Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Orechiette With Grilled Vegetables, Feta and Roasted Garlic Pesto

Believe it or not, I don't just eat desserts and cakes. But I do seem to blog much more about desserts and cakes so I thought I should balance things out a bit. This is a pasta dish that is simple to throw together because the oven does most of the work. I served the pasta with Janet's soft breadsticks, which were so quick and easy to make (thanks, Janet!).

Making your own pesto is worth the time because the freshness of the basil comes through. Fortunately, Quikong started a herb garden for me. This way, we always have a fresh supply of basil, which we use quite often in our cooking. I've used walnuts instead of pinenuts in the pesto for a change, and I was pleased with the result.

I enjoyed this so much that I will submit it to Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, who started the weekly food blogging event, Presto Pasta Nights.

Orechiette With Grilled Vegetables, Feta and Roasted Garlic Pesto

Fresh Orechiette

Vegetables suitable for grilling/roasting (e.g. pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers)

Roasted garlic pesto (recipe below)

Feta Cheese, cubed

To serve:

Roasted balsamic red onion (recipe below)

Feta Cheese, crumbled

Walnuts, chopped


Brush/spray sliced vegetables with a little olive oil to prevent them from drying out. Grill or roast vegetables till they are tender.


When the vegetables are almost ready, cook the pasta until it is al dente.


To assemble: Firstly, toss the drained pasta with the feta and pesto. Secondly, add the vegetables and take care not to stir too much because the pumpkin might get mushy.


Serve pasta topped with the quartered balsamic red onion, chopped walnuts, extra crumbed feta cheese and a few basil leaves.

Roasted Garlic Pesto
(Serves 4)

2 cups fresh basil

¼ cup walnuts, lightly toasted

½ cup freshly grated parmesan

1 head of roasted garlic

Place all ingredients, except oil, in a mortar and pound it till it forms a smooth paste. You can use a food processor of course but be careful not to overprocess (the basil will get bruised). Slowly add the oil until it is well combined. This can be stored up to a week in the fridge. You can replace walnuts with toasted pine nuts and omit the garlic for a more traditional pesto.

Balsamic-Roasted Red Onions
From Donna Hay's "Off the shelf: Cooking from the pantry

4 red onions

Balsamic vinegar


Olive oil

Place 4 halved red onions, cut side up, on a lined baking tray. Loosen the onion layers with your fingers. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar so that it gets between the onion layers. Sprinkle with sugar (I used brown sugar) and a little olive oil. Cover and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake a further 20 minutes or until slightly caramelised & golden. (these are yummy as a pizza topping).


Em said...

I had to google to find what 'orecchiette' means... I learnt a new word. In French my mum calls them 'coquilles' (shells) but I never knew what the italian word was (perhaps it's written everywhere but I just did not pay attention...). It looks delicious, as usual.. The only problem with non cake and desserts recipe is that they are harder to share with your friends (hehe). Iain is cooking Sri Lankan food at his place tonight and he has invited me. He is practising so he can cook for you, Quikong and the rest of the joyeux lurons ;-)

Nora B. said...

Hey Em... " orecchiette" has a shape that resembles a small ear (in Italian, "ear" is orecchio), rather than a shell. You could always cycle over for dinner next time, no need to wait for an official invitation from me, you know you are always welcome.
p/s: Tell Iain that he doesn't need to practise - I want my Sri Lankan food NOW ;-)

Janet said...

Hi Nora, this looks great (as usual), thanks for the mention - I'm glad you liked the breadsticks!

Anh said...

Nora, this is wonderful. I'm planning to make some orechiette sometime soon, so will try your recipe out. I love recipe like this!

BTW, I'll fly to Sydney soon.. Is there any vegetarian place you can recommend? I'd love to take my pal out for dinner but she's vegetarian. :D

Cynthia said...

This is comfort food at its best. I like the idea of onions with balsamic vinegar.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Nora, your baked goods are fantastic and so is your food. This dish is so worth trying - what a wonderful way to use the basil I grow at home!

Nora B. said...

Janet, yes the breadsticks were great! Next time I think I will roll them in sesame seeds.

Anh, I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as I did.
p/s: Is your friend vegan? Does it have to be a vegetarian restaurant? Too many questions to ask you before I can make a recommendation, so I will drop you an e-mail.

Cynthia, comfort food indeed. I also find myself doing more things in the oven these days because of the winter (or our version of winter) is finally here. The kitchen is always nice and warm.

Freya and Paul said...

Orichette is my favourite pasta and I love how you've treated it here!

Nora B. said...

Patricia, thanks for your kind words (*blush*). Do let me know what you think after you give this recipe a try.

Freya - Thanks, I try to treat my food kindly :-) I only discovered orichette about 3 years ago during a trip to Italy. I would like to learn to make my own.

Eva said...

I love the idea of the balsamic onions! I never had anything like that - do you know how long they keep in the fridge? To use it for pizza topping, it would be nice to have a staple of that stuff!

Helen said...

I am crushed...not only sweets....!
Joking aside, this pasta dish looks great!

Susan said...

How wonderful that you have a partner who plants a garden for you. Basil is such a versatile herb, so many different pesto recipes to build from its foundation. Roasted garlic sounds almost smoky. What a great choice.

Nora B. said...

Eva, I'm not sure how long they will keep in the fridge, probably a week or so. It's similar to caramelised onions, so you can do this on the stove top in a non-stick cooking pan. The only difference is that you will have to slice the onions. It will taste similar but not look as pretty :-)

Helen, thanks. ;-)

Susan, yes I am lucky that he does things like that for me. He even planted a chilly plant (he doesn't like spicy food but I do). Roasted garlic is also versatile and the flavour is quiet subtle.