Comfort Food

Presto, Pesto!

March 18, 2015

What is it about Pesto that it makes everything extra scrumptious? Pesto is a very handy ingredient to have around if you have unexpected company and don’t know what to make in a pinch. Ditto if kids come over: Like Mac’ ‘n Cheese, almost everyone likes some kind of noodle smothered in Pesto.

Not everyone where I live has tasted Pesto, and I love to take in the look of happy surprise when a child takes a first swallow of warm pasta with yummy pesto. Pesto is also really convenient to have on hand since it can be served hot or cold, and it both freezes and defrosts well.

If you have access to fresh basil, it’s easy to make your own, plus some extra for freezing. If you don’t feel like whipping it up, there are many tasty brands to be found at the supermarket in jars (I don’t like the Pesto flavoring envelopes.)

It’s not always easy or within my budget to find pine nuts, so I have come to substitute Walnuts as my standard recipe, and so far, no one has noticed.  Plus, Walnuts are healthy. Here’s my recipe for Pesto sauce, served in the photo over gluten-free rice noodles and then mixed — at the last minute and while the noodles are hot — with whole Arugula or Spinach leaves. (Although not shown in the photo, this dish is nicer and more finished when topped off with toasted Walnuts or Pine Nuts or Pecans.)

Pesto, My Way
In a food processor, blender, or using a hand-blender, process:

2 Cups packed, fresh basil leaves
3 Teeth garlic, smashed
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 1/3 Cup Olive Oil (or drizzle in a little more if you see you need it when you start blending)
1/3 Cup Walnuts, lightly toasted (or Pine Nuts, which is traditional)
Juice 1/4 Lemon
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Tip: If you find you don’t have quite enough sauce, you can make it “stretch,” do this:  just before serving , add to your Pesto 1/2 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (not you, Vegans!).

Tip: Break the rules: don’t be married to using only the traditional Pine Nuts. I have gotten quite used to Walnuts, and I think it would be interesting to experiment with other nuts you have handy, such as Brazil or Pecan.( But not peanuts.)


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