09.30.13: summer transitions into fall dinner (tomato pesto over gnocchi, and roasted sausages with grapes)

Tomato Pesto over Gnocchi

Tomato Pesto over Gnocchi

I spent the last few days in Chicago visiting a dear friend, and those days were surprisingly warm. I was all ready to embrace the fall and I even packed two sweaters to combat against the wind tunnel effect, but they and the jacket I packed were completely unnecessary. It was sunny, and warm, and largely reminiscent of not only the last third of this past summer, but also of our time last year in Barcelona. Between Thursday and Friday, I walked all over Lincoln Park, and the Loop, and revisited West Loop which was the neighborhood I stayed in the first time I was in Chicago ever. As a belated housewarming gift to my friend I brought him an immersion blender, and ever since then I was kind of preoccupied with making my favorite tomato pesto because it always comes out better using that than the traditional blender.

If I also wanted an excuse to post this recipe again to tempt T into making it before the tomatoes are lousy, well, I’ll never tell.

Roasted Sausages with Grapes and Arugula Salad with Oranges and Pomegranate

Roasted Sausages with Grapes and Arugula Salad with Oranges and Pomegranate

The fall this year has been kind of strange up until now: unlike last year, September has been largely warm and even pretty sunny, so I haven’t had many cravings for fall food just yet. I’ve transitioned my spring/summer salad into my fall/winter one because the price of strawberries are once again high, but there have been no braises or stews just yet, and I’m still very much wanting pestos rather than ragus. I would say that it’s almost as if summer hadn’t left us, but the days getting shorter serves as a constant reminder that fall is here, and winter is coming. (Brace yourselves.)

My lamenting of summer passing aside, I will say that this Tuscan sausage and grape dish is quite divine. A few seasons of Barefoot Contessa are available via Amazon Prime, and while they aren’t the super-early seasons we all love, they are solid episodes from her “Back to Basics” period which means she’s not simply asking her chef friends to make cooking segments for her show. There’s not much to this dish: just some good sausage, some grapes, some Chianti and balsamic vinegar, but it might be a perfect transitional dish from summer into fall: rich, but not overwhelming.

The original recipes for each can be found here: Tomato Pesto and Roasted Sausages and Grapes.

The modified Tomato pesto can be found below:

Pesto trapanese

Even more adapted from Made in Sicily

  • 1/3 cup blanched almonds
  • 18 oz plum tomatoes, cored and seeded and roughly chopped (ETA: this would be about 4-6 fresh plum tomatoes, depending on size)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (most of a bunch) of fresh mint
  • Olive oil (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving

First, toast the almonds: either in an oven heated to 350 degrees or a small pan on the stove, toast the almonds until golden. Let cool slightly, then chop well. Add the almonds, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, mint, and some olive oil (save some to add later) to a sturdy bowl and using a stick blender, carefully start blending until a thick paste is formed. Stir in the cheese, and then add hot pasta of choice and stir well to combine. Serve immediately with more cheese or cool and store.

  1. biz319 said:

    Our weather has been so weird lately – you should have waited until this week – our highs are in the 60s and the lows in the 40s – love!

    Love your gnocchi dish, I don’t think to make that often enough!

    • See, I *loved* the weather when I was there, so I’m glad I went when I did, because our weather is similar to yours now too.

  2. Yes. To all of that, especially the sly Game of Thrones reference (winter is coming!).

    One question from this wannabe chef — do you think the pesto would lose something integral if I omitted the almonds? I’ve got an absolutely obnoxious nut allergy and have had to steer clear of restaurant and pre-made pesto my whole life. But I really want to try it! It looks amazing!

    • Absolutely not! I’ve made nut-free pestos (I believe they are called pistous) and they are pretty great in their own right. I’d just be a little more generous with the cheese to make it a little more substantial. 🙂 I’ve also made this sans-garlic for my MIL who is allergic (yes, I have a half-Sicilian mother-in-law who is allergic to garlic!) and it also came out really well.

      • I cannot wait to try! Pistous, get ready because I am coming for you. Thanks for the advice!

  3. I think you’re hanging onto summer way better than I am. I just spent a week in the mountains, and now, “autumn” is everywhere!

    Thanks for the tip about the Barefoot Contessa being on Amazon Prime. I must check it out.

    Also, while I was in Idyllwild (the local mountains), I opened an account with the local video store (they still exist!), and my husband found Volver! So we watched it. Thanks for the rec, I enjoyed it greatly!

    Welcome back from Chicago. Unless you’re not back yet. In that case, safe travels home. 🙂


    • Seriously–it’s gotten quite chilly here too (tomorrow will only get up to 60!) and I’m not ready for it to go yet. I’m so glad you found and enjoyed Volver, as every once in a while I put it on as a quasi-feel-good film. As for Amazon Prime, the selection of Barefoot Contessa is kind of spotty, with some episodes available and others you need to pay for, but overall I prefer the older ones anyway. Random seasons of Good Eats are also available, thankfully!

  4. shannon said:

    elizabeth, all of this looks incredible: especially the sausages with grapes! I would have never thought of putting those two together, but i imagine they work wonderfully together. Great seasonal transition food; i always miss tomatoes when they’re gone, even though i love fall weather.

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