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April is an awkward month for vegetables. The promise of spring is in the air but the farmer’s market is still relatively barren. So instead of reaching for another bunch of carrots or head of cabbage (delicious as they are), I turned to the pantry and came up with sun dried tomatoes.

Pesto is a quintessentially summer dish, but when basil can’t be found, you can use sun dried tomatoes (or spinach, or arugula, or ramps!!!) to whip up a batch. Also, no need to rely on traditional – and expensive – pine nuts. Walnuts or even hazelnuts or well. The key is the ratio of ingredints – use 4 parts veggies to one part nuts.

This makes a lot of pasta. Note that you can multiply the proportions for the pesto to make extras – it freezes well.

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Ingredients:
1 pound dried pasta (use whatever shape/variety you like, but whole wheat works well here)
1 pound chicken sausage, removed from casing
Olive oil
2 cups sun dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta plus more for serving
2 cloves garlic

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and liberally sprinkle with salt. When water is boiling, stir in pasta and reduce heat to simmer. Let cook til al dente then remove from heat and drain. Toss with a little olive oil and set aside.

2. While water is heating, drizzle olive oil in a large pan and set heat to medium. Add in sausage and break into smallish clumps. Sauté til lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Next, prepare the pesto: drain the sun dried tomatoes, reserving 1/2 cup olive oil. Place tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse with the walnuts, garlic and reserved olive oil until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper (careful – sun dried tomatoes tend to be salty!), then blend with ricotta.

4. Combine the pesto, pasta and sausage and toss. Dish into bowls then top with dollops of ricotta.

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