{Products I Love} Nonna’s Spicy Red Pesto Review

I picked up Nonna’s Spicy Red Pesto at the Chile Pepper Festival last Fall and finally getting around to write about it. I’ve only had the traditional basil pesto before so when I saw this version I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I thought, “Is this really pesto?” and “Isn’t pesto’s main ingredient basil?”. Apparently, after looking it up, I learned that pesto is traditionally made with basil throughout Italy but other areas like Sicily use tomato as their main ingredient. Pesto actually means to pound or crush in Italian and was traditionally made using a motar and pestle, which is where the English word “pestle” got its name.  I’m all for this red pesto and happy they spiced this up properly too!

Nonnas-pesto

This spicy red pesto is no lightweight when it comes to heat. There’s a generous amount of habanero peppers to make the spiciness linger for a while. The paste is thick, chunky and great for adding to pastas, spreading on sandwiches and delicious all on its own with plain crackers or pretzels. The flavors are robust, bold, spicy and its strong concentrated tomato based flavor makes it perfect for mixing it into dishes without it losing its punch.

Nonnas-red-pesto

At first I thought a 4 oz jar was too small to get much use out of it but a little does go a long way. I was pleasantly surprised how it still maintained its flavor even after adding a little heavy cream for my lobster ravioli dish.

Nonnas-creamy-pesto

I mixed a tablespoon of the red pesto with about 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream and poured over the raviolis for a spicy, light and satisfying meal.

lobster-ravioli

Nonna’s spicy red pesto is just one of City Saucery’s products, they also make other tomato sauces using locally sourced ingredients from NY and NJ farms. I love that they started small and have had tremendous growth over the past few years which is a testament to their product. They’re sold online and in various retailers across the US, just check their website for more details. All in all, for $9 a jar, a wonderful product with all natural ingredients and worth every penny.

Ingredient List:  Sun-dried tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, lemon juice, vinegar, habanero peppers, garlic, sea salt and anchovies.

Panzanella Bread Salad with a Spicy Twist

Looking for a no-cook recipe you can toss together in less than 15 minutes? It’s hearty, rustic, vegetarian and hardly takes any effort at all. I first saw Lidia Bastianich make panzanella bread salad years ago in one of her visits to the Italian countryside. I don’t remember her recipe exactly but she basically tossed a few ingredients into a bowl and mashed them all up with her hands. So simple, so easy and so delicious I had to make this panzanella bread salad with a spicy twist!

spicy-panzanella

Panzanella is a bread salad made with tomatoes and popular in the Tuscan region of Italy. The bread is soaked with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil and basically that’s it!

italian-bread

cubed-bread

I added chopped cherry peppers that I pickled some time ago and it gave the panzanella a nice tangy, spicy flavor. It’s not over the top spicy but if you want it spicier you can add your own pickled hot peppers. Adding a little of the pickled juice will work as well but that’s entirely optional.

panzanella-ingredients

cherry-tomatoes
Take all the ingredients and mash them up for a bowl of zesty Tuscan flavors! You have to try this one, it’s sure to be a hit at your next event! Have you made panzanella before? If so, what are your favorite combinations? Please, chime in!
spicy-panzanella2

 

Spicy Panzanella

Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Servings: 6 -8
Author: Maria

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf crusty Italian bread cubed
  • 1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pickled cherry peppers chopped
  • 4-5 large basil leaves torn apart
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  • Add bread to a large bowl and toss in tomatoes, cherry peppers, basil, drizzle in olive oil and vinegar. Add just a pinch of salt & pepper.
  • Mix all ingredients with your hands and squish everything together so all is well mixed.
  • Serve in a large bowl and have as a side or main course.

 

 

Easy Sunday Dinner: Spicy Chicken Meatballs with Spaghetti

The last thing I want to do on a Sunday is prepare an elaborate meal, unless there’s a special holiday coming up which is what I’ll be doing next week Sunday for Easter. During those times I don’t mind since I love the times spent with family but most of the time, I just want to chill out on a Sunday. Get up, walk the dog, make breakfast with some strong Bustelo coffee, watch the Sunday news and kick back. I might make plans to go into the city to check out an artsy or foodie event but if I stay in I want to make easy meals. Sometimes I’ll make large quantities so I can have some for dinner or lunch during the week and this is one of those dishes! The all too familiar spaghetti and meatballs but kicked up with a little heat and made with ground chicken…for an easy Sunday dinner.

I usually have beef meatballs but wanted to try chicken instead for a much healthier version….AND with all the pink slime talk I’ve kind of been turned off by ground beef again. I don’t know why people are flipping out because it really isn’t new news but guess with of all the attention it’s getting it’s fresh on everyone’s mind. Ever since that book came out, Fast Food Nation, I’ve been eating less red meat and processed foods in general. It’s all about moderation and buying foods from stores and butchers you trust so I say, eat what you like, just make informed choices. OK, so back to the meatballs…

After you make your meatballs, refrigerate them since you’ll need to make your sauce next and it will need to simmer it for at least 30 minutes. OR you can start your sauce first and then make your meatballs while sauce is simmering. Basically you want the flavors to blend well together. Place the lid on while simmering.

Place the meatballs into the sauce carefully, you don’t want them to break apart. Ladle the sauce over each meatball so they’re covered and cook for another 30 minutes.

I always thought meatballs were so complicated but just look how simple it is. I’d say the most difficult part or laborious part, since it wasn’t difficult at all, was rolling each meatball…and really, who can’t do that?

Serve it family style, with a salad, some crusty Italian bread, and a nice bottle of wine and just chill out and enjoy your Sunday evening.

Serrano Chile Chicken Meatballs and Spaghetti
1 lb ground chicken
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chile pepper, diced
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric

In a bowl add the ground chicken, onion, garlic, chile pepper, and bread crumbs and mix well. In a separate bowl beat the egg then add the salt, black pepper, cumin and turmeric and mix well. Add the egg mixture to the meat and mix well.

Make the meatballs by spooning meat into hand and rolling. You should have about 12 golf ball sized meatballs.

After you make the sauce and it has simmered for 30 minutes, add the meat balls to the spicy tomato sauce and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Make spaghetti according to directions on the box, drain and spoon the meatballs over it.

Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 30 oz can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 jalapenos, sliced
4 basil leaves, ripped apart
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

In a large pot (large enough to hold all meatballs), heat up oil on high heat. Add onion and let cook until translucent. Stir in jalapenos then add the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes. Mix well then add the garlic, basil leaves, salt, sugar, and black pepper. Turn heat down to low, cover pot and let sauce simmer on low heat for about 1/2 hour.

You can make it spicier by adding extra jalapenos and serrano chiles but I really like this heat level, you can taste all the ingredients in the meatballs and the sauce.

Serve with spaghetti or make meatball hoagies, either way its a great meal!