Sunday, July 24, 2011

Today I have a recipe for Fresh Basil Pesto Pasta…

Well it’s been a while since my last post, and I sure have missed writing about my culinary thoughts. It's good to be back!

Fresh Basil Pesto Pasta

Pesto is extremely versatile, delicious and incredibly simple. This is the perfect example of a recipe where less is more...enjoy.

2 cups fresh basil…only fresh will do my friends!!
1/4 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
Juice from 1/4 lemon
1/2 - 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2T reserved pasta water
12 ounces spaghetti
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 cup fresh mozzarella pearls (mini fresh mozzarella balls)…(pearls sound so much prettier, no?)
2 grilled chicken breasts, or grilled shrimp, or grilled salmon...or whatever makes you smile!

  1. In a blender or Cuisinart chop the garlic. Next add the basil, walnuts, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper... blend. You may have to stop the blender a few times to push the basil down with the end of your wooden spoon. Do not attempt to push the basil down while the blender is running...After all, this is not a recipe for Fresh Basil Wood-Chip Pesto Pasta.
  2. With the blender still running, slowly drizzle in the other 1/4 cup olive oil, adding more if needed.
  3. Pour the pesto into a bowl and stir in the parmesan cheese...Whammo, you have a deliciously fresh sauce for your pasta.*
  4. Place the pesto in the bottom of the serving dish and whisk in 2 tablespoons of the reserved hot pasta water to loosen it a bit. If needed, add more hot water a little at a time until the sauce is smooth enough to coat the pasta.
  5. Place the hot pasta over the sauce and toss to coat each awaiting strand of spaghetti.  
  6. Add the tomatoes, olives & mozzarella cheese and gently toss together allowing these goodies to mingle with the pesto pasta. The mozzarella cheese will begin to melt with the heat of the pasta...such cheesy goodness!!!!!!
  7. Top with the grilled chicken.
 Pesto sauce should not be exposed to direct heat because of the amount of cheese that is in it…the sauce will get bitter and chewy in texture…blech!!! How does it get hot you ask? The heat from the reserved water along with the heat of the pasta will warm the pesto perfectly.

*If you aren't planning to use the pesto sauce immediately, it can be refrigerated at this point up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 months.

Alternatives, ideas and suggestions:
  • Looking for a creamier sauce? Add around 1/4 cup ricotta cheese. This will raise your sauce to the next level. 
  • Pesto isn’t just for pasta!!! Line a small bowl with saran wrap and add enough pesto to cover 1/2 inch of the bottom of the bowl. Fill the bowl almost to the top with softened cream cheese, cover with saran wrap and put in the fridge. When the cream cheese has set, remove the saran wrap and flip the bowl upside down onto a serving plate. Remove the saran wrap and you have a wonderfully glorious dip. 
  • Pesto makes a great sandwich spread, especially on a panini with prosciutto, provolone cheese & thinly sliced pear…Ab Fab!  (ie: absolutely fabulous…ha!) 
  • Traditionally this recipe calls for pine nuts instead of walnuts, but because I am still bruised from the economic punch I use walnuts. I recently read a recipe that called for sunflower seeds instead of nuts…it sounds delightful and I will definitely give this a try…SOON!
  • Pesto is one of my favorite sauces for PIZZA!!! Talk about taking a dish to the next level, I just can’t get enough of this amazingly delicious pizza. Tasty accompaniments are sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese…YUM
  • Looking for something to zazz up your pork tenderloin? Why not pesto?!!? It also works well on pasta salad, bruschetta and steak too.
  • If you’re watching your waistline, you can use pesto in potato salad instead of mayo!! To loosen the sauce, add about 1/4 cup rice vinegar until you reach the desired consistency. Toss with yellow and red bell peppers for a beautiful and healthy side dish.
  • Try pouring the pesto on a tomato and mozzarella salad with a slow drizzle of a good quality balsamic vinegar…jazzy…
·         I could go on and on with ideas, but I have to stop somewhere!!

        Now get out there and play with your pesto!!