Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lucy's Pasta with Pesto

My daughter's home from camp, so I made one of her favorites for dinner last night. She has loved making and eating pesto since she was a little girl, and we've experimented with many recipes over the years to find the perfect pesto. This recipe, adapted from Cook's Illustrated, is her favorite.

Lucy likes her Pasta with Pesto straight up; I often add fresh tomatoes or chopped sun-dried tomatoes to my bowlful. I usually drizzle the cooked pasta with a bit of olive oil before adding the pesto, one spoonful at a time, until the noodles are coated to my liking. Depending on how much pasta you've cooked, there's a chance you'll end up with some leftover pesto. Not a bad thing!

If you have extra pesto, refrigerate it and use it the next day, spread on ciabatta for a summery sandwich of tomatoes and mozzarella. Thinned with a little olive oil, pesto makes a great dressing for an antipasto salad of arugula, tomatoes, olives and artichoke hearts. Or, if you're out of ideas (or food), freeze the pesto for another time.

Makes about 1 cup, enough for 1 lb. of pasta

2 medium cloves garlic -- unpeeled
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cups packed fresh basil leaves (about 4 ounces)
1 cup baby spinach (packed) -- about 1 ounce
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese -- plus extra for serving
4-6 tablespoons mayonnaise

1. Bring a small saucepan of water to rolling boil. When water is boiling, add garlic and let cook 1 minute. Remove garlic with slotted spoon and rinse under cold water to stop cooking; set aside to cool. (If you plan to cook pasta at the same time, use a larger pot of water and cook the pasta in it after you're done cooking the garlic.)

2. When garlic is cool, press through garlic press into the bowl of a food processor. Add nuts, basil, spinach, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and oil to the bowl of food processor and process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Add cheese and mayonnaise and process until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture to a small covered container. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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