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Pesto Palooza!

My good buddy Brett is visiting from Japan...he's lived there for several decades now and comes to to visit about once a year. When he does arrive, he wants good old American Comfort Food - and if you've read my cookbook , A Perfect 10, you know I can deliver the goods for that!

So, today I thought I'd make some fresh pesto, and use it in three different ways in one dish. Pesto is so easy to make, and it's fun to switch up the ingredients, and substitute any nut, any herb, and any cheese. Today, I went in for Basil and Pistachio Pesto, and mixed into some easy Chicken Pesto Meatballs, with a Creamy Pesto Sauce, served over Pesto'd Up Orzo. So good.

For the pesto: In my Vitamix, I throw in a large amount of pesto leaves - basically, a whole pack. I mix that with 1/2 cup of pistachios, about 4 cloves of garlic, and a large pinch of Kosher salt, and chop it up. Then keeping the machine revving, I drizzle in a cup of olive oil, and then throw in about 1/2 cup of parmesan. Mix well, and you have pesto. Serve it right away, or keep in the fridge, or do the old frozen pesto trick where you put into an ice cube tray and freeze.

For the meatballs: Easy! I just throw together a pound of ground chicken, 1/2 cup of bread crumbs, about 1/4 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of the pesto, and about 1/2 cup of cheese (today used jack cheese, but you could always use parmesan). Using my hands, I form into golf ball sized meatballs. In a large skillet, heat up some olive oil, and cook the meatballs, until golden brown and a nice crust on the outside, then remove from the pan. To the warm pan, add one cup of chicken broth and about 1/2 cup of your pesto, simmer for a few minutes, then stir in about 1/2 cup of heavy crumb - let that simmer, and whisk into a nice pesto cream sauce. Add the meatballs back to the pan, put a lid on it, turn to low, and let the meatballs finish cooking for about 5 more minutes.

For the orzo: Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pasta pan, over medium heat. Stir in 2 cups of orzo, and a bunch of chopped asparagus, and cook, stirring the whole time, for a few minutes (toast that orzo!). Stir in about 1/4 cup of your pesto sauce, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour in 4 cups of chicken broth, bring to a small boil, and then cover and turn down the heat and let it all cook together for about 12 minutes, stirring now and then. Uncover, add about one cup of water, and let it cook uncovered at a simmer until the orzo is cooked well, and the liquids are absorbed.

I served this in a large serving bowl: Start with the orzo, add the meatballs, and then drizzle the cream sauce over the top.


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