Scrappy Pesto, Zucchini & Burrata Pizza

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Scrappy (adjective): to prepare a dish consisting of scraps, i.e. food that typically gets wasted or thrown away. Used in a sentence: “Hey, that’s totally SCRAPPY!”

I am so inspired by the Sur La Table TV show Scraps, (airs 10:30pm EST every Sunday night on FYI), where national chef Joel travels the country conjuring up new, exciting recipes using things that normally get tossed! Think beet greens, shrimp shells, and bruised apples. I’ve mentioned the show before on the blog, but today I tried my hand at a second scrappy recipe! My inspiration? CSA, aka community supported agriculture.

My friend and I went in together on a CSA share in Oyster Bay. So far we’ve gotten a TON of radishes, tri-color salad and arugula. This past week’s share finally had some summer zucchini. I snagged a few extra and decided to highlight them in a dish this weekend. On top of that, our adorable farmer gave me premature carrots with tons of greens on top. I saved them in water in my refrigerator and told myself that I MUST put them to good use! I could hear Joel saying, “save your scraps!”

I’ve tried pesto with other things before, like radish greens, and the results were not nearly as delicious as what I’m about to share with you: carrot top pesto. Leaves only (no stems) and blended with a little olive oil, toasted walnuts, and parmesan cheese. Carrot leaves on their own taste a little bit like carrots. When made into a pesto like this, you get an earthy flavor reminiscent of basil pesto. I was so pleasantly surprised by the flavor. Keep your carrot leaves and you can pat yourself on the back knowing that you saved food from the trash! I prefer walnuts or almonds to pine nuts, but you can absolutely substitute them if you don’t have walnuts on hand. Spread this magic on everything from toasted crostini, fried eggs or pasta. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days.

Watch full episodes of Scraps here!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Pesto:

  • 1 cup loosely packed carrot tops (leaves only, no stems)
  • 6 tablespoons cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated, plus more for sprinkling on top

Pizza:

  • olive oil for greasing
  • 1 ball fresh or frozen pizza dough
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
  • 1 ball burrata
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  1. If using frozen pizza dough, remove from freezer the night before using and defrost in the refrigerator. If using fresh dough or when ready to use, let rise at room temperature in a greased, covered bowl for at least 1 hour.
  2. Grease a dark baking sheet with olive oil. Stretch dough out on sheet pan as thin as possible. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  3. To make the pesto, add carrot leaves, olive oil, garlic clove, salt and walnuts to a food processor. Pulse until well combined, about 1 minute. Add in cheese and pulse for an additional 15 seconds.
  4. Spread pesto on to dough evenly. Add zucchini slices. Sprinkle extra parmesan on top and bake for 8 minutes.
  5. Break up the ball of burrata and dollop onto pizza. Bake for an additional 4 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is melted.
  6. Sprinkle with basil, a pinch of pepper and red pepper flakes. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting.

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Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

I started this blog almost immediately after a close friend of mine suggested it a year and a half ago. That same evening I came up with the name Cuoco Contento. For those who don’t know, Cuoco is my married name. It translates to the noun “cook” in Italian. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know that when Joshua and I got married in 2014. I also didn’t like to cook before we were married. Actually, it wasn’t that I didn’t like to, it was that I simply never tried to. Living at home I commuted to college and, towards the end, lived off a less-than-stellar diet of boxed soup and sushi takeout. My wild passion for the kitchen began the very first night I cooked for Josh. If you are wondering, it was chicken parm. He approved.

With that in mind, the word “contento” translates to “happy.” It was simplest and most straight-forward word I could think of. No frills, no elaboration. Recipe planning, grocery shopping, food prep and cooking make me truly happy. The entire process is like therapy. Hosting guests in our my home makes me giddy. I am, quite literally, a happy cook.

Through my teen years and into young adulthood I’ve sought after contentment at different times. The word “content” means to be “mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are.” What a virtue! I am far from perfect, a feeling we can all relate to. Life throws different things our way. How we handle them is up to us.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV). You can interpret this how you like, but on some level I believe this means that we need to look at the big picture. The bright future. No one can convince me otherwise: the best is yet to come. Always. How terrible would it be if we thought that today (or 10 years ago) we hit our peak? That our prime time was up and over with? I believe that we’re all ever-developing beings, constantly changing, growing and learning– even if you’re 85 years old. Often times we need to go through the storm in order to appreciate the sun. Having patience through the rain is the tough part. There is glory to be revealed in all of us.

