While at the market this weekend I picked up a giant handful of garlic scapes, the rather beautiful garlic flower that looks a bit like a pig's tail—they were too inexpensive and attractive to pass up. I knew I wanted them in a pasta, but I didn't know how it would play out. I read about grilling them or treating them like asparagus by chopping into 1-inch lengths and sautéing in butter, but the simplest and post popular scape pasta seemed to be tossed with pesto.
But what would I put in it? In the end, I decided to keep the variables fixed and blend together scapes, pine nuts, Parmesan, and olive oil. I also sweated a little red onion in butter over low heat to develop a sweet oniony base for the pasta, which I hoped would bring out that side of the scape's flavor.
But the resulting dish wasn't all that I'd hoped. The subtle flavor of the pine nuts was lost, and too much oil was required to get the pesto to the right consistency—even then, it was nowhere near as smooth as the basil-based pesto Genovese. The pesto itself had too much hot garlic bite. Maybe I should I have cooked the scapes first, or blended them with an herb to soften the edges? I'm open to suggestions.
About the author: Blake Royer lives in Brooklyn and spends most of his free time cooking and writing about it here at Serious Eats and on The Paupered Chef. From 9 to 5 weekdays, he works as an assistant book editor in Manhattan.
- 1 pound short pasta, such as farfalle
- 1 pound garlic scapes
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil, or as much as necessary
- Small handful of pine nuts
- 1/2 small red onion, sliced
Bring a pot of salty water to boil. In the meantime, cut the flowers off the scapes and cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces. Chop very well in a food processor, then add the pine nuts and blend.
Add olive oil slowly, pulsing, until the contents loosen into a pesto-style sauce. Remove to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese, adding more oil if necessary for the right consistency.
In a skillet, sweat the onion with a little olive oil until softened and beginning to brown. In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente, reserving some pasta water, then toss in with the onions. Add the pesto and add the water, if necessary, to loosen. Top with freshly grated pepper and more Parmesan cheese.