This pesto Tilapia with Linguine is one of the fastest and easiest dishes I have whipped up in a while. Short on sauce but BIG on flavor, this dish is perfect on a weeknight.
Lately my life has been a revolving door of cold pizza, cold cuts and cold leftovers. Today I decided that I want something HOT. Maybe not spicy hot, but warm, filling and something that wont leave me feeling quite so terrible. However, the last thing I really felt like doing was slaving over the stove all evening preparing a fantastic meal.
So you see my dilemma.
Instead I thought, hmm, I’ve got some tilapia filets in the fridge… some leftover pesto to use up… and I think I’ve got some pasta in the pantry… And so this dish was born out of pure laziness and foodie ingenuity. All I had to do was preheat the oven, slather on some of that pesto (nectar of the gods, I tell you), boil some pasta and saute some tomatoes, garlic and onions. Bam. Done. Just like that. And the best part was timing it like I did, I had it on the table and in my mouth in 30 minutes. I’ve done photo shoots that lasted longer than that.
After all of that, I was so ready to stuff my face that about halfway through I already started feeling full. Turns out I hadn’t even spent enough time on this to work up an appetite. Go figure.
Now there are some little things I’ll include here and in the recipe to really bring out the best flavor and consistency in this dish. I used to think that cooking pasta was fool proof. You boil the water, add pasta, toss with sauce and then suddenly you have an awesome meal. While this may be true, it was in reading Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that I learned that cooking pasta is a true art. If you want to up your Italian game at all, I highly recommend giving this book a read. (And no, I was not paid to say that. Or like, at all. So this is coming straight from me)
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking… Man, that is a mouthful. Let’s call it ECIC. In the pages of ECIC you wont find drool worthy food porn shots on every other page or step-by-step photos. In fact, the most illustration is found in the small sketches found in some of the foreword. Instead, it boasts 700 pages of straight up KNOWLEDGE. I know I already said it, but I really do highly recommend reading this cookbook. Not only does it have great, simple and flavorful recipes, it took my Italian cooking from 1 to 11.
As for this recipe, I recommend boiling your pasta the moment the fish goes into the oven, that way it is al dente a few minutes before the fish comes out and it can be plated immediately. You don’t want the pasta sitting out for too long getting dry and sticky. According to ECIC, pasta is at its absolute best when it is drained, tossed and eaten immediately.
ECIC also warned me against something I had been doing all of my life and I still see some people doing today. Do not, I repeat, do not saute the garlic at the same time as your onions. They cook at different rates, so by the time your onion is soft and delicious, your garlic is way past burnt. Add the garlic towards the very end, just long enough to let it soften and become really aromatic. Yum.
Anyway, if you make this meal, drop me a line in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time. x
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- 4 tilapia filets, or other firm white fish
- 1/4 c. prepared pesto
- 1 lb linguine, or another long, stringy pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine
- 1/4 c. plus 1 TB olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 3 plum tomatoes, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400 F
- Fill a large pot with water and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil.
- Lightly season each fish filet with salt and pepper, then place on a shallow baking pan. Spread the pesto over the top of each filet, about 1 TB each.
- Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until the fish is white and flakes easily with a fork.
- While the fish is baking, boil the pasta al dente according to package directions. Typically 8-10 minutes.
- Place a medium skillet over medium heat and pour in 1 TB of the olive oil.
- Add the onion and tomatoes and saute, gently, for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent and the tomatoes begin to stew. Add the garlic and continue cooking for an additional minute.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the same pot. Pour the remaining olive oil over the pasta and toss to combine, then add the tomato, onion and garlic mixture, tossing again to combine. Add the Parmesan or Asiago cheese and continue tossing until the cheese has melted with the pasta.
- Plate with the fish and enjoy!
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