I’ve been looking for a way out of a storm in my life for a while now. But every time I do, I feel God telling me that instead of getting me out of it, he will get me through it, if I only trust Him. Really trust Him.

I am a “working document.” Constantly making mistakes, coming under discipline, learning and growing. There will never come a day when I will wake up and say, “okay, now I’m perfect!” It’s just not possible. We are human. We fall. We are tempted. We try to hold the weight of our world on our shoulders. And we come back to the realization that we are not the one in control. And really…thank God for that.

It all boils down to one thing: trust. If I truly trust God, with my whole being, I would not worry about my job. I would not worry about money. I would not worry about my family’s future. Being content means being satisfied and happy with the way things are right now. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve struggled with it for years. You’re not alone if you do. There’s nothing wrong with having a hustler’s mentality, always wanting to reach higher levels. I believe God honors that ambition. But it is not healthy is to find it impossible to enjoy today because you can’t stop daydreaming about tomorrow.

There is a huge, bright light at the end of my husband’s medical school journey. We talk about our plans, even though there are about 200 different directions we could be lead at that time. Everything about our lives after his graduation is completely up in the air. Where we’re live being at the forefront of our minds. That part excites me even though it is so unknown. Yet, getting to a place where I can patiently wait for that huge, bright light has been one of the biggest challenges for me. I get why people say that patience is a virtue. So many times Josh has said to me, “you need to enjoy today.” And I know he’s right. I’m emotional just writing this, because it’s a message that hits me like an arrow straight to the heart.

Why is it so hard for us to wait? Why is it so hard for us to let go of the steering wheel and let God drive? The most interesting thing to me is that I have no problem having the biggest faith when it comes to Josh’s career. If ever even the smallest speck of doubt or fear enters his mind, I jump on it immediately and with such confidence tell him that God’s already worked it out. That God has made a way for him already. Look at His provision for you so far! Trust Him! I’m so sure of that, when it pertains to his life. So much so, it’s often frustrating when he doesn’t always see it for himself. How is it that we can be so sure of God’s provision in the lives of others but can’t seem to grasp it on our own lives?

God is watching over us. More than that, he is right there beside you, holding your hand, wanting so desperately for us to trust Him with our whole hearts. He’s the one who is saying to us, “I’ve already worked it out. I’ve already made a way for you. Look at my provision in your life so far! Trust me!”

Every day I am learning that nothing is too difficult with God’s help. What might seem impossible in our human weakness is not impossible with Him. I’m so fragile. So prone to complaining, to discontentment, to unhappiness if I let it take hold of my heart. Stand firm against it.

I pray that if you are struggling with being content that your heart would be filled with peace today. To rest and know that God’s timing is perfect. That he longs to give good gifts to his children who only trust him. Be happy today. Enjoy this moment, because you’ll never get it back.

Whenever I start to feel less than content with my current situation, I rehearse these things in my heart:

  1. Crush every fear. It has no place in my life.
  2. Trust God. His ways are not my ways, His thoughts are not my thoughts. Let Him take control of the things we can’t.
  3. Be still and know that He is God. He is good. He is love. His promises remain true for all of time.
  4. Be thankful for where you are, how you got there and what you have been given.

My dear friend Liz and I shared a quiet Sunday afternoon in my pint-sized apartment talking, laughing, cooking (and eating) as we reminisced about our college trip to Milan now five years ago. Liz is a HUGE talent, and so humble, check her out on Insta!

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Photo Credit: Liz Cuadrado Photography

Fazzoletti Pesto with Asparagus and Burrata

Serves 2

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more as needed
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano, plus more for shaving
  • 1 bunch asparagus tips, blanched
  • 1 ball fresh burrata cheese
  • course ground pepper
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Add the eggs and yolks and mix just until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add a few drops of water if the dough is dry. Turn the dough out into a bowl, sprinkle it with a little flour, cover it with plastic or a cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes. You may refrigerate the dough wrapped in plastic, until you’re ready to roll it out, for up to 24 hours.
  2. In a food processor, combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic and about half the oil. Blend, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container, and add the rest of the oil slowly. Add the toasted nuts and cheese. Pulse until relatively smooth, or you can leave it a bit more on the chunky side.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt. Divide the dough into four sections. Roll though through the pasta attachment on the number 1 setting about 10 times, folding the dough in half with each pass. Pass through the number 3 setting once or twice. Repeat this with the other 3 sections of dough until you have 4 pasta sheets.
  4. Cut the dough sheets into 3×3 or 4×4 squares. They can be rough, no need to break out the ruler. Gently add to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. The dough squares should rise to the water’s surface. Reserve the pasta water.
  5. Toss the pasta with the pesto and blanched asparagus tips. Add a spoonful of pasta water if pesto needs to be thinned out. Sprinkle generously with black pepper and shaved parmesan cheese.
  6. Divide burrata between two dishes and serve.

