Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pasta in Almond Garlic Sauce (recipe #15)

I made a pretty tasty new dish last night- Penne pasta in Almond Garlic sauce. I came across this recipe last week on one of the blogs that I follow and it seemed pretty interesting. It's basically a pasta with a white sauce made of pureed almond, garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese, and lemon, mixed with frozen peas and topped with mint and basil. The idea of pureeing almonds into a pasta sauce was intruiging, and I had basically all the ingredients on hand (except for the mint and Parm) so I figured I'd give it a shot.

According to the recipe, this entire meal (including prep, etc) was only supposed to take 20 min and wonder of wonders, it actually did! This was a super easy meal. There was virtually no prep work. No onions or garlic to chop, no peas to de-shell... Pretty much the only prep type work you had to do was blanch the almonds... but then again you could buy almonds already blanched.

For those of you who aren't cookers, blanching is basically dipping a food into boiling water briefly. Vegetables (asparagus, snowpeas, etc) are often blanced to bring out their color and then placed in ice water. You can also blanch tomatoes to easily remove the skin... but I digress. I generally think of blanching as ONLY dipping the food into hot water, but apparently "blanching" an almond is dipping it into hot water and then removing the skin from each almond. I found this out by mistake... I don't think I've ever blanched almonds, so when they came out of the water and the skin was all bubbly I just figured that's what they were supposed to look like. I was about to throw the almonds in the blender when I saw that the skin was peeling off of a few of them and I realized "OOOOOH maybe I'm supposed to take this skin off so it's not all chunky and stuff in the sauce!" I'm smart :-p So I peeled all the almonds... which was kind of fun.. If you grasp them with your thumb and forefinger at the pointy end, the white inside will kind of shoot out of the skin like a little nut missle... This was great fun for me... because I'm a dork. It was great fun for Leroy as well because he got to eat a few wayward missles.

After I finished with the almonds I threw them in the blender with a little water and a couple cloves of garlic. Next you heat a little butter and olive oil in a pan and add the almond-garlic mixture. The garlic almond mixture will begin to thicken after a few minutes...
It will go from this ---- > To this --- >

After the mixture thickens you add a little bit of the water that you cooked the pasta in. The starchy water will help the mixture thicken. Then you throw in the cheese, peas and lemon juice and lastly you add the basil and mint. When I opened up the basil I had in my fridge I realized it had gone all funky, so I had to use dried basil instead of fresh. Other than that (and not using as much butter) I pretty much followed the recipe. This is what my version looked like!

Overall it was pretty darn good. It wasnt' particularly nutty... the almond taste was really mild. I LOVED the peas and mint combination. Apparently that is a very "spring" combo... according to my boss :-p And honestly even though I didn't necessarily know those 2 were like quintisential "spring" ingredients, when I tasted it, I thought "This tastes like spring..." As written I think I give the dish a solid B+. If I were to make it again, I would obviously use fresh basil. I would also think about using a sharper cheese? I'm not sure if straight Parmesan is sharper than Parmesan-Reggiano, or if there a sharper hard Italian cheese I could sub? I would also probably add far more lemon juice, and more garlic.

Anyway, my Penne with Almond Garlic sauce was QUITE tasty. Please let me know how it turns out if any of you make it.

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