Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Pesto Pasta Salad

 I'm so excited to share two really wonderful recipes with you today. For a very long time, I have wanted to make my own pesto, but have never gotten around to it, for a couple of reasons. The first would be that every time I plant my own basil, we seem to have a bit of a love-hate relationship! They struggle in pots and then when I plant them in the ground, crazy bugs attack them. So, my journey towards fresh basil has been a long one. That all changed this weekend when I acquired some from my sister-in-law Jennifer's amazingly rich and HUGE garden.

I decided to give it a try, and it is so good. I wish I could describe the smell of fresh basil being mixed with olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan in the food processor. Tantalizing! Now, I will give you my little plug for walnuts in pesto. The price for pine nuts was $18.15/lb. and I don't know about you, but that was a little too expensive for my taste, so we substituted walnuts instead. They were fantastic! I really love the nutty and smooth quality walnuts gave to the pesto. They are definitely growing on me and becoming a favorite nut for recipes. 

You can customize this salad and the pesto to your specific tastes and preferences. I added a little more olive oil than the original recommended 1/2 cup, because I like my pesto to be a bit thinner. And for the salad, cucumbers and tomatoes fresh from the garden were a perfectly fresh combination along with the olives and pesto. Other options could be carrots, fresh mozzarella cubes, peas, or sweet peppers. Whatever you like. I hope your journey to pesto is not as ill-fated as mine. Enjoy!

Fresh Basil Pesto
(adapted from Simply Recipes)

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. 
  3. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Serve with pasta or with freshly sliced baguette.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Pesto Pasta Salad

16 oz. package rotini, penne, or farfalle
tomatoes, diced
cucumber, diced
black olives, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh basil pesto (recipe above)
fresh basil leaves, sliced in chiffonade
freshly grated Parmesan

  1. Boil pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, chop tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. 
  2. Rinse pasta in colander under cool water. 
  3. In large bowl, combine pasta with vegetables and fresh basil pesto. 
  4. Top with basil leaves and Parmesan. Serve immediately or cover and place in refrigerator until ready to serve!
Makes 6-8 servings

1 comment:

  1. I am a huge fan of homemade pesto and pesto pastas. You just can't beat that delicious fresh basil flavor! especially with some fresh home grown tomatoes. mmmmmmmmm. can't wait to try this recipe!