Few culinary creations are more conducive to mix-and-match than pesto. Pick a leafy green you wouldn't mind eating raw—spinach, basil, kale, beet greens—and pick a hard cheese that you could eat, grated, by the mouthful—I'm partial to Parmesan, Pecorino, or Manchego. Throw them into a blender with a handful of toasted nuts, stream in some splurge-worthy olive oil, and you've just reinvented the pesto wheel.
Cold pesto pasta is one of my favorite summer meals. There are few sights more welcoming after a day in the sun than a tangle of cold noodles slicked with pesto, waiting to be eaten straight from the container. This take on pesto calls for arugula, Parmesan, walnuts, and, stick with me, jalapeño. Peppery lettuces meet spicy pepper in a match I will certainly repeat. To add some sweetness and crunch, I twirled the noodles with raw julienned slices of zucchini. Sweet summer squash needs no further preparation.
Notes: To add and maintain more heat, keep the seeds in the jalapeño. Make sure to drain the pesto well, otherwise you'll end up with some separated oil the next day. You can keep the oil in an airtight container and mix it into vinaigrettes for a subtle kick.
Swipe some of this pesto on shrimp, beef, chicken or tacos. It goes well with just about everything.
- Yield:Serves 2
- Active time: 15 minutes
- Total time:20 minutes
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces dry spaghetti
- 2 cups packed arugula leaves (about 1 1/2 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
- 1 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium zucchini, finely julienned
Bring pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta to just below al dente according to package instructions. Meanwhile, combine arugula, parmesan, walnuts and jalapeno in blender or food processor. Pulse to chop and combine, then stream in olive oil with motor running. Season to taste with salt. Transfer pesto to a fine mesh strainer and let any excess oil or moisture drain off for 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
Drain pasta and run immediately under very cold water to stop cooking. Toss with zucchini and pesto to combine. Serve cold or refrigerate and serve the next day.