Pesto is one of those near perfect foods: easy to prepare, bursting with verdant flavors, and an excellent choice for make ahead meals since it lasts forever in the freezer. Just about every home cook has a tried-and-true version of the versatile Italian pasta sauce (or sandwich spread, or vegetable dip, or bruschetta topping...). For years, I've been making the classic basil pesto from Simple Italian Sandwiches by New York restaurateurs Jason and Jennifer Denton. Their secret ingredients? Walnuts and butter.
The great thing about pesto, though, is that basil is only the beginning. There are a multitude of varieties out there, from black olive to sun-dried tomato to parsley. The August issue of Food & Wine featured a recipe for roasted red pepper pesto, which I decided to make for this week's Cooking from the Glossies review.
The process of preparing this pesto became an experiment in flavor adjustment. After I whirred it all together in my food processor, I dipped spoon in and decided it needed...something. But what? More basil. Extra pepper. Another shot of olive oil. Ultimately, I think it could have used another handful of pine nuts, but I didn't have any left.
The end results were pretty good: a nice, light dish of pesto over whole wheat angel hair with a shower of grated pecorino, though somewhat lacking in the flavor-punch department. If I make this again (with the extra pine nuts), it would make a good hors d'oeuvre with fresh slices of baguette and soft goat cheese.
- Yield:4 servings
- 3 medium red bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 1 small garlic clove, smashed
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound angel hair pasta
- 1/2 cup shaved pecorino cheese
Roast the red peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler, turning occasionally, until charred all over. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, core, and chop the peppers.
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until golden, about four minutes. Let cool.
Transfer the peppers and the pine nuts to a blender. Add the garlic and whole basil leaves and blend until coarsely chopped. Add the olive oil and puree to a chunky pesto. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and cool slightly under running water. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and toss with the pesto. Season the pasta with salt and pepper. Top with the chopped basil and pecorino and serve at room temperature.