Pesto is something I don’t make all that often, as it usually tastes too heavy and rich for me. After all, it’s got nuts, cheese, and a vat or two of oil, and the classic Marcella Hazan recipe I use adds butter. Put that on top of pasta and I’m asleep 10 minutes after dinner. But I do like the flavor of pesto and I appreciate having it on hand to dollop (a la pistou) into vegetable soup, spread onto sandwiches or flavor salad dressings or cooked vegetables.
As I mentioned in my other purple posts, I am in a color cooking phase, and favoring purple for some reason. With a giant bunch of purple thai basil on hand, I put it to use in a purple salad (recipe forthcoming), and then made some pesto. I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe, adapting it with a squirt of lemon for a blink of lightness and tang. I then did something Marcella would be turning in her grave at: I put it atop rice vermicelli. Yep, I did. That’s what was in my cupboard and I wanted to see what it would taste like. It was so good that seconds, though not available, were very much wanted.
The second night we ate it with our leftover Beetburger mix, broken up and cooked in a saucepan for a few minutes. Also very good, even if not photo-worthy.
The third night I made the classic Ligurian pasta dish, Trofie with Potato and Green Beans in Pesto Sauce. Probably the best of the three, and yes, I was in bed 10 minutes afterward.
As promised in the Beetburger Recipe, here is the recipe for our purple pesto, adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, probably the single most reliably awesome collection of recipes I own.
- 2 cups fresh purple basil leaves, tightly packed
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine before putting in the processor
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons pecorino romano cheese, freshly grated
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly DRY with paper towels.
- Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency
- Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand. It is worth the slight effort to do it by hand to obtain the notably superior texture it produces.
- When the cheese has been evenly amalgamated with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter and lemon juice, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.
- When spooning the pesto over pasta, dilute it slightly with a tablespoon or two of the hot water in which the pasta was cooked.