For meatless Monday this week, I’m here to tempt you with a comforting pasta dish bursting with the fresh flavour of homemade pesto. The possibilities when making pasta at home are as endless as the imagination of the cook and easy dishes such as this make for a fairly quick meal to be served when time is in short supply or just when the craving hits. Your dinner companions will think you spent hours in the kitchen because it’s that delicious. If you are extra ambitious, make your own fresh pasta for an extra special touch.
For a vegan version of this recipe, simply omit the cheese and it will be just as good – I was sparing with it myself because I wanted the other flavours in the dish to shine through.
Linguine with Pea-Basil Pesto and Mushrooms
- 1/2 oz (14 g) dried mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 to 2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
- 1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
- a few handfuls of walnuts, chopped
- large handful of fresh basil, torn or chopped
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 to 4 tablespoons soft goat cheese or ricotta (optional)
- 8 oz (250 g) button mushrooms, sliced
- 12 to 16 oz (350 to 450 g) fresh or dried linguine or other pasta
- 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 1/2 cups of hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid, and roughly chop the mushrooms. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, garlic and jalapeños, and stir for 3 to 4 minutes to soften the onion. Stir in 3/4 cup of the peas along with most of the walnuts (reserve some for garnish) and continue to stir for another minute. Toss the basil into the pan, pour in 2/3 cup of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese if using, remove from heat, and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a mortar and pestle, blender or food processor, and process until mostly smooth, adding more of the reserved liquid as necessary. Set aside.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. When hot, toss in the fresh and dried mushrooms and stir for 5 minutes or until the fresh mushrooms begin to brown and lose some of their juices. Remove from heat.
In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, adding any remaining mushroom soaking liquid to the cooking water along with salt and a drop of oil. Drain, rinse quickly with cold water, and return to the pot and gently reheat, stirring in the pesto and cooked mushrooms. Add a few sprinkles of water if it is too dry and stir in the remaining peas and check for seasoning.
Serve hot, garnished with Parmesan, walnuts and fresh basil leaves if desired.
Makes 5 to 8 servings depending on what you serve the dish with and how hungry the diners are.