I had a friend visit unexpectedly a couple weeks ago and I had to come up with something fast and easy for dinner. I immediately thought of pesto pasta – most people love it, and Lord knows I have enough basil to make a couple batches. And Jen’s a suburban girl with no real experience gardening, so I was able to give her a taste of what it’s like to harvest your own food for dinner. We picked handfuls of basil and proceeded to cook.
We took our meal outside while some other girlfriends were hanging out inside. By the time I came back inside, I’m pretty sure every one of the girls that were hanging out inside had taken a couple bites of the extra pasta I had made. I got compliments left and right, and one foodie told me that it was the best pesto she had ever had and that I’m welcome to make it for her *any* time. Quite a compliment coming from this woman!
I absolutely love the taste of homemade pesto. This year, I planned accordingly when planting my garden, and I have 10 basil plants that I pick from regularly to make this awesome sauce. At some point, I’ll need to start freezing it so I can have the taste of summer in the dead of winter, but for now, I get it fresh, which is the best way to have it.
This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated with only one minor change (I decreased the olive oil because I figured that my waist wouldn’t miss the extra two tablespoons). If you haven’t figured it out by now, I LOVE Cooks Illustrated recipes. I recommend that at some point you either buy their online membership or get their magazine or both. I think what makes this particular pesto recipe so great is that garlic is neither raw nor cooked – it’s right in the middle, lending the perfect potency to pair with the rest of the sauce.
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic, threaded on a skewer
5 tbps olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound penne or bow tie pasta (if using)
Start a pot of boiling water for the pasta. You need it to have enough water it in that you can completely submerge the skewered garlic.
Put the basil leaves in a bag and pound them, mush them, bruise them, or crush them. Call it what you want, but you want them to be darker in color and a bit wrinkly looking
Toast the pine nuts in a pan on the stove until golden brown. Watch these carefully – they burn quickly.
Skewer the garlic and place in a pot of boiling water for 45 seconds. Remove skin. If you’re making pasta, start cooking it now.
Add pesto leaves, nuts, garlic, and salt to food processor. Blend until everything is well ground. Add olive oil and blend until well mixed. Remove from food processor and put in another bowl.
Add Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season with salt to taste.
Add to cooked pasta, if using.
Serving suggestion: add some sun-dried tomatoes and cubed chicken to make it an even more filling and tasty treat!