Besides caprese salad, capris pants, flip flops, and sunburned shoulders, another summer classic not to be left out is basil pesto pasta. Or basil pesto anything. There the basil is – swaying in the garden, or sprouting in the window box, or bursting as a simple bouquet on the green grocer’s shelf. Use me now, it seems to say, because you’ll miss me when I’m gone.
My mom has made pesto every summer that I can remember. The master of winging it in the kitchen, it is hard to anticipate what Mom’s pesto batch will taste like. Sometimes it is sharp, or sweet, or bitter. But it always says fresh, as in right now.
I prefer predictability when it comes to pesto, even though the best cooks and chefs will say an adventuresome spirit is exactly what you need in kitchen. Search the Web and you’ll find no two pesto recipes alike. But I have one that I turn to again, and again, and again, like a loyal, boring friend. It includes parsley, which tempers the basil in my opinion, and not too much garlic. I won’t disappoint you, it whispers between the ingredients. OK, I’m joking. It doesn’t really say that.
And I can make it in my mini cuisinart, which I’ve had for nearly as long as I’ve held onto this recipe. I think my cuisinart lives to make me this recipe.
Once you’ve made your pesto pasta, you can add other things to it. Here I’ve added a bit of smoked salmon and cherry tomatoes.
You can smooth your leftover pesto on a baguette tomorrow, adding the leftover mozzarella cheese and tomatoes from your caprese salad. Or you can fill an empty ice cube tray, freeze the pesto into blocks, and pull one out to melt into a freshly cooked pot of pasta at some future date.
Wouldn’t you know it, my mom called as I was finishing this post. I happily told her about the pesto I made, and the dinner I ate. A pause. “You ate sweet corn and a dinner roll with your pesto pasta?”, she asked. “That’s a lot of starch. People will write to you and say, ‘How chubby are you?’ ”
Thank you, Mother. Goodbye.
Perfect Basil Pesto
Summertime bliss (don’t judge)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
1/2 cup flat Italian parsley, stems removed, firmly packed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or almonds)
1 large clove garlic, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
4-6 ounces pasta
Combine basil and parsley in a cuisinart (or blender) until well blended. Add Parmesan cheese and blend. Add pine nuts and garlic, blend until combined. Add olive oil just a bit at a time until smooth and creamy.
Cook pasta according to instructions on box. Toss enough of the pesto to fully coat pasta, to taste (you’ll probably have some leftover). Serve warm and with whatever you please, never mind my mother.