RECIPE: Make dinner in a flash with presto pesto pasta

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Store-bought pesto can be a lifesaver during the busy weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Pesto really doesn’t need anything other than a box of dried pasta to make a meal if you’re short on time or energy. If you purchase it but need to pivot plans for last-minute parties, it’ll keep just fine in the pantry. Plus, pesto brings fresh, summer energy to dinner when it is cold and dark outside.

To give pesto pasta a little extra oomph, I add a bit of chopped cooked Italian sausage and Kalamata olives. Both ingredients can be stored for a long time, so they fit right in with the pantry ethos of the dish. Browning the sausage in a bit of olive oil heightens its flavor and renders some of its fat — save this mixture to brown a large handful of panko breadcrumbs when serving. A little extra crunch goes a long way to bring texture to this otherwise relatively soft dish, and infusing the breadcrumbs with the flavor of the sausage brings the whole dish together.

This dish is also versatile. Swap veggie sausage for Italian sausage, or add smoky kielbasa instead. Stir in drained, canned cannellini beans rather than olives if you prefer more protein and less salt. Or skip those altogether and add more cheese with the breadcrumbs for an additional hit of umami.

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Pesto Pasta with Sausage and Olives