Pesto is such a versatile thing. Is it a condiment, a dressing, a sauce? I don´t really know, and I certainly don´t care. I simply love eating it. We have such a strong Italian heritage that I´ve been eating it my whole life. My paternal grandmother used to make it with the mortar and pestle her mother used. Now my father has it because he obviously grew up eating their homemade pesto. Traditional pesto with just fresh basil, walnuts, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. I need to borrow it soon, the mortar and pestle I mean. It´s big, heavy, almost like a toy in the kitchen. For now I have to settle for a small one I bought. Or the food processor. Great little appliance.
I try to have pesto lying around. Pasta and pesto. The best last minute lunch or dinner. I usually don´t follow savory recipes exactly as directed; maybe except for the first time I make them. So today´s recipe has the right ingredients, but somewhat measured free-style. I had a pesto made without pine nuts, just walnuts. I threw it in the bowl of the food processor, added fresh spinach, olive oil, lemon juice and some mayonnaise. Then mixed it with the rest of the ingredients. I would´ve loved to have pine nuts but they are scarce. The lemon juice is very much needed in this recipe, to add a bit of freshness and acidic balance.
These last few years I discovered that pesto is a great match with whole wheat pasta. Especially ricotta-filled ravioli.
PASTA, PESTO AND PEAS
from Barefoot Contessa Parties, by Ina Garten
¾ pound (340g) fusilli pasta
¾ pound (340g) bow-tie pasta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups homemade Pesto (see recipe below)
1 10-ounce (285g) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ¼ cups mayonnaise
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/3 cup pine nuts (pignolis) toasted
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cook the fusilli and bow ties separately in a large pot of boiling salted water, until each pasta is al dente, according to manufacturers´ instructions. Drain and toss into a large bowl with the olive oil. Cool to room tº.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, purée the pesto, spinach and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and continue to purée.
¼ cups walnuts
¼ cups pine nuts
3 Tbs (9 cloves) diced garlic
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Place walnuts, pine nuts and garlic in the food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely puréed. Add the parmesan and purée for a minute.
Store in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film or layer of olive oil on top (to prevent oxidizing).