A recipe called Fridge-Dive Pesto Pasta caught my eye. Described as a rewarding way to clean out the fridge hooked me. My fridge has a way of collecting leftovers from a recipe that needed a pinch of this or a quarter cup of that. I deal with it by buying spices from the bulk purchase jars at a couple of the better markets in town. I can get things such as a teaspoon of turmeric for pennies rather than a one ounce jar for dollars. It’s a good way to try out new flavors without breaking the bank or cluttering up the cabinet with more little jars. I can even get loose carrots one at a time, but somethings just come in larger sizes and result in leftovers.
There is usually a mystery bag in the bottom of the crisper drawer that may or may not contain something that had been there way too long. Fridge diving seemed a good idea to cope with those mysteries.
Below is the inspirational recipe followed by what actually happened one night in my kitchen. Yes, I was playing with my food — again!
Fridge-Dive “Pesto” with Pasta and Shrimp. Really good sauce made (mostly) green stuff in your refrigerator crisper. It’s cooked, a little, and has no basil, so put the “pesto” in quotes and dive into it!
FRIDGE-DIVE PESTO PASTA – ORIGINAL RECIPE
This pesto pasta recipe is the solution for any leftover hardy green, lettuce, or herb you don’t know what to do with. Cleaning out your fridge has never been so rewarding!
½ red onion, quartered through root end
8 cups (lightly packed) torn mixed greens and tender herbs
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds, plus more for serving
½ cup grated ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta), divided
3 tablespoons plus ¼ cup olive oil; plus more for drizzling
8 garlic cloves, smashed
12 ounces tripoline or mafaldine (wavy-edged ribbon pasta) or fusilli (spiral-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Cook onion and mixed greens and herbs in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 2 minutes. Using a spider or tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice water and swish around in the water to cool down as quickly as possible (this helps retain the bright color). Drain and gently squeeze to remove excess liquid, then press between a double layer of paper towels to remove as much remaining liquid as possible. Reserve pot with greens cooking liquid.
Process ¼ cup sesame seeds in a food processor until finely ground. Add onion and greens mixture and ¼ cup ricotta salata and process until a coarse paste forms. With motor running, stream in 3 Tbsp. oil and process, adding water by the tablespoonful if needed to thin, until pesto is very smooth.
Heat ¼ cup oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add pesto and cook, stirring, until sauce looks like most of the moisture has been cooked out, about 1 minute.
Meanwhile, bring reserved pot of greens cooking liquid to a boil and cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with pesto and add ½ cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing, until each strand of pasta is coated. Remove from heat, add butter, and toss to combine.
Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more sesame seeds and remaining ¼ cup ricotta salata and drizzle with oil
The Recipe, reality based in my household:
As I inventoried my crisper drawer, I thought about pesto. Originally, pesto was an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino cheese and olive oil. Now we chop up almost anything and call it “pesto.” I am putting the “pesto: in quotes for this recipe because it has no basil and it is cooked! What I appreciate most about this recipe is its flexibility. The technique for building the pesto was very helpful.
GRINGO GOURMET FRIDGE-DIVE “PESTO” WITH PASTA AND SHRIMP
My Fridge and Pantry Inventory of Ingredients on Hand and Ingredients Needed
1 gigantic head of Bok choy purchased in desperation when I couldn’t find baby Bok choy. I found the baby bok the next day and the gigantic one was just sitting there sadly abandoned.
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 head cabbage
A variety of pasta shapes
So far, so good. I wasn’t about to put pricey pine nuts into an experiment, so, I though let’s go for a different spicier crunch! I bought four snack packs of chile peanuts, a couple of limes and (per the original recipe) ricotta salata because it is a terrific dry, slightly salted ricotta that crumbles nicely.
I decided to add some more protein to the dish, so I got shell-on raw shrimp.
Rinse and drain shrimp, blot dry with paper towels, toss with a liberal amount of Tajin Chili Lime powder and let sit while you do the rest of the prep and cooking.
Experience the joy of washing and chopping the Bok choy, parsley, some of the cabbage and savor smashing garlic cloves! Note: You’ll have to jump back and forth to the original recipe what I did how it influenced what I actually did.
Blanche the chopped greens until the Bok choy and onion wedges until tender, the immerse them in ice water to stop cooking and retain the bright green color. Use a spider or tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the greens. Save the vegetable water, or broth if you want to call it something fancy, for cooking your pasta.
More fun will be had draining, squeezing and patting the greens dry. Be sure to squeeze as much water out of the vegetables and pat them as dry as you can or you’ll have soggy “pesto.” Place one packet of chili peanuts in a food processor and chop into a coarse powder. The peanut powder will help with moisture when you add the greens. Process until a paste is formed. Add a good shot of olive oil, pulse until blended. Add a packet of chile peanuts and a couple of tablespoons of crumbled ricotta salata. Pulse a few times to reduce size of peanuts and mix the peanuts and ricotta into the “pesto.” Add the juice of half of lime.
Lightly brown the smashed garlic cloves in olive oil, then add the “pesto” and cook over low heat while the pasta cooks, according to package directions, but keep it al dente. I didn’t have a wavy edged pasta, so I used my favorite bucatini noodle. I figured it would work as a base for the shrimp when coated with the “pesto.”
When the pasta is done, use tongs to transfer it to the pot of “pesto.” Gently stir to blend and add the butter called for in the recipe. Reduce the heat to low and cook the shrimp in butter until curled and flesh is bright pink throughout.
Place pasta and “pesto” mix in a shallow bowl, top with shrimp, sprinkle with whole chile peanuts and crumbled ricotta salata and a couple of lime wedges. Dive in.