I had the best weekend of my life over Memorial Day – a client of mine sent me to Camp Blogaway, the premiere conference for FOOD and RECIPE BLOGGERS. Um, hello. I'm totally there, clients. Maybe they were concerned I'd be working all weekend? Me? I was concerned that Camp Blogaway would end too soon. Or that my plane crew would disappear right before I board (this happens too much, no?) and I wouldn't make it to Angelus Oaks, California (elevation: 7,000 ft.), and would miss Camp Blogaway and never, ever, ever recover mentally.
After three days of bonding with my roomie Dee, sleeping on the top bunk (yes, this happened) in a sleeping bag (yes, this happened), hearing from some of the BEST food and recipe bloggers with tips and advice, learning from cooking celebrities, food stylists, and of course making new besties for life over bottles of wine (Camp was sponsored by a vineyard…), I couldn't believe it was time to come home.
I told Mr. Grumpy I missed him as much as I could. But listen. It was a little hard to not be selfish when I was doing Zumba at 6:30 a.m. on the mountaintop with my new fave Zumba instructor, Alyson (from Mojitos and Florentine), and then spending the rest of my day with people just like me (maybe a little less loud than me, but still). Wait – what… you don't believe me that I was up at 6:30 a.m. to do Zumba? You better believe it people. BETTER BELIEVE IT.
(Three faves: Alyson on the left, Amy from Vine Sleuth in the middle, and the ever awesome Chung-Ah from Damn Delicious on the right). Amy knew a lot about wine. I felt like when I left Camp B that I also knew a lot about wine since I had tasted so much.
We chased our wine down with Bloody Marys, which were… interesting. Mine was not so bad – it actually won a contest (no big deal).
I had a bit of a conniption when I finally met Jessica Fisher (Good Cheap Eats blogger) and her cohort Stephanie O'Dea (A Year of Slow Cooking) within the first hour I arrived at camp. You would have thought I was meeting the president. I'd been a big fan of both of their blogs for… well.. like ever. And acted like a crazed teenage fan – out of breath, unable to express my gratitude for their amazing recipes and ability to stay organized and calm throughout their daily lives despite a glam life full of blogging and family-ing. It was rather embarrassing, and I promised myself to NEVER reveal the inner geek within me like that ever again. (Shameful). (Not as shameful as this picture of me…)
Anyway, now that you're completely jealous… I got the chance to talk with one of the bloggers – Christina of Christina's Cucina (an amazing Italian-food inspired blog) and learned all about this new brand of pasta that she swears by. I did receive a free box of it at Camp, but I also wanted to try a recipe using orrechiette pasta, so ended up hiking to the supermarket when I returned to the CLE (a new woman) to test it for real. The brand is called De Cecco, and seriously. This pasta is good. It's like Mr. Grumpy's mom made it from scratch and then fed it to you good. Get it. Try it. You won't regret it. Listen people. I'm having a foodie moment, so bare with me. Thanks…
So, I embarked on making pesto for the first time ever. I wanted to impress Mr. Grumpy with all my amazing new skillz (with a z) that I learned at Camp Blogaway, but realized I had ZERO idea how to make pesto. So in true Cari Jeanne form, I called Suzie Q for a recipe and her advice was just to throw in everything until it tasted good (no measurements, Mom? What. A. Shocker.). So… (say it with me)… I IMPROVISED and came up with my own recipe. And this is what was created:
Cari's Spicy Pesto Summertime Pasta
(Mr Grumpy to Cari: "Wow, look at that amazing food styling!" Cari to Mr. Grumpy: "I know, amazing right? Camp Blogaway really changed my life.") This conversation never happened. I believe his exact words were… "When is dinner going to be ready? And why the hell are you putting our tomatoes around that jar?" The pesto recipe makes two of these jars. Freeze one of them if you want…
Ok, here's what you'll need…
For Cari's Spicy Pesto:
- 1 cup of fresh basil, super packed in the cup (or 1 1/3 cups if you don't smoosh it in there a lot)
- 1 tbsp fresh mint (Suzie Q told me to throw in all my herbs… so there)
- 1/4 jalapeno
- 3 medium cloves of garlic
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp lemon and pepper seasoning (McCormick's)
- 3/4 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/3 tsp garlic salt
- 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
Mix all together in a food processor or blender until it's smooth. If it's a little chunky, add a bit more olive oil. I started by putting in 1/4 cup of olive oil, and then added more whilst blending. It was all very fancy and scientific (…not really).
For the Pasta:
- 1 jar (about 1/3 cup) of Cari's awesome pesto
- 1/2 box of De Cecco orrechiette pasta
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut into fourths
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, freshly grated (or be like everyone else in America and buy it already shredded. You're welcome)
- 1/2 lb three cheese italian sausage (uncooked)
First, get your water boiling. Next, in a small pan add 1 tbsp olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook fully. Remove it from the pan, but don't drain your pan. Have Mr. Grumpy cut your sausage into slices because it's super messy AND he wasn't really doing anything but watching that ridiculous show about monsters in rivers… Thanks for THAT one Discovery Channel.
While he's doing that, add your pasta in the boiling water, and cook as the package directs. Then, add your onions and garlic in the pan you cooked your sausage in. Let those cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and you can smell the garlic. It will take about 3 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, and turn your heat down to medium-low heat. Cook for an additional minute. Add in the sausage and let that cook in the pan for one more minute.
Drain your pasta and add it to the hot pan with the sausage mixture. Add in the pesto and mozzarella, and stir until it's all mixed. The mozzarella will melt and it will be nice and creamy when it mixes with the pesto. Seriously. Delicious.
I really liked the pasta too – it had such a nice flavor (like Mr. Grumpy's mom's homemade pasta). I would definitely recommend it. Wayyyyyyy better than that brown stuff (whole grain pasta) – WHOA, I just turned into Mr. Grumpy for a minute. Actually, the pasta is really not that bad for you. And don't you deserve some real good Italian cooking every once in a while? UM> Hell yeah you do.