pesto!

We love pesto and regularly make it ourselves using a modified version of Anne Willan's Look and Cook Perfect Pasta recipe.

ingredients

1 lb fusilli
2 large bunches fresh basil
6 garlic cloves
1 1/2 oz pine nuts
3/4 c parmigiano
1/4 c pecorino romano
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 c olive oil

instructions

  1. Blend everything except the pasta and cheese.
  2. Cook the pasta al dente.
  3. Combine the pasta, pesto and cheese.

notes

  1. We used to blend the cheese too and still do sometimes, but when serving fresh (and not saving in the fridge or freezer if you make extra), it is a nice option to keep the cheese from getting soggy by adding it at the last moment. In fact, the ingredient amounts can be varied here. Instead of achieving a thick paste-like state, less solids per liquid (oil) creates a coating of the pasta with little flecks of green that is also quite good as we learned in Sabaudia from the Bini clan.

pesto postscript

When bob was in high school, he used to do a week every year at Presbyterian summer camp in New York State (as a camper). After the 10th grade, that summer the upperclassman camp in parallel somehow faltered, and instead of going ahead at the nearby but separate site, they got mixed in with us, the lower class (in age). This was the summer of Cream riding high with Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire setting the soundtrack beat. Bob met this upper class woman Karin who was quite unique and interesting, and began penpal-ing with her, eventually collecting a whole bunch of crazy stories spun in those letters, some of which were gathered into a senior year English composition project that was clearly perplexing to the reigning English teacher of the time (appropriately named Mr. Grimm :-| ).

Karin grew up to be a speech pathologist administrator at some New York City hospital, and Colleen was working in her group, looking for a change of life experience, one with destination Italy. Networking ensued. Colleen tried out a year as a native English speaking secretary for bob's Italian relativistic astrophysics group in Rome and then returned to the US, eventually marrying Luigi, bob's roommate during one year at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, also from the same research group. More networking, but of the romantic kind. So eventually Colleen served bob pesto pasta with green beans and potatoes at their home in Rome. And eventually repeated the performance. bob was very enthusiastic about the dish thinking this was Colleen's imagination at work, or some Roman variation she'd picked up, but never got around to implementing the recipe for some reason. It turns out this is actually a traditional combination for pesto in the land of its creation and current copyright holders: Liguria, which is the region of Italy containing both Genova (=Genoa) and the nearby Cinque Terre, five little towns hugging the mountainous coast just to the south, connected by a local train line from Genova to La Spezia, in turn not far from Pisa, where the famous leaning tower resides. Cinque Terre is a fabled tourist destination and we'd seen it on Rick Steve's public television travel show and heard about it second hand from our colleague and world traveler Najib who also agreed that it was a must see destination. And dreamed about one day actually going there. Finally social forces convinced us it was time to do Northwest Italy visiting friends in Parma and Genoa and finally find our way to Cinque Terre, which it turned out was also connected to (sundried-tomato-pesto-) piero's soon to be bride's family whom we had been informed the summer before had a vacation house in Corniglia, the middle village of the five, but lived in Pisa, the wedding destination our final night in Italy a few weeks later (to be followed by a midday flight out of Rome). More networking, this time the travel connection kind. And we got to spend a lovely afternoon with Lorenza exploring 3 of the towns, starting with a fabulous lunch across the doorstep from the entrance to their house in the center of Corniglia. It was that evening, alone, that we first experienced the pasta pesto potato and green bean combination in the heart of pesto country. It was good. And this time it only took a matter of months before we did it ourselves.

But with whole wheat fettuccini. We were just recovering from the South Beach period which had seriously reduced our pasta intake levels to historic lows, but fortunately the food delivery system was responding to the wide spread US pasta recession by making available more and more whole grain pasta products, which improved in quality considerably with time. A success for the free market theory. We started returning to our trusted Italian food source Carlino's and discovered a few whole wheat fresh pasta products as well as some freshly baked whole wheat Italian bread that a few years earlier we had expressed a wish for but the response was that not enough people seemed to want it at the time for them to make any. Times change.

So we did this at the in-laws one November Sunday night and it was so good, of course bob over ate, the usual story when Isgouhi is serving her own stuff there. Luckily bob seems unable to put on weight, and it does not hurt that the indulgence is in Mediterranean diet food (as in food of the Mediterranean diet =cuisine, not another food reduction scheme to lose weight). We had about 1 cup of homemade pesto in the freezer (maybe even a year old?) minus the cheese, which is how we salvage and save oversupply of home grown basil from in-law production. Adding in the cheese only after combining the pesto and pasta reduces the soggy cheese effect and seems to add to the general flavor of the result. We just threw some parmigiano into the mix, and then casually sprinkled some on each serving. This will be repeated often.

ingredients

1 lb fusilli or penne or spaghetti or fettuccini
  (we used fresh whole wheat fettuccini but dried farro fettuccini and spaghetti is also available at Carlino's)
about a cup of small cut potato pieces, boiled but not crumbling (we used cute little fingerling potatoes)
about a cup of thin green beans, cooked and cut into smaller lengths
about 1 cup of previously prepared pesto minus the cheese (see above)
about 1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano for the mix, additional freshly grated parmigiano for each serving
optional freshly ground black pepper to taste

instructions

  1. Prepare the potatoes and start them boiling. Get the pasta water started too.
  2. Clean the green beans and cook them. We got some frozen recipe ready French green beans (seems to mean thin style, not overgrown in size) from Trader Joe's and microwaved them and then cut them into smaller lengths (1 1/2 in roughly).
  3. Warm up the pesto in a pot large enough to contain the entire dish (a 4 qt pot will do).
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta al dente and drain.
  5. Combine the pasta and pesto first, then dump in the potatoes and green beans and finally the cheese, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Serve immediately, with sprinkled parmigiano on each serving.

notes

  1. Illustrations available.
  2. And oh yes, about that wedding in Pisa. Beautiful ceremony in a 12th century church, also leaning. Followed by another Italian wedding reception to remember, this one in the hills of Tuscany about 45 minutes southeast of the city at an agriturismo place: "drinks" by the swimming pool (no one ended up in the pool) but this was really the finger food antipasti stage, including the traditional wheel of parmigiano, plus drinks of course. Then the real dinner plate size four food station antipasti course up by the dining hall outside in the romantic Tuscan twilight, surrounded by vineyards and a sweeping Italian panorama, and finally the reasonably portioned (after what had preceded it) seated table dinner inside. Followed by 4 hours of sleep in the inn and a 4 hour drive with Colleen's Luigi back to Fiumicino to catch our flight. The joy of friendship. What comes around goes around.

 

pesto.htm: 3-dec-2005 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]