Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pesto Madness

As shown by the picture above, my basil has gotten out of control. That's namely my fault because I have not used that much this summer (except for salads mostly). But I finally broke down and made pesto.
I have made pesto before a few times, and while I liked it, I was never in love with my recipe. The first time I followed a prep that was extremely oily. Next I thought there was too much garlic. I figured I should do some research before I attempt a third.
Whatever pesto recipe I look at, I tend to cut the oil in about half. I just think it’s a bit much, and it's much easier to add oil than it is to take it out. I mean, who has a centrifuge in their house? I don't (anymore). I also looked into the garlic in my recipe. I usually just peel a few cloves and add them into the pesto, but raw garlic has quite the bite. After some digging, I came across what Cook's Illustrated does, which is to toast the garlic cloves (in their skins) in a pan for a few minutes. This lessens the harshness of the garlic flavor and allows for a better texture. I also found I did not have enough pine nuts to make all the pesto I wanted, so I simply added some almonds to the mix and found that I really liked the nutty mixture.With my research done, I headed to the kitchen and proceeded to make about 4 cups of pesto. Yes, I had that much basil. The great thing about it is that pesto freezes really well, so I had it for dinner and then froze the rest for future applications. Pesto can be used in a variety of ways, but I think my favorite is simply tossed with pasta, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, and topped with fresh tomatoes.

Basil Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes
For the Pesto-

~2 cups packed basil leaves, washed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup pine nuts or almonds, toasted slightly
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a skillet over medium heat (probably the same one you used to toast the nuts), add in the garlic cloves, unpeeled, and toast while moving often until a few brown spots appear on the skins, about 5 minutes. Cool the garlic cloves to room temperature and peel. Add the nuts to your food processor or blender and pulse for 3 seconds. Add the garlic, basil, Parmesan, half the oil, salt, and pepper and chop until smooth. With the pesto chopping, drizzle in the remaining oil. Season to taste. You can freeze the pesto by pressing some plastic wrap over top of it and sealing in an air-tight container for up to 6 months. Makes enough for 1 pound pasta.

For the dish-

~3/4 cup Pesto
1 pound pasta
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Boil pasta until al dente, drain (reserving some of the water) and move to a large bowl. Immediately add the pesto and toss to combine. Add a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. Serve, topping with some cheese and sliced tomatoes. Enjoy!


Anonymous,  August 26, 2009 at 6:43 AM  

Like the addition of the tomatoes. Great flavours! You're so lucky to have so much basil!

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