Old Fashioned Italian Family Dinner

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When my mom told me my grandparent’s were coming for dinner on Wednesday, I knew the only menu option was pasta.  My grandfather has a long and loving relationship with pasta. He has often told us that when he was a child, his Italian parents were so poor that they had to eat spaghetti every single day.  You would think that after such a monotonous diet, he would never want to see, let alone eat, spaghetti, or any type of pasta for that matter, ever again.  Well, my grandpa does not have a negative attitude towards pasta as you might expect. In fact it is the complete opposite! There is nothing in this world he would rather eat than a big plate of spaghetti.  For as long as I can remember, pasta has been part of my relationship with my grandpa.  On Wednesday’s he would pick my sister and me up from school and we could come home to a big steaming bowl of rigatoni and red sauce.  Every time we went out to eat, he would order a big plate of spaghetti, and so would I (although mine was obviously with butter and cheese instead of sauce).  I wanted to be just like my Italian grandpa and he has definitely passed his love of pasta along to me.  It was always the first thing I said when someone asked me my favorite food and always my go-to at restaurants.  Although I have switched to whole wheat pasta these days (I used whole wheat penne for this recipe), I will never give up this wonderful Italian dish because it is a part of my heritage, my childhood, and most importantly my relationship with my beloved grandpa.

After searching the Pinterest boards, I decided on a simple pesto dish which I new would be a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

RECIPE

Pesto Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Roasted Asparagus:

Yields 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 ounces medium shell pasta
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • 1/3 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes, drained
  • 1/3 cup diced mozzarella cubes
  • Fried egg, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the asparagus in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste; gently toss to combine.

Place into the oven and roast for 8-12 minutes, or until tender but crisp. Let cool before cutting into 1-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the pasta, asparagus, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella.

Serve immediately with a fried egg, if desired.

(I did NOT add the fried egg… the combo of egg and pasta does not sound appetizing)

This recipe was so simple, made even easier by the fact that I used store-bought pesto. I really wanted to make my own, but time was limited and this got the food on the table much quicker.  Next time I make a recipe with pesto I will definitely make my own, especially because my parents started to grow their own basil.  I used half a jar of  pesto for this dish and it was plenty! The pasta was flavorful and not dry at all.  On to the oven roasted asparagus.  I love the idea of adding vegetables to pasta dishes, especially because you end up eating less carbs and more healthy veggies!  I cooked the asparagus in the oven for 10 minutes while the pasta was boiling, as directed, and it was so crisp and tasty, I don’t think I will ever steam asparagus again.  When I steam asparagus, it often comes out with a stringy texture, so this method produces much better results.  The only other slight change I made was to use shredded mozzarella  instead of the mozzarella cubes.  I just think shredded cheese melts better, and it melted perfectly as soon as I added it to the steaming penne! It was awesome when I reheated it in the microwave the next day. This dish was so so easy, perfect for a busy day or even for a  finals week dinner with the roommates! My grandpa’s eyes lit up as soon as he saw the big dish of pasta, so mission accomplished!

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For a side I kept it incredibly simple (pretty much the theme of this meal).  I put together a romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and sliced mushrooms (my favorite) and let everyone add their own dressing, which was a fig infused balsamic vinaigrette (delicious). The salad was fresh and the perfect compliment to the heavier pasta.  Also the bakery wheat bread was perfect for mopping up the yummy leftover balsamic dressing.

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This meal took me about half an hour to put together, but everyone was satisfied and even impressed! I will remember this recipe when I am in need of some serious Italian comfort food when I am swamped with work during finals week.  I am pretty sure my roommates will appreciate coming home to a big, steaming, pot of delicious, hearty pasta during this stressful time!!

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http://damndelicious.net/post/27677172798/pesto-pasta-with-sun-dried-tomatoes-and-roasted

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