Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pesto - The Other Pasta Sauce

Pesto is a tasty alternative to tomato sauce when you're cooking pasta. It's herby, nutty, cheesy and quick to throw together.  If you're growing your own basil, pesto is also a great way to use it up and freezes extremely well. Just pour it into a container, adda thin layer of oil to the top, and freeze.

Ingredients:
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (see note below)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 c. loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano would be best)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Note:  Some classic pesto recipes call for pine nuts, not walnuts.  Pine nuts are ridculously expensive (around $6.00 for a 1 cup bag) and walnuts costs signifcantly less.  To me, the flavor is the same, and you're saving a lot of money!

Directions:
1. Heat the oil, nuts, and garlic cloves in a skillet over medium heat.


2. While the oil is heating, place the basil, cheese, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender.

3. When the oil starts to sizzle, remove the skillet from the heat (you're just heating the oil and lightly toasting the garlic and nuts). Add the garlic and nuts to the basil mixture. Pour the oil into a measuring cup or other container with a pourable spout.

4. Turn on the food processor/blender and let it run until the mixture is finely chopped. Slowly stream in the oil until a homogenous mixture is formed.  It should be a thin paste, not a runny sauce.

At this point, give it a taste. One of the best things about pesto is that it's very forgiving and you can play with the amount of ingredients as needed. Add more basil, salt, pepper or cheese to get it to the flavor you want. If it's too thick, stream in some more oil to loosen it up.

Enjoy!