RECIPE: Walnut Parsley Pesto with Chicken Sausage

Summer begs for easy everything, right? And when you have been slaving in the yard for 8 hours straight in the summer sun, you don't want to slave over the stove to make dinner that evening, too.

This is a dish I whipped up last Sunday after a long, long day of back breaking, finger nail cracking, dirty, exhausting, glorious day in the garden. I adapted it from a magazine clipping I have saved for years. Parsley and chicken Italian sausage take a starring role here. Parsley is cheaper than basil, making this dish affordable. I did throw in some basil to sweeten things up a touch. I also added a toasting step for the garlic and walnuts to help meld and enhance flavors.

The left overs were great the next day. It holds up very nicely! Give it a try!

Walnut Parsley Pesto with Chicken Sausage 

3/4 lb. of whole-grain pasta shells 
3 cups of fresh flat leaf parsley leaves 
1/2 cup of walnuts
2 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese (about a half a cup plus more for serving)
Kosher salt and black pepper 
6 Tbsp. of olive oil 
3/4 lb. of Italian chicken sausage, casings removed 
3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 
1/4 cup of basil leaves 


Cook the pasta according to package directions in salted water. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and keep warm.

In a pan over medium heat, toast the chopped garlic until lightly browned and then place in the food processor. This will help to soften the bitterness of the garlic. In this same pan toast the walnuts over medium heat. It will pick up some of the garlic oils which will help richen the flavor of the walnuts. Once the walnuts are toasted throw them in the food processor with the garlic. 

Next, add 1/4 cup of basil leaves in with the walnuts and the garlic. Pulse a few times. Next add the parsley leaves, salt and black pepper and pulse some more until things are beginning to get finely chopped. Next add the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Add 5 tablespoons of olive oil while pulsing until the pesto is smooth. 

Next in a large sauté pan with deep sides, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Take the chicken sausage with the casings removed and break it up with the back of a wooden spoon in the pan. Sauté the sausage until lightly brown, using the back of the spoon to continue to break up the sausage as it cooks. 

Next add the cooking water with the pesto and the pasta and toss to coat. Continue to add the cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve warm with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.



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