-and-true, go-to dinners for when I want something quick and hearty! And now it’s time for an informal poll: which nuts do you usually keep on hand?
- 2 crowns broccoli
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 ounces campanelle (or your favorite pasta shape)
- 9 ounces cooked chicken sausage, sliced
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan (optional)
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 packed cup basil leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the broccoli crowns into florets. Optional: strip off the tough outer skin of the florets. Toss the broccoli with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly charred.
- While the broccoli is in the oven, heat water for pasta and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta water is coming to a boil (or while the pasta is cooking), make the pesto: in the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts and garlic and pulse until a grainy paste forms. Add the basil leaves and pulse until the leaves are finely chopped. While the food processor is running, add the olive oil and process until fully blended. Add the parmesan, along with salt and pepper to taste, and pulse a few more times until the pesto is smooth.
- Toss the pesto with the pasta and add the roasted broccoli florets and chicken sausage. Garnish with extra parmesan, if desired.
- I use Aidells chicken and apple sausage, which is fully cooked, so I just warm it up in the microwave.
- Pesto adapted from Once Upon A Chef