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

 

it’s time for butternut squash ravioli

Oh, yeah.

We made them in class tonight and all of us cooks in the kitchen flew around the dining room on an autumn breeze (even tho in Nashville it’s been averaging a sunny 80 degrees in the afternoons).

No matter. We whipped up this elixir of creamy filling in delicate pasta and bathed it in parsley-mint-walnut pesto. We couldn’t believe our tongues. Palates lighting up with sparks of tasty joy.

Join our journey. Recipe at end.

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

Fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli w Parsley-Walnut Pesto

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash

1 cup ricotta

½ cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano)

1/2  teaspoon of ground nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

2 cups fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled, rough chopped

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheese

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, and shape into a mound. Create a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and most or all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Rinse the squash and dry. Cut into quarters and spoon out the seeds. Place cut-side down on foil-lined sheet pan or casserole pan. Add about 1/2 -inch of water. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until flesh is tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the squash into a medium mixing bowl. Mash the squash with a fork and add the cheeses, nutmeg. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the next-to-the-last number on the machine. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers to keep it from sticking in the machine.

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant ½-tablespoons of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Make the Sauce: Add the herbs, garlic, and walnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to your pasta serving bowl.

Cook the ravioli: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt water. Drop in the ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add a few spoonfuls  of pasta water to loosen and turn it from a paste to a sauce. Combine with ravioli. Sprinkle grated cheese on top.