Sundried Tomato and Caper Pesto Pasta with Flank Steak

I had a craving for pesto since the beginning of the day, however given the fact that it is almost the end month going to the store to grab a bunch of basil doesn’t seem to be in the budget.  That being said, there are many other types of “pesto” you can make.

Guess what guys…. the term “pesto”, like most things when they translate over to North American language lose their origin. Pesto genovese is the typical basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano and extra-virgin olive oil variety and it comes from Genoa, Italy. I will post how to make the best pesto genovese at a later date, as I do make the best, but for today we are going to learn my alternative which is similar to the Sicilian classic pesto rosso (red pesto).  
First off, I am going to take you through Pesto 101.  There are really probably over a million variations you can make; and really no one is going to correct you if you’re wrong.  If it creates a paste sort of texture – it’s a pesto, if it tastes good – serve it. Typically though you do want some kind of mixture of a veggie and/or fresh herb, a nut of some sort, garlic, a cheese, and to bring it altogether a good oil.  I underlined the “good” part solely because for the most part these sauces aren’t cooked, and what have I always said? Your best oils should be used for finishing – and an uncooked sauce is a “finished” sauce.  🙂 
Here is a cheat sheet of examples; 
Basil, arugula, parsley, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, roasted red peppers, spinach,  watercress, kale, Swiss chard, etc.
Pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecan, peanuts, Brazil nuts, etc.
You can also use ginger? Or onions?
Parmigiano Reggiano, pecorino Romano, Stilton, Chevre, any goat cheese, cheddar – I don’t care! ANYTHING
EVOO, vegetable oil (great for a budget), coconut oil, walnut oil, pumpkin seed oil, peanut oil, grape seed oil, avocado oil, almond oil….. I wouldn’t use sesame oil though as the flavour would be too intense
Another secret of making pasta is saving the pasta water.  The reason is two fold; 1) if a sauce is too thick, it’ll help thin it out, 2) if a sauce is too thin, it’ll thicken it up so that it sticks to the pasta.  In this case, because the sauce is uncooked and is a paste, it is used to thin it out – and heat it up.

Now, I know it may seem like the easiest meal to make is pasta with a jar of tomato sauce, but where’s the fun in that? This took me, literally, 10 minutes to make – essentially the amount of time it took to boil the water, and it tastes SO much better, and is something you can take full credit for making.  That’s definitely a good thing.

Sundried Tomato and Caper Pesto Pasta with Flank Steak
Serves 2

  • 3-4 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, packed in oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp capers
  • 1/2 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 2-3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • a couple drops lemon juice
  • some sundried tomato oil (this is the oil the sundried tomatoes are packed in – “some” means enough to loosen the sauce up a bit – remember it should still be a paste though)
  • 1 flank steak (remember, when I buy my flank steak I cut it into 4’s and freeze them – therefore I just used a 1/4 of the full flank)
  • Multigrain pasta (enough for 2 people)
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • EVOO, for drizzling
  • S&P to taste

Preheat oven to 400F. Put a pot of water on the stove for the pasta.

In a small bowl grind together sundried tomatoes, capers, garlic, almonds, cheese, and a dash of the sundried tomato oil with an immersion blender (hand blender – if you do not have one, a regular blender would work but you may have to double the quantities).  Taste it.  You will most likely need to add a couple drops of lemon juice to give it a little zest, and may need a little more oil to loosen it up a little bit.

In the meantime, put a pan on the stove for the steak.  Season the steak with salt and pepper.  Once the pan is hot add a little olive oil, and sear the steak to golden brown on both sides.  Place in the oven for 5-7 minutes.

Once the water comes to a rolling boil, add salt (remember it should taste like the sea) and the pasta.  About half way through the pasta’s cooking time, you should be able to remove the steak from the oven and let it rest.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it being careful not to let all the water go down the drain.  Put the pasta back in the same pan and add enough pesto to coat each noodle, approx. 2 Tbsp – more if you’d like.  Mix it thoroughly and add half the fresh tomato.

Slice the steak against the grain.  **The opposite way the natural lines are going**

I served this with the steak and a little fresh tomato on top.  I finished it with a little freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese (not too much though because, remember, it is in the sauce).

I hope this satisfies your craving as much as it did mine.  Sometimes there is nothing better than a good old hearty pasta dish and steak.  It may not be that good for you, but hey, every-so-often you just need to indulge.

Happy Cooking, Friends!!


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