Christmas Dishes: Pasta with Pesto and Pomegranate

If you grow your own basil throughout the summer, you know how satisfying it is to harvest the leftover plants in autumn and make pesto to freeze over winter. There’s something wonderful about thawing that fresh taste of summer in the middle of December to enjoy a warm, flavorful pasta on a cold night. If you don’t have pesto in the freezer, look for bags of fresh basil leaves in the produce section of your supermarket.

Working with Pomegranate

The luscious, crunchy “arils,” or seed casings, of the pomegranate are sweet, fruity, and tangy all at once. The whole fruit may look daunting at first, but once you break into it and see all those wonderful bright red seeds, you’ll know why they’re worth going after.

There are various methods of easily extracting the arils from the fruit. You can cut it in half, make several scores on the outer skin, and tap firmly on it with a spoon. This method will pop many of the seeds out, but you’ll still need to dig for the deeper ones with the spoon or your fingers.

One tidier method is to extract the arils in a bowl of water to keep the splattering of red juice to a minimum. This method works, but I’m not a fan of submerging those precious seeds in water too long.

My favorite method is simply to cut the pomegranate into about 2-inch chunks and pull the arils out with my fingers. Yes, there will be splattering. No, don’t wear your best white sweater. But you’ll be greatly rewarded for the little bit of effort—and mess.

Pasta for the Holidays

This recipe is a simple pasta dish with pesto sauce, decorated for the holidays with pomegranate. If you enjoy fresh green pesto in summer, serve it Christmas-style with some crunchy red pomegranate seeds in December. They’re as pretty as they are tasty—and your guests will appreciate the visuals too.

Christmas Dishes: Pasta with Pesto and Pomegranate

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe fresh pesto
  • 1/2 pound rotini (or other short pasta)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Preparation

  1. Boil the rotini for about 8 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.
  2. Toss the pasta with pesto and divide among 4 bowls.
  3. Sprinkle with pomegranate.
  4. Serve, passing Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating, if desired.

Note: This dish is great when you add chunks of cooked turkey or chicken breast. Or, to keep it vegetarian, add thin slices of shallot and red bell pepper. Chopped pine nuts or walnuts sprinkled on top also add extra earthy flavor and crunch.

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