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  • Writer's pictureCampbell Whitman

Riso Pasta with Red Pesto

I recently posted about the bite-sized way to feed kids while watching them unknowingly inhale the healthy veggies they so desperately try to avoid, just to piss us off.

So, let me now introduce you to the recipe...and let me state, this is not just for kids! It's perfect comfort food!

It should go without saying, but if your kid hates one of these veggie ingredients, choose the ones you know they will eat or at least feel most comfortable disguising in the sauce. In all honesty, my son threw a fit the last time I made this because he hates olives, but I didn't care. I think kids are way too spoiled when it comes to food these days, time, I may just change my mind, that was some serious drama, even I cannot handle...

Riso Pasta with Red Pesto (serves 6)

15 g garlic - thinly sliced & roughly chopped

530 g zucchini (2) - diced very small

250 g leeks (5 small) - diced very small

10 T extra virgin olive oil

200 g roasted red bell pepper - diced very small

1 can (340 g) pitted black olives - roughly chopped

500 g riso, orzo or any small sized pasta

1.5 T tomato paste

180 g of jarred red pesto

90 g of jarred green pesto

180 g red wine


Parmesan for grating & fresh basil

Boil a large pot of water for the pasta and add a liberal amount of salt to the water. Without this step, your pasta will never get "infused" with the salt, making a less yummy dish.

Most important job with garlic, is to slice it and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before you cook it to get the proper health benefits. it! Be healthy! Next, chop your leeks, zucchini, roasted red peppers & black olives. The goal here is to ensure that with each bite, your kid will eat veggies, so cut them small. Place 4 T of the oil into the pan on medium heat (not too high, because leeks burn faster than onions & shallots) Cook the leeks for about 5 minutes with the lid on until they wilt, then add your garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Now, add your tomato paste and stir for one minute trying to mix as well as you can. Remove the lid and set aside. Season with salt & pepper carefully because since using a jarred sauce & canned olives, it can be rather salty to begin with.

Pour in your red wine carefully and mix for 2 more minutes. Add both the jars of sauce and stir to combined it all. You can now add the red peppers and black olives. Mix them together and if you need more time to cook the pasta place the lid back on and turn it off. Check your seasoning before leaving it alone.

Riso (which is similar to orzo pasta) cooks in about 8-10 minutes. Since getting food on the table with all four kids downstairs, the table set and no drama before, between or after is difficult, so I cook the sauce to this point and then when we are organized, I finish it. If you live in a civilized, no-kids world, you do not have to follow this rule. Depending on the cooking time with your pasta-of-choice, Throw it in after you start the leeks. TIP: You can also cook with spaghetti and cut it up with scissors before serving it to your kids.....

At this point, I know I have less than 10 minutes to cook the pasta and the zucchini. Drop the pasta in the water if you haven't already. In a separate pan with 2 T olive oil, cook the the zucchini without a lid, on medium-high heat. I cook the zucchini in a separate pan to control the evaporation of the sauce itself. Once it's finished I add it to the sauce. Add the remaining olive oil and any parmesan cheese you desire. I desire A LOT! Both before plating and after. My bowls usually look like snowy peaks of pasta. Once the pasta is done, strain it, saving a little bit of water to be sure. This can be used to thin out your sauce if needed.

If serving family style in one big bowl or pot, you can mix it all together and set it on the table. If you are plating it yourself, add the pasta to each plate and then the sauce atop. If you want to serve family style, but sauce and pasta apart, toss a couple of big scoops of sauce into the pasta (and mix) so it won't stick together and set them in separate bowls on the table. When you add hot pasta to sauce, it continues to cook and will soak up all the liquid around it, so I often add a couple of spoonfuls of pasta water to my sauce before putting it on the table.

I prefer to serve most pasta but especially these kinds of chunky sauces atop the pasta. Garnish with basil and freshly grated cheese and enjoy watching your kid eat all their veggies!


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