Pesto is a quick and easy sauce made from fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese - a sauce that can be made while your pasta is cooking. Fresh basil pesto also works beautifully with fresh, homemade pasta.
This recipe is featured in the cookbook: "Pasta 101 - 12 Easy Pasta
Recipes You Can Make in Under 30 Minutes."
For best results, use super fresh, seasonal ingredients and the highest quality pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese you can find. (Pesto can also be made with fresh parsley, spinach, mint, spring peas, arugula, walnuts or pecorino cheese.)
One of my favorite comfort foods, pasta with pesto is a great go-to recipe that is rich and satisfying and works with a wide variety of pasta shapes. I find the larger, flat pasta shapes like fettuccini, tagliatelle and pappardelle (shown above) work best for this kind of sauce.
This is an excellent sauce to use with fresh pasta. If using fresh pasta, either homemade or store-bought, just be sure to make the pesto before adding your pasta to the water as the cooking time is so short for fresh pasta.
Pasta with pesto is fancy enough for dinner parties and kids love it too.
Pesto is a raw sauce (no cooking involved) that can be made in the traditional manner with a mortar and pestle, or more quickly with a food processor or blender. Don't cook the pesto sauce. The heat of the hot pasta warms the sauce and releases the fragrant aroma. Add in a little of the starchy pasta water as needed to finish the sauce for a smooth, creamy texture.
Pesto is also great on sandwiches, spread on hot bruschetta or as a last minute addition to soups and stews. (Add a dollop just before serving to release the flavors without cooking the pesto.)
SEE ALSO: How to Freeze Pesto in Ice Cube Trays (quick video) for step by step instructions on making pesto with a food processor and freezing portion size cubes for use later. (Be sure and wrap the individual cubes tightly before storing in a freezer bag) I use this technique and enjoy garden-fresh pesto all winter long. Just take out the number of cubes you need, let them defrost and toss with hot pasta. The heat from the pasta warms the sauce and releases the tantalizing fragrance. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves and serve.
SEE ALSO: How to Make Fresh Pasta by Hand (3 videos)
TIP: If you are using store bought or frozen pesto, stir the contents well as the sauce is topped with a thin layer of olive oil to preserve it. (Air is the enemy of pesto!) If the sauce seems too thick, just add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to thin the pesto to the consistency you prefer. You can also add a splash of the starchy cooking water when combining to get a nice, creamy texture.
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions on making pesto using the traditional mortar and pestle technique. (11:35 minutes)
Pappardelle with Basil Pesto
Make a large batch during the summer when basil is fresh and abundant. Serve it for a delicious summertime lunch or dinner with a crisp green salad, crusty loaf of bread and a dry, white wine. Freeze leftovers for a taste of summer year 'round. Recipe below works for 1 pound of pasta.
- 1 pound fresh or dried pappardelle pasta
- 2-3 cups packed, fresh basil leaves (carefully washed in cold water and air-dried), reserve a few leaves for garnish
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup Italian or Spanish pine nuts
- up to 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (1/2 cup for sauce, remainder for garnish)
- Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil slowly and process until fully incorporated. Sauce will be rough and a bit chunky. Season with Kosher salt and plenty of fresh ground pepper.
- Add 4 quarts (liters) of cold water to a large pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Add a heaping tablespoon of salt to the pot once the water is boiling. Add the pasta, stirring occasionally until "al dente" (cooked but still firm). Reserve 1/2 cup or so of the pasta water just before draining and set aside.
- IF USING PESTO IMMEDIATELY, slowly add in the remainder of the oil (to desired consistency) and the cheese and blend. Add the pesto sauce directly to the hot, drained pasta (do this in the still-warm cooking pot if possible to keep the dish hot) and toss gently. Add a splash of the starchy cooking water if necessary to smooth out the dish. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and basil leaves. Serve immediately.
- IF FREEZING: Do not add the cheese. Transfer the pesto to an air-tight container and drizzle the remaining oil over the top until just covered. Freeze for up to 3 months. To use, remove container from freezer and allow the pesto to thaw slowly (don't microwave). Once pesto is room temperature, add in freshly grated Parmesan cheese, mix well and combine with hot pasta.
- TO FREEZE SMALL PORTIONS: Do not add the cheese. Spoon the pesto into ice cube trays, cover the tray with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. Remove the individual cubes from the tray, wrap them tightly in wax paper and put them in a freezer bag to store. To use, remove the cubes, allow them to thaw slowly, (don't microwave) add the fresh cheese, mix well and toss with hot pasta or use as your recipe requires. 1 to 2 cubes per person. 1 cube is approximately 2 tablespoons, depending on the size of your ice cube trays.
Recipe may be doubled. Sauce may be frozen. DO NOT MICROWAVE OR COOK. Allow to thaw and add to hot pasta.
Also great on bruschetta, on a sandwich or last-minute garnish for soup.
There was an issue loading your timed LeadBox™. Please check plugin settings.