Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Don't be a Pesto

Except for a good, rich, creamy, fatty alfredo sauce, my money is on basil in what I consider to be the most amazing pesto ever to happen in my kitchen (I can't claim the world... yet).  It's almost ridiculous how fast and easy it is to make, and so I figure bringing it to you might inspire epic culinary trials in your own kitchens.

Remember these few pieces of wisdom:

1. There is NEVER enough cheese.
Use what is recommended in the recipe, and then add/taste for a more indulgent experience.

2. To brighten your dishes, add ONE of the following:
lemon juice/zest, horseradish, (more) salt.  
They brighten the other flavors and make a meal shine.

When boiling pasta, you want the water to taste like you just drowned in the ocean.
This will bring out the flavor of your pasta, and add depth to your flavor profile (totally makes me sound legit, right?).

4. Don't add oil to your pasta to keep it from sticking after you've drained it.  
Once that oil cools, it will make the starches stick EVEN MORE.  Listen to me and heed my warning.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way...  Here is my recipe from last night's dinner.  Enjoy, kids!

*Perfect* Pesto with Broiled Shrimp over Straw and Hay Pasta

Broiled Shrimp

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or any fresh herb you like), finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Fire salt and cracked pepper (or use a cajun salt mix... could be good!)
1/2 a lemon (to squeeze)

1. Rinse your shrimp in a colander (that thing with holes you typically use for pasta draining), and pat semi-dry with a paper towel.  Put them in a large ziploc bag.  Set aside for a moment.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, rosemary and olive oil.  Pour into the bag with the shrimp, seal, and squeeze the shrimp through the bag to coat (it's kind of a gross/cool feeling... reeeeeeally work it).  Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  When you go to start your pasta water to boil, preheat your broiler.
3. When you're ready to broil those suckers, line a rimmed cooking sheet with foil.  Place your shrimp in a single layer on the foil and squeeze the lemon over the top of them.  Season with your fire salt and cracked pepper.  Put under the broiler for 7-8 minutes, or when the shrimp are light pink and barely firm to the touch (yes, you're going to poke them with your finger).  Remove from cookie sheet and put on top of pasta.

*Perfect* Pesto

1/2 pound fresh spinach fettuccine
1/2 pound fresh egg fettuccine 
2 cups basil leaves (roughly 20 leaves... if you're into counting)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (oven: 350 deg., on a cookie sheet, turn with spatula every 3 minutes until they are barely golden and you can smell their nuttiness)
zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and cracked pepper
1/2 cup really good olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese

1. Boil your pasta, 2-3 minutes.  Only add the salt when the water first comes to a rolling boil, then add in your pasta to cook.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water after it's done.  You'll add this to your pesto later.
2. In a food processor, pulse together the basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest, salt and pepper until finely minced.  Then, with the food processor still going, slowly drizzle in enough olive oil to make a smooth paste - you may not add all the oil, so just add it little by little.  Maybe you could get some crusty bread to sop up the rest of the unused oil while you finish cooking.  Just saying...
3. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.  TASTE.  There is nothing more disappointing than under-salted pesto, kids.  Adjust your salt and pepper as needed.  Add your reserved pasta cooking liquid, whisk together, and pour over your drained pasta.  Top with shrimp and some (more) artfully shaved Parmegiano cheese.  ** Tip:  You can use a potato peeler to get those cool flat, shaved pieces of cheese to put on the top... if you're feeling fancy.**

No one is saying pesto has to live and die by the basil leaf.  You can add in/substitute a variety of fixin's to dazzle your taste buds!  But don't take my word for it...

- sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil (reduce the olive oil in the recipe just a smidge)
- fresh tarragon and hazelnuts, instead of the basil and pine nuts
- well-rinsed kale and walnuts (add nutmeg too!)
- fresh spinach and pecans
-roasted red peppers, patted dry, skins removed
- add a chile pepper for extra zing

You're welcome.



  1. This sounds delicious, I love homemade pesto and pasta: http://www.cookeatdelicious.com/pasta-recipes/pesto-straw-hay-pasta-recipe.html

    Going to try your recipe soon!

    1. Thanks Raven! Good pasta is too good to pass up. Let me know what you think!!!