After experiencing acute carbohydrate withdrawal following my previous meal of Grilled Chicken Breasts and Parmesan Cheese-Crusted Zucchini, I felt it was probably wise to gradually taper off my pasta kick. After a few days without it, I was in need of a serious fix!
While flipping through the Pasta chapter in “Savor the Moment” my eyes landed on one recipe in particular: Basil Cream Penne (pg. 198). Sounds decadent, doesn’t it? I’m here to tell you – it is! The classic Italian flavors of sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese come together in a simple, yet supremely satisfying, dish.
Preparation is a breeze as well, making this dish downright dangerous! To toast the pine nuts place them in a dry skillet and heat them over medium heat. Be sure to keep a close eye on them – this is not the time to be multitasking because once you begin to smell them, they are done! I also used a good Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I adore that wonderful nutty, salty flavor and that unmistakable granular texture. You can tell it’s genuine Parmigiano-Reggiano by the markings on the rind of the cheese. Only those cheeses that pass certain specifications are heat branded on the rind with the official logo of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano Parmesan.
I served the Penne with a 2008 Calera Central Coast Chardonnay. Now don’t get the wrong idea, this is definitely not one of those infamous, oaky California Chardonnays. This particular wine is aged in 10% new French oak for ten months and put through 100% malolactic fermentation. What the heck does that mean, you ask? Essentially, that translates into reduced perception of oak and a nice creamy mouthfeel for the drinker. This medium-bodied wine turned out to be a delightful pairing for the pasta with notes of tropical fruit, lemon cream and honeysuckle. It also has a delicious, lengthy finish with subtle flavors of brioche and toasty oak which really highlighted the flavor of the pine nuts and complemented the creaminess of the pasta. With a $16 a bottle price tag and a 90 point rating from Wine Advocate I suggest you try this wine – even if you think you aren't a Chardonnay fan!
I have included the recipe for the delicious Basil Cream Penne below and I really hope you enjoy it. Now, I have to get myself to a gym – cheers!
Basil Cream Penne (pg. 198)
1 cup dry-pack sun-dried tomatoes
4 teaspoons pine nuts
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
16 ounces penne, cooked
2 cups chopped, loosely packed fresh basil
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water in a bowl for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain, pat dry and mince. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat just until lightly colored.
Combine the butter, cream, salt and white pepper in a large saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the pasta, basil and sun-dried tomatoes and toss to coat well. Stir in the cheese. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or just until heated through and creamy. Spoon into a serving bowl and top with the pine nuts. Serves six.