Dani Goes South.


Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto, Lemony Basil Pesto, & Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

Dinners, Pasta, SaucesDani ColombattoComment
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Currently, I’m sitting in my parents’ backyard in Boise with a prime view of some very cute duck families. I took a little “just because” trip to see my parents, sister, niece, and nephew, and it’s been lovely. Idaho is beautiful this time of year, and I’m just doing a lot of relaxing, eating the good foods, and drinking the good drinks. The Lord’s work, they call it. Just kidding.

On another note, I’ve mentioned my love of my little garden here before, but truly, it’s the best hobby I’ve ever started as an adult. When our tiny tomato seeds started to sprout, I was super skeptical about them turning into full, blossoming plants. Joke’s on me because they are getting crazy-tall, and sprouting tomatoes all over the place. I believe, at last count, I had 45 little, green tomatoes. That little garden ended up being so much more than we bargained for in the best way possible. It inspires me to be less of a plant/life skeptic and get in touch with my inner-optimist. One of the many great uses for a bounty of tomatoes is one of the two sauces we’re talking about today. That’s right, not one but two versions of pesto in one pasta because I can’t seem to leave well enough alone. These two sauces are so simple to throw together, and compliment each other perfectly. They’re also both amazing on chicken, fish, bruschetta, and more.

First, we have a roasted tomato and walnut pesto, which is a recipe I slightly tweaked from Bon Appetit and has been a top-tier favorite of mine since I saw it in one of their issues in 2016. It’s super fresh, and the walnuts lend this creamy factor that takes this pesto to the next level. This sauce stands alone, but I felt like giving it some extra herbaceous oomph. Tomatoes and basil have always been a great couple, why break ‘em up now? Our second pesto couldn’t be simpler, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in brightness. Tons of fresh basil, lemon zest and juice, toasted walnuts, and the usual pesto suspects, garlic, parm, and of course, EVOO get all blended up for one delicious basil pesto with the perfect amount of fresh acidity.

The spaghetti gets tossed in the creamy roasted tomato and walnut pesto, then gets studded with dollops of the basil pesto, and topped with toasted, herbed anchovy breadcrumbs. Don’t bristle at the anchovy portion of the program (unless you’re veg, in which case, bristle away)- it really just lends a savory level of, for lack of a better term, umami. If you’re not into that, just toast them up with the butter and herbs, and finish with a good sprinkling of sea salt. Let’s get up to our eyeballs in pesto, shall we? Was that appetizing?

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Preheat your oven to 375, and to a sheet pan, and halve all but some of your cherry tomatoes (I usually leave the ones on the smaller side whole). Drizzle with olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until tomatoes have released some of their liquid, and the skin is beginning to blister. Add your walnuts to a dry pan, and toss over low heat until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

While your tomatoes are cooking, make your breadcrumbs. to a food processor, add 2 slices of good bread, and pulse until coarse crumbs are formed. To a small frying pan, add 1 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs butter and heat over medium-low heat. Add 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, and 2 inches of anchovy paste to your pan, and combine with the butter/oil. Add your breadcrumbs, along with your chopped thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss over medium-low heat until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to trap excess oil.

Make your basil pesto. Add 1/3 c of your walnuts, along with the garlic to a blender or food processor. Pulse until the walnuts are very pulverized and beginning to release their oils. You’ll be able to tell, because they’ll start to slightly stick to the side of the bowl. Then, add your basil, lemon zest and juice, and a good pour of olive oil to get everything started. Pulse to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl/blender as needed. Once the mixture begins to combine, leave the blender/food processor running, and stream in olive oil until the pesto becomes a homogeneous mixture. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Pour into a bowl, and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Set aside until ready to assemble.

To make the roasted tomato-walnut pesto, we combine the garlic, the lemon zest, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and parmigiano in the blender. Pulse to combine. Then, add in all but about 1/2 cup of your roasted tomatoes, including their liquid in the pan, along with all but a couple tablespoons of the toasted walnuts (we are reserving a few to top our pasta), and blend to combine. Add in about a 1/3 c of olive oil, and blend until just combined. Set aside.

To a large pot of salted, boiling water, add your spaghetti, and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of your cooking liquid.

To a large pan, add your spaghetti, along with your roasted tomato and walnut pesto, tossing to combine, and coating with small amounts of the pasta cooking liquid as necessary, until the sauce coats all of the strands of spaghetti. Add your reserved roasted tomatoes, and toss once more. Add to the serving bowl of your choice, and top with tablespoon-sized dollops of your lemony basil pesto. Next, add a generous sprinkle of parmigiano, your reserved toasted walnuts, and torn basil leaves.

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The way the roasted tomato and walnut pesto coats the al dente spaghetti is downright luxury. The sweetness of the tomatoes really comes out when you roast them, and the other elements in the sauce lend the perfect savory compliment. The basil pesto makes the flavor of the tomatoes even more pronounced, and crunchy, herb-y breadcrumbs in every bite make this pasta incredibly hard to stop eating.

