JENNIFER ALEXANDER RUPLE
Presto! Let’s make pesto!
A staple in Italian cuisine, sweet basil’s aroma exudes the essence of summer. Known for its bold and peppery flavor, the fresh herb is also the star ingredient in pesto sauce. The classic combination of fresh basil, along with pine nuts, olive oil and cheese, pesto lends itself to so many culinary options – a sauce for pasta, fish or chicken; a topping for crostini; or a base for pizza and flatbread. Pesto’s versatility and ease of preparation will beckon you to make batch after batch all summer long.
Basil Pesto Sauce
Using just a handful of ingredients, pesto sauce can be prepared in less than 15 minutes. It also does fine with substitutions – feel free to use walnuts instead of pine nuts or any salty, hard cheese such as Parmesan, Asiago or Romano. Recipe yields 1 cup of sauce.
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a small frying pan over low. Add pine nuts and toast for about 6-8 minutes, shaking pan every minute or so. To the bowl of a food processor, add pine nuts and pulse. Add herbs and garlic and pulse again. Next stream olive oil in while processor is in the on position. Add cheese and pulse. Season with salt and pepper.
Store leftover pesto in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days with a thin layer of olive oil over it, or freeze it in small batches in an ice cube tray.
Pasta with Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes
This fragrant pasta combines the quintessential flavors of summer – basil along with basil’s best friend, tomatoes. Enjoy this this dish warm or serve it cold like a pasta salad. With so many pasta shapes available, choose one with curves that will embrace all that delicious pesto sauce – try rotini (corkscrews), farfalle (butterflies) or orecchiette (little ears).
10 ounces grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces pasta
1/2 cup fresh basil pesto sauce
4 ounces fresh mozzarella balls (Ciliegine), halved
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
Heat oven to 400 F. In a medium-sized baking dish, combine tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Roast for approximately 20 minutes. While tomatoes roast, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Keep warm. In a large serving bowl, combine pasta with pesto sauce. Add tomatoes and stir gently. Top pasta with fresh mozzarella and toasted pine nuts. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.