Thursday, September 2, 2010

Zucchini Pesto with Spicy Turkey Meatballs

This is probably the eleventy-seventh time we've done pasta for this blog, but I'm OK with that. I could eat pasta every day.

Zucchini Pesto with Spiky Turkey Meatballs

The Food (Jhan)

Over the years Tony has regaled me with his stories of living on a commune in southern California. During that period he grew most of his own food and became quite inventive at finding ways to use his bounty of zucchini. I have always heard so much about the wonderful zucchini pesto he made and canned that I had to make up my own version of this interesting dish.

After a little experimenting I came up with the following recipe for the pesto. Later, I decided that the creaminess of the pesto combined with the al dente pasta could be enhanced by adding spicy meatballs with a crispy outer coating (something for a little crunch) so I made some mini turkey meatballs rolled in panko to add texture to the overall dish. The entire combination created a good combination of flavors and texture.

Zucchini Pesto
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic crushed and peeled
  • 2-3 regular zucchini chopped
  • ¾ cup fresh basil
  • ½ cup (heaping) toasted walnuts
  • Salt to taste
  • Pasta water as needed to make creamy
  1. Blend garlic, nuts and basil well in food processor or blender
  2. Add zucchini and blend all well – mixture may be a little dry.
  3. Add olive oil in batches to combine all; add salt to taste
  4. In warm skillet combine pesto and ¼ cup pasta water until well blended. 
  5. Add cooked pasta and mix to coat noodles with pesto sauce. 
  6. Add additional pasta water if needed to make a moist and slightly creamy sauce. 
  7. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan if desired.
Spicy Turkey Meatballs
  • ½ lb. ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (This is what really adds the spice to these meatballs)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ½ tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • ¼- 1/3 cup chopped or grated onion
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs + more for rolling meatballs
  1. Mix all well but don’t over mix.
  2. Form meatballs and roll each in panko to cover all sides. 
  3. Spray meatballs with a little olive oil to help them brown. 
  4. Bake at 425 until internal temp of 165 degrees when measured with an instant read thermometer – about 15-20 min, remove from oven – do not overcook or they will be dry.
Serve the pesto pasta with 3-4 meatballs alongside and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan on top.


Zucchini Pesto with Spiky Turkey Meatballs

The Plating

I bought this black plate at TJ Maxx and have been eager to use it. I love square plates and I love black plates, and I love the pattern on this plate, so I've been trying to use it every chance I get. I used it for the panzanella salad a couple of weeks back and it really wasn't the right plate for such a rustic dish.

Well, it turns out that pasta isn't much different. Although this looks OK, once again, I don't think this plate matches the food very well. Still, it's a really nice plate - I just need to find the right dish to use it with. The plate is severe, stylish and modern, and it clashes with simple rustic dishes. When Jhan does some fancy sushi we'll use this plate.

Zucchini Pesto with Spiky Turkey Meatballs

The Lighting and Photography

Zucchini Pesto with Spiky Turkey Meatballs Lighting I used lighting very similar to the panzanella salad for this shoot, the only difference being that I removed the fill light bounced off the sheet and only have the key light, shot through the reflector and the soft fill, bounced off the wall and ceiling.

When the dish is backlit (as in the first photo), the focus is on highlights (in this case, off the plate). When side lit, the focus is on textures, since the side lighting brings out the play of light and shadow in  the dish.

Overall, this lighting is OK, but a bit harsh for the dish, which probably would have done better with softer lighting and brighter plating.

Lessons Learned

Repeat after me: match the plate to the food. Rustic plates for rustic dishes. Also, this dish was actually relatively dark with the pesto, so a light colored dish might have worked better.

1 comment:

  1. Looks good. I'll try the zucchini pesto! I have an abundance of zucchini in the garden...of course.