Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spaghetti with Fresh Pesto

I was lucky that the first rains this past week didn't do the summer basil in so thought I should make use of the diminishing opportunity to finally make some pesto.




This is a simple and very easy version that I first learned many years ago. There are dozens of other good takes on pesto, including various alternate ingredients such as walnuts, spinach, sans cheese, etc., but this is the one I consider to be comfort food.
I use to make it with way too much garlic but have since calmed it down as no one else could tolerate the sharp flavors. This one seems to work for everyone.



2 cups packed basil leaves
2 tablespoons parsley leaves
2 tablespoons raw pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated
1 pound spaghetti
Salt as needed

A couple of caveats on my part here: use only the freshest of the herbs. I've tried toasting the pine nuts but raw yields the better flavor overall. Use only real Parmigiano Reggiano - don't ever use the stuff pre-grated in cans - I'd even avoid both domestic versions and certainly anything else pre-grated. The real stuff is a bit expensive but if it's kept well-wrapped and refrigerated, it will last a long time, and the flavor is so good, a little will go a long way. And of course, the better the quality of the olive oil, the better the final results. As with everything, the quality of the ingredients is key.

Remove the leaves from the basil.


Add the leaves with the pine nuts, garlic cloves, cheese and half of the olive oil into a food processor. Close the processor and turn it on full. In the opening at the top, slowly pour the remainder of the olive oil as the processor continues; you're ultimately looking for a paste with creamy consistency. Add more olive oil little by little if necessary to get the consistency you like.


This is the consistency I personally like. Season with salt to taste.



Boil 4 quarts of salted water in a large pot and add the pasta.


Drain the pasta and portion out to separate bowls. Add enough of the pesto to each bowl to cover the pasta when it is stirred in.

For this meal, we had a salad of fennel slices, orange slices, beet slices, and grapes dressed with a combination of saba syrup and olive oil, seasoned with kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper.