Fresh Basil Pesto Pasta

Fresh Basil Pesto Pasta

Have you ever had fresh basil pesto? If so, then you know what a delicious additive it is to so many Italian dishes. Or by itself, just top off a cracker and cheese for a tasty snack. I would “pair” it with a red, white, or pink wine, or maybe a brown beer. Or if you feel spirited, maybe some blue antifreeze colored wine cooler. If you are not in the mood to travel to Italy to procure such a treat, just make it yourself! I have sampled manufactured jarred pesto sold the local supermarkets, and it has a flavor that I can only describe as a mixture of lawnmower shavings and a salt lick. I assure you I have never knowingly consumed either of the two. I can only imagine that the chef is mindful of that “millennium shelf life”, and added a lethal amount of salt to keep it as fresh as the decade it was made.

Through the years, I have cooked pasta with varied results. To test cooked pasta, I have bitten through it to judge the texture, threw it on the ceiling to see if it stuck, and have even consulted a local shaman. All of these methods worked to a varying degree. What I have found to be the best method for cooking pasta is to follow the directions on the box. These pasta masters are a clever group, and when all else fails; follow directions. It has never failed. Try this recipe; it is well worth the effort.

pestopastasmallIngredients

  • 8 oz fresh basil leaves, (2 packages of Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (save another ½ cup for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • One box Packaged Pasta (linguine)

 

Method

1 Measure and pour pine nuts in a frying pan, set heat on high, keep the nuts moving as not to burn them. When they are toasted, they will release their flavorful oils. Remove from heat, stop toasting process by pouring them into a large room temperature plate. This will stop them from burning. Save 1/4 cup for garnish. Place the basil leaves and 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times. Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

2 While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Divide in half, saving some for other purposes such as added to cheese and crackers, or add to a pizza. Yum!

3 Cook pasta per package directions. Save one cup of pasta water, Drain in colander, mix (carefully fold) one half of pesto you just made into the pasta in a large saucepan or sauté’ pan, or whatever, add pasta water as needed. The cooked pasta will suck out all moisture in the pesto, so adding the pasta water back will make it hydrated one more. Serve with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

 

 

Pizza Margherita

Michael McCollum 6/24/13 Margherita PizzaSimple is better. And this pizza is great! I first had this pizza in Napoli (Naples) on a tour. Our guide told us that Pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pie swathed in the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen as Pizza Margherita. This was later to be refuted, but not in Napoli!

This pizza goes well with a fine red wine, poor white wine, beer, or scotch, all depends what you have on hand.

Ingredients

Pizza Dough*
2 fresh tomatoes
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
6 garlic cloves
sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup Parmesan Cheese

¼ cup fresh cut basil

*Make your favorite pizza dough. Mine just happens to be the exact same recipe as the pre-made down at Trader Joe’s. So…..do I do ALL the work?
Again, I think not. Buy package and divide into two. You can make 2 skillet pizzas from one TJ package. If you want a scratch pizza dough recipe, my friend Maria sent me a great one. (Bottom of post)

Michael McCollum11/10/13Mix for Margherita Pizza

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spread dough out in preheated 12 inch skillet. (heat skillet on top burner for one minute, wait a few more before spreading dough) Spread mozzarella cheese on dough. Peel, and chop garlic cloves, mix with coarse chopped tomatoes (big chunks, see photo) olive oil, add salt and pepper, mix, and spread on top of cheese. Bake in oven for 16 minutes. Remove from oven, add basil and Parmesan cheese. Let rest 2-3 minutes until Parmesan melts. Enjoy!

Word to the wise.
That skillet gets real hot, have a care when handling it!

PIZZA DOUGH
•    2 cups flour
•    1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
•    1 cup warm water
•    2 tablespoons olive oil
•    2 teaspoons white sugar
•    1 teaspoon salt
Blend yeast in water and add  the sugar and olive oil. Put 2 cups of flour in large glass or plastic bowl then add the wet ingredients and stir with a fork. , when the flour is wet then add your 1 tsp of salt.  (In Italy we say salt is added far away from the yeast)
When you have a ball you can put it out on your counter dusted with flour and begin to knead the dough until it is pliable and not sticky,  add flour if need be. (This should only take a few minutes) put back into bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in your oven with just the oven light on.  .   Let rise until double the size.

For Schiacciata
Take sheet pan and oil the bottom with olive oil (using your hands)  Then  with your fingers poke the dough to make dents.  Once you have done this drizzle ½ to ¾ cups olive oil letting oil go into dents and sprinkle salt on top.   Bake in 450° oven until brown
Buon appetito!

Ciao, Maria