Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rigatoni with Homemade Pesto

One of the first things we did when we arrived in Houston was to buy fresh herbs in pots for the back deck:  Rosemary, basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley and thyme. We are fortunate to have Buchanan’s Native Plants in the neighborhood with their great selection of wonderful plants.  All of the herbs are healthy and growing but the basil has really taken off!  Which only means one thing: pesto!

2-3 big branches of overgrown basil
1-2 large cloves of garlic , peeled and coarsely chopped (I only had one but would have put two if it had been available.)
45g or 1.6 ounces of raw pine nuts
100g or 4 ounces of Parmesan
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
500g or about 1 pound rigatoni pasta

Special Equipment
Hand blender

Toast the pine nuts in a dry non-stick skillet.

Pick the leaves off of the basil branches and finely grate the Parmesan. 

Put 100ml or 4 ounces olive oil in the hand blender container. Add the toasted pine nuts, half the basil leaves and half the Parmesan.  Blend for a couple of minutes and then add the balance of the basil and the Parmesan and a few good grinds of fresh black pepper. If the pesto is too thick, add more olive oil, starting with another 2 ounces. Blend until the pesto is smooth and of even consistency.   This will make enough pesto for two or three meals.  It keeps in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It can be frozen and will still be tasty but it is most delicious fresh.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Save some pasta water in a cup before draining in a colander.  After draining, pour the pasta back in the hot pot and add a great dollop of pesto, according to your taste. 

Mix thoroughly and serve.  (If you are not serving immediately, wait to add the pesto until you are ready. Loosen the pasta with some reserved pasta water first and warm through before adding the pesto.)

Serve topped with extra Parmesan.  This can be a complete meal on its own or it also makes a great side dish.   We served ours with a small fillet each of single-hook-caught wild salmon from Whole Foods, simply pan-fried in a non-stick skillet with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a touch of olive oil.

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