The sun started to set over my mom's kitchen garden when the peppery basil plants whispered, "transform us into glorious pesto, Lindsay..." Ok, so that is a little over dramatic, but it was really so cool to go into a flourishing garden, grab a few handfuls of green, herb-y goodness, and just go with it.
If you have never made pesto before, now is definitely the time to start. Don't be afraid of this true green goddess of sauces. You will be amazed at how a few simple ingredients come together to form a masterpiece of flavor - each element enhancing the other into a harmonious summer sauce. In fact, the mother of authentic Italian cooking in America, Marcella Hazan, said that pesto is, "the most seductive all all sauces for pasta." For something that is never cooked, pesto is HOT.
Did I mention how crazy fast it is to make too? If you can get your hands on a food processor (like a Cuisinart) pesto takes less than a minute to assemble. If you are more of a purist (aka, kinda crazy) you can use a pestle and mortar which will take markedly longer, but hey it has worked for thousands of years, so who am I to judge?
Pesto - Six Servings
1 1/2 lbs of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, and penne all work well)
2 cups of fresh basil leaves tightly packed
1/2 to 2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil (the best you can get your hands on)
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
5-7 walnut halves
1 peeled clove of garlic
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons butter
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. While the pasta cooks, rinse the basil and spin dry. Place garlic, basil, nuts, cheese and oil in a food processor. Run the processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy (you may have to scrape down the sides a few times with a silicone spatula).
Reserve a few tablespoons of water from the pasta water when the pasta is done cooking, and mix with the butter. Drain pasta and add several heaping spoons of the pesto sauce and the water/butter mixture. Check for salt - add more if needed, and serve immediately.