Cashew Pesto Pasta with Cranberries and Feta

By | February 7, 2017

This quick and easy vegetarian pasta dish can be on the table in the time it takes to boil the pasta, and you can make it vegan simply by leaving out the last minute feta sprinkle.

It was born of necessity.  After Christmas there’s so many half packets of things about the place that need eating up, and I’m reluctant to throw food away or go shopping for more after the festive excesses.  I also like to try a few new dishes at this time of year to perk up that post – Christmas lethargy.  Some of them make it into regular rotation, others fall quietly by the wayside.  This was a hit, so we’ve had it a few times now.  I’ve even had to buy the ingredients!

Warning:  Grown up cook books will tell you to put  your pesto aside and then drain the pasta, then add a few table spoons of reserved pasta water back into the pan with the sauce.  I know this because I’ve tried these recipes but they’ve already told me to drain the pasta and I’ve thrown all the pasta water down the sink, because they told me to, and they haven’t told me to “reserve” it beforehand.  I will not tell you to do this, so relax.

Serves 2, but it’s easily scale-able
Total time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 200g Farfalle pasta (bow ties)  You can use any short shapes.
  • 1/2 Cup cashew nuts
  • 1/4 Cup Craisins (dried raisins)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup crumbled Greek Feta
  • 1 small handful fresh basil leaves (about 20)

Directions

  • Set a large pan of water to boil.
  • Gently toast the cashews in a dry pan, tossing constantly to prevent burning.  You want them lightly tanned not full on brown.
  • Take the cashews off the heat and out of the pan, or they’ll keep cooking.
  • By now the pasta water should be boiling so put in your pasta and set the timer for the time advised on the package, usually about 12 minutes.
  • Peel and roughly chop the garlic, add it to a pesto chopper or food processor with the cashews and blitz.
  • It will likely be powdery rather than paste like at this stage, you can add a tablespoon of oil, or if you’d like to keep it lighter a tablespoon of water.
  • Add the basil leaves and blitz again until it’s a thick dough like green paste.
  • Pesto Paint
  • Use a ladle to scoop some water from the pasta as it’s boiling and add a bit to your pesto and blast it again, you want t to have a thick paint like consistency rather than a solid dough, so keep going til t looks and feels liquid, but not sloppy.
  • By now your pasta should be done so drain it – go ahead, pour that water down the sink and help clear a fatberg (don’t click this link before eating).
  • Put the pasta back in the pan and add the pesto, stirring it.
  • You can then add half the cranberries and half the feta (unless you have vegans in the house, in which case hold on to your cheese).
  • Stir it all together and serve in pasta bowls
  • Sprinkle the remaining cranberries and cheese on the top and serve immediately.

 

A note on Feta.  Do use the real Greek Feta made from sheep and goats milk.  It’s a delight.  You could get cheaper domestic “Greek Salad Cheese” or Feta-style cheese, but you’d be denying yourself one of life’s great pleasures.  Use 20% less cheese rather than pay 20% less for inferior cheese.  Your tastebuds will thank you, your digestive system will thank you, the good people of Greece will thank you, the free roaming goats and sheep of the Greek countryside will thank you.  The intensively reared dairy cattle of your home country will thank you too.

 

 

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