Tag Archives: creamy

Creamy Pesto Sauce

creamy pesto ravioli


When it comes to gardening, my thumb is pretty much black.  The one thing I have success with every summer, though, is basil.

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

This is only a fraction of basil leaves on my plants!

And everyone knows, the best way to use copious amounts of basil is to make PESTO!  I make a lot during the summer and freeze it for future use.  When freezing, the one thing you want to remember to do is omit the cheese — it messes up the texture.  Then after the pesto is thawed and heated, add grated parmesan to it.

Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts, which can be really expensive. I buy the Chinese ones instead of the Spanish ones.  Also, you can substitute walnuts for the pine nuts if the price is too great in your area.

Mmm.  Toasted pine nuts!
Mmm. Toasted pine nuts!

You just process the nuts with basil, garlic, parmesan, salt, and olive oil, and you end up with a great sauce.  You can also thin the sauce with some hot pasta water (from the pot you boiled your pasta in).

pesto with pasta

With some extra grated parmesan of course!

I also love pesto on sauteed zucchini “pasta”.  You may like this low carb alternative.

pesto with zucchini slices

Another great pesto sauce is a creamy version.  Heat cream cheese and milk in a sauce pan, whisk until smooth, and then whisk in about 2 large spoonfuls of pesto.  It makes a wonderfully creamy pesto sauce that is not as rich and fattening as one made with heavy cream.

creamy pesto ravioli2

Which do you prefer?  Regular or creamy pesto sauce?

Pesto Sauce

1/4 to 1/2 cup  pine nuts

a huge bunch of basil leaves, washed and dried

2 garlic cloves, smashed

about 1/4 cup olive oil or more as needed

grated parmesan to taste

kosher salt to taste

1.  Toast pine nuts.  I use my toaster oven.  Watch carefully, because they brown quickly!  You could also toast them in a skillet on the stove.  Keep stirring and watch them so you don’t burn them.  Remove from heat and let cool.

2.  Wash and dry basil leaves.

3.  Process basil in a food processor until chopped up fine.  Add garlic and pine nuts and process until fine.  While processor is running, add olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add grated cheese if you plan to use immediately, rather than freezing the pesto.  Taste.  Add salt if you think it needs it. Or more olive oil.

4.  Cook pasta until al dente. Dress with the pesto sauce — thin if you need to with pasta water.

Creamy Pesto Sauce

1/2 cup light cream cheese

1/4 cup milk

2 large spoonfuls of regular pesto sauce (see above)

1.  Heat cream cheese and milk in saucepan over low to medium heat.  Slowly whisk together until smooth.

2.  Whisk in dollops of pesto sauce.

3.  Serve over you favorite pasta.

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Filed under Condiments, Dinner, Pasta, Uncategorized, Vegetarian

Low Carb Zucchini Pasta and Creamy Ricotta, Smoked Bacon, and Artichoke Sauce

After our week of eating while traveling — that is, many In-n-Out burgers, diner food, and other processed and greasy vittles, it feels good to be back at home, cooking healthy whole foods again!

I had to make a quick weeknight meal last night, so I made some pasta for the boys, and sauteed zucchini “pasta” for me.  I saw this recipe on the NY Times site, and it sounded intriguing.  It’s just zucchini slices made with a vegetable peeler sauteed in olive oil until al dente and seasoned with salt.  It really makes a wonderful foil for a creamy rich sauce, and I think it’s more flavorful than regular pasta.  I saved the cores of the two zucchini and will steam them and throw them in a soup later in the week.

Cooking the zucchini al dente makes a wonderful alternative to pasta.

I knew I wanted a rich, creamy sauce (I had extra ricotta  on hand), so I made up one inspired by this Cooking Light Alfredo with Bacon recipe.  I altered it by adding the ricotta, nutmeg, a mix of part skim plain mozzarella and whole milk smoky mozzarella to bring out the smokiness of the bacon, and some leftover artichoke hearts I had that needed to be used!

It was a perfect marriage of flavors and my boys loved it (always a good indicator for a recipe I can use in the future!)

Ricotta Artichoke Sauce with Spaghetti -- fettucine would be great too, but none to be found in our pantry at the time!

Pasta with Ricotta Cream Sauce and Bacon

½ lb. pasta (spaghetti or fettucine works well) and 1/2 recipe of zucchini pasta

or 1 lb. pasta or one full recipe of zucchini pasta

kosher salt

2 slices of hickory smoked bacon, chopped

2 teaspoons  olive oil

½ small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon flour

1 ½ cup milk (whole or 2% would probably be best, but I used skim!)

¾ cup ricotta (5 oz.)

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup grated mozzarella (I used a combination of regular and smoky)

2 canned artichoke hearts, chopped (could probably use more, but that’s all I had)

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Freshly crushed black pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Season water with salt and cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve about ¼ cup cooking water and drain pasta.  Or make zucchini pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking make sauce.  Cook bacon in a large skillet until browned.  Remove to a paper lined plate to drain.
  3. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to pan depending on how much bacon grease is left.  I hardly had any so I had to add oil.  Saute chopped onion and garlic until softened.  Sprinkle flour on top and brown quickly in pan.  Then whisk in milk gradually to create a sauce.  Add ricotta and whisk until smooth.  Then add parmesan and mozzarella and artichoke hearts.  Stir to combine.  Season with kosher salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.  Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add cooked pasta to skillet and toss to coat.  Add bacon and stir.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Vegetables