Tortellini with Basil Pesto, Tomaotes and Green Beans
Pasta is the perfect foundation to pair with basil pesto. The intense herb flavor combined with sharp cheese needs a mild flavored foundation to compliment the sauce. Any type of pasta will suffice, but my favorite pasta with my favorite basil pesto recipe is cheese tortellini. Tortellini is widely available at the store, either freshly made, frozen or dried. As it happens, tortellini with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and green beans is one of my family’s favorite pasta dinners.
I love making pasta dinners with enough additional ingredients for a well-rounded meal. Marcella Hazan says a pasta meal is all about the pasta with just the minimal amount of sauce and add-ins. The pasta is the star. I learned a lot about cooking Italian food from Marcella’s cookbooks. However, here is where I diverge from her rule. For me, I try to make a whole meal that is nutritionally balanced.
Usually, I create a pasta dinner using pasta as the foundation with enough vegetables and/or proteins for a well-rounded meal. This way if I can’t make a salad, I know everyone will get at least one serving of vegetables. You still enjoy the comfort and flavor of pasta with the added nutritional benefits of a full serving of vegetables. Hopefully, the additional vegetables reduces pasta’s glycemic-index as well. Tortellini with basil pesto, grape tomatoes and green beans is also a great way to sneak in more vegetables for picky eaters.
Whenever I mix pesto into tortellini, or any type of pasta, I always add grape tomatoes. I never serve pasta with pesto without them. The sweetness and acid of the tomatoes nicely compliments the pesto and makes it taste more refreshing. I also love adding blanched green beans to my tortellini and pesto. It doesn’t add extra work and cooks in the same pot as the tortellini. Quickly blanched and crisp green beans add a nice textural contrast to the soft tortellini and smooth pesto. Basil, tomatoes and green beans all grow at the same time and as the saying goes, “What grows together, goes together.”
Tortellini with Basil Pesto, GrapeTomaotes and Green Beans
Tortellini with basil pesto, fresh grape tomatoes and blanched green beans makes a delicious meal all in one pot. It is a very easy dinner and perfect for any night of the week. Make the pesto and prep the vegetables while you wait for the water to come to a boil. Blanch the green beans in the same pot with the tortellini.
If you want creamy pesto tortellini: make the pesto but don't add the cheese. In a small sauce pan, heat up one cup (225 ml) of heavy cream, or half and half, to a light simmer then whisk in the grated cheese, 1/4 cup (60 ml) at a time. Taste and correct for seasoning. Keep the cream and cheese sauce warm while the tortellini cooks. When the tortellini is done, add the heated cream and the basil pesto to the pot with the tortellini, green beans and tomatoes. Stir to combine and taste. Add more pesto if needed. Serve immediately.
I portioned each serving to equal 8 oz (226g). Don't be alarmed, each serving does not contain a half pound (226 g) of pasta. Each serving should contain about a quarter pound (113 g) of pasta with a quarter pound (113 g) of vegetables.
Tortellini with pesto, tomatoes and green beans is best eaten immediately when it is finished cooking. Any leftovers will last in the refrigerator in an air tight container for a couple of days.
1 lb (450 g) fresh, dried or frozen cheese tortellini
Kosher Salt for pasta cooking water and seasoning
1/2 lb (227 g) grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 lb (227 g) fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
About 1/2 cup (125 ml) Basil Pesto
Serve with freshly grated Romano cheese
Optional 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream or half and half for creamy pesto sauce. Follow directions in summary.
Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Add at least one teaspoon of Kosher salt to the water and carefully taste. You want to taste the salt in the water. The lore is, the pasta water should taste like the sea. Sometimes I find that amount too salty. continue to add more salt until it is just right for your preference.
Add the tortellini and cook according to the directions given with the pasta. While the tortellini cooks, occasionally stir the pot to prevent the tortellini from sticking together.
About two minutes before the tortellini is done cooking, add the prepared green beans to the pot with the tortellini. Cook until the water returns to a boil. Taste the tortellini for al dente.
Drain the water and return the tortellini and green beans to the stock pot. Add about a 1/2 cup of pesto and stir o combine. Add the grape tomatoes and stir to combine.
Serve immediately with more Romano Cheese on the side.
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