Make, Jane, make!: Fusilli with Grilled Chicken, Peas and Radish Leaf Pesto Cream


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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fusilli with Grilled Chicken, Peas and Radish Leaf Pesto Cream

I always wonder when I pull the leafy tops off my lovely CSA radishes or carrots whether or not there is a good use for them. I realize that they are edible, but I wanted to find a creative use for them that the whole family would enjoy over and over again. And I think this Radish Leaf Pesto from Chocolate and Zucchini will be my go-to solution for radish leaves from now on.

There's no special trick to this pesto, just the use of radish leaves instead of the traditional basil leaves. At Chocolate and Zucchini, she offers some variations on ingredients for variety, but I just stuck with radish leaves, garlic, pine nuts and lemon peel.

The lemon peel really added a nice brightness to the end product that helped to balance out the extreme earthiness that you sometimes find with radish leaves. I was also surprised by how smooth the final product was... don't know why I thought the prickliness of the leaves would somehow come through in the chopped up pesto.

Now that I had the pesto made, I had to think of how I wanted to use my first batch. Pizza crossed my mind, but it being so hot here lately, I didn't really want to turn on the oven if I didn't have to. So a simple tossed pasta dinner seemed the right route to go.

I threw some frozen peas into a large bowl and cooked up a batch of fusilli. I didn't want the peas to get too soggy by cooking in the pasta water, so I just relied on the heat from the pasta to warm the peas.

The hot pasta came right out of the boiling water and was dropped onto the peas. (I saved some pasta water to thin down the sauce, but ended up finishing off my sauce with cream, cuz I'm kinda decadent that way. Though you could definitely use the pasta water and cut down on your calories :P) Added a generous helping of my radish leaf pesto and a good grating of Parmesan cheese and started tossing.

It needed a little more pesto than I had originally added, so I added more pesto until it started looking (and tasting) the way I wanted. Figured I should add some protein and cubed a grilled chicken breast, which I tossed in with some cream.

The pasta turned out great. It was creamy and garlicky and slightly sweet from the peas. The kids gobbled it down which is always the stamp of approval. I still have a little pesto leftover in the fridge which I think will end up in some mayo and be used as a dip for chips or fries. mmmmm.


Fusilli with Grilled Chicken, Peas and Radish Leaf Pesto Cream

Pesto (recipe roughly adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini because I am notorious for not measuring)
1 large handful radish leaves, tough stems removed
1 large clove garlic, roughly sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 long strips lemon zest
olive oil

- Pulse all ingredients in the food processor.
- Once the leaves are chopped down to approximately the consistency you want, start drizzling in olive oil while still pulsing.
- Add enough oil to get the pesto to the thinness or thickness you desire.
- Taste and salt if needed. (If you added parmesan to your pesto, you may not need to salt your pesto)

1/2 lb pasta (fusilli, bow ties, whatever!)
1/2 cup frozen peas (or fresh if you have)
approximately 2/3 of radish leaf pesto recipe
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 large chicken breast, grilled, cubed
1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper

- Place frozen peas into a large bowl and let them defrost a bit while you cook the pasta in well salted water.
- Using a slotted spoon (or similar implement), transfer the cooked pasta to the bowl. Don't worry about draining the pasta well, since the excess water helps to keep your pasta saucy. If you want to cut down the fat in this recipe, remember to save the pasta water to use instead of cream.
- Toss the pasta together with pesto and cheese. Fold in chicken breast and cream. Season to taste.


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