Everyday Pesto

I grew up in a very divided household. My dad loves tomatoes and thus tomato sauce- saucy, chunky, bubbling on the stove for hours sauce. On the other hand, my mom tends to go lighter for her pasta dishes- barely there, just a hint of flavor, takes five minutes to make sauce.

I was never asked to pick a side and I thank them for that. I love both sides of the dish and will eat them without complaint. But I get what my mom was going for when we asked for pasta on a week night. She didn’t want, nor did she have the time, to sweat over the dutch oven, she certainly refused to serve a plate without some shade of green on it and she tried to cook with what was in the fridge not at the store.

Oil based sauces are easy, light and can even be delicious cold. There is none more fresh than pesto

Pesto feels like a Sunday dinner recipe with fabric napkins, appetizers to start and a bottle of white wine. But the most basic pesto recipe requires zero cooking which makes it more of a Tuesday-night recipe if I have ever heard of one.

Pesto is an overarching term that originates to mean to pound or crush. Pesto doesn’t just mean basil and pine nuts but can come in so many forms. You can make it with what you have on hand at home- walnuts, pine nuts, pecans, different herbs and cheeses- they all make a great pesto.

Once you have the base you can start throwing in extras- like this dish with peas and Cannellini beans. This pesto recipe adds an extra step but I think you will be able to handle it. Toasting the nuts and garlic before blending them gives their flavor an extra leg to stand on. But if you don’t have the time, skip it.

As you serve this up on an average week night, I hope you savor the pure flavor of something so simple and easy. Then, I hope you realize we only think certain recipes are fancy and upscale because they serve them for $27 at a restaurant. Most of them are in your wheelhouse- even if you only just started cooking.

So let’s start here and then we can tackle the my dad’s labour of love of Spaghetti and Meatballs tomorrow. Because like I said, both sides of a pasta dish are goooooooood.

Weeknight Pesto

makes 3/4 cup pesto

1/4 cup pine nuts, walnuts, pecans or almonds

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled

2 cups packed basil leaves

7 tablespoons olive oil, extra-virgin preferred

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, freshly grated preferred

1 tablespoon salt

1 lb. pasta

  1. Toast nuts on medium heat in skillet until golden and fragrant. Transfer to bowl and let cool. Toast garlic cloves until fragrant, let cool. Peel garlic and chop roughly.
  2. Bruise basil with flat side of spoon or roll with rolling pin. This helps release the flavor of the basil.
  3. In food processor or blender, blend nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil, and salt. Process till smooth, scraping down sides of bowl.
  4. Transfer to bowl and stir in parmesan. Taste and adjust salt.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3-4 days.

To serve with pasta:

serves 4

  1. Bring water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in large pot.
  2. Add pasta and cook till al dente- following package instructions and timing.
  3. Save a cup of pasta water.
  4. Drain pasta- do not rince.
  5. Add basil to warm pasta and toss. Add a little pasta water at a time if you need to thin the pesto.
  6. Add additional ingredients if desired.
  7. Serve!

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