Here’s hoping your weekend plans include pasta. Mine include Disney movies with my niece (Fully have the “Gaston” song from Beauty & The Beast stuck in my head RN. Which, side-note, I heard someone say on a podcast is the song they sing to get “pumped up” which really made me laugh). We are also making a sartu di riso with my mom and sister. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a breadcrumb-coated bundt of risotto, partially filled with a really delicious tomato sauce and cheese. Essentially, arancini in bundt form. I’m very into it.


Make one, or both of these pesto beauties. They’re amazing alone, together, and on countless other dishes (Hot tip: they’re SO good on pizza). Make them ahead, place plastic wrap on the surface of sauce, cover, and freeze them. Then, thank yourself on an exhausting Monday later. Jar them and refrigerate for up to a week for a quick dinner or appetizer addition. You get the idea. Versatile sauces always win the day.

Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto, Lemony Basil Pesto, + Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

(4-5 servings)

Roasted Tomato + Walnut Pesto (Inspired by Bon Appetit)

1 lb spaghetti

2 dry pints cherry tomatoes, all but some halved

2/3 c, plus 2 tbs walnuts

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbs lemon zest

3” anchovy paste, or 2 oil-packed fillets, finely minced

2 tbs, plus 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated, plus more for serving

1/2 c pasta water

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemony Basil Pesto

1 1/3 c basil

1/3 cup walnuts

1 clove garlic

1 tsp lemon zest

1 tbs lemon juice

1/3 c parmigiano reggiano, finely grated

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Herbed Anchovy Breadcrumbs

2 slices good bread

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

2” anchovy paste

1 tbs butter

1 tbs oil

1 tbs freshly chopped thyme

Let's Eat Outside Pt. 3: Tomato-Basil Orrechiette Salad with Capers + Pine Nuts / Tiny Ciabatta Sandwiches with Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Prosciutto, + Pesto Aioli

Dinners, Lunches, Salads, SandwichesDani ColombattoComment
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Sun's out, portable carbs out! Not really. It's currently raining and I'm wearing a sweatshirt that looks downright Christmassy. No matter! I'm a big-picture gal, and I love makin' plans. So let's plan our 3rd and final picnic (for now) in this little "Let's Eat Outside" series. Ready? The plan is there's no plan. There are easy sandwiches and a make-ahead pasta salad involved, but that's about all the planning this requires. Scratch that- you'll want to plan on finding some supah-crisp wine or beer to take on this little shindig. Not exactly a tall order, I know. 

I'm such a sucker for an Italian sammie. I don't know what it is, but Italians really love saying the phrase "good bread". Any occasion to insert this phrase into conversation, AND eat carbs, they are into it. I can say this because my dad was adopted by a 1st generation Italian immigrant when he was 2, so I was raised by the "good bread" people. In this application, said excellent carb is the base for caramelized roasted veggies, salty prosciutto, nutty provolone, spicy arugula, tart pickled onions, and herbaceous pesto aioli. Really, there isn't a vehicle you could put the aforementioned goods on top of and have it not come out amazing. Hell, have it deconstructed for all I care. Whatever you do, promise to have it alongside a simple tomato-basil pasta salad with toasty pine nuts, fresh parsley, and all the lemony vinaigrette. It's not a demand, just a gentle nudge in the "living your best life" direction. Let's hop to it, because this one's so easy, it'll be over before it begins! 

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Preheat your oven to 375F, and combine your sliced eggplant, and halved baby bell peppers on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15-17 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking. While your veggies are roasting, make your pasta, and your pesto aioli, adding your aioli to the refrigerator once done. Whisk together your lemon vinaigrette, and set aside. 

Once your pasta is done, drain, and add to a bowl, immediately tossing with your lemon vinaigrette so it absorbs into the warm pasta. Add your cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, and capers, tossing together once more. Wait to add your freshly chopped basil and parsley, and shaved Parmesan until you're ready to eat. You can leave this pasta salad out at room temperature if you're going to eat relatively soon, if not, wait for it to cool off, and add to the refrigerator. 

Once your vegetables are done roasting, assemble your sandwiches. There is truly no recipe here, simply top your ciabatta bread with a good amount of pesto aioli on each side, a couple slices each roasted eggplant and bell peppers, a slice or two of prosciutto and provolone, a handful of arugula, and a sprinkle of quick pickled onions. 

Wrap your baby sammies in a little parchment blanket, and top your orecchiette with your basil, parsley, and Parmesan, and you're ready to hit the road. Feel free to serve with some olives, and maybe even a little cheeseboard, but truth be told, these two make the perfect little picnic pair all on their own.

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I've started compiling a little summer wish list. We actually have a lot going on this coming season, so I'm making a concerted effort to be mindful of the little things- a huge one on this list is more picnics! While we are looking for a new space that hopefully has a cute outdoor area of it's own, for now, I'm going to park my booty and picnic basket every cute public place I can. Hopefully, while double-carbing, and avoiding mosquito bites. 

With that, I've got a beer, fajita nachos, and a kitchen of dirty dishes awaiting me. I really thought back when I didn't have a dishwasher that the never-ending revolving door of dishes from shoots would be less bad once I finally acquired one, but in reality, it's like I come up with reasons to use more dishes, as I no longer have to hand wash them. It's like I'm my own enemy, you guys!! Just throwing around ramekins and nesting bowls like detergent grows on trees!  Chaos, I tell you. One day, when I get it all right, I promise to share the secrets of my sorcery, because that's what I'm convinced a consistently clean kitchen takes- food profession or not. Pure. Sorcery. Byeeee! 

Tiny Ciabatta Sandwiches with Roasted Eggplant + Peppers, Prosciutto, & Pesto Aioli

1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into roughly 3" x 5" pieces

1 eggplant, halved, and cut into 1/4" half-moons

1 dozen baby bell peppers, halved

1/2 lb thinly sliced prosciutto

1/2 lb thinly sliced provolone cheese

1 cup quick pickled onions 

3 cups arugula

Pesto aioli

For the Pesto Aioli:

1 cup good mayonnaise

3/4 cup of your favorite store-bought pesto

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Quick Pickled Onions:

1 onion, thinly sliced, & added to small bowl

Red wine vinegar, to cover onions

Sprinkle of salt & pepper

Tomato-Basil Orecchiette Salad

1 lb Orecchiette pasta

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

4 tbs capers

1 cup freshly chopped basil

1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley

1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano 

Lemon Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 grated garlic clove

Salt & pepper to taste


Whole Wheat Penne Salad with Sundried Tomato & Kalamata Pesto, Capers, Pine Nuts, Feta, Tomatoes & Basil

Dinners, Salads, AppetizersDani ColombattoComment
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I've been thinking a LOT about inspiration this week. Where we get it, what drives us, what we do with said inspo once it comes to us, etc. I've been thinking a lot about how it seems like people are treating Instagram more and more like Pinterest, gathering ideas, and taking in seemingly infinite content. I'm not going to get on a soapbox about intellectual property, but I will pose this question: Where do you get your inspiration? What is your intention with your inspiration, and when scrolling through Instagram? Is it to gather ideas? Is it to connect?

All these thoughts this week led me to think about the intentionality of my own inspiration. I'm making a concerted effort to be exponentially more mindful in taking the time and effort to soak in inspo, like I've done my whole life before all the social meeds infiltrated. This often means asking myself what I value in my creativity. The thing about answering this question is that, if you are really honest with yourself, the answer most likely will not be what "that person on Instagram" is doing. You are SO uniquely you. If you ever feel lost in a sea of content, please remember NO ONE can replicate what it is exactly that you value. Return to that, and I promise, a fresh batch of inspiration will arrive sooner than you can double tap a picture. With that, I'll drop some Seuss on you: "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you". True. That. Doctor. Now, onto pasta. 

Speaking of values, I think I've mentioned this before, but nostalgia is up there for me. This is a simple AF pasta salad, but the woman who inspired it is anything but. My Grandma Joyce is partially responsible for making me the lady I am today. She was poised, tough-as-nails, hilarious, and always let me know how strong I was when I didn't have the faintest clue. I could go on for days about her. One thing that she was not, however, was the "chef" of the family. Listen, I could regale you with tales of ambrosia salads all day, but I want you to want this pasta at the end of this, so that feels counterproductive. I'll just say, that when she made this pasta salad for my little cousin Giuseppe's baby shower, it was a surprise hit given the hands that made it (I LOVE YOU GRANDMA!). As per previous mention, this salad really couldn't be any easier. The pesto is a total blender deal, and you'll even have a little left for additional sauce/crostini purposes. The whole thing can be made in advance, eaten warm, room temp, or cold, and makes a bitchin' next-day lunch sitch. 

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Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook your penne until al dente. Make your pesto. In a blender, combine your toasted almonds, and garlic cloves, and pulse until the almonds look like fine crumbs. Add your roughly chopped sundried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil), kalamata olives, parsley, salt, and pepper, and blend on low, opening the spout, and slowly drizzling in your olive oil. 

Add your pesto to your whole wheat penne while it's still warm, and toss to combine. Next, add your cherry tomatoes, feta, pine nuts, capers, basil and parsley. That is quite literally it. When I say easy AF, I mean it! 

If ever there were a meal to eat straight-out-o-the-fridge, in the middle of the night, with a spoon, well, this is it, mah friends.

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Thank you for hanging in for my little inspiration spiel. I've heard a lot of people are experiencing inspiration burnout/frustration with Instagram, and just really felt compelled to share my two cents. Focus on what is uniquely you, and you'll create something you feel compelled to share. I sincerely wish you a week full of new inspiration, and sweet moments with your favorite peeps. Love ya. 

Whole Wheat Penne with Sundried Tomato & Kalamata Pesto, Capers, Pine Nuts, Tomatoes & Basil

For the pesto:

1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped

1/4 cup Kalamata olives

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley

1/2 cup almonds, toasted

Salt & pepper to taste

For the pasta:

1 lb whole wheat penne

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/2 pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup chopped parsley

3 tbs capers