Christmas Eve dinner sort of popped up out of nowhere this year. We usually have a little more of a to-do, but by the time the 26th rolled around my mom and I could build a bridge we were so over it. So what’s an easy, relatively “make ahead” dish that could feed everyone and leave left overs for days? A massive “kitchen sink” style pasta.
I say “kitchen sink” because I put the entire contents of the fridge in this pasta. Chopped butternut squash? Sure! Leeks? Why not? Kale? OK! It’s kind of ridiculous. But the lovely thing about this pasta is that it all works together. Winter vegetables are just meant to be roasted and combined: fennel caramelizes like candy, and we all know about butternut squash. Kale adds a bit of crisp texture and sunchokes bring some earthiness to the party. In the spring asparagus and pea tendrils could make an appearance and in the summer fresh corn and artichoke hearts with a basil pesto would be delicious. The idea is to just put them all together, and let them do their thing.
You also might have noticed that the pesto isn’t…pesto-y. It’s not even green! This is because it’s about the walnuts. Combined with the garlic, nutmeg, and milk, this sauce takes on an alfredo quality but without the heft. It’s just really awesome. Enjoy!
Note: This is the PERFECT dish for vegetable leftovers because the walnut pesto goes with practically everything. So add and combine away!
INGREDIENTS (WALNUT PESTO)
Yields 1 1/2 cups pesto, or more if thinned out
1 1/2 raw walnuts
3/4 cups cubed bread
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 cup milk, or however much you need to cover the bread
1/4 cup parm, freshly grated
Soak the bread in enough milk to cover the cubes, and soak the walnuts in enough hot water to cover them for 15 minutes. The bread should be soft and the walnuts should have turned the water a brownish hue. In a food processor, add the walnuts, drained with the liquid reserved, the bread and milk, and the other ingredients. Pulse to combine. Add a 1/4 cup of the walnut water and pulse until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. If you want a thinner, sauce-ier pesto, add more of the walnut liquid.
2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups sunchoke (aka Jerusalem Artichokes), chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bunch kale, vein removed and roughly chopped
1 leek, cleaned and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of chili flake
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pound pasta, such as penne
3/4 cup walnut pesto, more if you like more
toasted breadcrumbs, optional
Preheat oven to 425 F
On a baking sheet, drizzle the butternut squash, sunchoke, and fennel with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the fennel for about 15 minutes, or until the edges turn brown, and remove from oven. Continue to roast the sunchoke and butternut squash for another 20 minutes, flipping once. You want them to be really caramelized so if they need to get a little browner, leave them in for another 5 minutes.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and then the leeks. Season the leeks with salt and pepper, and after 5 minutes add the garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes until wilted and browning and add the kale. Stir in the kale so that it’s coated, add more olive oil if necessary. Add the chili flake and lemon juice and cook until the kale is just wilted.
Meanwhile, heat up a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. In a small saucepan heat up the walnut pesto over medium low heat.
Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauté pan with the kale, add the roasted vegetables, and add the walnut pesto. Stir to combine and coat. Garnish with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!