Spring has finally sprung here in NYC. The birds are chirping, the flowers are a bloomin’ and the weather is warming up. As the temperature rises, even I want to spend less time in the kitchen and more time outside playing. This doesn’t mean I want to spend less time eating good food, I just want lighter, healthier fare. I want meals that don’t sacrifice flavor for time. I want real food, real tasty food and I want it FAST!
That’s why today I’m talking Pesto, my friends.
Yup. That’s right! Pesto is one of my secrets to getting dinner on the table in a flash. This entire dish can be made in the time it takes to boil up some pasta. Pesto meets all of my qualifications for a weeknight meal: quick, simple to prepare (but can easily be made in advance and frozen), and most importantly, healthy and delicious. Pesto pasta is a great dish to serve warm, cold or at room temperature, making it perfect for lunchboxes, summer BBQ’s or beach outings.
When most people think of pesto, they think of Pesto Alla Genovese (the basil kind). Traditional pesto originated in Genoa Italy and is most often made by pounding garlic, pine nuts, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle. The word “pesto” is a derivative of the word “pestare”, which means to pound or crush in reference to the mortar and pestle method traditionally used to make the sauce. So technically a “pesto” can be made by pounding (or food processing) a variety of different ingredients together. The amount of each ingredient should be according to taste, but you want the texture to be a sort of rough paste. Play around and have fun! I promise, you can’t mess this up. I love experimenting in the kitchen with different greens and nuts to come up with new and exciting versions of this tasty sauce.
Some of My Favorite Pesto Variations:
-toasted almonds+arugula+parm cheese+olive oil+garlic+ salt and pepper
-basil+oil cured olives+garlic+parm cheese+ olive oil
-sun dried tomatoes+parm cheese+ basil+pine nuts+garlic+olive oil
-parsley+ toasted hazelnuts+ garlic+olive oil+ squeeze lemon
Other Ways To Use Pesto Sauce:
-Tasty Side-toss boiled baby red potatoes in a few tablespoons of fresh pesto.
-Party Appetizer- spread it on crusty bread, top with a slice of fresh mozzarella and a sun dried tomato.
-Super Sandwich Spread- spread pesto on crusty bread, top with grilled or fried chicken cutlet and a slice of mozz.
-Elegant Brunch/Breakfast- mix it into eggs for a pesto scramble or melt some mozzarella and pesto inside of an omelet.
Pea, Spinach and Walnut Pesto
Makes about 1 cup of sauce
1 lb of your favorite pasta
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup baby spinach
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
squirt of lemon juice
1. Boil pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking make the sauce.
2. Heat peas in the microwave for 30 seconds. Dump peas, spinach, garlic, walnuts and parmigiano reggiano cheese into a food processor. Pulse until mixture is coarsely chopped. With the processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil through the feed tube and process until mixture is very smooth, about 5 minutes. Mix as much sauce as you desire with hot pasta. Serve and enjoy!
I like to make a huge batch of pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. When I’m craving a taste of summer in the middle of winter, all I need to do is defrost a few cubes, toss it with some pasta and I’m good to go. Dinner in 10 minutes flat.