Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes

This is, hands-down, the perfect quick summer meal. Spencer's been asking for pesto pasta for several days, and was all smiles last night upon discovering it had made on our dinner menu. I made an impulse purchase at the store and picked up a pint of the most beautiful assortment of adorable organic heirloom tomatoes. Do other people make impulse buys like this??
I do not have a green thumb. This is the second year in a row I purchased a few basic vegetables and herbs for our garden, and have very little to show for it. Last year we watched peppers form and grow, and then get eaten by birds and critters. We're watching a repeat performance this year as tomatoes change from green to orange to red, and then discover a big hole eaten into the backside. Very, very discouraging. But, luckily, there is one exception.
Basil. Ah basil. It seems that each year the basil plant is something that can't help but thrive. And, it (almost) makes up for the lack of productivity of the other plants. Because nothing more delicious, and easy, than freshly-made pesto. I am told that it freezes excellently, but I can't seem to keep from eating it all up during the summertime.
A couple tips about making pesto that I have learned from mistakes. Make sure you have LOTS of basil. Pesto is about basil flavor. I have screwed up in the past by adding too many nuts. It should be mostly basil, a bunch of cheese, a sprinkling of nuts, garlic to taste, and oil to your desired consistency. And, to prevent it from oxidizing and discoloring in the fridge if you're not using it all right away, float a small quantity of olive oil over the top.

Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes

1/2 lb pasta
1 pint small tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 - 3/4 Cup, or more, pesto
  - fresh basil
  - grated parmesan cheese
  - pine nuts
  - fresh garlic
  - olive oil
  - salt & pepper

  1. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil for pasta, and cook according to directions. Reserve 1/2 Cup pasta water.
  2. Fill food processor with washed & dried basil leaves. Add a generous amount of cheese, some pine nuts, a few fresh garlic cloves, salt & pepper and some olive oil. Pulse a few times, then add additional olive oil as needed for desired consistency. If not using right away, leave it a bit on the thick side. Scoop pesto into a dish, smooth out the surface, and pour some olive oil evenly over the top.
  3. Toss hot pasta with pesto to coat, thinning with reserved pasta water if desired. Gently mix in tomatoes. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

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