Pasta recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.

Walnut Basil Pesto Pizza

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

One of my biggest kitchen struggles has been good pizza crust. I have an old gas oven (love it) but my crusts had time after time come out soggy. I tried a pizza stone but to my despair, it left all crusts limp. All I want is some crispy, browned bottomed crust! Too much to ask? I tried my faithful cookie sheet and I think that was 50% of the crispy battle. This lovely pizza dough recipe comes from the amazing Andrea Bemis’s new cookbook, Dishing Up The Dirt!!! So excited for this girl! Get yourself a copy. It’s a treat for the eyes and the stomach. It makes my heart so happy to see her in her element, getting down and dirty with real food. She’s seriously inspired me to live on a farm. I will have chickens one day or my name isn’t Cuoco!

This crust is super!! Thin and crisp. It’s almost focaccia-like. My favorite part is that you can do it all from the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook, so there’s little to no mess. All you need is time! While the dough is rising you can get other tasks done, so don’t worry. Look at you go, you multi-tasker! Own it. Be wonder woman in the kitchen and don’t let anything scare you. Thank you Andrea for this tasty dough recipe!!! Congratulations, lady! #DishingUpTheDirt #DUTD

Yield: A little less than 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 large thin crusts

For the Dough:

  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water, more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl
  • 1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Pesto & Cheese topping:

  • 1-1/2 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • wild arugula
  1. In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in water warmed to 110 F. Give it a good stir. Proof for 10 minutes or until frothing.
  2. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and the flours until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and knead it on low for 6 minutes. If the dough appears too dry, drizzle 2 tablespoons more water.
  3. Rinse out the large bowl, pat it dry, drizzle it with oil, and use a bowl to rub the oil all over the bowl. Return the dough to the large bowl and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer the dough back to you stand missed and knead it on low for 3 minutes.
  5. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover it with the damp towel, and set it aside to rise for an additional hour, or until it has doubled in size again.
  6. Slice the dough in half. Freeze one half for a rainy day! (see note below). Take the half you’re going to use and roll thinly onto a oiled baking sheet.
  7. Add basil, olive oil, walnuts, parmigiana region, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Grind until smooth, about 30 seconds. Taste it… devious all on it’s own! Spoon half of the mixture onto the pizza and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 500 F for 10 minutes. Top with wild arugula and serve.

*Be sure to transfer your frozen dough to the refrigerator the morning before you plan to use it. Remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you make your pizza so the dough can come to room temperature.

Dough recipe (Chesua’a Perfect Pizza Dough) is from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt, 2017. Pesto recipe is from Saveur Magazine.

Spaghetti with Radish-Greens Pesto

3Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

I must admit: I am a pesto newbie. This was my first shot at it. And, I did not grow up eating it so I didn’t know what to expect as far as taste and texture. Being mostly Italian, I knew it had to be good…a little crunch, a lot of flavor! This autumn version is perfect. Who knew you could eat the greens of a radish? Not me. According to Food & Wine, you can also use beet or turnip greens, or even arugula for a similar outcome (I love arugula, have to try that one next). I was so pleasantly surprised by the final product. It was much less bitter and much more flavorful than I expected. I think the parmesan and the lemon are to thank. My favorite part is getting use of the entire vegetable– no waste! All combined, and topped with crushed pumpkin seeds, this pasta is sure to please this Thanksgiving. We’re almost there!!

Yield: 4 servings — Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Greens from 1 big bunch of radishes (8 loosely packed cups), chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
  • 3/4 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds (3 ounces), plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. In a food processor, combine the garlic, greens, parsley leaves and the 3/4 cup of pumpkin seeds; pulse until finely chopped. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Stir in the 1 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the pesto, lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Season with salt and pepper and toss over low heat until coated, about 2 minutes; add more pasta water if a thinner consistency is desired.
  3. Transfer the pasta to bowls and garnish with pumpkin seeds and cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Food & Wine, www.foodandwine.com

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

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Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco