With fresh basil growing like crazy in our garden this summer, it’s hard to find ways to use it all. But here’s a really tasty (and easy) way to make a light pasta “sauce” (more of a dressing, really) using fresh basil leaves and a few other ingredients. Best of all, you don’t have to cook anything except the pasta.
2 cups of tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. pine nuts
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 lb. dried pasta or 1 1/2 lbs. fresh (I like to experiment with various pasta types, although I find that thinner, more delicate pasta shapes work best with pesto. I wouldn’t, for example, use pappardelle, rigatoni, or other thick, heavy pastas.)
Salt, to taste
1. Rinse the basil leaves under cold water or in a salad spinner. Blot the basil dry with paper towels.
2. Place the basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and a pinch of salt into a food processor bowl. Process the mixture until you have a creamy consistency. If the mixture is too dry, add a splash more olive oil and pulse a little more.
3. Empty the basil puree into a bowl.
4. Mix the two cheeses in until thoroughly incorporated. Then, add the softened butter and mix until it is also thoroughly incorporated.
5. Cook pasta to al dente, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and place into a large bowl or onto a big serving plate. I like to add a tablespoon or two of the reserved pasta water to the pesto to thin it out a little, just before serving. Spoon the pesto over the cooked pasta and toss to thoroughly distribute the pesto throughout.
Note: I prefer pasta with pesto at room temperature or lukewarm, not steaming hot. So you can make it a little in advance. It’s even great cold.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.