Growing Pesto

serving 2

pesto & pasta

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.

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carrots, peas, string beans, Italian cicoria, Brussels sprouts

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artichokes, zinnias, Italian onions (plus ceramic painted cat from Mexico)

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.

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basil plant

We thought: man, we have to harvest some of this. Man, we HAVE to make some pesto!

cut basil

harvesting basil and parsley

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…

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Cipriano 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…

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shallot & walnuts

We cut a lot of basil from the plant but also cut some parsley.

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cut basil & parsley

Pinch the leaves from the stems. Discard stems.

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pick off the leaves of the herbs

Place shallots & nuts & basil & parsley leaves in the bowl of a food processor.

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shallot & walnuts in processor

Add some salt & pepper & drizzle a few turns of olive oil.

olive oil

adding olive oil

Pulse until broken down, but don’t go crazy. You don’t want a puree.

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pulsed pesto ready to use

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.

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Cipriani tagliarelle

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.

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add pasta water to pesto

Drain pasta and add to pesto. Toss well. Add some more pasta water to moisten. Drizzle some more olive oil to flavor and moisten.

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pasta & pesto

Dust with cheese, and bring some cheese to the table for individual servings.

serving

your serving of pasta & pesto

 

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.

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last bite

 

Easy Peasy Pasta

Orzo pouring in...!

Orzo pouring in…!

It’s the kind of pasta you eat when you’re hungry and you want to eat something fast. You want it to be ready in the time it takes water to boil and pasta to cook…about 20 minutes.

Why not choose orzo? Get it cooking in boiling salted water. Then open the refrigerator.

What’s there?

Maybe: a few grape tomatoes. A small bunch of broccoli. A few mushrooms. On the patio is a patch of arugula growing in a pot.

impromptu sauce ingredients

impromptu sauce ingredients

There’s garlic. Or onion. Or both. Salt & Pepper. Cut up & cook up all in a saute pan with a little olive oil.

Saute

Saute

When orzo is done, drain it, and keep a bit of pasta water. Add orzo to the saute pan.

Cooking orzo

Cooking orzo

Drizzle some olive oil. Mix to combine. Add some pasta water to moisten if needed. Season. Add grated cheese (parmigiano). Kick off your shoes. Sit down. Watch TV. (Glass of wine?)  Comfy.

When Spaghetti Hangs Around With Eggs. In Rome.

 

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I lived in Rome for a year while completing my third year in college. Actually, school was just an excuse to live there. My parents visited Rome for the first time a couple of years before. They were bowled over and came back booking the next trip to bring my sister and I. On my very first night in Rome I felt the world closing in around my heart and head. It was too much. I wanted out. I felt that crush of culture shock while that tug of “I know this very well” rushed underneath me.

By morning. I was in love. With Rome. I finagled a year there under the guise of going to school. My Roman roommate, Grazia (later to be called Enrica), was a free-spirited Roman, much to the chagrin of her parents. She moved out of her family home at 17 to live on her own. No one moved out of their family home unless they were getting married. Her dad disowned her for a few years but softened later.

Many adventures for me ensued under the wings of Grazia, but also within my college circle. But here I’d like to show you a recipe that made my jaw drop when I first saw Grazia make it. Spaghetti Frittata. Yes, spaghetti fried with eggs. A spaghetti omelet if you will. I loved it at first bite but was supremely skeptical till then.

This works best with leftover spaghetti in its leftover sauce — whatever it is! My favorite has turned out to be leftover spaghetti in a tomato shrimp sauce (yes, including the shrimp).

about 2-3 cups leftover spaghetti in sauce

5 large eggs

1/4 cup grated parmigiano or pecorino

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

In a mixing bowl, mix together the spaghetti, eggs, and cheese until well combined. Season with salt & pepper (remember, the spaghetti might be already seasoned, but the eggs need some). Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium oven-proof skillet…enough so the frittata won’t stick, or use a non-stick pan.  Heat until hot. Pour the egg-spaghetti mixture in and gently spread so it covers the width of the pan. Let cook a few minutes until the bottom is set, and then put under a broiler. Broil till top is set and golden. (Be carfeul taking out skillet from oven. When placing it out of the oven be sure to leave a pot holder on the handle so you don’t forget it’s hot!) With a spatula loosen frittata and slide onto a plate. Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter. Serve warm or at room temp.

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