Friday, May 28, 2010

Penne with minty almond sauce

I should not watch food network. I mean it. Every time I watch something for the entire 30 minutes excluding cake decorating challenges, I end up making something using part of the idea that they show. I love cooking, it is not that I am complaining about. It is hard for me to get people to eat all the stuff I end up making. This dish is inspired by one of Giada's recipes but mainly uses ingredients that I needed to somehow use it. If you trust my recipes, you should definitely try it because, it is a winner.
I make a killer pasta with pesto with Indian flavor. But this one is much more healthier since it doesn't have all the olive oil that goes into making pesto.

  • Penne  or any medium sized pasta- about 3 cups dry (I had about 12 Oz left in the bag of 16 Oz pasta)
  • Almonds - 2/3 cup (I used whole almonds)
  • Mint - Chopped about 1  - 1 1/2 cups
  • Cilantro - chopped about 1/2 - 3/4 cup
  • Green chillies - 5 or more to taste (This wasn't spicy at all. Even my kids could eat)
  • Garlic - 3 cloves
  • Olive oil - 4 TBSP divided use
  • Salt - to taste
  • Black pepper - to taste (I used more than 1 TBSP)
  • Red Onion - 1 big cut into medium sized chunks
  • Sun dried tomatoes - Drained and chopped about 1/2 cup
  • Roasted red bell pepper - Drained and chopped about 1/2 cup
  • Mint leaves - 5 or 6 for garnish
  • Half and Half or milk or heavy cream - about 1 cup

In a skillet, dry roast almonds stirring constantly till you start to get some color. It doesn't have to be toasted really well. Set aside. In the same pan, add 2 TBSP of oil. When hot, add chopped onions. Add some salt and pepper powder. Mix and let it cook.
Bring a big pot of water to boil. Add salt. Put the pasta in and cook till al-dente. Make sure you plan it in such a way that the al-dente cooked pasta comes out of water into the pan with other vegetables. When onions are done, add the remaining vegetables. Meanwhile, place the toasted almonds, green chillies, garlic, chopped mint, cilantro, remaining 2 TBSP of olive oil into a blender/mixie and make a paste. You could add some of the half and half or milk to facilitate the blade. I used some water. Pour this sauce into the pan with other vegetables. Add the half and half or milk. Let it simmer and thicken. It happens quite fast. When it is simmering, drain the pasta reserving some of the pasta water (about a cup) and add the pasta to the pot. Mix well. If it is not creamy enough, add some of the reserved pasta water. Check for the taste and add salt and pepper if required. Add the reserved mint leaves and mix. Turn off the heat. Make sure you add enough liquid to make it creamy since pasta absorbs liquid as it cools.
Serve warm. Left overs can be refrigerated and reheated before serving. You could make the sauce and keep in the refrigerator ahead of time and just put them together very fast. I wouldn't keep the sauce for more than 3 days in the refrigerator though.

You don't have to use the roasted bell peppers and or sun dried tomatoes. You can use fresh vegetables of your choice. This is just an idea of how I made the sauce. You can add more green chillies to suit your palate.
Giada used penne with chicken pieces and green peas in it. She used basil leaves just as a garnish.  Her sauce didn't have any herbs and the liquid she used to make the sauce was chicken stock and heavy cream. She had about 2 cups of parmesan cheese going in for 1 lb of pasta. Just for an FYI.
I used what I did for a reason. One of my friends gave me some mint that was growing wild in her backyard. Another friend gave me a jar of sun dried tomatoes which she didn't know what to do with. Then, I had mistakenly bought a jar of roasted red bell peppers (I picked it up thinking it is sun dried tomatoes since they are next to each other). That's how this dish was conceived. You could use any fresh vegetables of your choice and availability. You could even change the herbs to your favorite ones. Plenty of variations can be made.

I would like to send this to 'Global Kadai - Pasta' event hosted here , which was started by 'Cilantro'.

Have a Good Long weekend!! Pin It


  1. Wow, that is a new kind of sauce and I am sure it tasted yummy, just by reading it, I can taste it in my mouth. Bookmarked, will surely make it :)

  2. looks good...recipe sounds the addittion of mint....worth trying ...

  3. sure it taste really yumm what a nice combination of ingredients.really looks so delicious

  4. We love our pastas, and the idea of a tasty pesto with less oil is attractive.

  5. I completely understand what u say. When I watch a program I immediately get tempted to remake the recipes which attracts me most. A wonderful combo of ingredints.

  6. Wow what a wonderful combo..mind n must be real gud...looks delicious

  7. pasta looks yumm !! Envy you for having Food Network:-((

  8. Droolworthy penne, sauce looks creamy and rich..

  9. Food Network Junkie Uh! well I do watch some of their shows but I believe there are better chefs out there other than the ones we watch on food network. I read through your recipe and I can see and feel the taste in your pasta. Good that Giada inspired you to create something.


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