Chef Steve’s Winter Walnut Pesto Pasta
By Steve Norton
During this festive time of year, there’s one binding element that brings people together: food.
Whether it’s a family recipe passed down through the generations or a new recipe you are trying out for the very first time, family, friends and new acquaintances can bond over a shared meal.
Renowned poet Maya Angelou once wrote, “There are very few times we can be more intimate as to share food together.”
Food, especially around the holidays, can be comforting for many. A slice of turkey dripping with gravy at Thanksgiving, or a warm bowl of hearty pasta on a cold winter night. The meals we eat can help renourish our soul and change our outlook on life.
However brief the moment is, getting together with friends and family to share a meal can bring you closer together. Whether you are meeting a friend for a cup of coffee to catch up, enjoying a home-cooked dinner with your family, or out on a first date, this time spent together allows you to cultivate and sustain relationships. Spending a few hours with someone over a shared meal can provide a safe environment in which you can share your ups and downs, fears, joys and successes.
After my stroke, I did not let my disability overshadow my love for food or cooking up a great meal with friends and family. I learned new methods of cooking, discovered adaptive cooking tools and ways to use the cooking tools I was already familiar with.
I enjoy sharing my love of food and cooking with others, especially during the holidays.
While whipping up new creations in the kitchen by yourself can be enjoyable, sharing a recipe with a friend, or trying a new recipe together can be a great experience. It’s an opportunity to learn about new foods and enjoy time cooking and growing with those you love.
Try something new this winter season, and make this delicious pasta dish. Cook it for someone special in your life, or share at your next get-together with friends or family. For a lower-carb option, you can substitute the pasta with any of the fresh, dried or frozen vegetable pasta or choose whole wheat or gluten-free pasta.
Winter Walnut Pesto Pasta
Prep Time: 25 min. Cook Time: 20 min. Servings: 4
- Pesto (can buy good quality pesto to save time)
- 1/4 cup raw walnuts (plus more for garnish)
- 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
- 1 cup firmly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 1/2 a large bunch)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled & roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 4-5 tablespoons good quality olive oil
- 8 ounces rotini pasta or other
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound Brussels sprouts (16-18); dirty end of stem & outer leaves removed, quartered lengthwise
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds/stem/membranes removed, cut into bite-size strips
- Kalamata olives, sliced into rounds (optional, for serving)
Toast walnuts in a 350-degree oven on a rimmed baking sheet 10-12 minutes until they begin to darken; stir once or rotate the pan halfway through. Cool slightly, then roughly chop walnuts. While walnuts toast, prepare other ingredients.
If making homemade pesto, do it ahead of time or first. Using a food processor, blend parmesan, parsley, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, salt, and pepper until nearly smooth paste forms, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times; drizzle in olive oil while the processor is still running until fully combined. Taste the pesto and adjust seasoning. Use immediately or store a few days in the fridge.
Start boiling water for pasta and cook, al dente, according to package directions as you prepare and cook the vegetables. When draining pasta, reserve ¼ cup cooking water.
Heat a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high; when hot, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until nearly smoking. Add peppers (they should sizzle) and spread in a single layer, cook 2 minutes undisturbed until browned; remove peppers to a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and allow to heat. Spread Brussels sprouts in an even layer in the pan, turning one of the cut sides down; cook for about 2 minutes undisturbed until brown on the first side; cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until lightly softened when you test one. Turn off heat, add peppers back to the pan and allow the pan to cool 5 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally to avoid burning.
Add most of the pesto and 2 tablespoons cooking water to the vegetables. Stir until incorporated and pesto sauce covers the veggies. Add more water if the pesto is very thick. If too much water was added, heat to a low simmer to reduce the liquid. Add cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine and coat with pesto. If noodles have cooled, heat the mixture over low to warm. Taste and add remaining pesto, salt, and pepper as needed. Serve warm topped with additional grated parmesan, chopped walnuts, and sliced olives.
Pairs well with the light watercress salad shown on the right page. A great dessert to serve with this meal is a chocolate torte.
- 1/2 cup watercress leaves
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
Place watercress in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the honey, vinegar and water together. Pour over salad and toss well to combine. Season with thyme, parsley, salt and pepper, then toss the salad again.
Until our next cooking adventure, keep eating to thrive!
All my best,
A native of Santa Ana, CA, Steve Norton has been in the hospitality industry for the past 30 years. He attended New York’s prestigious Culinary Institute of America and has worked as a private chef. Steve loves to share his knowledge and expertise in healthy eating, including menu planning, managing a food budget, and cooking with fresh ingredients.
Read more by Steve Norton.