We moved a few months ago and one of the perks of the new place is garden room. My inner love for soil and green is having a — literal — field day. Yes, after 30 years of NYC life (which I loved) I’m very happy to get my hands in the dirt!
We’re growing string beans, peas, carrots, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, ghost peppers, AND from seeds brought back from Italy: cicoria, Roman artichokes, Italian onions, and hot red cherry peppers.
And, of course, my favorite complement of herbs. I’d been growing herbs at our last patio garden and thrilled to the ability of going out the back door to snip herbs fresh for cooking. (Unlike being on the 6th floor of an apartment building staring out the window at cement.) Now we’ve got some more space for more herbs.
The basil plant that went into the ground about a month ago, filled out so fast into a sizable bush, and already started to flower.
We thought: man, we have to harvest some of this. Man, we HAVE to make some pesto!
I love when I have to make pesto. We even bought a fancy pasta to have with it (this expensive pasta was on sale…yay!): Cipriani’s tagliarelle…
You know, you don’t have to wait for basil to grow to have pesto. You can make pesto from any green thing you like. Here’s what I like: arugula, watercress, parsley, mint, even spinach & broccoli rabe. Mix them up. A few greens together. I’ve even pared down the traditional recipe and often leave out garlic (kinda strong). I love adding nuts, but not always pine nuts. Sometimes almonds (they love this in Sicily) or walnuts. I don’t add cheese until the pesto is mixed with the pasta. Cheese sometimes turns the pesto too gooey.
Here’s what I cooked up the other day.
For an aromatic I used shallot. Peeled & rough chopped. For the nuts: I used walnuts…
We cut a lot of basil from the plant but also cut some parsley.
Pinch the leaves from the stems. Discard stems.
Place shallots & nuts & basil & parsley leaves in the bowl of a food processor.
Add some salt & pepper & drizzle a few turns of olive oil.
Pulse until broken down, but don’t go crazy. You don’t want a puree.
Scrape the pesto into your serving bowl. Meanwhile bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Salt water generously, add pasta. Cook to al dente.
Before you drain the pasta spoon some pasta water into the pesto to loosen it and make it more like a sauce…less like a paste.
Drain pasta and add to pesto. Toss well. Add some more pasta water to moisten. Drizzle some more olive oil to flavor and moisten.
Dust with cheese, and bring some cheese to the table for individual servings.
You’ll get deep fresh flavor. Garden umami. Satisfying and so quick!
Fresh Pesto w Pasta
2 cups basil leaves or combination of herbs i.e. parsley or mint
1 medium shallot, peeled & rough chopped
1/2 cup walnuts
olive oil for drizzling
12 ounces pasta (your favorite — any can work)
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino
Pinch the leaves off the sprigs of herbs. Discard stems. Place herb leaves, shallots & walnuts in the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt & pepper. Drizzle some olive oil (about 1/3 cup or to your liking). Pulse until broken down but not a full “puree.”
Meanwhile bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Salt generously. Boil pasta until al dente.
Add some pasta water to the pesto to loosen and make more like a sauce. Add drained pasta. Toss to coat well. Add some more pasta water and/or drizzle more olive oil to moisten and flavor. Dust with grated cheese. Pass more cheese at the table for individual servings.